Peace? Yes, Somehow, Peace

John 16
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

A car accident took the life of a four-year old on the interstate just a few miles from our home Friday morning. Snowy roads caused the driver to lose control.

My husband visited a couple of men in jail yesterday who are awaiting trials, verdicts, sentencing. Their families are waiting too. Scared, sad, uncertain of what tomorrow holds.

A friend of ours is at the hospital this morning after spending the night in the emergency room with his wife. Doctors are not sure what has caused her seizure: a blood clot in the brain, a stroke, they just don't know yet.

Another friend of mine stopped by yesterday to talk. She's worried about her son's health.

So, I read the verse above and try to find some comfort.

I remember reading this verse one night in the hospital years ago when Nick was having terrible trouble with his IV. We had been told by a nurse that she would be back around 4am to give Nick medicine through the IV but that she couldn't promise the IV wouldn't "blow." These words came after many, many tears and several new IVS throughout the day.

Nick was exhausted. I was exhausted. My mom was exhausted. Tim had gone home to be with our other kids for the night, and we felt very alone in a hospital room several hours from home.

And then I read this verse. I read it out loud to mom.

I still remember her voice in the darkness when she said with a sense of sadness, "Well, He's not here yet."

I guess that's where the lifelong question of "Where is God when you need Him?" comes from.

Knowing that God created this world. Knowing He is the Master of the Universe.

And then getting phone calls, emails, knocks at your door.......

All of which deliver news that does not ring with the sound of peace.

So, I sit here this morning looking out at a beautiful snow glistening with sunshine and I realize that it's not so much about God promising "earthly peace." It's about him offering "inner peace."

See, after I read that verse to mom in the darkness of Nick's hospital room, I had this spiritual nudge to go call a friend and ask her to pray with me.

Not long after that a nurse saw me crying and came and actually prayed with me right there on the hospital floor. She then came and did Nick's IV medicine herself. It was amazing. It was God bringing peace in a world that has trouble.

We live in a world that has been tarnished by sin.

The beautiful white snow here eventually shows the effects of dirt, gravel, and mud.

We have to remember how it started. White, spotless, glistening.

And we have to believe that one day this world will be made new!!

My prayers this morning are for this family who is facing the loss of their little boy. That God will send people to pray with them. Family members and friends to love on them. Signs from above to comfort them.

And for the men in jail...I pray the same.

And for our friends at the hospital.....I pray the same.

And for my friend who is concerned about her son.....I pray the same.

For Nick, I don't have to worry anymore about IVs going bad or MRIs holding devastating news. Peace has arrived in the most perfect sense for Nick. He has been made perfectly whole and new!

So my prayers are for me, my husband, my sons, my daughter, my parents, his friends....everyone who has to put life back together somehow with a missing piece.

We all have missing pieces in our lives, don't we? Somehow. Maybe it's a loss. Maybe it's a bad memory from our childhood. Maybe it's divorce or a child who has rebelled or illness that keeps us from feeling and healing whole.

My prayer today is that while we all live with some sort of missing piece.......

We won't live a life that is "missing peace."

Remember, Jesus says, "in me you may have peace."

Thankful for the Master's peace in a troubled world,

Snow Days
Todd with Jon (one of Nick's best friends from church)
Olivia and Maddie
Todd and CalebOur oldest son Erich (in the yellow) with some of his college buddies....looking for sleds!

Proverbs 31:21
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

Oh, to go back to Bible times and see a teen dressed in scarlet playing in the snow!

Today I guess that verse would say,

"When it snows, she doesn't get worried about her kids staying warm because all of them have rummaged through the Rubbermaid container and found gloves, snowpants, and hats....and they've been to the shed to find hand-me-down snow boots!"

The snow that we were so excited about has definitely arrived!!

Kids are wandering the streets looking for the next hill to slide down!

Thankful for Rubbermaid containers loaded with winter wear....
And a washer and a dryer that NEVER stop running.....
And electricity to run the washer and dryer,
And a Power Source greater than electricity to keep me smiling on a day I know Nick would have enjoyed so much,

The Straight Road
Is. 49
They will neither hunger nor thirst,
nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.

11 I will turn all my mountains into roads,
and my highways will be raised up.

This is the road to my grandpa's house.

Long. Straight. And mostly very, very flat.

When I read Isaiah 49, I have to think that someday I'll look back on my life and realize that as I was facing deep valleys and high mountaintops, God was there keeping all things even.

I'm in a rush this morning. There is more snow coming down.

Todd is still sleeping.

Olivia and her three little friends are still sleeping...worn out from two hours of ice skating in their snow boots on the soccer field across from our house!

And I am leaving to run to the church and help serve lunch to people who have no electricity.

But as I sat here this morning and saw this picture, I thought to myself,

"Thank you, Lord, for being the one straight constant in an ever-changing world. Thank you, Father, for keeping me level when I feel very down or very up. Thank you, Lord, for directing my steps. Help me stay on the straight and narrow for You tell us that the crooked road does not lead to peace."

Until later,

Broken.....but still useful?

I Peter 4

12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Well, the snow has arrived!!

So have piles and piles of wet coats and soggy gloves!

Yesterday, Olivia and Todd began preparing for some sledding fun when Olivia came to me with a problem.

Her snow pants, which have been part of our snowday events since big brother Erich (21 now!) wore them, had a broken strap and even the safety pin holding them up had worn out over time.

Fortunately, I was able to replace the broken safety pin with a new one and send her on her way to some fun in the snow. I looked at the pin and thought to myself, "Well, you did a good job for Erich, Evan, Todd, and Nick...." and then I set the pin aside not really thinking another thing about it.

Just a little later, Cameron (Olivia's little friend) came to me with yet another problem. Her snow boot lace had a knot that was too tight for her to get out. I worked and worked on the knot and realized it was just too tight for me to budge with my fingers. Then I remembered the broken safety pin!

I got it off the shelf and using its sharp point I was able to loosen the knot enough to untie it totally!

Cameron then went on her way happy and ready to sled!

I looked down at the pin and had an entirely different thought!

"You still work! You still have a purpose!" It's just different now!

I guess I had one of those moments where I just knew God was speaking to me in a personal way.

See, I feel so broken. I feel so "set aside" at times.

A mom "set aside" from being Nick's mom.

A cargiver "set aside" from taking care of my sick child.

A teacher "set aside" from teaching because I just couldn't juggle it all at once.

A friend "set aside" from some of my friend's lives because they probably just feel awkward around me right now.

A church member "set aside" from many of my ministry passions because I've just been so consumed with my family.

And the list goes on and on and on.

So, when I sat down the pin, I sort-of bonded with it. I remember the feeling I had as I looked at it sitting on the bathroom shelf-

Bent, stretched beyond its capabilities, unable to hold things together anymore.

Poor pin. Poor, useless pin.

You can probably imagine the joy that stirred in my heart when I realized that the very pin I had empathized with just minutes before was the only thing that came to my mind when I couldn't undo the knot in Cameron's boot!

As Cameron left the room, I looked down at the pin and felt such excitement!

The pin was broken, but it was still useful!

Oh, thank you, God, for promising to use me in spite of my brokenness. And in fact, promising to use me in ways only possible because of my brokenness.

Lord, you truly can make all things new!

Psalm 34

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

Thankful for God's Promises,

Reality "Check"

I just found myself scrambling between cleaning out the frig, straightening the pantry, starting a load of laundry, cleaning up lunch dishes, encouraging Olivia to straighten her room, and preparing to clean the bathrooms, when I realized, "I need to make a list of everything else I need to do today!" YIKES! Running to WalMart, emailing information about Nick's foundation to the board memebers as well as to the principal at his school, and the list goes on and on and on.......

The snow has arrived! There is no school today! And a snow storm is heading our way TONIGHT! So, my parents are coming tonight instead of tomorrow to visit us and go to a show in Ashland that was part of our Christmas gift to order to avoid driving in the storm!

Suddenly, my list of things "to do" became a little more urgent (and I am thankful!) because my time frame shrank from 24 hours to less than 12!

All the things I planned to do tonight, I want to get done TODAY!

As I was scurrying around feeling a little short on time, I had this nudge from the Spirit that said, "So, what do you still need to do for Me?"

See, in the busyness of what I already knew I had to do today, I had awoken this morning and begun the day by fixing pancakes instead of praying, by sending emails instead of reading God's Word....


This nudge from the Spirit became so strong that I left everything undone that I have started and came straight to my chair.........

Because my "to do" list should have started HERE.....

And my daily tasks need to be focused on my heart not my house.

This is a moment when I understand why Jesus scolded Martha. It wasn't because she was cooking or serving or cleaning....

It was because she didn't remember where to start.

At the feet of Jesus.

So, I'm vowing today to start every future "to do" list with JESUS! And I am praying that I am ready for His return....because when He comes there will be no "12-hour notice!" There will be a trumpet blast and then we shall see Him triumphantly appearing in the sky on His white horse surrounded by thousands of angels....

And every knee shall bow.

No more time to get ready. No more time to do "one more thing."
Desiring to be ready for that day and thankful for a nudge from the Spirit to set me on my way,

What is it about snow?

I love snow!

Kids love snow!

Teachers really love snow!

When the weatherman even hints that snow is on the way, you can just feel the excitement in the air.

Yesterday as I was subbing, I heard teacher after teacher talk about the fact that next week the weatherman is "calling for snow!"

What is it about snow?

For me, I think it is the chance that the world might shut down temporarily causing everyone to simply stay home and cuddle up under blankets and sip hot chocolate.

White roads unmarked by tires or even footprints.

Tree branches drooping with piles of white fluff.

Snow covering up mud puddles and potholes.

The absence of imperfections in my landscaping.

Snow truly "evens out" the world's good and bad into one big sweeping view of white beauty....

and in that beauty I find peace.

Being able to watch the snow fall is another thing I love. Witnessing the transformation from greens, browns, rocks, gravel, weeds, broken toys, bare branches..........into a white canopy of oneness.

Snowfall offers hope for all things to become "new."

Isaiah 1 tells us,

18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow."
Maybe, just maybe, this deep longing to be white as snow appears in us through.........
loving snow days
making snowmen
creating snow angels
making snow cream
sipping hot chocolate
cuddling under a blanket
catching snowflakes on our tongue
God never ceases to amaze me. The very things we love are the very things He created with such deeper meaning.
As our town prepares for a possible "snowy week" next week, I hope I am preparing even more for the day when my faith becomes sight.
I long to be "whiter than snow!"
And I just wonder if Nick and Adrienne and Natalie and Tyler and Brittany and so many other precious children I know and love who have been taken Home early are playing in the snow in Heaven.....
I can just imagine a place so white and beautiful and yet not needing coats or gloves or hats or mittens............
Thankful for a creative and loving Creator,

A Special Friend!

Brandon, one of Nick's best friends, showed up at my house a few weeks ago all decked out in his brand new "Nick Wardrobe!"

He said that when he put on the jeans he had no idea that on one leg was a "three," on one leg was a "one," and on the pocket was a cross.

He was so excited, of course, because Nick is forever "13." And Nick loved Jesus with all of his heart and does Brandon!

I couldn't believe the necklace, belt, and belt buckle he had ordered! He couldn't wait to show me and Tim!

God gave me Nick for 13 years. I had to give him back for now.

I am so thankful He left me with so many other wonderful boys to keep my heart filled with earthly love and hugs!

And special moments like this one with one of Nick's dearest friends.

I love you, Brandon!

What's In a Name??

Jeremiah 10:6

No one is like you, O LORD; you are great,

and your name is mighty in power.

It was so fun to watch all of the girls on Olivia's basketball team as they met the University of Kentucky players and were able to get most of the teams' autographs.

I especially fell in love with this picture which captured Olivia with her eyes closed and mouth smiling as her shirt was being signed by yet another one of her basketball heroes......

Autographs amaze me.

Watching the girls get their shirts signed, their posters signed, their basketballs signed, I couldn't help but notice the joy and anticipation as they patiently stood in line until the next player was ready to share their name in written form.

My mind wandered, as it often does.......

Where is the power in a person's signature?

Why do we love to own something that has been autographed?

When someone is considered famous and/or super-talented, fans will often pay high prices to own ANYTHING that bears the person's signature! Because of this, there are actually websites dedicated to helping you not be "tricked" into purchasing something with a fake autograph.

For our family, receiving Tony Shaloub's (aka Monk) and Chuck Norris' autographed pictures were both exciting days!

Nick loved these men so much! Their framed pictures sit proudly on the shelf over Nick's bed! They are meaningful to us because they bear the celebrities' names in their own handwriting!

But what is it about a name?

I have to think that Shakespeare was sharing this same question when he wrote Juliet's famous lines,

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

And then I look to Scripture, the history book of all history books, and the very Word of God....

and I realize that the power of a name started "In the beginning......"

Jeremiah says, "Your name is mighty in power."

Today we pray in Jesus' name.

We sing, "No other name but the name of Jesus..."

In Old Testament times, children were given names that had deep meaning. Many times God actually changed people's names when He called them to a life of service to Him.

When we give our lives over to God through the acts of repentance, confession, and baptism, we are given the name Christian.

God has high expectations for those who choose to wear the name of His Son Jesus Christ.

So, looking back at the picture of Olivia as she proudly chooses to "wear" the name of one of her basketball role models, I have to wonder..............

Am I always that happy to wear the name of my role model?

Following Jesus and wearing the name "Christian" aren't always easy. It means "putting others first, not always getting my way, forgiving others even when I'm hurt, loving those who are sometimes difficult to love, choosing joy when bitterness seems so much easier, finding peace in the midst of a storm...."

Yes, having the privilege of wearing Jesus' name comes at a high price.
But we can be sure that what we are getting is in no way fake.
Jesus is the genuine article!
He is the One and Only!
There has never been and will never be a greater man or a greater name than the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

So when I'm struggling to find that eye-closed, mouth-smiling pose as I choose to wear the name of Christ, I hope I will always remember this picture of Olivia and embrace the honor of Jesus' name being written on my heart.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.........

There's just something about that name.

Not as "Big" as I Thought!

II Peter 3:18

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, Olivia's basketball team went to Lexington to watch the University of Kentucky's girls' team play Mississippi State! (Thank you, Ernie, for the autograph time with the team afterwards!)

While standing in line at the concession stand, we couldn't help but notice the very tall man ahead of us!

We found out later that his name was Melvin Turpin, and that he was a former player from UK who was half of the powerful "Twin Towers" in his day! As he strolled through the crowd, people would randomly stop him for autographs and/or pictures! He was precious to watch, and I couldn't resist rounding up some of our girls at one point and setting out to have their picture made. Mr. Turpin was very gracious as the girls all gathered around him.

When the game was over, Tim and I went out to eat with our friends Pam and Ernie and what do you know! Mr. Turpin was in the same restaurant!

I looked at Tim and said, "I just have to have my picture made with him!" There was just something about this man that I adored!

I don't think it was his heighth although it was impressive.

I don't think it was his smile although I thought it was priceless.

I think it was the joy I saw him display as he shared himself with so many strangers!

And the fact that he didn't ask for anything in return!

I truly think he loves coming to the UK games to watch them, but I also think he loves coming to make so many people happy! He is part of UK's history, yet he doesn't expect payment for his time or talent. He just simply gives for the pleasure of watching others receive.

Can I say that about myself?

Not always.

Just when I think I may be becoming a "big girl," God sends a clear message that I have a long ways to go.....................

And looking at this photograph is a visual reminder that I have a LONG ways to "grow!!!"

Needing to be watered daily in His Word,

It's Hard Being a "Big Girl"

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

he day slipped by and the choice had to be made.

Would I make the phone call or simply pretend it hadn't entered my mind?

But the truth was:

It had not only entered my mind. It wouldn't leave my mind.

Today was one of Nick's lifelong best friend's birthday.

And Nick had never missed his party.....til now.

I wrestled all day with how to handle the reality that Nick would never be at Jon's party again. I didn't really want to know the details of what Nick might be missing, but I also wanted Jon to know I loved him and remembered.

After all, he misses Nick too.

So, I finally got the nerve.

I dialed his number and Jon's mom, who is one of my dearest friends, answered the phone. I knew it must be hard for her too.

I said, "I called to wish Jon a "Happy birthday."

So Jon came to the phone and I sang,

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
You don't look like a monkey.....

And you don't smell like one either!

I had to do something to make us both laugh.

Then I said, "I love you, Jon."

And he sweetly replied, "I love you too, Tammy."

Then my voice broke as I said "bye."

Nick's wind chime began to blow behind me as I stood alone in the darkness of our back yard.

I hung up and cried til I could cry no more.

I looked up at the sky and there it was. One bright star all alone in the sky, just like the weekend Nick died. And actually that weekend there were two. A large one and a small one. (We felt sure it was Nick and Adrienne's way of saying, "We're together!")

I said out loud, "I love you, Nick, so much. I always will." And then I told God I loved Him too but that there was so much I would never understand while on this earth.

Now I'm back in the house trying not to feel blue.

Cooking supper. Doing laundry.

The normal things a mom has to do.

But I'm thankful.

Thankful that God pushed me to the point of calling.

I want to rejoice with those who rejoice. I want to be a big girl.

But, oh, sometimes it hurts.


A True Rescue!

Psalm 81:7

In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

I was on my way to Ashland this afternoon to watch a couple of Nick's closest friends play basketball (Nick was on their team in elementary school). My husband called and asked if I had heard about the plane crash today in New York and how every single passenger was rescued from the Hudson River! Tonight as I looked at the photographs and saw the people lining the wing waiting to be rescued, I couldn't help but wonder where they "stood" with the Lord at that moment in time.

As I read the interviews, there was an overriding theme of "God's presence, God's decision to save, God's control." I never read of anyone who said, "Fate was on my side," or "It was my lucky day." No. At a time like this, when all seems lost and then salvation comes, people-no matter how unreligious before-seem to suddenly have a very deep faith.

I sat here tonight and wondered how God felt in the midst of this crisis. Were there people on the plane who truly walked with Him daily before they began to cry out today? Were there people on the plane who have openly rejected Him before they began to cry out today? What is God's long-term plan from this riveting news story?

I sat and clicked through the pictures. Some faces were filled with panic. Some with serious determination. Yet others seemed calm in spite of the trauma.

I found the verse above and even researched Meribah a bit. It was the place where the Israelites grumbled because they did not have water to drink and feared they would die. It was the place where Moses lost his cool and struck the rock, taking credit for its flow of water instead of giving the glory to God.

And then my mind went back to the wings of this plane, slowly slipping into the waves of the river yet providing the only safety for the nearly 200 hundred men, women, and children waiting for a boat to arrive. What were the people saying as they waited? Were they complaining? Were they praying? Were they in shock? Were they filled with terror?

And I wonder if the pilot who definitely is a hero will take all of the credit for a successful landing or if he will give some glory to the Creator of aviation?

I guess I''ll never know the answers to many of my questions, but I do know this.

The lives of the people who were on that plane will never EVER be the same. They had their moment of testing while standing on an airplane wing in the middle of an ice-cold, rapidly flowing river.

Wouldn't it be great if every passenger on that plane walked away sold out on a God who has the power to do the unimaginable?

For some reason, God made a statement today.

We may not know exactly what that statement is until our faith is made sight, but for tonight it is enough to simply know that the same God who brought the Israelites to Meribah also brought this airplane loaded with passengers to the Hudson River and that His ways are higher than our ways.

Standing in the shelter of God's wing and longing for the day when I fully understand His plan,

Our First Project

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose.

On Saturday night, February 7th, we will be celebrating Nick's life with our first benefit dinner for the Nicholas Yancy Nischan Foundation!

I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving and excitement as I think of the nearly 280 people who have committed to being a part of this special evening with no formal advertising!

Nick's foundation will be used as a tool of ministry in many different ways in the years to come! I will share more about the outreach opportunities of this foundation after our first board meeting.

While we struggle to make sense of our great loss, God provides moments of joy as we realize that Nick's legacy is only just beginning!

He truly is our shining star! Adrienne is too! We plan to honor her through this foundation as well by reaching out to families who experience the loss of an infant.

I just had to share the ticket and logo design with all of you and ask for your prayers as we try desperately to allow God to bring good from this difficult time in our lives.

Thank you for every prayer,

A Simple Gift

Psalm 4:8
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

Peaceful sleep.

A sense of feeling safe.

Warm blankets and a soft pillow.

Cozy comfort.

I long for all of these! Don't you?

God placed these longings deep within each of us. So deep that I think the devil must simply hate it when we are able to curl up and drift away into a peaceful night of sweet dreams in spite of all the evil in this world, all the sadness in our hearts, all the confusion in our minds....

I can almost see the Grinch on Christmas morning as he proudly stands atop his hill waiting for the cries of sorrow from Whoville below. Remember how shocked he was when instead he heard the singing of happy voices................

even though Christmas had been "stolen" from every Whoville home.

How can people praise when all has been lost?

How can people sleep when their world has been turned upside down?

How can people feel safe when the future seems so uncertain?

There's only one way.

By turning EVERY worry, EVERY loss, EVERY uncertainty over to the Lord.

For He alone makes us dwell in safety and allows us to lie down and sleep in peace.

No sleeping aid. No security system.

God and God alone is all we need for a night of sweet dreams.

So, why do I find myself restless so many nights?
Why do I often lie in bed overcome with spinning thoughts of fear and sadness?
Why did I welcome 3:00 a.m. last night as if it were a friend?

Because I slip. Because I'm human. Because I forget that "My soul finds rest in God alone." (Ps. 62:1)

So, tonight, as I walk towards my bedroom, I pause here to remind myself of God's promise.

I can lie down and sleep in peace! It is a choice that I can make every night.......

if I rest in Him.

Thank you, Father, for the gift of peaceful sleep. Forgive me for the nights when I reject Your gift in exchange for tossing and turning.

Just as the Whoville citizens sang in spite of their loss, I long to sleep in spite of my anxiety.

Surrendering my heart to You tonight, Lord,

Wordless................Is it Possible?

Romans 8:26-27

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

This may be one of my favorite verses! Just knowing that the Spirit of God intercedes for me when I do not know what to say.......thank you, Father, for this gift.

Because I find myself at a crossroads where words do not come so easily. Even in prayer.

I kneel to pray. I know the Father is listening.

And yet I am often unable to find the words.

"Thank you" seems so empty even though my heart often feels so full of gratitude for a Father who never leaves or forsakes me.

"Forgive me" seems so repetitive when time and time again I find myself being short with my husband when I'm really just having a sad day of missing Nick.

"Help me" seems so pitiful at times. I want so desperately to be strong.

So, today, it struck me that yes, even God knew that sometimes words are just not possible. And because He knew how hard that would be He provided a verse to sort-of "take us off the hook" when we want to spend time with Him in prayer but even the shortest phrases seem insignificant.

These are days when I find that the simple quietness of just knowing that He is with me and that I am with Him are enough to keep me going!

So, even in my blog writing, I have struggled to find words today. Words that share my heart.

And it is in this very moment that I am embracing the reality that words aren't really what connect is so much more than words.

Jesus Christ, the Master, Savior, Redeemer, Lord, and yes, "blog connector!" pulls my heart to yours and yours to mine even when words seem so difficult to find.

Thank you, God, for sending Your Son, the Living Word, to a hurting and pain-filled world so that we can share the hope, peace, joy, and love of knowing that there will come a day when blogs won't be necessary, phones will be meaningless, clocks will be irrelevant, and all that will matter is that we are together in Your Presence for eternity!

Thank you, Father, for giving me a few words when I felt I had none,

The Power of a Penny

My brother came to celebrate Christmas with us recently and while he was here we played a game of Cranium.

As we were laughing and playing, I couldn't help but think of Nick and how much he loved board games. I missed his presence with us so very much.

And then it happened!!

I moved one of my cards and right there on the table was................

a penny!!!

I found out that Olivia had been playing with two pennies that were sitting on the kitchen counter, and I guess one had somehow ended up on the table.

But to me that penny was my little reminder that Nick was with us in spirit!

See, mom and I started finding pennies in the most unusual places at the most unusual times just a month or so before Nick went to be with the Lord.

And since Nick has left us, the penny experiences have just continued and continued!!

Pennies from Heaven!!!

It's really amazing. If I am feeling down and I start hoping for a penny or looking for one, I never find one (neither does my mom). However, if I am feeling down but am trying to press on with life and give my sadness to God, the next thing I know..............

I find a penny!!

It's almost as if God is saying, "I'm here. Press on!" and Nick is saying, "You can do it, mom. You can do it, Mamaw! I'm cheering you on!"

Well, today is a busy day. Olivia's birthday party is tonight at our church.

I just had to write and say, "Look for pennies and share your stories with me!"

I love you all so much!

God bless your days!

Twenty More Minutes of.................Ten

Emotions overwhelmed me tonight as I gazed at Olivia.........snuggled and warm.

Embracing her last 20 minutes of the first decade of her life.

Where has the time gone since Tim flew to India and brought home our 19-month old little girl?

Tim told me earlier this evening that at the end of Olivia's indoor soccer practice tonight the girls on the team sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Then on the way home, Olivia was talking about her birthday and said, "What time was I...." then hesitated and said, "Nevermind."

Tim replied by saying, "Were you wondering what time you were born?"

And Olivia said, "Yes, but you wouldn't know."

Then he said, "Well, what time would you like to have been born?" She answered, "I guess sometime in the morning. Maybe 2:32." Tim said, "Okay." Then she quickly changed her mind and said, "No. 3:23." And Tim said, "Alright then. 3:23 a.m. is what time you were born."

He said he felt sad for Olivia for a minute, but then he also felt thankful for how blessed she has been as well as what a blessing she has been to our family.

I crawled out of bed tonight because I couldn't sleep.

As I sit here and look at the clock, I am "struck" by the fact that it is 2:00 a.m...............

I try to imagine 11 years ago when an Indian woman in a small village was preparing to give birth to a child she knew she cannot afford to keep.

I think of her sister who just hours later would take Olivia and literally drop her off of a bridge.

I think of the policeman who would find Olivia and take her to a hospital where she would have to stay for 6 weeks and who would give her the name, "Pallavi" which means "new leaves."

And then I think of the orphanage workers who cared for Olivia Faith-Pallavi (her name now) for a year and a half while we were in America praying about whether or not to adopt a child.

Oh, God, You amaze me.

Your tapestry so often appears tangled and frayed when we examine tiny pieces one at a time........

Yet when we are privileged to stand back and examine Your Work in bigger pieces, we are taken to our knees in awe!

Olivia is so excited because she is turning 11 on the 7th! For those of you who don't know, Nick was 7 when he had his first brain tumor and 11 when we found out about the second one. Within minutes of hearing the news, Nick said that he wanted his nickname to be 7-11. And since that day, those numbers and that time on a clock have been so powerful in bringing smiles and encouragement to us just when we need them!

I feel certain that somehow God had His hand in even this tiny aspect of tomorrow for Olivia.

She feels connected to Nick on this birthday in a very special way.

Monday was hard for me. Everyone went back to school. The house was so empty.

Today was a bit easier.

Tonight I feel thankful.

Thankful for the promise that God truly does "work for the good of those who love him." (Romans 8:28)

This I know:

I love God more than anyone else in this world. If I believe His Words are true, then I must believe that in spite of my sorrow God is working for good!

So, tomorrow we will celebrate Olivia being 11 on the 7th! And now we know that she was born at 3:23 a.m.!!! (in our hearts, anyway)

And so I must sleep. But before I could, I had to write. It is more effective than Tylenol PM any day!

With love and thanks for a God who works for good!

Fragile.....Handle with Care

I took this picture of my Aunt Earlene's "Kitchen Christmas Tree" which was laden with dainty tea cups.

You could look at the tree for hours and find new and fascinating things from every angle!

As I looked through my pictures of the tree, I stopped on this particular china tea cup and plate hanging precariously from its branch. I couldn't help but feel a kindred spirit stir within me as I saw reflected in this cup a picture of my soul.

Fragile. Easily broken. Hanging on to the last limb.

Grief reaches down into your soul and seems to pull out every feeling, every nerve-ending, every insecurity, every doubt.....

And then places all of these sensitive aspects of our being on display for the world to see.

Words that may be said in love or may be said without thinking can cut my heart like a knife. (Words that in the past I may have not even remembered moments later.)

Actions of even the closest friends can leave me wondering if anyone really cares (I know deep inside they's just that my heart has no more room for any pain.)

It's strange but when you're grieving, it is almost as if God is calling you to a higher level of grace and mercy.

I've often tried to place someone else in my shoes and thought, "What would I say? How would I act?"

The truth is...........

There is often no way to please or comfort a grieving friend other than just being there to listen.

Sharing Scriptures maybe.

Sending a text just to say, "I love you" maybe.

Watching a movie together.

Something safe.

CS Lewis said in A Grief Observed that he became angry when people asked about his wife who had recently passed away and he became angry when they didn't. I totally understand what he is trying to say.

I guess I say all of that to say that if you are grieving like I am, my prayer is that you can have a level of grace and mercy with your friends and family. They love you. They hurt with you. They just feel helpless.

I know mine do.

And the truth many ways they are.

Grief is a journey that has to be traveled to a certain extent......alone with God.

And if you are reaching out to a friend who is grieving please know that they don't mean to seem hurt sometimes by your words or actions. They really don't. It's just that when a china tea cup hangs from a branch, sometimes it is going to get chipped.

So today, I want to say to all of you, THANK YOU for being my encouragers and my friends. Thank you for listening to me and sharing words of hope. Every time I read your comments, I walk away strengthened and renewed! You minister to me through your words.


Yes, I am fragile.

Thank you for "handling me with care!"

I consider you all treasures that I would happily display on my Christmas tree of life!

My Precious Grandpa

We lived with my grandpa when I was a little girl, so in many ways he is like my second dad.

I love him so much.

Memories of my grandpa make me smile even today...

riding in the tractor with him when he would plow the fields...

riding in the pick-up with him as he would feed the cattle...

watching him water his garden and fret about how to keep out the rabbits. (He always reminded me of Elmer Fudd, and I would tease him about those "wascally rabbits!")...

hearing him tell about a time when my sister and I were both riding in the tractor with him. According to the story, he had told us that we could stay in the field with him until one of us fell to sleep. A little later in the day, Grandpa noticed my sister asleep on the floor of the tractor. He asked me to "check" on her, and he said that I looked down real quick and then told him, "She's still awake!" I didn't want anything to keep from me being out there in the field with my grandpa!

Traveling to Oklahoma last week to spend Christmas with this precious man was just what I needed!! He cried when I walked into the room and so did I. Oh, how I love him.

I guess there's just so much about Grandpa's love for me that reminds me of God's love.

Unconditional. Never-ending. Deep. Abiding. Comforting. Forever.

And the list goes on and on.

I just had to share my grandpa with you.

Thankful for how God uses "real people" to model His love,

Straining Toward What is Ahead.....
Philippians 3

8)What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things......

........13)one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14)I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

18)For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19)Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20)But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

As much as I love this passage, as much as the passage inspires me to keep on keeping on,

I find myself fighting this verse tooth and nail. Struggling to grasp what God is asking of me. Struggling to make sense of His Words.

See, when I think of Nick and Adrienne I don't want to forget what is behind.....

I can't.

They were, are, and always will be a part of who I am.

And honestly in losing Nick I have somehow been drawn back to Adrienne in a more powerful way. I think I had tucked away the pain of losing my little baby girl as we tried to "move on" with life as God gave us Todd, then Nick, and then the adoption of Olivia. I always believed that Adrienne was waiting for me in Heaven, so I felt a level of peace.

Life had become busy with five kids and a teaching career. While I always changed the flowers on her grave for every season year in and year out and looked forward to the day when I would be reunited with her, I had somehow suppressed my grief.

So when Nick was first diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of seven, I remember crying out to God, "Please, no, please don't take another child from me."

Then suddenly the loss of Adrienne was overshadowed by the struggle to keep Nick alive.

Tonight I sit here facing the reality that two of my children have gone Home before me.

So, I read the verse about "forgetting what is behind," and I want to scream, "HOW?! WHY?! WHAT ARE YOU ASKING OF ME?!?!?"

I think I am just now beginning to wrap my mind around the depth of what the verse is saying.

I believe it is not so much about "forgetting" as it is about "dwelling" on what is behind me.

In a race, the victor is generally one who keeps his eye on the finish line. He is not constantly glancing back to see who or what is about to overtake him. He is focused on winning, on reaching his goal.

That's the kind of spiritual runner I want to be.

Not one who forgets that I am in a race.

Not one who forgets the aspects of my race that have made me the runner that I am.

But one who takes the hurdles as they come yet stays focused on the finish line.

I will never forget Nick.

I will never forget Adrienne.

They are a part of me that can never be taken away.

I hear a whisper from somewhere in my heart, "God doesn't ask us to forget His Son." In fact, He calls us to remembrance of Him and His crucifixion every Sunday morning as we gather around the Lord's Table to break bread. God says, "Do this in remembrance of Him....of me."

Comfort engulfs me as I realize I am created in the image of My Creator. My longing to remember my children comes from Him who longs for us to remember His Child.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for modeling healthy remembrance.

But as I remember my precious children, I also have to stay focused on the finish line. I must truly "strain" toward what is ahead. I cannot sit down on the track because the race is getting too difficult. I cannot throw in the towel.

I believe that is why Paul wrote these verses in Philippians. He wasn't trying to tell us that we should forget everything in our past. He was trying to encourage us not to get bogged down in our past to the point that we cannot finish the race victoriously. He knew that one of the devil's schemes is to keep us so broken from this world's pain that the thought of finishing the race seems impossible. I cannot let the devil win.

Oh, believe me, I am in a spiritual battle.

My legs are weary. My feet ache.

So, how do I handle this spiritual fatigue from grief while trying to remain strong in the race of my life.

I cling to more and more promises from God's Word.

I remember that "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." (Is. 40:31)

I remember that Christ says, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

If you are tired from the race and losing sight of the finish line, I encourage you to search God's Word for promises that remind you that He will be with you even on the toughest days.

I Thess. 5:11 says, "we must encourage one another and build each other up..."

I want to encourage you today to keep your eye on the prize!!!!

This life may be fleeting, but........

The prize is eternal!!!

Cheering you on and thanking you for each prayer for me................

Through my tears,

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