"Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise." ~Andy Stanley

December 30, 2015

The whole Christmas season in one really long post!

Joy surprised me earlier in the month by deciding to pray that this would be "the best Christmas ever" and so we joined our faith with hers and believed for that. Love that girl!

Despite all that we have been through, it truly was a lovely Christmas season. God is good!

Earlier in the month our favorite newlyweds threw an epic Christmas party! They are so great at entertaining. -I felt blessed to be the only person over the age of 23 there. LOL

On the ONE and ONLY cold weekend here in FL, we got bundled up and used our annual passes to ride roller coasters in the dark and look at Christmas lights at Busch Gardens!

Another evening, we went to a Christmas event in a small nearby town. We walked down Church Street, which is full of churches that give away coookies and hot chocolate. Every house was decorated and carolers sang on wrap around porches. It was super cute!

We will LOVE this new tradition more when are not sweating because it was (and still is!!!) in the upper 80's even at NIGHT. Seriously, we couldn't stand to drink hot chocolate, but we had fun.

Christmas Eve without Dad was understandably, super hard for a couple of our kids. But they pressed through. -We all have waves of grief that hit us at different times.
We got dressed up and went to church for the annual Christmas Eve service that we love so much! Then we came home and got in our PJs and the boys cooked filet mignon for us girls! -A fun tradition Hubby started a few years ago. Afterwards, we watched Hubby's favorite version of A Christmas Carol:
Apparently, the last time we watched this with our kids they were pretty young and it gave them all nightmares! They are now, almost 23, 21, 19 and 16 and were still hesitant to watch it because of how much it scared them.; )  So, if they all need therapy someday, it will not be because of the way we parented but because of the Ghost of Christmas Future. LOL

You know it was a fun Christmas morning when your house ends up looking like this:

It was fun to celebrate with Zac and Tiffany on their first married Christmas!

Every year I mention my sister's very creative gift giving skills and this year was no different. First off, she got us all Christmas PJs! And then because she had heard about our annual 'reindeer games' she sent along the Saran Wrap game! We had played this at Zac and Tiff's party and loved it. The ball she sent was gigantic!
You take turns rolling dice and whenever someone rolls a 6, they get to unwrap and keep whatever comes off the ball until the next person rolls a 6. As you can see, it was so much fun even Bree wanted in on the action.

Earlier in the month, one of my hubby's clients got my number and asked for the "honor" of blessing our kids this Christmas! I was shocked and I cried the entire time I was on the phone with that dear man. I didn't really know what our kids "dream gifts" would be because they had not asked for large things... so it took me awhile to come up with some suggestions. And then the night that we were walking (and sweating) on Church Street, I left them a key and they snuck the presents in our house and I hid them in here:

On Christmas Day their minds were completely blown! .

The kids all realized that these gifts were just another amazing testimony to the life that their dad led and the impact he made on people. Andrew said it best: "Dad is still giving to us!"

Our reindeer games were cut short since archery caused us to miss being in the A/C. -More sweating!
Then we had Christmas dinner, which I forgot to take any pictures of, and then we headed to the movies!

 I loved that everyone in the theater clapped when the older characters made an appearence! Such fun!

At the end of the night we headed to Tiffany's parents house for dessert and games. So grateful to have them as family!
It was an amazing Christmas!

Now and always, so thankful that Jesus came to "bring good news that will bring great joy to all people..." Luke 2:10


December 27, 2015

Because we love Mexican food around here

These fish tacos are an old family favorite! And they are even deeply loved by our son, who is now a Californian and can eat great Mexican food all day, every day.

I got this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens years ago and my copy is all crinkled and stained. So glad to find that it is here!

So, if you are tired of leftover "roast beast" give it a try! ; )


December 23, 2015

Wednesdays in the Word

"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned."  Mt.4:16

"For my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before
the face of all peoples, 
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, 
And the glory of Your people Israel."  Luke 2:30-32

"Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."  Is. 60:1

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, 

but will have the light of life."  Jn. 8:12

Forever grateful for Jesus!
Merry Christmas!


December 22, 2015

Grieving and Christmas

Those are two words that I didn't ever picture applying to myself...at least not for 25 or 30 years! But, here we are!
On the plus side, Christmas is full of all kinds of wonderful, happy distractions, while our hearts are healing.
The message that Jesus is Emmanuel (God with us) is so comforting as we miss our dear one who used to be with us!

People often say to me: "At least you still have your kids."
(Not the same. But, true.) 
I'm blessed that they bring me nothing but joy, encouragement and lots of laughs!
Thank the Lord, I am not an empty-nester and a widow this Christmas! Oh, my stars, that would be rough!

I'm grateful that on Christmas morning, I will wake up in a house with 2 young adults and one teenager. It will be loud and wrapping paper will be strewn everywhere, just like always! Our favorite newlyweds will pop over and enjoy the day with us. Games will be played and way too much eating will take place. Then we will head to the movies to see Star Wars and visit friends, who've become family, and have dessert.
It will be a wonderful day despite our loss.
And the best part of any day is ALWAYS Jesus, and remembering what He's done for us!


December 17, 2015

What are you called to do?

This bit of awesomeness is from Beth Moore's new book Audacious, and it is way too good not to share.
"When the blood in your veins runs hot with holy affection for the living Christ, what do you want to do most? Paul put it this way: Christ's love compels us.
When Christ's love invades every cell in your body, what are you compelled to do?
The follow-up question is critical. The answer to it is where the rubber meets the road, where dreams become realities and destinies that defy gravity finally get fulfilled.
 This is it: What would it take to do it? You answer those two questions: What are you most compelled by the love of Christ to do? And what would it take to do it? -Then identify one first step toward that direction, and, C
hild, you will find the next place to plant your foot on your divinely planned path. Don't tell me you're too young. Don't tell me you're too old. Don't tell me you're too busy. Get to it. Nobody but you can do it."


December 16, 2015

Wednesdays in the Word

I'm keeping it real here today, but please don't read into this that I'm mad at God about my husband's death. Thankfully, I can say that I am not. That is a road that leads to nowhere!
 -I've been on it before.
Just processing and healing. He is the Wonderful Counselor, after all!
The other night, the kids and I were listening to a sermon about having agapae love for other people.
Agapae is the Greek word for a love that is sacrificial and unconditional. It is the love that God demonstrated for us when He gave His only Son to die for us, when we did not love Him in return.  It is the love that He commands us to have for other people like our enemies. Ouch!
It is a love that expects nothing in return.
It is an act of the will and a commitment. 

I got distracted from the sermon and stopped listening because something hit me that I had never thought of before:
 I need to agapae God!

When life doesn't make sense on your end, sometimes even loving God, is an act of the will and a commitment!

My need to love Him in an unconditional way, was blowing my mind and it really helped me!

Since my resident theologian is no longer with us,
I had to use Google! ; ) And I found plenty of verses commanding us to agapae God!

I never realized this verse was agapae:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength..." Luke 10:27

This verse in Job is a favorite of mine right now:
 "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."  Job 13:16

I am feeling 'slayed.' And that word is as dramatic as I feel, so how cool is that?! : )
I love that it doesn't say 'obey' Him or 'serve' Him. It says TRUST.
He knows best!

So, if you feel disappointed by Him, or the circumstances in your life hurt, and your prayers haven't been answered in the way you thought they should...Know that I'm right there with you!  Let's get our AGAPAE on and just trust...

Besides, as Peter said "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words that give eternal life." John 6:68

He is our One and Only!


December 14, 2015

Birthday celebration

Nate chose to have his birthday dinner at a retro pizza place in our neighborhood,
 and when I saw this,,,,
I may have squealed and went digging in my purse for quarters! 
I had fun impressing my kids with my long dormat
 Ms. Pac Man skills! 
They were like "Whoa, Mom has strategy!" 

-Why, yes! Yes, I do! I spent a good part of my teen years working on it because that is all there was to do. ; ) 

Then we sat down, and the menus were taped to the back of  album covers and mine was....

Duran Duran! 
My teen favorite! It was like 80's night!

We ate deep dish pizza and calzones with these great friends  
and then we headed back to our house for donuts, hot chocolate and a bon-fire. It wasn't really cold enough for those things but you just have to fake it in FL sometimes! : ) 

Then we went to for a drive to a lake (that is more like a pond) that has a great lights display every year. We all split up into two cars and Nate was one of the people in mine, when a family from CA called to facetime him and sing him Happy Birthday. So sweet!
They jokingly asked if he was going out drinking and we all laughed. His answer was "No, I'm in the car with my mom driving around looking at Christmas lights." LOL
Party on! ; )


December 11, 2015

Happy 21st!

Nathan came home from CA in August to be with us when we found out that Hubby was fighting cancer for the second time. We've been so blessed and grateful to have him here. I can't imagine going through all that we have, without him!

Because he is so into cinematography (and very gifted at it) he had the presence of mind to always be recording or filming important moments (without our knowledge) ever since he got here. And now we have some priceless candid footage, especially of Hubby's last two weeks of life, that we can view whenever the day comes that we are up for it. What a treasure.

He has decided to extended his stay into the spring to make sure that I'm OK. Isn't he a sweetheart?

Then he has a calling in CA to get back to and I'm so proud of him for that.

Nate's passions are always contagious and we all can't help but jump on board. When he arrived here in August, it was with a passion to start a young adults ministry at our church and we all got involved. Hubby was very excited about this group and on one very rare day in the hospital, he was able to counsel Nathan about it by phone for 2 hours! It was a divine gift to Nathan, that I will never forget, because the energy to talk for that long was miraculous! So, it has been with great joy that we have watched God make this group take off and impact those attending and the adults, who are pouring out their wisdom into the next generation. God is doing great things!

It has been three years, since Nathan's been at home on his actual birthday, so it was great fun to make him the traditional birthday bear shaped pancake this morning! LOL -Because you are never too old to eat something that is suppose to look like a bear but turned out like a rabbit! ; )

Happy Birthday, Nate!!! So proud of my visionary guy!


December 10, 2015

Sweet and sappy stuff

I don't think my hubby was a big fan of this analogy, but I used to tell him that he was like Mary Poppins:
 "practically perfect in every way." : )  It was so true!
And it made a happy marriage very easy! How could it not!?

We were asked to write down marriage advice at one of the (many) weddings happening around here lately and my advice was something we did, and I'm happy to say that it worked for all 24 years!
When we got married, we made a promise to each other that we would never raise our voices at one another.... And we never did!
Such a blessing!
(I wish I would have been awesome enough to have thought to have made that promise to our kids
as well! But no such luck! lol)

We also promised never to leave our home in anger. You know, where one person drives away, angry at another.
We kept that one too!

For some reason, we also never used each other's first names.
Like ever.
He was "Hon," "Honey,"and "Lovey." And I was "Kind Woman" and "Baby Cakes" and all sorts of other ones! -I don't know if I would advise this. Sometimes it was embarassing in public. ; )

Even to the very end, my hubby was always finding a way to care for me. One of my sweetest hosptial memories is of his eyes searching a-sometimes-crowded hospital room, looking for my face! Whenever he found my face, he would wink his left eye at me. He did this many times a day!  It meant the world to me. And it was his sweet way of always reassuring me in the midst of everything that was happening!
Such a sweetheart! I'll always treasure that!

He spent years praying daily for me and one of the verses he always prayed was Prov. 11:16.
I pray that I would be "A gracious woman who retains honor." He was certainly an honorable man and I was blessed!


December 9, 2015

Wednesdays in the Word

It feels like the scriptures on healing have been my constant companions for several months now and the other day I realized that I needed to make myself more familiar with the scriptures on widows.
 ~I'm not a big fan of the 'w' word at the moment, and the first time someone called me one, I cried. (not that it takes much to make me cry right now)   ; )

But, God is a big fan of widows!

Here are just a few verses out of many:

"A father to the fatherless and a judge for the widows,
is God in His holy habitation."  Ps. 68:5

"The Lord protects the strangers,
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
but He thwarts the way of the wicked."  Ps. 146:9

"Let your widows trust in Me."  Jer. 49:11

And here is a scorcher of a verse:
"You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me,
I will surely hear his cry and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword and your wives shall become widows and your children, fatherless."  Ex. 22:22-24

The New Testament has very specific instructions for who should care for widows, depending upon their age and if they ever had children.

And we all know that Jesus made it a priority, while He was dying on the cross, to give the care of his widowed mother into John's hands. So sweet!


December 7, 2015

His Birthday

My Hubby's birthday is today.
I would appreciate your prayers for us, after all that has just taken place.

We plan to get together soon and do some of the fun things he chose to do on past birthdays and we, of course, have to eat his amazing BBQ apricot chicken!

I don't imagine this day will ever be easy for us, but we will always have a wonderful man to celebrate!


December 4, 2015

A JOYful birthday!

Joy's 19th birthday fell on the day after Hubby's memorial service.

~I'm so glad that I didn't know then, that she received a card from a relative that had these sentiments written inside:
"Death hurts the ones left behind.."
"Sorry that your birthday is going to suck."


Anyway, all that to say, I had been determined that it would not "suck" and I'm happy to say that it didn't! : )
Thankfully, our sweet family and friends, who were still here from CA, helped us have a GREAT DAY celebrating Joy!

My sweet daughter-in-love was in charge of the birthday brainstorming because my mind was occupied with the memorial. She is fabulous in every way and your go-to-girl for entertaining or party planning. Her idea was to go to an "escape room."
Have you heard of those?
You basically pay money to get locked in a room! LOL
And you have to solve a series of puzzles that eventually show you a way out of that room.
It is a lot of fun for a group of people.

We chose a Sherlock Holmes themed escape room! We all love that show!

 I had also bought her this,

completely by accident just because we had all become adult coloring book addicts during the our time in hospital lobbies.

So, I could not have been happier when it hit me that I had a Sherlock THEME going because I'm ALL ABOUT a themed party! : )

After church, we had lunch in Downtown Disney and found out that it is now Disney Springs. -The GPS on everyone's phones wanted to take us to CA!

Then we went to the escape room where they locked us in for an hour and a half!

I felt pretty sure I'd be locked there for a lifetime without all the smart people who were with us!
 There were even square roots to solve!

And we came very close to solving the very last puzzle, but didn't make it.  

 Thankfully, they walk you through the parts you missed before you leave.
-Some decompressing had to take place afterwards. ; )

 Then we headed back to Disney Springs where some of our group needed to do some Star Wars shopping and Joy and the boys headed to a restaurant to celebrate her day with her friends from church.

I can't say my day was without its tears. I did a bit of crying through Disney Springs when it hit me that I would never hold my Hubby's hand at a place like that again...

But all in all, it was a blast!
I'm so thankful for my sweet family and friends who helped plan it and pull it off!
They helped make it the birthday that didn't "s_ _ _."
Love them all to pieces!

Happy Birthday, to a girl who is a joy, in every way and who always makes us so proud!" xoxo


December 2, 2015

Advent is here!

It is time for nightly Christmas devotions at our house...

And apparently, Bree finds them riveting!  ; ) 

Using Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift again this year.

Merry Christmas! 

December 1, 2015

When God sent us people

When my hubby went into the hospital, there was no evidence of cancer on his latest scan. I took him to the ER for vomitting and possible dehydration...and he died of cancer 16 days later.

I remind myself that this didn't take God by surprise even if it did take me by surprise. God knew and He sent us the people we needed to have with us during this tragic time!

A day or so after he went into the hospital, when things didn't even look bad, my sister in CA called and said she was coming to stay with us and help out. Then we found out that cancer was in two places in his body, and my brother-in-law in CA said that he was coming to visit and bringing their dad.
Then my best friend called to say that she was coming for the weekend to help our family in any way she could. 

So, a week later on almost the same day, they all arrived!
And the timing was something that only an all-knowing God could have planned.

They were there with us when we heard that "there was nothing more that could be done."
They were just in time to have their moments with him while he was still able to respond to them.
They had a chance to say their "goodbyes" and they were there to hug us through our "goodbyes."
They helped me with the hospice transition. They laughed and cried with us. They kept us fed, they lived in waiting rooms, colored and did puzzles and loved on our kids!

It was like God assembled the team He knew we needed!
Our pastors were a huge help to us throughout all of this. I don't know what I would have done without them.

And this sweet girl:

was such a blessing to our kids! She barely left our kids sides for two weeks, except to go to work. She took them out for food when things got intense and they just needed a break. She was apart of what my kids called the Hospice Crew. -They were at my beck and call whenever I wanted live worship music in room 11! How blessed we were to hear them! And how mighty was God's presence!
She was always showing up at random times with food! LOL : ) She was in our kitchen making mountains of french toast for all of us on the morning after Hubby passed. She showed up before the memorial with fried chicken to feed our family members in the green room right before we went out. LOL She made my kids laugh and prayed with them. She was just THERE. What a treasure! She is the kind of person who is always loving and ministering to people whereever she is, so I felt like I owed the world an apology, while we had her all to ourselves for those 16 days! : )

My best friend loves our kids like her own! When she got here, they got an great dose of loving mothering. : ) She cooked, she cleaned, she shopped. She practically lived in the hospital lobby with all of our family members. She took care of our dog when we were at hospice. She helped fill my hubby's hospice room with worship and sang hymns with my kids. She was always busy doing a million things to help somehow. She changed her plane ticket when things got worse and stayed way longer than she ever planned to. She was with us through everything.
She helped scan photos for my hubby's memorial service video and cooked food to put in our freezer.
What I will always remember, is her saying "Joy needs to go birthday shopping and I'm taking her!"
 I cried! -What a blessing it was to have her blessing Joy for me when I couldn't!
And she was my personal shopper when I needed one most!
 - I didn't know what to wear to the memorial. I didn't want to wear all black because a part of me was happy that my hubby was with the Lord and that was worth rejoicing over. I told her the story of how as a teenager, my friend and I once wore white to a funeral for an elderly woman we loved, because we were so happy that she was with Jesus! I wasn't quite up for doing that in this situation though. LOL Then she went out and bought me THE perfect dress to wear! It was white, but had a black pattern on it that made it look almost all black! (hard to explain) But it was just perfect!!!! It was such a thoughtful gift!
She is the dearest friend that anyone could ever ask for.

When my sister arrived, I was spending 13 hours a day at the hospital. My kids were SO glad to have her at our house, that I got a text from Joy saying something like "Aunt Jenny brings order to our chaos and she can cook things that aren't frozen!" LOL She ended up giving us 3 weeks and 2 days of her life! She did everything imaginable for us. She shopped, cooked, she did laundry and ran our household.
She spent two nights with me at hospice. She got in trouble for sleeping in the lobby on our first night and then spent another night in his room with me in a recliner. (a very uncomfortable recliner at that!)
She was my "christian bouncer" blocking my hubby's room from lovely visitors, when there were too many. ; )  She made sure I ate. She introduced us all to the stress relief of adult coloring books. LOL
She dealt with the funeral home when I wasn't up for it. She helped organize the memorial service and she did everything she could to make it everything I wanted it to be. She extended her trip to stay past Thanksgiving so that she could help us through our first holiday without hubby/dad. She was my Hubby's replacement (so-to-speak) on our annual Chrstimas Tree shopping breakfast date on Black Friday moring and she made it fun. She helped decorate our house for Christmas and she took Andrew for a driving lesson.
 I don't even know all the things she did. But she certainly helped us get our feet on the ground before she left and none of us know what we would have done without her! All my friends want her to stay forever! -Join the club! : ) What a gift from God to us!

The Lord knew what we would need and He was so faithful to send us WHO we needed and He made a way for them to stay for as long as we needed!
He is faithful!