Birthdays And Welcome Homes

***Warning*** LOTS of pictures!

This past week, Emilie and I spent a few days in Chattanooga celebrating her 19th birthday! (Her birthday was actually June 30) We started out by attending the Sunday morning service at Scenic City Church. This is a church plant that was started by our friends Daniel and Heidi Hicks. Emilie used to babysit their children, Isabelle, Carson and Kylie, when they lived in Newnan. I think her favorite part of the weekend was being able to spend time with them. :)

Emilie and Isa

Emilie and Isa

Emilie and Heidi

Emilie and Heidi

After church we got a bite for lunch then checked in at a cute little Bed and Breakfast on top of Lookout Mountain. Our room was called Marsie Doats and was decorated in a 40’s theme.

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Later that afternoon, we visited Ruby Falls! Unfortunately, pictures of the actual falls didn’t turn out too well. :(

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Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls

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Beautiful view of the city!

Beautiful view of the city!

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The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast out on the porch.

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Peach French toast!

Peach French toast!

Breakfast Crossaint  Sandwich

Breakfast Crossaint Sandwich

Rita...the resident dog.  She refused to look at the camera!

Rita…the resident dog. She refused to look at the camera!

After breakfast we went to the Tennessee Aquarium! Isa and Carson were the perfect tour guides!

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We loved watching the otters.

We loved watching the otters.

Emilie hates escalators, so Isa held her hand so Emilie wouldn't be scared.  :)

Emilie hates escalators, so Isa held her hand so Emilie wouldn’t be scared. :)

Emilie loves owls!

Emilie loves owls!

Touching a shark!

Touching a shark!

Loved holding the butterflies!

Loved holding the butterflies!

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In the shark cage!

In the shark cage!

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Then….on to lunch at Mellow Mushroom.

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After lunch, we headed to the children’s hospital to visit with Isa and Carson’s four-year old sister, Kylie. Kylie was just recently diagnosed with leukemia. Please keep this precious little girl in your prayers.

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Emilie and I ended the evening at the Starbucks sitting atop Lookout Mountain.

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The next morning, after another delicious breakfast we headed to Coolidge Park. It was a beautiful day!

A view of the park from the pedestrian bridge.

A view of the park from the pedestrian bridge.

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On the other side of the pedestrian bridge we ran right into an ice cream shop….so we decided we must have one! Great way to end a great trip!

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So, that’s the birthday part…now for the welcome home part! We picked Jake up from Camp Winshape yesterday. He had a GREAT time and is already talking about going again next year! So very thankful for this opportunity that he was blessed with! I am so glad to have him back home! Unfortunately, he didn’t bring back just dirty laundry. He also brought back a cold and sore throat. :(

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And…another welcome home, as Katie should be coming in from her summer job at Winshape Camps late tonight! Unfortunately, it will be a quick in and out for her as she has to be at a retreat tomorrow evening for all of the CLM’s (RA’s) at her school.

So thankful for the joyful and happy times that the Lord provides for our family to enjoy!!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Life Goes On

Life is filled with ups and downs, happy times and sad times, joys and sorrows. There are many days I wish I could call it quits, gather up my kids, exit this world and go ahead and enter our eternal home. Where we would be reunited with Greg. Where we would no longer have to experience sadness, sickness, ugliness, disappointments, tears and sorrow. Where we would live in the very Presence of our Savior. But…that’s not an option. Life goes on. And although life can be difficult, the Lord continues to be good to us. He continues to bless us, to provide for us, to protect us, and to be faithful to us. And in the midst of our pain, He continues to give us glimpses of beauty, and joy, and happiness and laughter.

Today I choose to focus on the good. I thought I’d share some of the “beauty” that He has blessed us with over the last few weeks.

In June we celebrated the marriage of my nephew, Michael and his lovely Bride Molly. Jacob was honored to be asked to be a part of the wedding!

The bride and groom at the rehearsal

The bride and groom at the rehearsal

Jacob at the rehearsal

Jacob at the rehearsal

At the rehearsal dinner

At the rehearsal dinner

Sibling love!

Sibling love!

Fun with family!

Fun with family!

Beautiful sunset in Atlanta

Beautiful sunset in Atlanta

Wedding day!  Two handsome guys!

Wedding day! Two handsome guys!

Look Mom.....no Braves cap!

Look Mom…..no Braves cap!

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Entering the reception.  Michael had chosen Chipper Jones' walk-up song to be played as Jacob came in.  Of course, Jake loved it!

Entering the reception. Michael had chosen Chipper Jones’ walk-up song to be played as Jacob came in. Of course, Jake loved it!

Mr. and Mrs!

Mr. and Mrs!

The girls and I redeemed a gift certificate that we received from a sweet family at Christmas, and enjoyed a relaxing pedicure. Christmas in June!!

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We celebrated part 1 of Emilie’s 19th birthday! Part 2 is yet to come!

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My nephew Ryan was able to come and stay with us for a week. He and Jake had a great time!

Pool time!

Pool time!

Belated birthday lunch at Steak and Shake compliments of Nana!

Belated birthday lunch at Steak and Shake compliments of Nana!

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Jacob has been blessed this year to be able to attend Winshape Camps for Boys for the first time. We are so grateful and humbled by an anonymous donor who made this possible! He left this past Sunday and will be gone for another week. I can’t wait for him to get back and tell me all about it! I have received one postcard from him and he said that he was having a great time. What a wonderful opportunity for him!

Saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye.

Look how tall he is!!

Look how tall he is!!

Ready for the time of his life!!

Ready for the time of his life!!

Sometimes the ugliness overshadows the beauty….but it’s there. We just have to have eyes and hearts to see it. Today I thank God for the beauty that’s always there and I pray that He will continue to give me the eyes and heart to see it!

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy! Psalm 126:3

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

It’s Not Meaningless

My heart is heavy tonight. This heaviness has been building over the past year. So much pain. So much suffering. This past year has been filled with much sadness for me. It began in June of 2013 when Katie’s best friend’s Dad passed away from brain cancer. In August, Greg and I attended another funeral for a friend who also passed away from cancer. And then in October, the love of my life went home to be with the Lord. Still grieving and somewhat in shock, just a couple of days after Greg’s funeral, I attended the funeral of one of my cousins. In February, I received the news that a dear friend that I used to work with had passed away….yet another funeral. In June a friend that I met through facebook lost her husband to cancer. She is left to raise three young children alone. I have three sweet friends who have experienced the death of a parent over this past year. Just in the past week, we have found out that the four-year old daughter of some of our friends has been diagnosed with Leukemia. And today, another dear friend has gone home to be with the Lord….again cancer. Also, at this very moment two more sweet friends of mine are at home with their husbands who are under the care of hospice.

What is going on??? Why is the Lord allowing all of these things to happen? It’s all so sad. It’s all so painful. It’s all so heartbreaking. Why are parents being taken from their children? Why are parents having to bury their children? Why are sweet, innocent children having to go through harsh treatments while their parents stand by feeling helpless? Why are children having to grow up without their Mom or Dad? Why are marriages being ripped apart because of death?? I don’t get it! It doesn’t seem right; it doesn’t seem fair! It all seems meaningless!

Although this is what my heart feels, God’s Word tells me differently. God is Sovereign and His plan is perfect. As believers, everything that happens to us is for our good and His glory. I’m not pretending to understand this, but I believe it to be true. I struggle with this, but I trust my God. But just because I trust Him, doesn’t mean that the pain is any less. But I do believe that He is who He says He is, and that He has a good and perfect plan for each of us. And the things that happen in our life are not meaningless, but instead are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” And because of this, I will still praise Him!

Please take a few minutes to watch this. I have posted it before, but it is so good it’s worth posting again. I pray it encourages you and helps you to realize that the things we experience in this life are NOT meaningless.

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

Oh, What Freedom!

Greg and I on this day one year ago

Greg and I on this day one year ago


Today we celebrate the freedom of our great nation! A freedom that came at a great price…a freedom that came as a result of the sacrifice of many lives. A freedom that many still fight and sacrifice for today. A freedom that is anything, but “free”. My heart is filled with gratitude for those that have fought and sacrificed so that I may benefit from this freedom. I have the utmost respect and admiration for those that continue to this day…..fighting and sacrificing on my behalf. Not just the soldiers, but also their families…they are all in this together…and I am grateful.

And as wonderful as that freedom is, there is an even greater freedom to be thankful for. Christ came and died and rose again to give us freedom from sin, freedom from oppression, freedom from addictions, freedom from sickness and disease, freedom from worry, freedom from fear, freedom from whatever holds us captive, freedom from condemnation, freedom from evil and darkness, freedom from punishment, freedom from pain, freedom from death, freedom from heartache and disappointment, and most of all…..freedom from being eternally separated from God. And although, that freedom is a free gift to us, it was not free. Christ willingly gave His life so that we could enjoy that freedom. How I am humbled by His love for me, that He would do this. How I love and respect and admire Him for what He did on my behalf.

We won’t experience all of these freedoms this side of heaven….but as believers, we WILL experience all of them once we are Home! So today I rejoice that this is my future. Today I rejoice that this is Greg’s reality NOW!! That’s what I call FREEDOM!!

And even though I know this Truth, even though I know where Greg is and that he is living in that ultimate freedom, and even though I can rejoice in that…..it still hurts. The pain is still real. I still miss him like crazy. But…Praise God! I have a future that also includes the ULTIMATE FREEDOM!! I can’t wait!

Happy 4th of July everyone! Enjoy your day reflecting on the freedoms that you have been given and hug your loved ones tight. You never know what your life will be like one year from today.

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

The Lamb Has Overcome!!

THIS is what keeps me going every day! Without this……what’s the point??

A Father To The Fatherless

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Jake, Katie, Dad and I

Today is a tough day. A day that is hard to put into words. Today my heart breaks for my children, as they experience the first Father’s Day without their Dad. Today my heart breaks for my children whose father was taken from them “too soon”. And even though we think it too soon, and we don’t understand….we believe that God is sovereign and we trust in His timing. That doesn’t mean that we like it or understand it, but we choose to trust it.

And so today, like every other day, I cling to God’s promise:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

I am so thankful that my children have this assurance that not only is our great God the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, but He is also the Dad of Dads! But even so, they miss their earthly Dad terribly (and so do I). Their hearts break for the void that they feel especially today, and my heart breaks for them.

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If the Lord should bring us to your mind today, would you please pray for my children and all the other children that have lost their Dads “too soon”?

Today is a tough day, but we choose to continue…….

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra, Katie, Emilie and Jacob

The Two Faces Of Grief

Grief. Merriam Webster defines grief as a deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death. Deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement. Max Lucado, in his book Facing Your Giants states, “Bereavement comes from the word ‘reave’. Look up reave in the dictionary and you’ll read “to take away by force; plunder and rob.” Death robs you. The grave plunders moments and memories not yet shared: birthdays, vacations, milestones. You are bereaved because you’ve been robbed.”

Yep….that about sums it up. I am bereaved. I am grieving. I have been robbed. Katie has been robbed. Emilie has been robbed. Jacob has been robbed. A mother, a father, a sister, in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends…..all robbed. We are all grieving. We grieve in different ways and at different times, but we all grieve.

I’m certainly no expert in the field of grieving, nor do I ever want to be. But, the more I travel this path that’s been set before me, the more it seems to me that there are two faces to this thing called grief. One face that produces good in my life and one face that produces bitterness and ugliness in my life. One face that leads me to look more like Jesus and one face that leads me to look nothing like Him.

In one way, grief has made it difficult for me to sit still and quiet and spend time with the Lord. Because it’s in the quiet times that grief seems to hit me the hardest. But in another way, grief has shown me how desperate for Him I really am and how much I need to spend time with Him and in His Word.

Grief causes me to be sad and bitter about all the things that I no longer have and all the things that I will miss out on. All the things that I have been robbed of. But grief also causes me to be so thankful for all of the things that I have had. Grief causes me to remember how very blessed I have been.

At times, grief causes me to be self-centered and focused only on me and what I’m going through. But grief has also helped me to be more others-focused, realizing that everyone has hard things in their lives….I’m not the only one dealing with heartache and pain.

Grief brings with it feelings of incompetence, helplessness and a sense of being “unable”. But, it has also brought about a new-found sense of accomplishment as I learn to do things that I’ve never had to do before; and a reminder that He is my Helper.

One of the really ugly things that grief has brought out in me is anger and a sense of being judgemental towards couples who don’t seem to want to fight for their marriages. Couples who take one another for granted and don’t seem to care if their marriages thrive, just barely survive or even die. It makes me so angry that my marriage, my spouse was “robbed” from me, and they are willing to just let theirs go. I just want to shake these people and say “Can’t you see what you’re doing?? Wake up!!!” I told you it was ugly, and I’m not proud of these feelings, but I’m just being honest. But there is another face to this aspect of grief, as well. The Lord is teaching me that Yes, marriages are meant to last and they are meant to be modeled after Christ and the church, BUT….I have NO idea what these couples are going through. I have no right to judge these people, but should instead pray for them. To stand in the gap and fight (pray) on their behalf, and ask that their marriages would not only be saved but would also be marriages that would bring glory to God.

Grief has produced in me a longing to go “home” more than I’ve ever had before. I have a renewed interest in my Heavenly home and I have a desire to learn as much as I can about the place where Greg is now. But as much as I long to go home and look forward to that day, grief has also made me understand the importance of making each day that I have here on earth count. Each day is precious.

Grief has given me a more intense hatred for satan and the sin, sickness and death that he brought into this world. But because of the way my life has been touched by these things I have a greater compassion and desire to care for others that are going through these same things. I now know better how to pray, how to serve and how to be there for those that are going through what I’ve been through.

Grief brings with it a feeling that nothing else really matters now. Nothing has meaning. Life is without purpose. But through my grief I’m learning that there is a purpose for everything that the Lord allows into my life. I may not completely understand the exact purpose of me having to be a widow and a single Mom at the age of 48, and I certainly don’t like it, but even if I never know that purpose….one thing I DO know. My purpose is to live my life in a way that brings honor and glory to God and points others to Him. Many things in my life have and will change, but that purpose will never change.

Grief produces much worry and anxiety in my life. Who’s going to take care of me and the kids? How can I possibly be both Mom and Dad to my kids? How can I provide physically, financially and emotionally for a 21-year-old daughter, an 18-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son. As a woman, how can I be what my son needs from a parent? How can I take care of this house and yard and do all the things that need to be done? But grief has also produced in my life a growing trust in my God. Through my grief I’ve been reminded over and over again how the Lord has cared for us, He has been good to us, He has provided for us. Grief has caused me to daily claim the Lord’s promise that He will be a Father to the fatherless and a protector and defender of the widow. My confidence for my future is based on what God has done in my past.

Grief brings with it indescribable sadness. It’s a sadness that you just can’t explain to anyone else. It’s a sadness that is overwhelming, suffocating and exhausting. It’s a sadness that can suck the life out of you. It’s a sadness that when it hits, you just can’t seem to get out from under it. But grief also brings times of indescribable peace. It is the peace that passes ALL understanding. I never knew what that really meant until now. It’s a peace that I’ve never experienced in all my life. Many days I stand in awe at the peace the Lord has provided for me. It’s a peace that doesn’t make sense. It’s a peace that could come from nowhere or no one other than a good and loving God. It’s a peace that is so overwhelming that sometimes I find myself thinking, “how in the world can I feel this way in the midst of what I’m going through?” Sometimes I think, “Am I living in denial?” But what’s to deny? Greg’s not here, how can you deny that? It’s not denial, it’s just God’s indescribable peace in the midst of indescribable sadness. How they can coexist, I have no idea. Actually I do….only God!

Grief causes me to live some days in self-pity. So many “whys” and no real answers can lead me straight into a big ol’ pity party. And, I go there too often and stay there for far too long. But grief has also helped me to realize how abundantly blessed I am. Reminders of how He loves me, cares for me, and puts others in my life to help me bear this burden. And all the unanswered “whys” just teach me trust Him more. To put faith to the words that I have so often thoughtlessly spouted out….everything that happens to me is for my good and His glory. Do I really believe that?? Grief puts me in a position to live out what I say I believe.

Grief has a way of making you feel lost and alone. But grief has also helped prove to me that I am never really alone. The Lord is always with me and He is kind enough to send me little reminders of this every day in so many different ways.

Grief brings with it sadness and tears that catch me off-guard and seem to come out of nowhere. But grief also brings times where I am surprised by joy. Glimpses of joy, laughter, happiness that also seem to come out of nowhere.

Grief often takes me to the point of wanting to give up, like I just can’t and don’t even want to make it through another day. I find it hard to take the next step, the next breath even. But grief also reminds me of Greg’s words to me and the kids after he was first diagnosed with melanoma. “I don’t like this. I don’t want this. I wouldn’t choose this for me, or my wife or my kids. I don’t get to choose what happens to me. But….I DO get to choose how I will respond to what has happened to me.” And grief reminds me that I am in that same place again. I don’t like this path. I don’t want it. I certainly didn’t choose it; to be a widow and a single mother. But…I DO get to choose how I will respond to what has happened to me. Grief reminds me that the decision is mine.

Grief tells me that since Greg is gone, I am only half the person that I was before. When we married, Greg and I became one, but now he’s gone and I am incomplete. I am no longer whole. But through this grief, the Lord has shown me over and over that He makes me whole. He is my Completer. He is all I need. He is more than enough!

Grief is hard. Grief is not pretty. Grief is a part of this life. But just like anything else, we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Even grief.

So, once again I am faced with a choice. Will I choose to allow this grief to make me more like Jesus, or will I choose to allow it to rob me of even more than it already has? Unfortunately, it’s not a one-time choice. It’s a choice that I have to make many times a day. I pray that as time goes on, I’ll find myself making the right choice more times than I do the wrong choice.

Weeping may last for a night (I think it’s going to be a really long night), but Praise God, joy comes in the morning!!

Trusting His Plan,
Sandra

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