Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Four Years Past--The Lessons Live On


Yesterday marked four years since Christina walked into the presence of Jesus.  As the day unfolded, 
I had more and more reasons to celebrate Christina's legacy.

Doug and I took Isaiah to Christina's favorite breakfast place (again).  We never tire of the atmosphere, the memories and the good food at Chestnut Cottage.  Many a Sunday, after church, Christina would ask her Dad if we could please go to Chestnut Cottage.  I don't remember Doug ever turning her down.  It was also the scene of their last Daddy-Daughter date after hospice care began.

Doug (Ahmann) and Isaiah


After breakfast, we took Isaiah to a store to buy a "bouncy" ball that he had worked and saved money for.  As we were leaving the store, we saw a man on the corner, holding a sign.  Isaiah asked what the sign said.  I told him he needed money for food and housing.  Isaiah said, "I could give him the rest of my money."  We turned the car around and headed back to the corner.  We talked about how giving money to those who have needs is like giving directly to Jesus.  We told the man about giving to him was also a gift to Jesus.  He said, "Amen to that.  Thank you, Isaiah."   And Isaiah gave him the rest of his money. (Not much, but all he had.)



Isaiah is 4 1/2.  I have kept a letter that Christina wrote to Isaiah just before she left us.  I have never read it to Isaiah because I wasn't sure he could understand.  In the past few months, both Susan and I have thought that he is old enough to take it in.  We had a quiet little moment with Doug and Susan, Isaiah, and Doug and I.  I read the letter to Isaiah.  He certainly did understand it.  I am so thankful Christina took the time to write that letter.  It was lengthy, rich, encouraging and beautiful.  Here is a little sample. 
 ..."I'm sure many will tell you the story of us and how you came to be.  The main thing, though, that I would love you and anyone else who comes across your story is to be struck by 'WOW!'  What a miracle, and what a beautiful God we serve!  I pray, Isaiah, that this never ends!  I pray that when people look at your life, they see Jesus."......




There may have been a few tears.


In the evening, we had a barbecue dinner with a few friends and family.  We told stories of Christina--her words, her actions, her impact.  Of course, there was humor.  Some special classmates of Christina's sent a very funny story from Port Angeles Symphony days.  (Christina and Emily laughing until they cried in the back of the violin section--and trying to come up with tragic ideas that would help them settle down.)  😀

We also shared stories of Heaven and her conversations with Jesus nearing the end of her life here.  We heard about the serious talks with friends about why Doug and Christina would choose to have Isaiah.  And we heard about how Christina reached out to others even when she was spending her last weeks on earth.  





And then we visited Ocean View and shared German chocolate cupcakes (Christina's favorite kind of cake) and worshiped (her favorite activity).  It is always important to me to sing praises to God out there.  It's like an act of war against death.  Jesus wins--I love to sing about it!







We are so thankful for Christina's life, 
her choices, 
her faith, 
her joy.


The link below is from 1 1/2 years ago when Jesse and I played at "The Faith Puzzle" in Sequim.  We did some of Christina's favorite music with a slide show in the background.  I hope you enjoy the memories with us.


Jesse and Jo Dee's Musical Memorial of Christina

Saturday, November 19, 2016

11, 12, 13--Joy on Display

I was reflecting on Christina's life this morning.  Particularly the last few years.

In 2011, she was married.

In 2012, she gave birth to Isaiah.

In 2013, she transferred to the presence of Jesus.

I am amazed over and over that she chose joy as the expression of her life--all through those last years.

I am always on the lookout for the word 'joy' in the Bible.  It catches me by surprise.

"Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials."

"Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross."

I ran across a new one today.

Hebrews 11:34  You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Ah, the key to joy.  We know that we have better and lasting possessions.  What can be better than a life here?

Christina instructed us as she left this world--seeing beyond the thin veil.  Seeing what Jesus had prepared for her.  Telling us of her awakening spirit--"more alive than I've ever been".  

Instructing us to not pity her or her circumstances.  "I love my story!"

I am so thankful for Christina's battle for joy.  She knew the truth of 2  Corinthians 4:18.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal."

This is a world full of difficulty--internationally, nationally, personally, organizationally.  What are we to do in a place where it is easy to lose heart?  

I really think Christina, in the power of God, showed us a way through difficulty.  She was present, she was thankful, she shared her hope, and she kept joy alive by keeping her eyes on Jesus.

Christina left a legacy of courage and joy as she walked through the last few years of her life on earth.  I am looking forward to sharing that legacy with Isaiah.  He seems to share that same joy.  Someday, he will understand the great gift that his birth mom lived out.







Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Entering a New Decade

It's time.  Time to enter my 60's.  I have actually looked forward to this day--for many reasons.  Here is a lesson directly from Christina. 



Treasure the years that you are given.

Christina loved every day she drew a breath on this earth and I intend to honor her with the joy of living every one of my days with joy.  As life unfolds, I can hardly believe what lies ahead.  There is a whole new world of life coaching and training others life coaching skills that I could have never planned.  There are four grandchildren who thrive on attention.  There is a return to the Port Angeles Symphony that has been very fulfilling and joy-filled.  For as many days as I have the energy to keep going, I will pour myself into the new directions that God has opened up before me.  Truly, the verse that talks about God doing abundantly beyond what we could ask or imagine is true of God’s gift in my life.  He has given me a life that is far beyond my wildest dreams.  I am thankful He is not limited by my imagination or plans.  


There is a strange feeling of entering a decade that doesn't include Christina on a day to day basis.  Most of my 50's were spent with the reality of a daughter with brain cancer.  We wondered how long we would enjoy each other's company.  And then came the surprise of a daughter who became a bride and then a mom--all while undergoing some intense moments with treatment and management of a deadly disease.  Those days are behind--just like my 50’s. 

I miss talking with Christina—sharing the “what’s happening" stuff and talking about new insights and new directions.  I want to tell her of the escapades of her little guy.  I want to tell her what her friends are up to.  I want to tell her who needs some encouragement.  I want to ask her advice. Instead,  I just imagine Christina’s encouragement in the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in the book of Hebrews—those beautiful observers that cheer us on to run the race with endurance and to keep our eyes on Jesus.


I can almost hear her say, “Way to go, Mom.  Keep moving forward, keep loving people, do it all with all you’ve got.  And thanks, Mom, for giving Isaiah lots of hugs.  I knew you would.”
  


Monday, June 13, 2016

Heavenly Birthday Number Three

My Dear Christina,
 I miss you.  You went to be with Jesus on this day three years ago--that is a little shocking.  Time has passed quickly.  We have a little reminder of the years flying by.  His name is Isaiah.  He reminds us everyday of your joy, your humor, your zest for life.  

Today, I am not with the rest of the family.  I am in Oceanside, California ready to start across the United States following your old friend Rob DeCou while he races to raise money for brain cancer research.  RAAM--the Race Across America.  You would love this adventure.  You would love meeting these people who are helping Rob.  Your name and story are being talked about with hope and joy and purpose. 

Rob's Team
 Who knows, perhaps a cure for brain cancer will be closer because Rob is riding and this team is talking and raising money.  That is all in God's hands.  I just know I love telling your story.  It is a story of the power of God.  It is a story of peace in impossible circumstances.  It is a story of joy moving in and displacing despair.

Before I left for this adventure, we had a little gathering of family in Port Angeles to celebrate you.  
We told stories, took flowers to the cemetery, and Brody drew you some pictures to leave at your headstone.  Our good friend, Susan Kroh, also brought over a color pencil drawing honoring your life.  It was an image she dreamed one night--even the title (Soli Deo Gloria) and she eventually drew what she dreamed.  It is a pink peony.  The dark section represents brain cancer.  The bright yellow represents God's presence and power, the lighter parts of the flower are joy and peace.  The petals ascending are your life heading to Jesus.  To God Alone Be the Glory.  It is beautiful--as you are.


Much love,
Mom


To all you readers--if you want to follow the Race Across America and read my 3000 Miles to a Cure Blog, you will find it here.  https://3000milestoacure.com/author/jo-dee-ahmann/



Thursday, June 9, 2016

and Wise Words from Mommy Susie

Wedding Day--October, 2014
A brave young woman with two sons of her own to raise, entered into our lives, married Doug and took on the role of mom to Isaiah.  A little while later they added a beautiful little girl, Charlotte, to the mix.
I asked Susan if she would like to write about what this journey has been like for her and she took on the task (amidst active baby, Little League games, and incessant questions from a 3 year old). What follows is Susan's gift to us.


As I look at Charlotte, I can’t help but think that she is the same age Isaiah was when Christina went to be with Jesus ….. almost three years ago.  As a mom, I cannot grasp the magnitude of Christina’s (mama’s) heart. The depth of surrender.  The amount of trust.  The battle in letting go.  Her reality of leaving her sweet baby boy without the comfort of knowing how things turn out.  

In only about 15 months of motherhood (beginning with babe in womb), Christina left an astonishing example of what is looks like to be an amazing mom.  She trusted Jesus whole heartedly.  Joyfully.  She not only trusted Him for herself, but also for her child.  She was selfless.  She chose fearlessness.  She prayed fervently for Isaiah.  She surrendered him.  And then again, and again, and perhaps constantly.  

Charlotte and Isaiah
I could not have written this story in my wildest dreams.  Marrying Doug, raising Isaiah, living in this home, blending our families, having another baby…..wow.  Even as I write it, it blows my mind! (And makes me sweat a little!) Although this has come with tremendous blessings, it has brought many fears and doubts. And questions.  Lots of questions. How do I do all of this?  Am i the right one for the job?  How do I love and care for Doug’s heart in all of this?  Is this really Gods will for all of us? What is my role with not only Isaiah, but the rest of the family? What is the expectation of me? How do my big boys fit in to all of this?  Is it okay to make myself at home here - change the decor, etc.? Will others approve of the way I raise Isaiah? Okay…you get the picture.  Its a lot to navigate.  And if I’m being honest, and vulnerable… I let some of these questions paralyze me with fear. 

If you have been to our home and asked for our wifi password, we will give you 2Timothy1:7.  This reads, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  I tell you this, because Doug and Christina lived and breathed and filled this home with God’s word that continually tells us not to fear. This is only one small example.  I remember coming to visit when Christina was on hospice.  This was not a house filled with  fear.  This was a house filled with life.  With joy.  With worship.  And it was filled with Isaiah … which brought so much joy and laughter and fun.

That little guy continues to bring it!  Can I just tell you ….. I see Christina in his smile.  The twinkle in his eye.  In the way he runs.  The way he does this happy dance when he gets something right.    And can I just say ….. I am so incredibly thankful that Doug and Christina fearlessly chose Isaiah.  I am so thankful that God blessed all of us with this gift.  I am thankful that I knew and loved Christina, and can share that with Isaiah. And I am thankful and blessed to be a part in raising up this little guy.  

Far beyond what I could have asked or imagined!!
For the last two years, God has asked me to surrender my fears to him.  He continues to show me what it looks like to walk in freedom.  He continues to show me - much through Christina’s story - that He is the author of my life.  He is sovereign.  That means … He has the whole picture.  And although I am not facing a brain tumor, I don’t have the control or knowledge of when my last breath will be. I don’t have the comfort of knowing how it all ends up for my children.   And the only true peace, is the peace that Jesus brings.  If I am surrendering as Christina did - all of my questions and fears and doubts - that is when the unexplainable joy comes.  The joy that only Jesus can bring in the midst of hardship.  And that is the blessing.  And when I am pressing into Jesus, the fears of this world fade away.  When I actively trust in His word, I can exhale slowly.  I am so thankful I don’t have to figure all of this out.  I don’t have to be anyone or anything other than what God has called me to be. I am responsible for today.  This moment.   Christina did not passively wait for all of this to come to her.  She fought for it. Continually.  Lord, may this be true in my life as well.  
Every day, may I surrender my life to you.  May I surrender my children.  Will you fill me with a spirit of power and love and self-control.  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18.  Thank you Lord, that you give us these gifts.  They were not available just to Christina, but to all of us.  

And if you’re wondering ….  those questions and doubts I shared …… God has given and blessed abundantly.  Beyond my wildest imagination. 

My heart in sharing all of this, is to encourage you (and myself) that joy and peace in this broken world is attainable through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  That He is our bridge to peace and joy.  Oh, how I desperately want to live this way!  And thank you Jesus, for  Christina’s example in living this way.  Full abandon.  Nothing wasted.  All for His glory.  
  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

When Friends are Grieving

Trent, Steve, Chrissie and Ryan
A few days ago our friends lost their son.  Though they no longer live in Port Angeles, we feel their loss.  He was two weeks from high school graduation and in a car accident.  Trent Basden is with Jesus but his family and friends are left here to cope without him.  

All who love the Basden family would love to turn back the clock and not let that deer cross the road at that exact moment.  Or we want to remove the pain.  Or we want to wake up from a bad dream.    None of those things are possible.  We feel helpless.  We can't imagine going through anything like this.  

So what are we left with?

I know of two simple things I pray at times like this.  Two things that made a HUGE difference whenever Christina was facing difficulty.  

The first was this--God promises peace when we tell Him our concerns.  (Philippians 4:6-8)  That peace is called incomprehensible.  It makes no sense.  How can we have peace when we are in the middle of death or disease or trauma?  Well, that is the miracle that our loving God provides.  We had no explanation for the immense peace that came at the most trying times.  But it did.  

So, I pray that the Basden family will experience incomprehensible peace.  It does not take away pain or make the situation easy but it is a gift that only God can provide.

The second thing I pray is for God's presence to be recognized at every turn.  Psalm 23:4  says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."  Our Shepherd, Jesus, walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.   Death casts a long shadow on this earth.  Anyone who has been around for a while has experienced the shadow of death.  It is everywhere.  There is nothing better than to see God's activity and feel His presence in the midst of the most horrible circumstances.  He shines brightly.  Our faith increases.  And we walk on with Him.  Not without pain.  Not without loss.  But we walk with hope. 

And so we pray, Lord, that you will surround this family with your peace that is beyond understanding.  And we ask that they will be able to see your hand clearly.  We pray that your presence is palpable, that in the midst of struggle and grief, your power and your grace will be seen in unexpected ways.  In Jesus' name,  AMEN


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Story Telling Across America

Rob visiting last month.
In one month, I will be heading across the United States writing about Christina, brain cancer, our journey, our faith--all in the context of following a grueling ultra endurance bike race across America.  Christina's high school friend, Rob DeCou, has decided to test his endurance on the Race Across America, while riding to honor Christina.  The organization, 3000 Miles to a Cure, has asked me to write (not ride) my way across America in one of their media vans.
When Rob shared his desire to do this race from San Diego to Annapolis, I knew I wanted to drive along and watch this unfold.  The beautiful gift to me is the invitation to write for 3000 Miles to a Cure blog while riding in one of their media vans.

I have some new friends that I will be traveling with.  Maria Parker founded this organization and raced in RAAM 3 years ago to honor her sister.  The story can be found at this link.  It is an hour long movie that tells the remarkable story of Maria's ride and features her sister's life.  



Lucia and Maria Parker, Rob DeCou
Maria and I have so much in common.  Our faith, our loss of very special people, and a desire to live fully and with purpose.  Maria's daughter, Lucia, is organizing the media teams and we will all make this journey together.
Last month we had a few days together in Port Angeles.  I loved the time with Maria and Lucia in our home and am very excited to head down to San Diego on June 11th.  The race starts June 14th--the day after Christina's heavenly birthday.  This feels like a great way to celebrate her life and her courage and her faith.  

If you are a person who prays, I would appreciate prayer for this journey.  I don't want to miss anything God has planned--the conversations, the people we meet along the way, the events that can't be anticipated.  I will certainly link what I am writing with this blog.  Prayer for Rob would be appreciated also.  This can be a dangerous race and super challenging on every level--physically, spiritually, and emotionally.   Thank you in advance for all your love and support. 

Maria and I