Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Gift from Christina



Uncle Russ and Jesse on Christmas Eve
My husband and I are traveling this Christmas Eve.  We pulled out one of the last CD mixes that Christina made.  If you knew her well, you knew that music spoke to the deep places of her heart.  The perfect song for the moment was what she was always looking for.  And then she would put on her headphones and worship her heart out.
She was also known for making appropriate mixes for her friends—if they were struggling, or if they were traveling, or just needed a little country music.  Receiving a “Christina mix” was always such a beautiful gift. 

And so we put in Christina’s last CD mix and made our way across the Snoqualmie Pass.

And we heard her heart.  Her heart that was so ready to see Jesus.  Longing to be with Him.  Willing to leave behind this world. 

Here are a few phrases from some of these 16 songs—treasures that display her heart.  I'm sorry I don't know all the names or composers of these songs.

“There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.
We will see Jesus face to face.”

“Come to me.  You who are weak.  Let my strength be yours tonight.
Come and rest, let my love be your bed.  Let my heart be yours tonight.
Peace be still.  Peace be still.  Please be still and know that I am God.”

“Come all ye weary and ye broken.
Come to the table of the Lord.
Come sing a song of the forgiven.
Come lay your burden on the Word.”

“When the storm is raging all around me
You are the peace that calms my troubled sea.
When the cares of this world darken my day
You are the light that shines and shows me the way.”

“I hear the voice of the One I love.
He’s calling my name.
He’s saying, “Come up higher and hear the angels sing.
Come up higher my beloved.
Come up higher and leave this world behind.
I am running.  Running after You.
You have become my soul’s delight.
I am running.  Running after You.
Here with you I find my life.”

“There is a peace I’ve come to know, though my heart and flesh may fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul, I can say, “It is well.”
Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed.
The victory is won.
He is risen from the dead.
And I will rise when He calls my name.
No more sorrow, no more pain.
I will rise on eagles’ wings.
Before my God fall on my knees and rise.
I will rise.
And I hear the voice of many angels sing--
Worthy is the Lamb.
And I hear the cry of every longing heart--
Worthy is the Lamb.”


I hear in these songs a heart that struggled toward peace and longed for all that Jesus offers us.  What a gift to my heart this Christmas as I miss my beautiful daughter who reflected Jesus wherever she went.

If you are struggling this Christmas, I wish you the peace of Jesus, the Strength of His touch, and the promise of being in His presence forever--

Tonight, we gathered together with our extended family and worshiped.  We sang some of Christina's favorite songs and listened to a little video of her talking about heaven.  Our hearts are full and thankful.  Merry Christmas.







Thursday, November 27, 2014

Isaiah Possibility Day

I have just returned from three weeks in India and Kenya and find that returning to this time zone leaves me awake at odd times of the night.  Yesterday, at 4:00 a.m., I had the thought, “This was the time of year when Christina and Doug were married.”  Bringing up my mental calendar and counting the days, I realized that November 26th would have been their third wedding anniversary. 
Was it only 3 years ago that Christina walked down the aisle in her “no fear” wedding dress?

How do you mark anniversaries for those who are with Jesus and do not need an anniversary marked?

And Doug has a different  miraculous anniversary with his new wife, Susan, that we will celebrate with joy.
I prayed and I thought—what is important about November 26th?
Here is where my heart took me.  That was the day, three years ago, that Isaiah became a possibility. It’s the day that two brave people with eyes upward made a bold commitment to trust Jesus and walk a difficult journey together.  Along the way they asked Jesus about having a baby and He said, “YES!!!”  
In light of the miracle of Isaiah, I have renamed November 26 as “Isaiah Possibility Day”.
Isaiah is now two years old and thriving in his new family. I spent yesterday with him.  He told me, “Mommy Christina with Jesus.  Singing.” That made me smile.  If you knew Christina, that statement would ring absolutely true. 
I can sense Isaiah’s joy at calling out “Mommy!” and having a very present and loving Mommy to attend to him.  He loves his new family—so full and rich and vibrant. I am thankful with every breath I take that God has cared intimately for every detail of this life journey He has us on.  He has taken such good care of Isaiah and the rest of us!


The Miracle of Isaiah


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When a Slow Death Scares the Life Right Out of You


I have received messages and calls and posts on my Facebook page about what I think about the beautiful young woman, Brittany, in Oregon who has brain cancer and plans to legally end her life on November 1st.  My own precious daughter, Christina, faced a similar brain tumor challenge and left this world on June 13th, 2013.
Brittany is giving voice to what so many of us think about—how do we want to die? 
Most of us hope we die peacefully in our sleep. 
Christina used to say before each brain surgery, “I’m not afraid of dying during surgery.  Anesthesia to Jesus—it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Other people just hope that their death comes quickly. 
I personally do not know anyone who wants to die slowly and painfully.  Brittany's position does not surprise me.  Most of us feel we would not be able to cope with such a reality.
Jesus himself prayed in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me.”  The cup of his crucifixion was not taken from Him and that changes everything for us.

During Christina's 5 1/2 years of living with brain cancer, she had many conversations about how a brain cancer patient dies.  It wasn't a very encouraging picture.  When Christina learned that her brain tumor had returned with a vengeance and her time was limited, we were also told that she had one larger tumor near her brain stem that should cause her to loose consciousness and shut her systems down very quickly.  I haven’t told many people that we had a little “high five” celebratory moment because we thought she was going to have the kind of death that she wanted.  Quick and painless.

It was not to be.  Instead, she had 11 weeks on hospice.  I have recorded much of those 11 weeks in  this blog.  There were some very difficult times. 
She had an evening of discouragement because she thought she was letting people down and causing misery.
More than once, she thought she was losing her mind.  And that was something that terrified her.
A few times, the pain got out of control.
She was sad on the days she realized that she had not fed Isaiah even one time—someone else was caring for him.


BUT—

If Christina had left us quickly, here are some of the things we would have missed--

Seeing Doug care for her so tenderly.  He kept track of her medicine, her rest, her food and so many, many other things.  He was the very picture of the "till death parts us" kind of love.

The friends and family who came from all over the world to spend a little time with her.

The endless supply of love and food and anything else we needed.

The final “Daddy-daughter” date to her favorite restaurant.

Her remarkable sense of humor and ability to make us laugh.

Christina’s visions.

Hearing the angels sing.

Watching her spirit come alive while her body was fading.

Hearing her pray.

Hearing her tell Jesus, “I surrender.  I surrender everything.” And knowing it was about surrendering herself to be cared for.

Hearing her last, barely audible, “I love you, Mom.”

And we would have missed that amazing moment when Doug whispered to her, “Christina, you have fought so well.  Thank you for fighting.  You can be done now.” Within the minute, she took her last breath.

You see, we cannot know the ways that God will meet us in our deepest need.  We cannot predict the ways He will make us stronger, or make us wiser.  Until we have to walk right into our greatest fear, we have no idea that God has very good reasons to say, “Fear Not”.  Jesus conquered death on the cross and it is by His power that we walk through the impossible things this life holds.

I would never, ever trade away those last 11 weeks.  We saw Jesus.  We saw beauty.  We saw strength and courage. We were walking on Holy Ground. 
















Sunday, August 31, 2014

When Love Comes Again


The question comes continuously—How are you doing with all of this? 

The subject, of course, is Doug Nevill finding new love.  He has proposed to a most wonderful woman named Susan.  Or Susie.  Or New Mommy Susie.

From my heart, the most direct answer is, “I am absolutely thrilled.  Susan is far beyond all I could ask or imagine for Doug and Isaiah.”

I knew that this could be a hard situation to step into.  It would be easy for a woman to feel intimidated by Christina or her story.  It would not be out of the ordinary for a new wife to struggle with any mention of Christina.  It might be difficult to adjust to life with Doug and Isaiah and a well-known story.

I often prayed that the woman that would enter Doug’s life would know Christina and love her.  I prayed for a woman who could believe that we loved her wholeheartedly.  I longed for a woman who could talk freely about Isaiah’s first mommy.

I now shed thankful tears for the beautiful way God has answered my prayer.  Our family has known Susan’s family for many years.  Susan and Christina knew each other throughout  childhood. When Christina was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, Susan made a beautiful, soft quilt for Christina.  (And if you knew Christina, soft blankets to cuddle with were one of her greatest pleasures.)

Susan was very present in Christina’s last 77 days.  She came by and held Isaiah and helped in countless ways.  She and Christina had some great conversations (in person and by text) concerning the difficulties each of them were experiencing.  It was a time of mutual encouragement. 
 
Susan, Isaiah, and Christina
Susan held Isaiah during Christina’s memorial service and became part of the regular crew of “Isaiah care.”

Isaiah excited about the adventure!
And Isaiah loves Susie and her two boys.  He burst into tears one day that I had planned to drop him off at her house.  She wasn’t quite home yet and it broke his little heart when she didn’t answer the door.  She arrived shortly after that and they walked up the street to get the boys.  Isaiah looked up at her and said, “Happy!”

I have never worried about Christina being “replaced.”  Christina was a one-of-a-kind woman.  She and Doug had quite the journey in the very short time they had together.  From first date to her transfer to heaven was only 2 years and 3 months.  In that short time, they dated, married, had a baby, and Christina had a brain surgery, chemo, and a wild recurrence which led to their last 77 days.  That is a lot of life to cram into 27 months.  And they did it.  Beautifully.  And Christina went to be with Jesus.  The wedding rings in a box together are a reminder of a completed pledge—“till death parts us.”  

And now, Doug needs to look to his future and see what God has for him.  It seems God has a wonderful woman, a mommy for Isaiah, and a couple of amazing boys to welcome into his life.  

Go, Doug, Go!!

And how does Christina feel about all of this?  I have asked Doug’s permission to share a portion of the letter she left for Doug at the end of her life.  He read this portion out loud to a gathering of friends and family on June 13th—Christina’s first heavenly birthday.  We shared things we had learned from Christina and we shared some of the stories we have come to love.  At the end, Doug brought out the letter and said he wanted to read part of it.  It is from the section (it was a very long letter) entitled, 
“Releasing to New Love” 

"All right, so here we are.  We’ve talked about this before, but I really need you to hear this from me again.  With the list above and many other things I didn’t have space to write down, YOU Douglas are one heck of a catch, a catch that shouldn’t go to waste!!  Seriously!:)

I give you full permission, if not a gentle shove in asking you to be open to love and marriage again.  Not to rush and get Isaiah a mother, or “fix” the pain of losing a wife, but just be open to what Jesus may offer to bring into your life and family.  This, of course, has to be led by the Spirit.  It may be very scary, but let Him lead you.  No need to rush or avoid forever.  Take counsel from those you trust, and be honest always.  Nothing will be a quick fix or a way to avoid hard times.

So, the first time someone catches your eye, don’t feel guilty about it!  Who knows what God could be doing, even when you would love to know the end result before it happens. When does that ever happen?  Right??:)  Pray, pray, pray for His wisdom and He will direct your path.

Isaiah will be fine also.  I am leaving him in the best hands possible.  Yours and those of our Jesus, who will lead you (and her) every step of the way.  Please don’t worry about replacing me—in your heart or Isaiah’s.  I will always be me, and he will always be half of me, and half of you.  You both will always know me in a unique way—from experiences, memories, stories.  I love it!  Just make sure to tell some good ones, ok?  (Funny, embarrassing, heartfelt, you be the judge).  It actually thrills me to picture both you and Isaiah experiencing the love of a fun, exciting, sweet passionate Godly woman, totally wrapped in Jesus.  Wouldn’t hurt if she were a good cook too, eh?  Sorry about that one:) Hehe.  Know though, if God brings someone along, He will equip her to be EXACTLY what He intends for both you and Isaiah.  I fully trust that, as easy as it can feel right now to get sad about “missing out on this journey for you both”—the truth is, I won’t be, I can’t be!  We all live the exact amount of days God designed us to live.  I will NOT be cut short, no one ever is!  Isn’t that a cool thought?  Life on earth isn’t ever robbed from us.  We just miss those that depart for this short time.  And if we didn’t miss them, I suppose there’s something wrong there too."

And then Doug announced that he had asked and been granted permission to court Susan.  Before too long, he was asking permission to marry Susan and that brings us to the present.

What freedom and clarity Christina’s words have brought to this situation.   It is such a treasure to me that she left such wise counsel and loving words.  In an earlier post, I describe her agony in writing this letter.  She thought it didn’t make sense—that it was confusing and hard to understand.  In reality, the confusion wasn’t about what she was writing.  The confusion entered in when she tried to proof read it and her mind was no longer capable of making sense of the words. 

I am thankful she labored to put this in words.  I am more thankful that Doug heeded and opened his heart to love.  And I am most thankful for the beautiful, generous, fun, loving, and joyful woman he has found to share his life.

And I will forever thank our loving Father who has abundantly blessed this family with goodness.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Hug from Christina


Today, just when I needed it—I received an enormous hug from Christina.  It may seem impossible but here is my story.

This morning, Isaiah was in the mood to watch “mommy” videos.  (My computer is the source of so many hilarious and serious moments in Christina’s life.) 

We watched the “Mommy singing with Bampa in WalMart” video. 

We watched the “mommy falling down in the snow while Jesse records and laughs” video. 

We watched the “mommy pretending to be an old, old woman with a cane” video. 

And then Isaiah wanted to watch the “Christina—one year memorial” video.  Well, this one gets to me.  I watch Christina grow up again.  I enjoy the baby pictures and the pictures with her brother, Jesse.  Fishing, soccer,  beaches, and friends.   Isaiah comments on “Uncle Jesse” continuously.  Jesse is recognizable from about the age of 5 and Isaiah loves to call out the people he knows.  He finally recognizes Mommy Christina by the time she is about 20.  This morning when we finished the video--which ends with a cemetery, an eagle, and a sunset—I was undone.  So, I cry.  It is the best thing to do at times like that.  I love remembering the years together.  I love the fullness of life that Christina enjoyed. 

The moment passed and the day moved on.  Later in the afternoon, I walked into the laundry room and saw “the pile”.  Not dirty clothes but “stuff”.  Christina’s stuff.  Last week, I helped Doug sort through some of Christina’s books and files and keepsakes.  Some of it found it’s way to my laundry room to await a more permanent storage place. I grabbed the first stack of papers and saw an essay that Christina wrote her senior year of college.


  It was entitled,  “Myself:  Here and now…and to the Future”.  It was her personal philosophy statement and was a final assignment at Westmont College.  Well, the title certainly got my attention.  How little she knew about her future.  Certainly, I doubt cancer ever crossed her mind.


I opened it randomly to page 8—here is where her special hug for me enters the picture—I began to read--
“My favorite professional role model is my mom”…

What?  I have never seen this or heard these thoughts.  We had not talked about this.

She wrote a page about how she loved the way I taught violin.  She wrote about the way I loved my students. She wrote about how I made time for her and Jesse in their growing up years.  I had never seen this paper but today was the day I needed to read it. 

If I didn’t think God was involved in every moment of every day, today would have convinced me that He is very present!  I feel humbled and loved and known—not just by Christina, but by the One who made us both.  This paper has been with Christina’s “stuff” for the last 10 years and today was the day that it did its best work.

After I read the page about how she viewed me, I went back to the beginning and read the whole thing.  What a treasure!  Here are a few choice quotes—

“I do know that I feel very small looking out into the gigantic world ahead of me after graduation, knowing I have so much to learn both about myself and the world that I live in.  But for some strange reason I am very excited for this new adventure.  I am excited to be confused.  I am excited to not know what the next month, or week, or day will hold for me.  Waiting in the unknown, according to Andrew Murray, is ‘the highest salvation.  It is ascribing to Him the glory of being all; it is experiencing that He is all to us.  May God teach us the blessedness of waiting on Him!’ “

“Service for others has become one of the biggest things in life that gives me joy.  I love to see people smile.  I love to make them smile.  I know that wherever I go and whatever I end up doing, I need to be working with people in a way that provides opportunity for me to be of service, help, or encouragement to them.  Bringing joy to others is what brings me the deepest kind of personal joy.”

Christina certainly lived what she wrote about.  First she embraced the uncertainty of her cancer diagnosis and 5 ½ years of treatment. She truly did not know what the next day would bring.  Actually none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.  We just think we know.

Then in the middle of all her uncertainty, she never lost sight of bringing joy to those around her.  To her husband and son, to her brother and dad, to me, to her friends, her cousins, her aunts and uncles, and, well, to everyone she met.   Joy radiated from her until the day she moved from here to the presence of Jesus.  I would say joy characterized her life.  My guess is that her infectious joy was one reason people loved to be around her.  Here is another reason people loved to be near Christina.  She wrote,

“As Christians, we are called to show our love to everyone we encounter—even if it is difficult.  Christ’s love was not easy.  We can’t expect to try showing people God’s love, and for it never to be hard on us.  God didn’t call us to an easy life.”

Amen, Christina, Amen!






Monday, June 9, 2014

The Week


It has arrived.  The anniversary of the week that Christina left us here and transferred to the presence of Jesus.  It was one year ago that we were living out the final week of her life on earth.  I have spent a considerable amount of time this past week reliving, pondering, wondering, and talking about her. 

It seems impossible that a year has passed.  The memory of her last week with us is vivid and seems like it all just happened.  Every blooming and fading plant reminds me of the time of year she departed.  The weather, the early sunrises and late sunsets pull the memories to the forefront of my mind. 

One of the gifts of the passage of time is that difficult questions get answered.  Here are a few of the big questions that are being answered as we walk through time.
 
How will Doug Nevill survive?  Really, a 27 year old widower with a 7 month old son—how will he do it?

Beautifully!

Doug is a great example of how to mourn deeply, live in the moment (you have to be present when you have a baby to care for), and look ahead with hope.  He can cry and smile at the same time.  He has chosen to serve and to love and to hope and to follow Jesus—despite the pain of losing Christina.

Will Isaiah be OK?

Better than OK.  He is thriving.

Isaiah is a picture of joy.  He is inquisitive, expressive, affectionate, and just plain adorable.  He loves pictures of his mom and his new favorite book is a bound copy of Christina’s Facebook entries.  He calls it “Mommy’s Book.”  Someday soon he will be able to understand why she is only in pictures and not in the room with us.  It sounds sad but it doesn’t feel sad.  I am looking forward to explaining the miracle of his existence.  That his mommy and daddy were very brave and decided to marry and have a child even though they did not know the future.  And I will tell him that God made him at just the right time.  Not a moment too late.  He was born in that miraculous window of opportunity that God provided.

And will my Doug and I be OK?

We are.  Probably because of Christina’s continual prayer for us.

So many of Christina’s journal entries have to do with her requests to Jesus to take care of us.  She worried about us being overcome with sorrow.  I believe those prayers are still bouncing around heaven and being answered.

I see God’s hand every day.  He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  He has more days for us to live.  He has given some wild adventures that are far beyond what I could ask or imagine.  And I do not think He is through surprising us.  So there are tears but not of hopelessness. 

Gabi and Christina
I spent much of last week putting together a little slide show of Christina’s life.  It was therapeutic I think.  Just a few pictures capturing the adventure and depth of her life.  The music I used was composed and performed by Christina’s cousin, Gabi Van Dyke.  The first piece was used as part of the processional at Doug and Christina’s wedding.  The second piece was a song Gabi wrote in the last 2 months of Christina’s life.  It became the song that brought great comfort to Christina.  She told Gabi that it captured exactly how she felt.

I am so thankful to have so many wonderful pictures of Christina.  Many thanks to photographers Loralee Newbury, Jade Van Dyke, Michele Hayman, Ruth Harrison, and Marla Cyree. 

Here is a link to the video.  I hope you enjoy it:)





Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remembering the Past and Celebrating Today

May of last year (2013)

My friends ask me how this month is going for me as I remember what we were doing one year ago.  Reading my journal from last May caused some mixed emotions.  It brought back to mind the questions, the difficulties, the exhaustion.  It also reminded me of the unquestionable presence of Jesus.  He was so near Christina and all of us, really.  He let us experience the process of one of His sheep moving into His presence forever.  Each day was another glimpse into forever.  We saw the joy on Christina’s face as she talked about and to Jesus.  We saw light in her mostly blind eyes as she saw and heard angels.  We loved hearing about her new dwelling place with Jesus.  We loved the messages He whispered in her ears.  It is not easy to describe watching someone you love so dearly, move from life on earth to life with Jesus.  There was an awakening deep in Christina that overshadowed the fading of her earthly body. 

Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief as I remember watching Christina take her last breath.  As an isolated incident, it seems too much to bear.  But as a part of the whole journey, it was a necessary moment.  Leaving her earthly body behind—well, it was time.  And it was just a moment.  The rest of the picture is her wide awake spirit, her unhesitant heart, her absolute assurance of heaven, and her total surrender of all earthly cares.

Today, my thoughts may start with a dying body but they quickly move to a very present Savior and a daughter free from exhaustion, from pain, and every other known and unknown struggle she faced.  I feel deep relief for her.  I applaud her well-lived life.  I sing her favorite worship songs and sometimes I think she is singing along with me in that beautiful eternity just beyond the curtain.

Today I also celebrate the day that we are given right now.  There is a beautiful joyful child that reminds me every day of his beautiful, joyful mother.  Isaiah is full of life.  
He has named me Jo Jo and named my Doug, Bampa.  He loves discovery.  He loves to talk.  He loves to play.  He loves the ocean.  He loves cars.  He loves trucks.  He loves to thank Jesus for his food.  He loves to watch his mom on video singing, “King Jesus is All”.  He is our reminder that our lives did not end when Christina breathed her last breath on earth.  When I rock Isaiah to sleep, I am doing it for Christina.  When I teach him something new, I am doing it in honor of her. Every minute with Isaiah is a precious reminder of the value of our days.  

What a beautiful life. 

Thank you, Jesus.  

You are amazing.


Bampa and Jo Jo and Isaiah

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Mother's Day--a Bit Early

Last week, in Port Angeles, we were enjoying a rare heat wave. (70 degrees is a heat wave in Port Angeles). As I was working on getting my flower pots planted,  I looked down at my shoes and wished I had something more appropriate for the garden.  And then I remembered, I have Christina's white garden shoes in my front closet.  I ran inside, put them on, and felt very blessed to be wearing those shoes--for the first time.

That got me started--thinking about Christina.  Thinking about the coming Mother's Day.  Remembering last Mother's Day.  

Last year, I spent most of Mother's Day in a darkened room sitting on Christina's bed.  Light was troubling to her fading eyes so we kept the shades down and lights low.  She woke up sick and in pain.  I stayed with her.  She did not know it was Mother's Day and I wasn't about to tell her.  There was no need for her to carry even a little guilt that I was tending to her on Mother's Day or that she was not caring for Isaiah on Mother's Day.  She never came out of her room that day.  As I look back, I feel a bit sad that her only Mother's Day on this earth was one she never celebrated.

 In the afternoon, a friend brought over a feast for our family to enjoy.  I was very humbled that she had spent her Mother's Day working in her kitchen to make our Mother's Day special.  She just said she loved to cook and it was no problem.

At some point that day, I walked through the cemetery near our house.  I wrote in my journal,  "wasn't as hard as I thought it would be".  I also wrote, "Christina's earthly cares are very dim.  She still wants to pray and engage about Jesus but the everyday details of life are hard for her to put together.  Her balance is way off and she is very weak.  This is not easy but God cares about Christina more than I do.  He is guarding her and carrying her."

A day later I wrote, "My job is to surrender all.  Lord, if this process takes a year, I will do it.  I am here for the long haul.  Enough of thinking days or weeks.  I give it all to you.  It's all yours.  Thank you for the work you are doing.  The long process of letting go.  Your grace is sufficient.  Your power is perfected in my weakness."

As I look at my journal from a year ago, I remember the difficulty of not knowing what each day would bring.  I remember saying that there is no definition until the end.  No one knows the last walk, or the last conversation, or the last prayer until it is all over.  My heart goes out to all people who are in the middle of the undefined time.  It is very, very difficult to live in the moment.  It is exhausting.  I remember wondering if I could manage one more week or even one more day.  And yet, somehow, God sustains through it all.

Psalm 30:10-12
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help."
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

 The Lord has been my help and thanking Him brings deep peace and powerful perspective to my life.

I am thankful for gardening shoes that remind me of Christina.


I am thankful for Isaiah's "help" as I planted flower pots (on the condition that his John Deere tractor was moved outside.)

I am thankful for Isaiah--his joy--his love of learning--his sense of humor.  

I am thankful for tulips that were her favorite flower.  Every tulip reminds me of her.

I am thankful for the beauty of this world.

I am thankful for the little slips of paper in two jars.  Long ago gifts from Christina.  Thirty in each jar.  They say, "I love you because..."  Sixty different reasons she loved me. I look at one nearly every day.

I am thankful for the wonderful young women that I shared a little bit of life with this past week--a gift straight from heaven.

I am thankful for future opportunities to work with women in faraway countries--to declare God's glory among the nations.

I am thankful for a husband to cry and laugh with and for a son who shares his joys and sorrows and his music with me.

I am thankful for all of the encouraging people that surround at just the right times.

And most of all, I am thankful that Jesus makes this life worth it all.