Good morning readers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so I want to start by catching you up on what’s been going on with me and why I haven’t posted in a while. Several months ago, a door opened for me to go to work as an independent life and retirement planning consultant. While my heart and calling are ministry, I believe God opened this door for financial provision, as well as another outlet for ministry. Having lost my husband to cancer with no life insurance or final plan, I understand why this is so important. I also know that David and I were not stupid people, we had just always been taught to live by faith and trust God. While that is very true in a sense, God also gives us wisdom to be wise in stewarding our households. We had this false idea that if we planned for something bad to happen, it would happen. Don’t judge me. You would be surprised at how many people believe that and have been taught that by well-meaning yet ill-informed pastors and teachers. I have a desire to help other families who may think they have all the time in the world, like my late husband and I, understand that the sooner they make plans and provisions for themselves and their loved ones, the better. The process to get licensed and all the training took me some time, but I finally made it. I’ve been excited about this new venture and what it means for me and my family and like everything I do, I’ve trudged full force into it.
While I do believe God opened the door for the life and retirement consulting, I also know that blogging, writing the books that are inside me, church consulting, speaking and ministry are at the top of God’s plans for me and they are what I am passionate about. In February, my two youngest and I went on a writer’s cruise. There, I was able to learn more about how to get an agent, pitch a book, and find publishers and agents. It was very eye opening and exciting and I’ve been pursuing that, as well. I was encouraged by an agent on the cruise to attend the “She Speaks Conference” for Christian writers and speakers that will happen this summer. I quickly started planning for this conference, as well. I’m praying that it all works out and I can attend. It feels good, a little over year after David’s passing, to have a glimpse of the future and know that there are good things ahead.
In April, I was scheduled to attend the National Conference in Washington, D.C. for the company I’m working with for. I had my plane ticket, hotel reservation, and conference registration all set. I was excited and nervous about this trip all at the same time. On April 11, I met my manager/mentor for coffee and to go over some proposals for some of my potential clients. We realized that we were scheduled for the same flight to the conference and made plans to meet up at the airport that following week. I spent the rest of the day working the business and getting ready for my trip.
That afternoon, a friend had dropped by to bring me a dress for the formal dinner night of the conference. Of course, that was super important! While we were talking, my oldest daughter, Megan, called me. She was distraught and told me that she was at the hospital and they were sending her to labor and delivery. Now, you need to realize that she was only 29 weeks along and had no issues up to this point. You also need to realize that just three days prior, she and my son-in-law, Jake, had signed the papers for their first home buy and were scheduled to move to another state in less than two weeks.
This was the first pre-natal appointment that Jake or I had not gone with her. In fact, with everything going on, I had forgotten that she had an appointment this day. Since all had been well up to this point, she didn’t see any reason to have one of us with her. However, when they checked her blood pressure, it was through the roof and they immediately sent her to the hospital. I grabbed my purse, jumped in the car and headed to pick up Jake and head for the hospital. When we got there, they told us that she had preeclampsia and that they were going to have to send her to another hospital two hours away because they were not equipped to handle this high-risk situation for her or the baby at this facility. They told us that she may well have to deliver very soon and that they were going to take her by helicopter. The reality of how serious the situation was now hit us hard. This was supposed to be our “happy hospital experience”. Megan and I had talked about how our family had spent too many sad times in hospitals over the past two years and we were ready to come to the hospital for a happy reason. Now, here we are, again, in a scary situation.
The next several hours of transport were full of ups and downs and changes in plans due to weather and other factors. We finally made it, by ambulance, to the hospital two hours away and we were in for a long night. About 2 a.m., one doctor reassured us that she was in the right place, but we needed to brace ourselves for what was happening. He said that they would be diligently working to keep her blood pressure down for the next four weeks, hoping she could carry our sweet Ezra David to that point before having to deliver. They would constantly monitor them both during this time. However, 34 weeks was as long as they would wait. When the words, “four weeks” came out of his mouth, I must admit, I was fighting sleep and thought maybe I had heard him wrong. Roused from my pseudo slumber by those words, I asked, “Did you say she was going to be admitted for four weeks?” “Yes,” he said, “at least”. The goal was to keep close watch on her and the baby and try to keep him in utero as long as they possibly could to give him the best chance of development. However, her life was also in jeopardy and leaving the hospital was not an option.
We were all having a hard time wrapping our brain around what was happening, but we were in it for the long haul. At that moment, all “our” plans were out the window and the most important thing in all our lives was Megan and Ezra. I cancelled the trip to D.C. and Jake, and I made plans to help each other so that he could get their furniture moved to their new house and we took the advice of the doctor and approached this one day at a time.
On April 16, Megan woke up feeling fine, having had a good night’s sleep. However, when the nurse came in and checked her blood pressure, it was through the roof again. They put her on the top of the list for the doctor’s rounds and he came in and didn’t waste any time saying, we are going to deliver today. I texted Jake, “They are going to deliver this morning.” He already had a ‘go bag’ packed and ready for this moment so he jumped in the car and made a mad dash to the hospital. The doctor was so accommodating to wait for him to get there, but as soon as he walked in it was time to wash up, suit up and get ready for delivery. It all happened so quickly and before we knew it, Ezra was here, and Megan was my new hero!
Jake stayed with Megan that night at the hospital, but I agreed to stay the rest of the week so that he could continue packing and getting their things moved to their new home. You should know that the home they were moving out of was two hours from the hospital where Megan and Ezra were, but their new home was almost six hours away. The thought of how all of this was going to work was causing all of our brains to spin, but the health of Megan and Ezra was all that mattered and we were all in to do whatever was necessary to make this crazy situation work, as long as we needed to. They were telling Jake and Megan that Ezra would have to stay in the hospital until term. Term, folks, was June 24th and this was April 16th. There was a lot to think about, but one day at a time was all we could plan for.
Jake was able to get all their things moved to their new home with the help of amazing friends and family, but just left everything in the new house so he could head back to be with Megan and Ezra. He walked in the hospital exhausted and in need of a shower. We were so happy for the blessing of the Ronald McDonald Family Room with large bathrooms and showers as well as laundry facilities. This is an amazing organization! You have no idea until you need what they offer. My new job is 100% commission, so I needed to get back to work to take care of my financial needs. So, when Jake got back to the hospital, I headed home.
I didn’t make it home until almost midnight and I had literally fallen into the bed and was in a deep sleep before my head hit the pillow. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was and how glad I was to be in my own bed after sleeping on a hard couch in Megan’s hospital room for nine nights. At 2 a.m. my dog started barking her head off and I roused to hear my aunt banging on my front door because she couldn’t reach me by phone. The thought that something was wrong with my dad hit me during my groggy walk from my room to the front door and as soon as I opened the door, I said to her, “It’s my dad, isn’t it?” “Yes, baby, they are rushing him to the hospital with his heart right now and I couldn’t get you by phone,” she responded. He and my mom had gone to Alabama to help her sister through surgery recovery and he was having chest pains and concerned he was having a heart attack.
So now here we are, Megan, Jake and sweet Ezra David are in Missouri and their new home with all their unpacked belongings is now in Tennessee; me and my youngest two kids are in Illinois, and my parents are in Alabama. Now what?! I called and talked to my mother and they had determined that my dad was not having a heart attack and was currently stable, so the nurse told my mom to tell us to wait until morning to head to Alabama and assured us that my dad was in good hands. So, we decided to try to sleep a few hours and get ready for whatever was ahead of us.
Easter Sunday morning, I threw my still packed suitcase back in the car and my daughter, Maitlynn, and I headed to pick up my sister in Tennessee and head to Alabama. This was the first Easter for as long as I can remember (maybe ever) that we were not going to church. We made it to Alabama just in time to see Dad before the last visiting hour was over.
. . . we must focus on the fact that God is for us and not against us and He is our strong tower in times of trouble,
and we can rest in Him.
The following Monday morning, my dad had a heart Cath and they found that he had three very serious blockages, as well as several smaller blockages. My dad has battled aggressive coronary artery disease for some time and already has 12 stints in his heart. Because of this, stinting was not an option and they were recommending triple, possible quadruple, bypass surgery. But there was another catch to this; because he was on blood thinners, they would need to keep him in the hospital for a minimum of seven days to keep him stable and get the thinners out of his system prior to surgery. They informed us that he would be in the hospital for 5-7 days following the surgery and would need to stay in the area for another three weeks until he could follow up with the surgeon before being released to travel home.
Megan asked me, “Are we cursed or something?” Would you blame her for asking that? So many questions hit you at times like this. If you follow my blog, you know that our lives have been flipped upside down since 2016 when my late husband, David, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We lost him in January of 2018. We have always tried to live our lives by serving God over anything else. We’ve always made our decisions based on what we felt God wanted us to do. We aren’t perfect, but no one is. But we are good people who care about others and haven’t done anything to deserve everything that has hit us over the past three years. But look around you. There are so many friends and people I hear about that are just like us. They are good people being hit with unreal obstacles. It just seems so unfair.
. . . we know who holds our every day and our tomorrow and He is with us, hugging us close and we can say, “It is well with my soul.”
I have learned some very valuable lessons through this journey of life. These are the lessons that prompt me to write and share with others. I can’t say that I’m glad that these trials have happened, because I’m not. We have just tried to take each day as it comes and trust our Heavenly Father. I think all of us would rather learn lessons the “easy” way. But we have promises:
Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Psalm 9:9-10, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
Psalm 34:10b, “. . . those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Psalm 32:7-8 says, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
I could go on and on with the many promises that are in the Word of God for all of us, if we will just trust Him in every situation. Each verse was written by someone who was in the middle of a trial. Many were followed by the “rest of the story” of how God did deliver them out of terrible situations. Sometimes we think delivering us from terrible situations is just keeping us from having to go through them altogether. We think God is supposed to shield us from anything negative, if He really loves us. Don’t we all want to shield our children from bad things? Of course, we do, however, that is not always possible and its not because we didn’t pray enough or because we (or they) did something bad and now have to endure the consequences. Sometimes its just because bad things happen. Sometimes it’s because we do fight a real enemy, satan, who wants to take us down and uses every tool that he can to wear us out. Whatever the reason, we must focus on the fact that God is for us and not against us and He is our strong tower in times of trouble, and we can rest in Him.
I can’t say that my family always gets this right. We’ve had plenty of meltdowns over the past few years of walking through what seems to be endless arrows flying at us. When God has not “moved the mountains” that we wanted Him to move, we have questioned Him. We have yelled and screamed and cried. You may have only seen us smiling and strong, but that’s not always us. We are human and we hurt . . . we bleed. But honestly, knowing that God is in control and that we will win when life is said and done encourages us to keep moving forward. It gives us the extra push to never throw in the towel or tap out. Because of that, we can smile in times of distress. We can laugh in the face of our enemies. We can enjoy life and encourage others to do the same.
So, the rest of this story is that my dad made it through the open-heart surgery. They were in a strange hospital with doctors they had never met, and we saw the hand of God working every day. I was able to lead a young man to the Lord in the lobby. The nurses became like family and we prayed together, and mom and dad were able to minister to hurting people who worked in the hospital or who were there with their own loved ones. They can’t go anywhere and not be loved and treasured because people know that they truly care about them and they feel the Holy Spirit that resides inside of them. When dad was in the ICU, the nurses who had cared for him on the cardiac floor would come to visit him. When we went back for his follow up three weeks after his surgery, we went to see them and bring them donuts. They hugged us and exchanged contact information to stay in touch.
God provided a beautiful cottage not far from the hospital for us to stay until Dad could be released to make the trip home. My dad had been instrumental in starting an after-school outreach to at risk children and teens and a shelter for the hurting and homeless in Tennessee when he was pastoring there. He had worked with the mayor and other city officials on various projects and that relationship opened the door to provide shelter for he and my mom when they needed it. The mayor’s wife offered their sweet cottage on a lake at no charge to my parents for as long as they needed it and said, “Make yourselves at home.” What are the chances that an acquaintance from Tennessee would own a home in Alabama that was perfect for Dad’s recover? That was certainly God blessing them for all that they had done to sow seeds of hope into a community where God had placed them and now the harvest was returned when they needed it most.
Dad’s recovery has been difficult, but he is doing so well with no complications. Last night he preached for the first time since his surgery and did an excellent job bringing the Word. He is doing cardiac rehab and we are told that once he gets through this recovery, he will be feeling 20 years younger. Thank you, Jesus!!!
Ezra David surprised all the doctors and nurses in the NICU at St. Louis Children’s hospital. He progressed so much faster than they expected him to. He’s been a little feisty peanut since he entered this world weighting only 2.8 lbs. We were able to get their house in order in Tennessee and they were able to transport Megan and Ezra to a hospital only six minutes from their new home. The hospital worked it out and took care of any expense that the insurance didn’t cover so that Megan could be close to home, and we were not all so spread out.
On Memorial Day weekend, we were able to bring my dad and mom to my sisters in Tennessee and for once in almost two months, we were all in the same place. There is so much comfort in family being together. That weekend, Ezra made great strides in taking his bottle and reaching milestones that we were told would probably not happen so soon. He was ready to bust out of that hospital and be with his family! So, on Memorial Day, they were able to bring him home, one month earlier than they had anticipated! It was a good day. We had a cookout at my sisters, Megan and Jake got Ezra home and that night, my kids and I released lanterns with messages to David. (Side note: Let me just say that we attempted to release the lanterns, but that is a story for another day. I won’t let my kids tell you that story because they will tell you I tried to burn down Jake and Megan’s neighborhood. We all have our own version of story. The most healing part was that we were able to write down what we would love to say to him, if we could. Whether he knows what we wrote or not, it helped all of us to feel close to him, that night). If I’ve learned anything through the past few years, it is that family and dear friends are a treasure that we should value by prioritizing time with them.
Ezra David is doing well at home with his mommy and daddy. I was able to stay with them for the first two weeks at home and get lots of sweet grandbaby cuddles! They have had some milestones to overcome due to his early birth, but they are taking it in stride, and we pray for him every day. However, he is just perfect and doing amazing! He has long piano fingers so maybe he will play like his daddy and grandpa. He is so alert, and I love to sing to him. Grandma will have him singing those little songs we all learned in Sunday school. His daddy says he is an “escape artist” and loves to break out those arms and legs from his swaddled blanket. He is such a joy to all of us.
I’ve started working with families to help them make sure they are protected and have a plan to keep their loved ones covered and that allows me to minister in a different way. I know that the Holy Spirit goes before me wherever I am in whatever I am doing, and I pray before I enter any home that He will lead me. I wrote a lot while helping my mom get my dad through those first weeks of recovery in Alabama. We all had time to pray together and talk about the future. There are things that God has taught all of us and continues to teach us through this that we know we need to share with the Body of Christ. We are putting feet forward to let the Lord lead us in just how that will happen. I can’t wait to share with all of you what God is teaching us and pray that it ministers to each of you.
To sum it all up, the journey continues, and God has shown His faithfulness to us, yet again, through unfamiliar territory. That doesn’t mean that everything is just wonderful, that means that we know who holds our every day and our tomorrow and He is with us, hugging us close and we can say, “It is well with my soul.”
Today, let me encourage you that whatever you are walking through, God is so faithful. Write down those verses I shared with you. Do a google search and look up scriptures on how God helps you through trials. The Bible is just full of them! Know that there is nothing that you can go through that God is not with you and right there ready to hold your hand, if you will just trust Him and know that He loves you. There is always hope, even though we don’t know what each day holds. Don’t let the enemy overwhelm you with fear that bad things will happen. Live life and love Jesus. That’s the best advice I have for you today while I sit here drinking my coffee and looking forward to my day. Blessings friend!