How the death of a loved one is inspiring me to LIVE

Gripping the yellow rose tightly in my fingers, I  fixed my eyes forward, looking beyond my mother as she led us into the church.  Behind me bravely walked my four children and my husband. Following them were my sisters and their families, my three aunts and all my cousins with their families.  The melody of one of my Grandma’s favorite hymns floated from the organ and ushered us to the front of the church where each of us 12 grandchildren placed a yellow rose in the vase next to Grandma’s casket.  We all silently filled the pews, tears filling our eyes, our hearts tight with grief.

Outside the sun was shining, this fall day was beautiful and extra warm for mid-November.  It was the kind of day that normally beckoned me outside for one last adventure before the blanket of winter settled around my shoulders.  The kind of day when the sunshine and gentle warm breeze rustling the golden leaves stirred up life in my heart and inspired living.  What a gift the sunshine and warmth gave us to celebrate the life of our grandmother.  She lived in a way that brought sunshine and warmth wherever she went.

It is never easy to face the passing of a loved one, even when they have lived a full and long life.  The empty space their leaving creates in our lives is felt deeply.  As a Christ follower, we always try to focus on the joy of our loved one being with Jesus in our true home, but the earthly reality is that our hearts are filled with grief.  For our loved one in heaven it is joy, but for those of us left behind it is sorrow.

The tears spilled from my eyes and my heart squeezed tightly as the notes from the organ faded into silence and the reverend, also my uncle, stepped up to begin the service.  Yes, this celebrating life day, this gathering of family to say good-bye, would be a day that stirred up deep thoughts and contemplations.  Back and forth my heart would go, one moment full of joy for Grandma now living in our forever home, the following full of heartache knowing my days will no longer be brightened with her smile.

Over the years, I have bid farewell to several loved ones, each one leaving their legacy in my life.  I carry their fingerprint etched on my soul.  That is the way of life, each of us leaving our fingerprints on the hearts of those we touch.  Grandma’s fingerprint has stirred deep contemplations in my heart.

The days have come and gone, one by one, passing two months’ time since that warm November day.  I have thought a lot about life and death in these passing days.  Death is not something I fear, my heart is sealed in the grace of my savior, Jesus.  But the reality of death is real.  We each will live our days and we will each be ushered from this life into eternity.  None of us know the time or year, but we are each given a breadth of days to live on earth between the two chasms of eternity.

Saying good-bye to a loved one can be something that forces us to examine our own life more deeply.  This can be extremely good and valuable.  What kind of fingerprint am I leaving with my life, what legacy will fill the hearts of those I love?  When my time on earth comes to an end, what treasures of lasting value will my life have?

Big questions, intimidating ones!  Questions and thoughts that we often don’t take the time to contemplate.  Life is so busy, we rush from one day to the next just trying to keep our heads above water.  We live in survival mode more days than not.  We wake up tired and crash exhausted at the end of the day knowing that our to do list did not get done.  Is this living?  Is this creating the fingerprint and legacy I want my life to leave?

I am currently reading two books that are helping me process life and focus on living a life that creates the fingerprint and legacy I really want to leave.  I am reading Driven by Eternity (by John Bevere) and Living Forward (by Michael Hyatt. Intentionally living, not just surviving, is what I want.  Intentionally living with eternity as my perspective.  I am DOING the activities recommended in Living Forward and they are helping me create a clear picture of the life I want to live.  It has been a powerful experience that has been spurred on as I contemplate the lives of my loved ones that have passed on.

Saying good-bye to loved ones fills our hearts with loss, but can also be the push we need to evaluate our own lives more deeply.  The emotions of grief that we feel can facilitate growth and purpose in our own living.  Our own living of life can become more purposeful when we take the time to treasure the life of a loved one.  Grief is powerful, grief is hard, grief is long, but walking the journey of grief can become an opportunity to embrace our own intentional living!

Please share with me…. has the fingerprint from a loved one left on your heart challenged you to look at your own living in a different light?  Has the journey though grief ever nudged you to evaluate your own living?  Is intentional living a desire or focus for you right now?  Are you tired of just surviving and you want your legacy to be valuable??

I know… a lot of questions!!  But this life, this living, our time on earth is just so short!!  From the bottom of my heart I want to live well!  I want to leave fingerprints that are a blessing and a legacy that draws others to Christ.  I want to live intentionally and I want to do this with others desiring the same thing!  Would you like to join me diving deeper into intentional living??  Please leave a comment….  I want to create a community here that encourages living fully!

Also, join me on Facebook at Simple Faith and Family.  Let’s encourage each other to live intentionally, to process our life and to leave a lasting legacy!  TOGETHER!!!

These books are powerful tools helping me to evaluate my life!!  Have you read either of them??  If so, how have they helped you?


**Disclaimer: The book links in this post are Amazon are affiliate links.  If you purchase through my link it will not cost you any more, but will provide me with a small amount of commission.  I thank you in advance, as a stay at home mom any income I earn from my Amazon links is helpful financially to our family.**

Want to get to know me better??

old-school-stlye_edited_editedWhen blogging first came out blogs were mostly online journals where people shared their lives.  I really loved reading blogs and “met” some great people along the way.  I used to have a blog that is now completely “vintage”!  Oh, my how fast the online world changes.  If you want to check out my old blog feel free to hop over to “Choosing Simplicity” (I haven’t really kept it up since before our son was sick with leukemia).

ANYWAY… now blogs are very polished, fancy and much like online magazines.  Everyone is an “expert” and sharing their knowledge with us.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy teaching so this current style of blogging can work for me, too.  However, I MISS getting to “know” bloggers since fewer and fewer share their real life.  While I want to learn….. I also want to connect with a blogger.  I miss the VINTAGE blog style.

When I was working (both is social work and as a teacher) my professional motto was “No one cares what I know until they KNOW that I CARE”!  I think this holds true in personal life and in blog life.  I want you to know me and know I care about you.  I don’t just want to blog to create an online name or presence for myself…. I want to be an encouragement, a light, a living example that Jesus is our savior and that God is BIG (and wants to be BIG in our every day life)! I want you to know that I care…. I want to be real and transparent.  I know life is HARD, I know that life is a struggle and I know that through all this hard life in Christ is Victorious.

Every week I want to write a “VINTAGE” Style blog post that is personal and more old school blogging online journal style.  Share some real life living!  Life is messy…. not all picture perfect…. but that is OK!  Life is good, not perfect!!

Soooo….. What is going on in my life this week???

I am feeling so much better as I recover from the flu I had last week.  Wow, did that knock me on my tush for a few days!  I literally spent 2 days in bed.  Thankfully, Wes (our oldest son who is a leukemia survivor) did not get it!  His body is still re-building from the second bone marrow transplant he had last fall.  He landed in the hospital this summer with the Para Influenza #3!  We want NO repeats!!

While I was down with the flu I did get some of the fall pictures I took of our kids edited.  I also got Wes and Robyn’s senior pictures edited.  I have loved taking pictures of the kids every fall and this year we just took some extra for senior pictures.  It has been bittersweet.  I am THRILLED that they will be graduating and moving on in the next season of their life.  We are especially thrilled that Wes is ALIVE and here with us to do all these things.  Before leukemia changed Wes’ life he was a year ahead of Robyn in school, but now they will graduate together.  However, it was tinged with sadness for this Mama Heart knowing that this is the LAST fall I will take pictures with all my kids still living at home.  Transitions can be hard on a mama heart! Can you relate to that??

Here are my four kiddos: From Right to Left: Robyn (17), Nate (12), Ethan (13) and Wes (19)

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Now that I am feeling all better I have been in a CLEANING frenzy!  I know that a lot of this is the mama bear in me coming out to destroy any germs in our house!  I also have been feeling like our house is too cluttered and needs not only a deep cleaning be some stuff purging.  So far I have deep cleaned and purged the Master Bedroom, Master Bath and the living room.  I cleaned from top to bottom.  Curtains washed, walls wiped down, everything cleaned, stuff purged!  Ahhhh it feels SO good!  I will continue tackling one room each day until the whole house is done!  Just in time for the Holidays.

Tuesday started the month of November.  Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday.  I love food and I love being thankful (so much power in a thankful heart)…. I also love that there are no HUGE expectations that surround the holiday…. so we can just ENJOY family, friends and food!  I came across a Scripture Writing resource to be used during the month of November.  I posted it on my personal Facebook  a week ago asking if anyone wanted to join me.  As of today there are 50 people doing this with me!!  How BIG is our GOD??? So BIG!!  This month we are coming together to focus on developing a heart of thanksgiving and praise!  We would LOVE to have you join us and jump in!!  (see picture below for the daily verses) My middle son, Ethan, is also joining me…. Perks of being the only home schooled kid!

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What am I reading right now??  I always have 2 books going.  I have a fun fiction book and I keep a non fiction (spiritual or personal growth focused) book going.  Right now I am reading “A Home in Drayton Valley” by Kim Vogel Sawyer as my “fun” book.  I’m over half done and am really enjoying it.  The characters have both captured my heart and the story line is keeping me reading.

I am reading “Driven By Eternity” by John Bevere as my growth book.  I just started it this week and it won’t be a book I move through quickly.  I am reading a few pages at a time with my Bible by my side.  I read, and then I have to take time to meditate and let it really sink deep into my Spirit.  I don’t just want to read a book to check it off my goal list…. I want books to be tools that help me GROW in Christ!  Speed is not the issue, growth is my goal.

This week marks another “First” for our youngest son, Nate.  He is in 6th grade and is playing on a “real” basketball team for the first time.  He LOVES basketball and has been practicing hard.  This week he will have his first game.  One EXCITED kid!!  I have been fully enjoying having 2 older kids with driver’s license.  They have been helping me with transportation to and from practices.  One more thing I will miss when Wes and Robyn go off to college next year.

Speaking of college…. Robyn submitted her application to Purdue last night and Wes is finishing his.  Tonight we go to Ivy Tech to learn more about their community college option.  They have both been working on scholarships and we filed the FAFSA form.  It is a big job (LOTS of hours) to get all this stuff done!  I’m kind of glad we are doing it all for 2 at once!  We are working as a team helping each other!

Well…. I think that sums up my week and hopefully gives you a peek into my life and helps you to get to know me better.  I’ll be back next week with another “Vintage style, old-school” Blog post!

Last week I shared with you the “BLESSINGS” acronym I use to pray for my husband, ChrisPrayer is SO POWERFUL!!!  I hope you find this acronym as helpful as I have. I’m praying some BIG things right now for Chris and for the kids and for others.  To help you pray using scripture I have put together a simple e-book full of Bible verses that go along with each of the letters in BLESSSINGS.  Praying the WORD of God is the most powerful prayers you can pray.  GOD’S word is always lined up with God’s will!!!  Have you seen the movie War Room?? If not, I highly recommend it!  It will inspire you to pray the word of God!!


 

(Note: some links in this post are affiliate links. I will earn a small percentage if purchase through the links)

 

 

 

Be your husband’s PRAYER WARRIOR!

blessingsThere is SO much power in prayer!!!  One thing we have learned over and over the last 4 years as we have traveled with our oldest son down the path of leukemia is that prayer is powerful!!  Time after time we have seen the hand of God move!!  God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way we WANT, but always in the way that is BEST!!

Praying for my HUSBAND is one of the greatest things I can do for him.  Several years ago I heard on the radio someone sharing using the acronym “BLESSINGS” to pray for our husband.  I have tried to find who shared this, but I haven’t been successful.  However, I have USED this to pray for my husband ever since!

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut praying for our husband.  I get that and want to share with you this tool that has empowered me to pray BOLDLY and SPECIFICALLY for my husband!

 

Have you watched the movie, War Room??  If you haven’t I highly encourage it!  This movie shows the power of prayer, specifically praying scripture.  God’s word does not return void and He is so faithful!

Over the years I have seen God answer my prayers for my husband time and time again.  I am so thankful for that day I heard this acronym on the radio, it has been such a helpful tool.

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Click HERE to download  a set of bookmarks with the “BLESSINGS” prayer.  Place one in your Bible, hang one on the bathroom mirror, put one in your car and share one with a friend!

Praying SCRIPTURE is the most powerful way to effectively pray.  I have put together a e-book with Bible verses for each of the letters in “BLESSINGS”.  Sign up below to receive this in-depth resource.

My life motto is GOD is BIGGER (than anything we face here on earth).  Join me in praying some BIG prayers!  Our husbands will be BLESSED!!

When your friend is hurting….. 5 Practical ways to reach out

Life can be so HARD!  We all go through sfriendeasons when life is just extra challenging.  We all know someone that is HURTING right now.  Whether your friend is experiencing a medical challenge, a job loss, a family crisis, loss of a loved one or personal struggle there are lots of ways we can REACH out and show we love and care.

I have lived the life of being THE hurting friend and also have been the friend of someone hurting.  During our 4 year journey with our son’s leukemia I have had friends who have done an  EXCELENT job of reaching out …. and I have had friends that left me feeling alone.  I know that YOU WANT to be the friend that makes a positive impact during your friend’s time of struggle.  I have learned from the examples of my friends, and I know first hand how I have felt over the years.  These are tried and true ways you can practically REACH out and show you care!

5 Practical ways to reach out and show you care

  1. Encouraging Words and Listening Ear

Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to someone that is hurting.  We want to say something helpful but we are at a loss.  So instead of saying anything, we too often say nothing.  Without meaning to we end up causing our friend more pain because our silence creates isolation and separation.  Lets just be honest: There is NOTHING you can say that can *fix* or eliminate the pain and heartache your friend is going through and your friend isn’t expecting this.  Therefore, just knowing this takes the pressure off and we can focus on sharing encouraging words and being a listening ear.

Putting Encouraging Words and Listening Ear into ACTION:

*Text Messages:  Text messaging is probably the easiest way to let your friend know you are thinking about them.  Texts are quick and simple but let our friend know we care.  We can send a quick “Hello! Checking in on you!”  “How can I pray for you today?” “I have been thinking about you… want you to know I care.”  “I’m here…. want to chat?”    You can also send Bible verses, pictures with quotes, jokes, links to a song, a picture of the two of you together, and the options go on and on.  A very powerful text is writing out a prayer.

*Phone Calls:  Phone calls are becoming less frequent in our texting society.  (I often could go WEEKS without receiving a phone call from a friend.  This was sad and lonely.)  A good conversation can be soothing balm to a hurting heart.  A phone call takes more courage and more effort than a text, but it is so worth it.  Remember to let go of any fear you might have about saying the right, or wrong

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thing and just give your friend a call.  If you are worried that it wouldn’t be good timing for your friend you can shoot a text first asking if this is a good time or when a good time would be to have a chat.  You can even start off the conversation by saying “I know there isn’t anything I can say or do to “fix” this or make it better, but I just want you to know I care!”  Getting this out in the open is freeing for both of you and the conversation will flow naturally from this point on.  You can allow your friend to vent, share about her hurt or allow her to talk about anything but her heartache.  Let your friend have the freedom to talk about whatever she wants to.  The fact you called is more important than any words you will actually say!!

*Written Word… Notes and Cards:  Opening the mailbox and finding a handwritten note is a very special thing!  In our world of technology we rarely send or receive handwritten letters or cards.  Texts and emails have their place, but a card or note you can hold in your hand has power that a text or email can never have.  Often cards are set out to be looked at over and over!  Mailing a card or letter takes more effort that an email or text and that effort is felt by your friend! These cards and notes are tangible expressions of love.

2) Spend face-to-face time WITH your friend

While texts, calls, emails and handwritten notes all have their place of importance, our hurting friend NEEDS to have face to face contact, too..  It is easy for us to neglect this because we often think our friend might have too much on her plate to take time to visit.  However, while this may be true, often a hurting friend is longing for some face to face time.  Reach out and ask…. if it isn’t good timing let your friend decline the invitation.  It is better to ask than to not ask!

photo-1461595520627-42e3c83019bcSpecific Ideas:   Ask her out, or have over to your place, for coffee, dinner, a walk, play date with the kids, a trip to the library or museum, go to an event or game, sit around a camp fire, visit her at the hospital, go with her to appointments, meet for a bible study and time of prayer or anything else that the two of you enjoy doing!  The options are limitless and the impact is huge!!  You can also get your group of friends together rather than it always being one-on-one.  Make sure that you don’t stop including your friend in the things you have always done together.  While she might not always be able to do the same things it is important that she knows she is invited and wanted.

 

3) Give A HUG!

Some of us are “huggers” and some of us are not…. Each of us have a different level of comfort with hugs.  You know your friend, but most people find hugs comforting and receive them with joy.  So when you see your friend face to face, reach out and give a hug!  A hug doesn’t take words to communicate we care and is often just the thing our friend needs.

 

4) Acts of Service, the gift of giving practical help

When your friend is going through intense times there are a lot of ways you can give the gift of practical service/help.  You can give her room on her plate by taking care of a detail or physical need she has.  The options for DOING things for a hurting friend are numerous.  One huge piece of advice: rather than asking your friend “Let me know if there is any thing I can do to help”  choose instead to say to her “I want to help.  Please tell me something I can do for you this week that would be helpful to you.”  If she says she is fine and doesn’t need you to do anything you can give her ideas and suggestions.  Often our friends don’t want to feel like a bother and will resist help, even when it is so desperately needed.

Specific ways to give practical help:  fix a meal, run an errand, transport kids, help kids with homework, mow the yard, clean the house (or just one task such as mop the kitchen or clean the bathrooms), do the laundry, shovel snow, wash/clean out the car, watch the kids, go to an appointment with her, plant/water/weed her flowers, help decorate for the holidays, walk the dog, take the trash out for garbage day, get the mail, etc.  You know all the tasks involved in day to day life.  Think of one or two that you know you can do for her and do it!

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5) Gifts/Generosity

When our friends are going through hard times it is common for them to have financial needs.  Sometimes there are extra bills, decreased income, or both.  If the situation is severe community fundraisers can be very effective ways to help support and provide.  However, this much is not always needed and there are MANY simple ways you can lighten the load for your friend or give her a gift to show you care.

Specific ways to give: 

Gifts to cheer: books, music, flowers, candy, coffee, art, or anything you know she would enjoy.

Gift cards for gas, groceries, household needs, meals are always helpful.  Food is always helpful, whether it is a prepared meal, a freezer meal, a gift card or a bag of groceries.

Gas is always needed.

Extra help at holidays or kid’s birthdays, school enrollment fees, school supplies/clothes, snow removal or lawn care, laundry soap or money for laundry mat, personal care supplies, etc.  Obviously the ideas could go on and on.

 

YOU have a BIG heart and WANT to help your hurting friend!!  Just by reading this you show your heart!  I hope that this post has given you a framework of practical ideas for helping your hurting friend.

 

I would love to hear from you!  Share with me ways you have been able to help a hurting friend OR tell me about a time a friend reached out and blessed you!!

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FREE Online Mom Conference!

This MOM Gig can be HARD!!!  If you are like me you want to be the BEST mom you can be and so you are always eager to learn and grow!  I have learned about an online MOM conference that is coming soon.  It is FREE and so I didn’t hesitate to sign up!

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One of the speakers is very dear to my heart.  FlyLady’s ministry has impacted my life in very practical and real ways.  Her trainings transformed the way I take care of my home and family.  I found FlyLady in 2003 while I was pregnant with my 4th child.  She was literally an answer to my prayers for help in managing my home.  So thankful for Marla!!

Join me in learning and growing by listening to some incredibly wise people!

When your child is in the hospital: 5 tips for getting better sleep

hospital2In August of 2012 our oldest son, Wes, was diagnosed with ALL leukemia.  Since that time he has spent weeks and weeks and weeks in the hospital.  Actually, as I am type this I am sitting beside him in the hospital.  Being in the hospital with your child is hard.  There is just nothing easy about seeing your child sick, in pain, being poked and prodded and going through treatment.  It is physically, mentally and emotionally EXHAUSTING!

Over the many times of being with him in the hospital I have learned to put into practice some things that help me take care of myself so that I can be strong for my son.  If I don’t stay on top of self care I quickly loose the ability to cope well and be the support my son needs.  Sometimes we might feel that intentionally doing things to take care of ourselves is selfish, but truly it is key.  If we don’t put our oxygen masks on we can’t help our child!

One important thing we can do to stay strong for our child is to get sleep!!  However, sleeping in a hospital room is NOT good sleep.  The beeping, the lights, the sounds, the uncomfortable couches and chairs all combine to make sleeping a challenge.  The constant ebb and flow of nurses in and out of the room, the care our child needs during the night and the stress of how they are feeling zap our ability to sleep well.  When I am not getting the sleep my body needs I begin to be unable to care for him like I want.  I get foggy, have headaches, have less patience and find myself being more emotional.  We need to get some sleep!

5 tips for getting better sleep while your child is in the hospital

  1. Sleep as much as you can during the night and grab a cat nap or two during the day.  A power nap can do wonders.  Follow the sage advice given to new mothers to sleep when their baby sleeps.  It. Really. Helps.
  2. Ask if the hospital has a white noise machine you can use in the room.  This will help both you and your child drown out the medical noises.  If they don’t have one available you can bring one with you or you can download a white noise app for your phone. If you use an app a blue tooth speaker can be helpful.  Instead of white noise you could play relaxing music or nature sounds.
  3. Utilize Ronald McDonald House (RMH) rooms.  Now I know that not all hospitals have nearby houses.  However, many of the larger children’s hospitals do have them.  We are fortunate to have one just blocks away from our Children’s Hospital.  If we are here for just a few nights I stay with my son in his hospital  room at night.  However, when the stay is going to stretch on for long periods of time the RMH is such a huge blessing.  I am able to go over and get much deeper sleep.  The nurses are fabulous and I know he is in good hands and that they will contact me during the night with anything I need to know.
  4. Trade out with another loved one so that you can go home and sleep a night in your own bed.  Of course this depends on if you live close enough to the hospital to make this feasible.  We live less than 2 hours from our Children’s Hospital so my husband and I tag team.  During the week days I stay with our son while he works and then he comes on the weekends.  If you don’t have a spouse to trade out with ask a grandparent, family member or friend that your child feels comfortable with.  I have learned that people that love us want to HELP us.  This is one way to let people help.  One night of sleep in your own bed will do wonders to recharge the body.
  5. Bring your own pillow and blanket from home.  Our bodies sleep much better when we are as comfortable as possible.  Our own pillow is especially comforting and helpful, but our own blanket can be very soothing.  Sometimes it is these little things that make BIG differences in the quality of sleep we get.  Do whatever helps!

 

I hope these 5 tips help!  It is NEVER easy to have a child in the hospital, but  know from many weeks of personal experience that lack of sleep exponentially makes things more challenging.  Give yourself, and your child, the gift of sleep.  You will be much more able to love and support your child during their medical challenge.

If you have a child with a health issue, my heart goes out to you!!

If you have any additional SLEEP TIPS please share them in the comments.  It is so good to learn from each other!!

Our motto this entire journey has been: GOD is BIGGER than leukemia.  YES, yes He is!  We are a praying family believing that Jesus is our Savior and our Healer.  I would be honored to pray for your child.  Please feel free to leave a comment so that I can join you in praying for your child.

 

 

Simple Faith and Family

More than Survival!!!  I want to LIVE and thrive!!  Faith, Family and Simple living are the things that make me who I am. In this small corner of the world it is my heart’s cry to encourage you in your walk with Christ, your life within family and share ways that living simply can bring added peace and empower you to do more than survive.

Life is a precious gift!  A gift to be lived fully and enjoyed.  Life can be HARD…. VERY hard…. But through it all we can live with peace that comes from Jesus.  In this world we will have trouble, but I take heart because Jesus has over come the world!  In Him we have salvation and victory!
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