Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dad, alive in me

February 6, at 5:50 am, I had to say a final goodbye to my very best friend - my dad.  There were so many that came to the funeral home to share their stories of "Pete" and the way he had touched their lives.  I always knew my dad was so very loving, caring, merciful and such a peacemaker.  He was generous and protective, and genuinely encouraging - always, in all ways.

Dad is one of the main reasons I came to know God my Heavenly Father that at the tender age of 5. Not that dad was perfect - but he was so inherently good.  So good to me.  Not that he gave me everything, but in the way he loved me completely and purely.  I was always safe with him.  He was my hero. I loved the way he always scrunched up his nose, and winked at me when he'd see me. And he always made me feel tenderly special.  So when my preacher talked about a Heavenly Father, I could only imagine Him being like some turbo charged up giant version of my earthly dad.  I was all in. Dad loved guiding me in my spiritual journey, and some of my favorite memories are of him reading the bible to me at night.  As as little girl, I didn't know the bible that well so i would always request Matthew 1.  And he would read it! For those of you who may not know, it's just a chapter of "begats" with tons of hard to pronounce names.  But he read them to me anyway.  He loved me. 
Losing dad was and is the hardest thing I've ever experienced.  He used to visit me every Monday at the bank, when he made his church's deposit.  He'd have on his work khaki's, his red farm jacket, and a well worn Crop Production Services cap, his favorite. I loved talking to him, but even moreso listening to him. No matter how busy I was, I would shut the door, ignore my calls and treasure daddy-time.  He enjoyed mentoring me in the business world, and hearing my stories of figuring out how to be a good mom and wife.  And I relished the stories of his interactions with his neighbors and friends.  Dad had a relentless passion to show people to Christ, just through genuine and simple acts of love and kindness.  And the list of those lives he impacted and helped change is endless. He was a true missionary, right here. 

When dad died, I didn't understand.  What was the purpose of his death?  He was so fruitful, passionate and SO dearly loved and depended upon.  After the numbness of his death lifted, I found myself still thinking of him constantly.  And in every situation, I started asking myself "how would dad handle this?  How would he treat this person? Would he forgive?  Would he apologize?  Would he be honest.  Would he encourage?"  I didn't really set out to do that, it just started happening automatically. 

And you know what? I started living differently.  I accepted those things as "good ways to live".  Dad lived such a good and beautiful life - even in his weaknesses, he taught me so much.  How could I go wrong?

The night that he died, I held him in my arms and sang his favorite hymns to him.  He was having such a struggle to even connect with me, he had gotten so sick. When I would start a new song, Dad would open those crystal blue eyes and look so deep into my soul, then close his eyes as I sang the rest.  I knew He was staying because I couldn't let go.  Finally, I told him, "Dad, I will take care of mom, I promise.  And I will take care of myself.  And I will keep you in my heart, always."  Then Dad took his last three breaths, and stepped into Heaven, with our Heavenly Father.  He didn't have a smile on his face as he left.  I know heaven is amazing, but I know dad wanted to stay here with us so much.  

The days since that cold February morning have been tricky. But one thing that always brings me peace and always helps me "experience" dad - is when I live by his example, That's when I realize, that Dad is actually still alive, in my heart.  That brings me comfort.  I experience dad's presence in a very real way, and i find PEACE.

Recently, Jesus spoke to me on this.

In my life, I've read books, attending conferences, prayed, searched and counseled on how to live out my Christian faith in this world full of troubles.  But truly, it is very simple.  We all have a loving, compassionate Heavenly Father.  He longs to sit and visit with us, hear our stories, our troubles - but most of all He needs us to listen.  He sent us a great example to live by - Jesus Christ.

Jesus was crucified, but He still lives and is present in our every day lives.  And if you want to feel close to Him, if you want to experience Him daily - try living like Him.  Try doing things the way He would have done them instead of your own way.   God the Father wants us to carry on reflecting HIS heart in what we think, say, do and feel.  Complete the promises you made to Him.  He will show up in such a powerful way.  If you don't know Him yet, I would sure love to tell you about Him.  He is an easy Father to know and love. He never turns down an invitation!   He's a good, good Father.  And you are very loved by Him.  Would you allow Him to be alive in your heart today? It is the most peace you will ever know.

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he is the one who loves me.  The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them" John 14:21

Happy Father's Day in Heaven daddy.  Thank you for showing me by example what my Heavenly Father is like.  I love you both, immensely.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


One thing we all seem to have trouble with, is accepting help. 

For example, the first day of this journey with Dad's cancer, before we knew he was sick, he started vomiting profusely at home on a Friday morning.  Dad is 80 and pretty stout.  My mom is 79 and suffers from congestive heart failure.  Dad continued retching until he passed out.  Instead of calling one of us daughters (I am only 5 minutes away!!!!), and instead of calling the ambulance, my petite momma managed to get my 200 lb 5'10" dad to the car and drove him to the emergency room. 

Once they got there, THEN she called us.  And things spiraled downward from there.  Since then it's still been a constant struggle for them to allow us to help.  We have quit just offering to help.  When we offer they both say "no, we'll be fine".  So we just help anyway. 

I decided to move in so I could be there if anything else happened, after we got the diagnosis and dad started showing so many signs of weakness.  He first night I was there, he collapsed and I caught him and helped him to the floor and then back to bed after he regained consciousness.  They needed help.  

Likewise, I have had so many friends offer ME help.  They want to bring meals, take a turn spending the night with mom or dad, or just do something nice for us.  I catch myself saying the same thing, "No, we'll be fine".  

Well you know what?  The struggles in life put us on our backs.  They immobilize us and we work so hard to keep taking care of them ourselves.  We have a loving Father who says, "can I help?" But in our pride we say, "no God, we can do it ourselves."  

I just watched dad trying to shave this morning. His left side is paralyzed, so he is shaving with his right hand only which is shaky.  I'd be happy to shave him.  It would be easy for me.  I can see where he's missing and I could eliminate the risk of him hurting himself.  But he has to let me.  He has to accept the help. 

As I watched him, I decided something for myself.  I have a Father in Heaven who wants to always help me.   That is a prayer he LOVES to hear.  Just like I LOVE to hear my parents or my children say, "ok, help me!"  God rushes in.  The battle belongs to Him and He is a fixer.  And when He gets involved, the situations you are facing are not only resolved, you will be forever touched and changed by it. 

I dare you to pray that prayer.  Think of a situation in your life where you are hitting a brick wall.  Is there a hardship? A broken relationship? An addiction?  Look to the heavens and say "Help Me Father".  And say that with the knowledge it can change everything and that you will accept the help, whatever that looks like.  

Psalm 121
      1  I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

where does my help come from?

2My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

3He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

4indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

5The Lord watches over you—

the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

6the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7The Lord will keep you from all harm—

he will watch over your life;

8the Lord will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

My Three Amigos

Who do you pray to when you pray?  Do you start your prayers Dear Jesus? Or Our Father? Or how bout, Dear Holy Spirit? 

Recently I was challenged by a friend to pray to different members of that trilogy according to my needs. I brushed off the advice at first thinking, if they are all one in the same what difference does it make?  This journey I am on completely unraveled that thinking.  While they are all three in one, they are very different in many ways. 

For me, I have found that when I need a friend... A brother... Someone to come alongside me, I pray to Jesus.  He is my homie.  He understands the world and people.  He understands the selfishness of my prayers and helps redirect my focus.  He displays himself in such loving, encouraging ways through his people to me. My Jesus.

When I need direction, guidance and protection, I call on the Father.  I do have the world's most amazing earthly father.  I call on my daddy for everything!  He is my best friend, but I also have complete respect for him as a disciplinarian and I always want him to be pleased with me. Even now that I am 50 years old. It is important that everything I do, would be something he would approve of.  And if there's something I am in question of, I ask him for direction and trust his answers without a single doubt. My Father. 

When I need comfort, courage, and supernatural strength, I summon the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit can fill a room with such light and energy that it moves the hardest of hearts.  It surrounds me with a force field no one or nothing can penetrate..  I have to invite Him though.  He doesn't force Himself into the situation.  But He ALWAYS comes when He hears the surrending cry of "Help Me". 

I must admit, since I have been praying individually to each one, my prayer life has enriched greatly.  Before I bow my head, I consider my purpose for prayer and appeal to the one I relate to most at that point.  I can promise you this, I fully trust them, and I do not want God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit to change their minds about the future.  I want them to change my heart to be in agreement.  That is my goal in prayer. 

This Cross Is Heavy

Tonight I am sad to see dad suffering.  I am sad to think of mom worrying.  I am burdened when I know my sisters are feeling the heaviness of all this too.  I feel helpless.  My MS is kicking up a bit and my leg has been trembling today.  When I napped earlier, I dreamed I was in the hallway and it gave way with me and I fell in the floor.  I could feel the cold hard tile against my face.  And i cried onto the floor. 

I think my dream was playing out to helplessness I am feeling right now.  THe heaviness of this burden.  The unpredictability of dad's tumors.  When I closed my eyes to pray tonight, I just said, "Father, it is too heavy." And I was instantly reminded of a burden Jesus carried for me. 

It was a huge cross.  And on top of it were all my sins, your sins, and the sins of every person. Not only was that physically heavy, it was emotionally heavy.  And he fell beneath the load.  Bystanders tried to help, but the guards wouldn't let them. Jesus had to bear it.  Did he lay down the cross and walk away? No. He trudged on.  He trusted His Father. He had asked His Father, "take this cup from me please", but that was not the plan.  There was a bigger picture. 

I am aware that 'my cross' is nothing in comparison to what Jesus bore.  But in bearing that, He showed us all that even when it is unfair, even when it is so heavy, even when it seems impossible to move forward.  Move forward anyway.  Press on.  You are not alone. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

I am very aware that walking this challenging journey with my family as my dad battles cancer had given me a pretty thin skin.  I am very sensitive to the words people say, as if I am deeply seeking wisdom, guidance or just a beacon to show us the way.  It's as if my listening ear had been turned up a few notches.

And when I hear something that doesn't agree with the truths I am holding dear each day, I find myself being very quick to defend those lifelines. In a loving way, of course. (I hope)

Recently someone said to me, that when something like this happens to a Godly man like my dad, it's hard not to question God.


Before I knew what I was doing, these words were coming out of my mouth... Are Christians the only ones who get cancer? I am pretty sure that Satanists and Atheists get cancer too.  Buddhists do too.  Can you think of any religion that is cancer free?  Trouble free?  Worry free?  In this world, we are promised that we will have trouble.

Actually Christians got the heads up from Jesus long ago, in John 16:33.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We all have trouble.  The difference for Christians is that God can make some beautiful things form our troubles.  He can use it for his glory.   
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I'm going to have trouble.  You're going to have trouble.  Everyone is going to have trouble.  We are all going to have sickness.  We are all going to die. It's meaningless to try to compare circumstances.  It says so in Ecclesiastes 8:14, "There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

So why do bad things happen to good people?  Because they happen to all people.  Heaven help us if even the best of us got what we truly deserved.  The good news is, you don't have to endure the bad things alone.  Lean on the one Who has overcome the world.

How to Glow in the Dark

It's a night I will never forget.

The night before daddy got sick - Thursday, Dec. 18 - I had a crazy dream.  I dreamed that I walked upstairs to the spare bedroom in the middle of the night, and shut the door.  Someone else was in the room, but I couldn't see who it was. I could just feel the presence.  The lights were off, and it was pitch black. I shut the door.  That's how I know for sure this was a dream, because I am tee totally scared to death of the dark! But there I was. 

I knelt down and started to pray.  Soon I felt a rush of air, and my skin felt like it was gently vibrating all over.  I felt extreme cold and heat at the same time. The air that I breathed in tasted sweet and tingled inside of my lungs.  It was the most amazing feeling!  What's going on???? Then I hear the still small voice say, "This is the Holy Spirit, clothing you with light".  I peeked out from my prayerful pose and I was draped in light!  I was glowing in the dark!   I wanted to feel this way forever! I memorized that feeling! 

Then I awoke.  Dang it! I wanted more of that! I tried to go back to sleep and continue the dream, but it was over. 

I wondered why I dreamed such a thing, but felt very blessed to get a taste of that. 

The next day, daddy got sick, with what we thought was a bowel obstruction.  In the ER, a cat scan delivered the worst news possible.  Multiple tumors.  Probable cancer. Several locations.  As my I gut wrenched in worry and heartache, that magical feeling I experienced in my dream returned to me.  I felt clothed in light.  I felt comfort in the storm.  We were not alone.  

Every time I've taken dad to the doctor, or stayed with him at home or in the hospital, it seems like we've been dealt another blow of bad news and bleaker outlooks.  Each and every time, without fail, the Holy Spirit reminds me of his presence.  And I am comforted.  And loved beyond explanation.  At those moments especially, I can just close my eyes and be still, and hear His whisper.  

1 Kings 19:11-13 is one of my very favorite passages.  "The Lord said to Elijah, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."  

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind, there was an earthquake! But the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake, came a fire!  But the Lord was not in the fire. 

And after the fire, came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

God is in the whisper. 

I am humbled and in awe of the Holy Spirit's provision and presence in my life, especially during this journey in the valley.  He is so close to the broken hearted, which makes being broken hearted, very different for me than non believers. 

So thankful. 

The Weight of Wait


Wait for biopsy results. Wait for the doctor appointment.  Wait to get radiation. Wait for it to take effect. Wait for the steroids to start working. Wait for the steroids to be weaned away.  Wait for the treatment that may actually reverse the melanoma monster that is trying to devour my sweet daddy.  

I DONT WAIT WELL.  Especially now.  Every day is a bit more bad news, a little weaker body, a lot more cancer.  

So it seems that every other day, at least one of my friends will send me this verse: Those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings with Eagles.  They will walk and not faint.  They will run and not grow weary.  (Isaiah 40:31).

Seems like waiting must be what we are called to do.  Lazarus, Mary and Martha can tell you a thing or two about waiting. Lazarus was Jesus' best friend and when he became ill, they sent word to Jesus.  Lazarus needed some Jesus-style chemo!  The disciples were with Jesus when he received the news. I'm sure they thought, "saddle up your donkeys guys, he's gonna want to go to Lazarus right away".  But instead, Jesus went the opposite direction.  He knew the bigger picture.  

Meanwhile, Mary and Martha tried to keep Lazarus going while they waited.  Alas, Lazarus died.  That's when Jesus arrived.  "You are too late!", they said.  "He's already dead".  But His timing is always perfect.  He raised Lazarus from the dead.  And that story really needed to happen, to teach us all that when Jesus performs a healing, it is used to bring glory to God.  That's the bigger picture.  Healing isn't for our comfort or victory.  Healing is for God's glory.  

Are you tired of waiting for something?  It's not time to worry, fear or doubt.  Even Jesus' best friend had to wait.  And imagine how their faith was strengthened after such a miracle! 

So I'm good with waiting.  While I'm waiting, I'm watching and praying.  And trusting.  Soaring with Eagles, is worth the wait. Don't you think?

You Are Good.

Yesterday at the hospital I was feeding dad some chocolate ice cream.  He had asked me to get some to help with the gritty taste of the salt tablets he has to take.  Lisa, my sister, and I were joking that he asked ME to get it because he calls me the 'food pusher".  I am always offering him food and drink and  tempt him with all kinds of offers.  I laughed while spooning in the relieving chocolatey goodness that in this journey I've also been known as the tailgater (because dad had joked that I ride to close in traffic), the bully (because I hassle nurses if they don't get what dad needs pretty quick!) the snorer (because when I stay with dad he can hear me snore even WITHOUT his hearing aids...) and I saw dad's eyes start to get sad and a tear ran down his cheek.

He said "No Chris - YOU ARE GOOD".  It broke my dad's heart to hear me cut myself down.  No truer emotions have ever cut me deeper.  My daddy loves me, I have no doubt.  And he is proud of me, I know because he told me, and I've overheard him speak of me to others. He is pleased with me. He even told me one night, when I was talking about a dilemma I was dealing with, "Chris you are so wise."  Now that one might have been the morphine, but I'll take it.  

My point is this.  Do you talk down to yourself? Are you constantly picking at your weaknesses and failures?  Instead of celebrating your awesomeness? We are all unique and special in our own ways. And when you are down on yourself and you point out your least favorite attributes, your Heavenly Father sheds a tear.  It breaks his heart.  He loves the way He made you.  You are precious in His sight. 

I know my daddy will never hear me talk down about myself again.  
Don't let your Heavenly Father catch you doing it either. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Journey of Pete

I'm kindof starting this in the middle of a whirlwind.  But tonight, I'm in a hospital recliner, between my two dads.  On my left is my earthly dad.  My best friend.  My confidante.  My music teacher. My life coach.  My mentor. My hero.  My inspiration. Daddy.  On my right, out the hospital window, my Heavenly Father, who is watching over us so carefully I can feel his breathe on my neck.  So many prayers are being said for my sweet daddy, I can almost hear the many murmurs of them when I close my eyes in the stillness of this hospital room.

"We're at the hospital" mom said.  "Dad's been feeling bad and throwing up today so I brought him over."  I didn't rush, thinking it was maybe a virus or the flu. But made my way over.  What they thought was a bowel obstruction quickly turned to dire news at the site of the cat scan.  Daddy had multiple tumors - lung, adrenal gland, colon and brain.  The next few weeks, several scans and two biopsies later, we learned it was stage four melanoma.  Cyberknife was attempted on the brain tumor and while it seemed to work for a few days, his condition quickly digressed to his current state.  Paralyzed on the left side from the growing monster in his brain, and losing hope each day.

I've prayed so many prayers.

If I rewind to the night before daddy got sick, I had a dream.  A very vivid dream.  The night before all this began, I dreamed I was upstairs in the spare bedroom praying.  It was pitch black, the darkness was consuming. I closed my eyes and knelt, when my skin seemed to vibrate all over, and I felt extremely hot and extremely cold at the same time.  It was a magical feeling; a feeling of extreme love and comfort.  Acceptance and warmth.  I peeked with one eye to see that I was glowing in the dark.  And I felt like it too.  It was the HOly Spirit.  No one said it, I just knew.  And I didn't want it to end.

I awoke from the dream and wanted to go right back to sleep to recapture the sensation.  But, reality hit and I had to get up and go to work.  Little did I know that morning, that the HOly Spirit knew I would need that experience to carry me through the weeks to come.

I'll write more tomorrow.  I'm very tired and dad is sleeping.  Two more hours, the nurse will come in to turn him again, so I better sleep while I can.

Tucking in.