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I saw it was my mother but when I answered, it was my son. I was pleasantly surprised and concerned at the same time because my son NEVER calls, “Hello Josiah!”

“Hey Mom,” came a rather heavy heart.

“What’s going on honey?” What came next was totally unexpected.

Josiah proceeded, “Mom, can you please not decorate for Christmas until we get home.” His voice was serious and a little shaky. He and Abigail had helped Granddad put the nativity scene on the front lawn the day before and I got to see the pictures. It seemed to remind him what he was about to miss at home.

“Josiah, that isn’t fair to the rest of us here, honey. You and Abigail are helping to decorate for Christmas there. Why should we withhold that from the girls?” He didn’t respond so I continued, “Selah and Lydia need to be able to enjoy the Christmas season. For them, this year, it is not just a remainder to celebrate the birth of our Savior but it is also a sign that you and Abigail will be home and we will be together for 2 weeks. Honey, putting up some decorations will help with our anticipation of your return.” I responded.

Christmas brought Charis a new friend, Frosty.  She included Frosty in her Christmas story

Christmas brought Charis a new friend, Frosty. She included Frosty in her Christmas story

“Mom, please. Please wait for us. We want to decorate, put up the Christmas tree and watch the Nativity movie with you,” Josiah pleaded.

It didn’t matter that he was getting to help decorate there, he didn’t want to be left out of what our family does together, “Ok son, we will wait,” I yielded.

A week later, I called to see if he would be okay with the girls putting up some decorations in their room. The girls were not doing well with waiting for Abigail and Josiah’s return and by not letting them put up anything made it seem like something was going to prevent them from coming home.

His response, “Ok, but please don’t put up the Christmas tree without us and wait to watch The Nativity movie.”

December seemed to be as shifty as knowing how much snow a particular place would accumulate when it fell.

Lydia had been given the opportunity to be in the American Cancer Society Fashion Show as a cancer survivor. However, with her weight dropping there was always the uncertainty of being able to participate when the time came. The doctors would push for her to eat and try to get her to promise she would do better before the next week. This event celebrates those who are cancer free and we got to celebrate this with

Lydia with Rachal Gordon, One Love Design.

Lydia with Rachal Gordon, One Love Design.

others who had faced the agony of this disease and now lived free from its grasp. However, Lydia’s designer was struggling to live in a different way. One year prior to the date of the event her mother lost the battle to cancer. It would seem that God sustained Lydia’s strength to participate even through the dangerous weight loss. He positioned her to demonstrate His hope, love and restoration to her designer. Rachel became a “friendly” that received God’s love from Lydia and adorned her as a warrior in the battle Lydia continued to face. Was it wise to let Lydia do this in her weakened condition, probably not, but it was God and He can be trusted.

A few days later, I continued to battled the desire to load everyone up to go to Abigail and Josiah’s Christmas band and chorus concert. It was their FIRST concert and I was going to miss it, them, being their to cheer them on and being the first to tell them how proud I was of them. I had already missed Abigail’s FIRST dance and I would never get that back. I was tired of missing them, their problems, their arguing, their playfulness, their laughs and contagious smiles, snuggling and…I was feeling the pain of missing all they were becoming and it begin to overwhelm my heart. I remember feeling trapped when it was 19 hours before their concert started. 19 hours is what it would take to make it to their concert in time. I had to make myself delight in the fact that not all would be lost. God provided a breath of hope when we found out we could watch their concert through streaming and pictures so we could see their progress in their mission.

I had told the children a couple days prior we would not be making their concert but even in their hearts they either couldn’t believe it or had a hidden hope of their own. I called to encourage them just before they where to get ready for their concert. Abigail answered the phone, “Mom, aren’t you going to be here?”

“No, honey, we couldn’t make it. We will be watching on the computer,” I responded.

“But I thought you would be here.” Abigail shared disappointedly. Everything in my heart broke at that moment.

“Me too sweetheart, but right now, I want you to know we will be watching, cheering, and clapping for you tonight and I will call after your concert. Smile big, have fun, and sing loud, we are all watching!” I had to finish my peep talk before my voice cracked.

The tears came in a steady flow when we saw them singing and playing in the band. We whooped and hollered from our living room over 1,000 miles away.

When Josiah got on the phone, he too thought I would be there. He had seen me drive through the night, 19 hours straight when my parents needed me and now he had believed this was just as important. And I asked myself, “Why didn’t you go? What is logical at this point, in this situation? I know it doesn’t make sense and it isn’t practical at all. They will be here in 2 weeks but this is their first concert and they believed somehow you would be there.”

What he didn’t realize is that for days I had been challenged to be responsible and keep myself from making the trip. All Scott had to do was give me the slightest head nod and I would have us packed, loaded and on our way! It took every ounce of self-control to keep me home. If there was ever a time that I wished I hadn’t been raised to be responsible, this would have been it! I didn’t want to be responsible I wanted to be at their concert.

What about this past year was what “I” wanted? Nothing, it had all been left in God’s hands and walking with Jesus. At least then I would know that eventually the pain would be over and we would walk out together, restored, made whole, and stronger as a family, as individuals and in our faith in God. I was tired of being an adult, imprisoned, separated from my children, missing out on all they had worked toward, encouraging them to rise above the disappointment yet again. It was a very real pain and an opportunity I would never get back and this wouldn’t be the last. I yielded to God as my strength, silenced the desire to whine and made myself be thankful for technology so we could watch the concert online.

So thankful for Shannan Callaway who messaged pictures to me "as" Josiah and Abigail were in their different activities!  Thank you!!!

So thankful for Shannan Callaway who messaged pictures to me “as” Josiah and Abigail were in their different activities! Thank you!!!

It reminded me of a Psalm I know all too well, David says, Bless the Lord! O my soul and all that is within me! Bless His holy name! David was commanding his soul (mind, will and emotions) to bless the Lord. This implies that he didn’t want to but made himself anyway. I was thankful for this understanding so the disappointments didn’t turn into discouragement. Being discouraged is a dangerous place, it is the place where the substance of our hope is lost. Without hope faith is gone. I had to make a conscience decision and make myself bless the Lord in this too.

After the concert we called and cheered! I’m pretty sure Josiah dropped the phone from our celebration cheer. Even though we didn’t see their smiles we could hear them! And the count was on for when we would be together at Christmas!

Christmas didn’t come on December 25th, I got my gifts 5 days early! My phone rang and I almost didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the area code.

“Mom, are you here?” Abigail asked. I can’t imagine Abigail and Josiah knowing that I was to be the one at the gate waiting for them to get off the plane but when everyone else had left and no one was there, neither was I.

We left in plenty of time to make sure we arrived an hour and a half early. Roads were clear and we made it two hours early. That is, we made it onto the airport property 2 hours early. It was under major construction and we weren’t moving! Time ticked and we couldn’t get anywhere to get us to the point of seeing where we could go to arrivals! Worship music went louder so I would keep my cool. I needed to have something godly coming out of my mouth or I just might say something the girls should never hear their mother say! For 2 hours we rolled and stopped, stopping for longer than we rolled. Finally when their flight was to arrive in 7 minutes we saw the sign for the arrival terminal but couldn’t get to the road. I looked at Scott and he said, “Go for it.”

“Are you serious? We aren’t in a 4×4, we are in a van. What will that new curb do when we go up, what will it do when we come off of it? We might get stuck in the mud in between.” There was no other choice, we had to go over. We were out of time and still couldn’t see where the building was only a sign.

The 7 minutes came and went. Finally we could see the arrivals pick up zone. The phone rang, Abigail taking charge of the situation, “Mom, are you here?”

“Yes, honey, we are here. We have been here for two hours but we are stuck in the van because of construction and traffic. Where are you?” I asked.

“Our pilot is letting me use his phone. How soon will you be here? They want to take us somewhere else.” She was unsure if she should go with them.

After getting the details I put the van in park and ran a ½ mile to arrivals. I wasn’t about to make them wait any longer. I saw where I needed to go and Scott took over the driving. I had missed being there when they got off the plane and they were feeling the distress of it. When I arrived at the location designated by the attendant the children were not there. Panic wanted to set in. “Breathe Veridee, breathe,” I told myself.

I walked as far away from the designated location as I dared and then back the other direction. There was no airline worker at the gates, no one to ask. I saw an airline woman go behind a solid grey medal door. No one came out but for some reason I knew, my children were back there. Thoughts ran through my mind, ‘How do I get back there without getting arrested? I could only imagine security cameras watching me. I had run to arrivals, through security, down the different terminals and corridors and now I would go banging on a solid grey door. If I did, why would they open up, they couldn’t see me from within?’

I paced and waited and when I could stand it no longer I started thinking of other options. Should I run all the way back to the ticket counter, should I go to their arrival gate, maybe they took them to baggage. I wanted to do something but the attendant who talked to me from the pilots phone had said she would take the children to this gate. But NO ONE WAS THERE!!!

“God, You are going to have to intervene. Please help me get to my children,” my heart cried out in a desperate sigh.

Finally, another lady came up to the door. The wait had given me time to catch my breath and speak evenly. I started talking to get her attention from a good distance away because I didn’t want her to disappear behind that grey door. She opened the door and there were my children, Josiah holding it together but a tear escaped and Abigail was not happy. I found out later they had asked the lady to let them sit outside the door. They didn’t want to be back there and they could tell they were not going to see me coming.

I nearly lost all Christ-likeness when a lady in the room was insistent that I show ID and sign the papers. I shot a firm look and said, “I have been waiting on the other side of this door at the designated location for at least 10 minutes while you kept my children where they couldn’t see me come for them. We arrived on airport property 2 and ½ hours ago but because of the construction we couldn’t get here,” and with that I tossed my ID on the counter and knelt to hold my children.

THESE are MINE!!! :)

THESE are MINE!!! 🙂

I dodged glare she shot my direction when I didn’t remain standing to wait on her to get me the paper to sign. Abigail and Josiah needed to know in the midst of the storm my love would remain for them. When I felt their forgiveness for my being late and love reciprocated in our embrace I released them, signed the paperwork and waited for my ID and I recovered myself to say thank you.

Outside the room, I got down on my knees and held them again before we returned to meet up with Daddy and the girls.

That night all was well as we celebrated being together. Seeing the children embrace one another, calling out each others names, holding hands, laughing, and looking to each other as all was made well by the healing love of our God. I knew He had heard my prayers and would restore our family and the love, support, and honor we have for each other. This was to be breathed in as one would smell the preparations of the Thanksgiving meal. We would savoring every moment we would be given.

His love holds us together,

Veridee

 

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Something was amiss after returning home from Charleston and our rendezvous with the Seal Team at Thanksgiving. Abigail and Josiah were so busy with school and all their activities while I was with Lydia that I didn’t get the opportunity to hear their heart. Thanksgiving had provided that time because they were struggling with the family separation and feeling like we were not telling them the threat of Lydia’s life. Kids had been asking about Lydia dying and they didn’t know how to respond. In our mind there was no reason to give any energy into being afraid so we directed their focus toward God. There was no need to let their mind be overcome with fear in something that God had promised wouldn’t happen.

Sometimes we have to overcome our fears and trust what we are holding on to.  Step off and trust God to get your to the safe place.

Sometimes we have to overcome our fears and trust what we are holding on to. Step off and trust God to get your to the safe place. 

Like most of us, when things are a challenge, hurtful things happen, and you don’t feel like anyone understands, we all just want to run home. That was not an option so they needed to be encouraged to stand strong and make the most of this opportunity from 1,000 miles away. Back in October, I had made for each of the children a declaration booklet taken from Joel Osteen’s I Declare book and adjusted it for them. The cover of each booklet had their name along with a personal destiny word of who God said they were and what He would have them accomplish. And like most of us, we may have exactly what we need right in front of us but never use it to its fullest potential. In their situation, they questioned whether it was true. There just seemed to be so much uncertainty and Abigail especially likes solid ground when she is stepping. Josiah on the other hand may never know if the ground isn’t solid because he may be swinging from tree to tree.

Being separated from us was a difficult thing no matter how good my parents have been and how great the school teachers have encouraged them. It seemed like the enemy was on the hunt to find the prisoner who had been rescued and the Seal Team that was separated from the rescue team. While the enemy was on the prowl, we found out quickly there were few, as military lingo says, “friendlies” we could trust. The threats were real and each Seal Team was feeling them.

Lydia was losing about a ½ to two pounds a week since the middle of November for the following 6 weeks. The doctors were scrabbling and didn’t know what was going on. She should have been gaining weight. I tried to “suggest” for the doctors to check her digestive system but their analysis was constantly overshadowed with the threat of Graft Verses Host Disease (GVHD). Until Lydia reached the “safe zone” this would always be their #1 concern and rightly so. GVHD can happen two different ways but if not caught in time the bone marrow transplant would fail. Failure twice on a bone marrow transplant, outside of a miracle, statistics says death comes quickly. GVHD is when the body rejects the transplanted blood and won’t produce new blood or if the blood rejects grafting to the body. The threat is GVHD is real for every patient and every doctor knew the seriousness of it.

We were all hoping that something would cause her appetite to kick in. It seemed like since the tests were returning negative for GVHD and they wouldn’t consider it being a digestive problem that they must have thought it was a mental block of some sort. The only thing mental is that her body had gone so long without eating she no longer had the desire. However, during this time an adult friend who had just started taking the same meds Lydia was on said that is caused everything to taste like poo-poo. Not many of us would continue eating if everything tasted like poo-poo. Way too many people out there that won’t even change a poo-poo diaper let alone have everything they eat taste like poo-poo.

Lydia is a smart one and she had already told me she couldn’t trust the doctors and she knew I couldn’t stop them from doing whatever they wanted. The pain of that statement went deep; when your child knows that there isn’t anything you can do to prevent the difficulty they are going through. But as least I knew Who could make the crooked places straight and I implored Him and many of you joined me. God is my Rock upon which I stand…every minute of every day.

As much as I was “with” her I wasn’t experiencing the difficulty, the pressure, and the helplessness she was feeling. She was tired of not knowing if this would be the appointment she got admitted or if they would let her go another week.

It never takes as long as it seems.  Keep your eyes on where you will land and it won't be as bad as the fear made it seem.

It never takes as long as it seems. Keep your eyes on where you will land and it won’t be as bad as the fear made it seem.

She tried to communicate but struggled to get the words together, “What does it matter, Mommy? It won’t change anything.” she sobbed. She knew nothing in her circumstance was going to change.

  • Abigail and Josiah weren’t going to be able to come home,
  • at any moment the doctors could hold her for tests and I couldn’t stop them,
  • she couldn’t be involved in cheerleading or any activities with other children, and
  • she wasn’t going to be with friends or go to church.

So, what does it really matter if she eats or not?

 

This is most likely why everything went back to normal, meaning she stopped eating, after the 100 celebration, visiting Abigail and Josiah at Thanksgiving, or any secret outing. She couldn’t tell anyone she went on the outing because she didn’t know who she could trust. If she told her nurse, it would be reported, if she told the doctor they might admit her, if she told another they would be upset she got do that instead of what they wanted her to do or they might be jealous that she went. So, what would it change? At the time she was not even half way through her “house arrest” nor were Abigail and Josiah half way through the school year in order to plan their return.

 

However, the impending doom that loomed over us was the threat of being “caught” by the enemy. Even though Lydia was cancer free, in order for the transplant to be stable, her immune system was scheduled to be suppressed for a year. Physically, cellularly, she would not be able to fight against any sickness, therefore, catching the common cold literally could take her life. But how do you share that with people so they do not freak out which would open an entire area of reactions that would most likely increase fear instead of alleviate it.

We tried to share with those we thought were friendlies but we found out quickly friendlies were hard to find. With Scott and I getting heartless comments we just couldn’t subject ourselves to the accusations, judgments and doubts at that time. I had even stopped blogging about Lydia’s progress because it was the same ole, same ole…she needed to gain weight and I didn’t need to be judged for what I was or wasn’t doing that people thought I should or shouldn’t do. Even though I blogged that it was a digestive problem, I couldn’t say the doctors agreed so critics arose all around us.

We choose not to live in conflict with others or in fear of the unknown. We choose to position ourselves before God and let Him work the matter out. Our main concern was always Lydia’s life and our family, the Seal Team uniting on homeland territory safe, strengthened, and together.

Scott and I were vulnerable:

when we saw the pain in Josiah’s eyes and the hot tears streaming down Abigail’s face as we drove off at Thanksgiving time,

when we hoped that Lydia would gain a pound by the next week but we could see her port sticking out even further,

when Charis cried for 15 minutes after Skyping Abigail and Josiah,

when the tickets for their flight home continued to increase with each airline we called

and the list goes on…

Scott and I were clinging to the Lord just to remain whole because we could see the threat against the Seal Team, hope being challenged by hatred and doubt from outside sources. The questions that hounded us had to be put before our God because only He would know and only He could make things work out for our good.

Would the Christmas rendezvous really happen?

Would we be together or separated, driving to the hospital on Christmas?

Would we still be able to celebrate even if we weren’t together?

Would the Grinch really steal Christmas?

Could we still gather together and sing praises to our God if the Grinch did steal Christmas?

It was as if the enemy was anticipating our next move. Friendlies had turned, instead of helping and hiding us, they were directing the enemy to us. Desperately we had to cried out to God, there was no time to give an ear to anyone who wouldn’t agree with us in prayer to believe that God would work all things out or contact someone who was not walking with us in faith. I hated pulling away even more but the only way to silence the questions and keep my faith alive was to position myself before God alone. He would direct us to the friendlies, the places we could go where Lydia would be safe and He would direct us away from the places that would bring danger to her that threatened our Christmas rendezvous.

Together, that's the only way we will make it.  WE MUST DO THIS TOGETHER!

Together, that’s the only way we will make it. WE MUST DO THIS TOGETHER!

We were the Seal Team on the ground and God was on the radio telling us when to move and where to go. We had to separate ourselves from those who didn’t have God’s perspective and willing to encourage us to keep believing that He would work things out for our good. This hurt to step away from those we thought were friendlies, but with our hearts vulnerable, we could trust God alone to guide our steps and encourage our hearts to believe. No one was in control but God and He would be with us no matter what the outcome.

When the threat is real, turn, trust, and tighten your grip on God’s promise.

Veridee

The Princess Must Be Rescued!  Who is with me?

The Princess Must Be Rescued! Who is with me?

Military families probably know how to do this better than most. Civilians live with the expectation of ‘there is always another day, another holiday, another opportunity,’ but those in the military know this could be the last so they learn to make the most of one week, one month, one holiday, one opportunity. We were all looking forward to the Christmas break. The excitement was building along with a storm brewing. We didn’t know when it would hit or what the damage would be but we had to tie ourselves down, ground ourselves in the promises of God as the tornado approached.

The glimpse of the life the military have to live to serve our country, for my freedom, has changed how I pray for and honor them. Over the past year and a half we have had to deal with devastating news, separation from family, friends, and church, being moved/displaced unexpectedly, and abandoned by those we thought were with us.

It has felt like we were a Navy Seal Team secretly, unexpected, called away because one of our “family” members had been captured behind enemy lines. It had escalated to a life-threatening situation. Scott, our children, Abigail, Josiah, Selah and Charis, and myself were faced with the news of Lydia being captured, imprisoned, and life threatened by the cancer, the bone marrow transplant and what was to be a year long suppression of her immune system. There were many who prayed for the safe return (healing) of Lydia. They would be considered the soldiers who knew about the capture, imprisonment and threat to Lydia’s life but not the “Go team”. Just like in the military, some would be a part of our mission to aid in Lydia’s rescue and others would stand by, watch and wait for the outcome of the mission. But one area that seemed to be missing was the understanding of the separation of the Navy Seal Team.

Weapons selected

Weapons selected

Abigail and Josiah had to know their mission and how to stand believing for Lydia’s rescue/healing without having “radio” contact. Each of us had to go behind enemy lines and return accomplishing our mission. They never knew if the next time the Seal Team got together if we would have Lydia or not.

The hardest part of this mission has not been the knowing of Lydia’s capture behind enemy lines. It wasn’t even the going behind enemy lines to rescue her.  It was not sending Abigail and Josiah to accomplish their part of the mission alone. I grew up with reaching in to God (Christ in me the hope and glory) in order to rise when facing adversity, knowing that win or lose I gave my best and held nothing back. This “reach in and rise up” gave me the opportunity to be better because of the adversity instead of threatened by it. There were two fronts of our battle that we needed to win:

1. Lydia’s complete healing

2. Not just a physical togetherness with Abigail and Josiah but also a unity of strength and trust secured in each family member relationship.

Strength Training: the better you prepare the greater the victory

Strength Training: the better you prepare the greater the victory

I was with Lydia for most of her battle and we had successfully reunited at home with Scott, Selah and Charis after the 100 days but we had to endure the separation and pray for complete restoration for our family until we would have Abigail and Josiah united for good. When our family gets back together we ALL made it safely into the homeland, far away from enemy territory and were made stronger through this not tore apart because of the situation and duration of the battle and separation. Do you want to guess what the hardest part has been?

The hardest part has been the return home. It was similar to how Vietnam vets were received when they returned home. In the next few blogs you will see why but right now this analogy seems to lend the viewpoint from which our family was facing. I may be way off in the military analogy and I apologize it is offensive to those of you who serve or have family serving in the military. In thinking how the military families have to go through these situations of the unknown regularly kept me from whining (too much) or falling into despair. Being thrown into this “mission” to see if we could make it in time to rescue Lydia from cancer and get all of us out safely has reminded me of what our military families face every time they are deployed to a war zone.  I have no idea how anybody does this without God, His direction, wisdom, love, and hope that compels us to press on to the completion of His promises.

At this point in the mission, after successfully making it past her 100 day bone marrow transplant and returning home, the cold harshness of winter was not in the weather but came from another source. Lydia was safely with part of the Seal Team, but we were still behind enemy lines as we are not all together and she was losing weight weekly.

We can see the end, we can see when we will all be together but everyone on the Seal Team understands and is challenged by the fact that until we are together we aren’t together. And similar to the military family adjustments, we knew when we rendezvous again with Abigail and Josiah there may be some adjustments from our different experiences that have changed our relationships. Even in this we had to trust God and pray for time well spent while we were together, time that we as a family needed. They needed to know we didn’t “ship them off” for any reason other than they would have fallen behind in school, been removed from all activities, and would not have been able to go to church either. If they picked up any kind of sickness it would endanger Lydia, everyone at home was on “house arrest” for the protection of Lydia until the grafting of the bone marrow and her body was complete and her immune system could begin building. We prayed and followed God. We knew Abigail and Josiah had been doing well and we needed to keep them focused to continue doing well until we could all be together when the mission was completed, back in the homeland.

Solid stance, steady hand, keen eye, and release.  And all this preparation when we didn't even know we had a battle coming.

Solid stance, steady hand, keen eye, and release. And all this preparation when we didn’t even know we had a battle coming.

We prayed God would unite our family not just physically but:

in heart as we love one another,

in mind as we embrace ‘family focused living’ again,

in soul as we continue to encourage one another, and

in Christ as He is the center which is what kept us bound together through the mission, doing our part and bringing success to His plans.

After Thanksgiving our rendezvous at Christmas couldn’t get here soon enough! We were all excited to be together for two whole weeks. Every day Selah needed to check the calendar to know when Abigail and Josiah would return and how many days after that it would be until Christmas. Some mornings I thought she would burst with excitement as she jumped with a shout of joy! Another closer!!!

Don't let what you are experiencing right now be the prison you live in tomorrow.

Don’t let what you are experiencing right now be the prison you live in tomorrow.

“Why is Veridee going back? These things she is sharing are painful.  What good can come of rehearsing things especially difficult, hurtful things?”

 

And I would have to agree but I do not want to be imprisoned by the devastation of my past.  It is not good to go back and rehearse a hurtful situation, nursing the pain of the past.   However, I have learned not to avoid my past or pretend it didn’t happen.  Growing up with my Dad becoming the coach he is today,  a two-time Hall of Fame Iowa High School Coach in Basketball and Softball, I learned that looking back can give you what my Dad calls, “The Edge.”

 

“What is the Edge?”

I am so glad you asked.  It is a secret that has helped people who are realistically the underdog in a situation whether it be in a game or in life circumstances that propels them to rise above their obviously better opponent and be diligent in practice, hopeful in attitude, and overcome the obvious for the win.

 

I was surprised a couple of years ago, after my Dad had coached nearly 40 years that he was going to a coaches conference as a participant.  My reaction, “What? Why do you need to go to that?”

I continue to learn from my Dad by his example as much as his words and my life is better.  :)

I continue to learn from my Dad by his example as much as his words and my life is better. 🙂

 

“Veridee, I go so I can find that ‘one thing’ that will give my team the edge over our opponents,” he responded matter-of-factly.  He is smart enough to know, you don’t change everything when you just need that ‘one thing’ that will make you better than you were last year.  Sometimes the edge over his opponent came because he, as the coach, had to make a change in his coaching style.  Which amazes me, no matter how good he had gotten as a coach he was still willing to position himself to be taught, sometimes by coaches who hadn’t coached as long as him or had the knowledge he had.  Other times the edge came when he added a particular drill to make the reaction time of quicker; ball to glove, glove to hand, hand to throw or a drill on the basketball court that would insure greater accuracy in shot percentages.

 

Many times his edge came because, like clockwork, he was faithful and unafraid to go back, even to the toughest losses. He would endure the pain of watching the video of the game as soon as he got home.  He was watching not to rehearse the pain but he was looking, looking to find the edge.   He knew his team would face this opponent again therefore he would look to see if he could give his team the winning edge the next time.

 

I learned that going back to a difficult situation doesn’t mean I have to be afraid or be overcome by the devastation again as long as I am going back to make it a win in my future.  When it becomes a win in my past, because I have found the edge, then it will be a win in my future.

 

I would like to say that at some point in life difficult, even impossible situations cease, but I can’t – at least not until we get to heaven.  Oh What a Glorious Day! J However, I am not there yet and I refuse to ignore the opportunity of making a win out of my past; thereby, condemning myself to a life of hardship, bitterness, and dread.  And I might as well use what the Good Lord has taught me, so that I win against the next opponent/difficult time.  Do not be deceived, there will be a next time and because we went back and found the edge, we will win because God revealed the edge; He was there with me and I found that His love never failed.

 

When defeat seemed so inevitable, I turned to Him and He rallied my hope. His strength would compel me to rise up, focus on His promises and continue to believe, being diligent to not give up until the game truly was over.

 

In the game of life, it is not over until we win or are unwilling to go back and make a win. I am convinced that we can turn any defeat into a win by finding the edge.   “The Edge” in life is laying hold of the strength God offers us to rise again after we have taken a blow in life.  Taking a blow doesn’t mean that the game is over, it means that your opponent has scored, maybe even “talking smack” to get you to give up but it doesn’t mean you have lost…yet…maybe not even at all if you won’t give up.  Many times when the blow came or the opponent scored or spoke words of threat, I would pray because I know my strength comes from the Lord and what He says makes a difference in the outcome.

 

One of the chapters in To Be Like Him, a leadership course Scott and I team-teach, is called “Facing the Agony of Defeat.”  That chapter was written because of the impact of what I learned from one of Beth Moore’s Bible studies years ago and what I learned from my Dad as a child.  If we look back over a rough even overwhelming situation for the reason of rehearsing the pain and devastation, we will get stuck, bitter, and overcome with hopelessness but if we look back taking God with us, there are several things that we achieve.  What we achieve when we take God back to the opposition that spews threats of defeat is to gain the healing God provides for our past, strength for our now, and hope for our future.

 

Facing the agony of defeat, means the defeat is not permanent unless I refuse to find “the edge”, the one thing that will make it a win.  So, I keep going back until it becomes a win, until I am healed from the hurt because I know my God is and was and will forever be with me.  I find “the edge” so the next time I am faced with the agony of defeat I know how to win or win bigger, maybe even win sooner.  I look at my today and rejoice at what God has brought me through.  I am hopeful when viewing my future because I know God had given me “the edge” I need to rise above the next time I feel the wind has been knocked out of me by the circumstances and conditions of life.

His mercies are new every morning...Do you see them?  The prison of your past is made the beauty of your today when you wake up and see the Son rise :)

His mercies are new every morning…Do you see them? The prison of your past is made the beauty of your today when you wake up and see the Son rise 🙂

 

I do not go back in fear, but to face the agony of defeat so I have an edge, knowing that any loss has been turned into a victory. Not that I could change the scoreboard or pretend Lydia was never struck with cancer, Abigail and Josiah never had to be apart from us, or my husband didn’t have to resign his job.  I go back to see that God was with us, directing our path, and making the crooked places straight.  I go back to make a win in my heart and mind so that my past becomes a victory for my present situation and future opposition.  Then my past becomes the testimony that encourages not only myself when the next difficult, devastation comes but that through my testimony others are encouraged, having hope, to make their current situation a victory.

I hope you will continue with me so that you are encourage. I look forward to sharing the victories that came after the devastation of at the storm.

 

In His Presence I go back to get the victory,

Veridee

Struggles in life can come in so many different ways. Misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations accompany most struggles. But when you finally realize what you missed, the blow to the heart can make you feel robbed.  A win for one doesn’t always mean a win for the other. We have some friends who have children who play on opposing teams. Everyone knows that when the game is over, one kid is on the winning team and the other is on the losing team.  What can you do so that in the end they both win?  A win isn’t always measured by what is on the scoreboard. Were we prepared for what we would miss? Well yes, but in the same way a homeowner who has to batten down the hatches and fortify his home before the hurricane hits. He still knows that no matter how well he prepares there will be some damage, things he can’t repair or replace, things that will be counted as a complete loss.

  • We knew letting Abigail and Josiah go stay in Conrad with my parents was the best situation for them.
  • We knew, having mental knowledge, that we would be missing out on events, games, growth opportunities, parenting, family cohesion etc.
  • We knew each one of us would have to face the heartache of the prolonged separation that ripped at our soul.
Mr. Ken, the coachman, takes Lydia home in style.

Mr. Ken, the coachman, takes Lydia home in style.

It was a beautiful October morning. Lydia had an appointment on her 100th day. The social worker was telling us not to get our hopes up because the doctor still had to approve our leaving the area and going home. To which Scott responded, “There is no problem with the doctor; we are going home today.” Reminded me of a Jedi mind trick from Star Wars (lol)! We were packed and ready when a dear friend of ours’, Ken Feryus, drove all the way to Charleston to help us with the move and Lydia delighted in being able to ride “shotgun” in his vehicle, even though she fell asleep. When we arrived home, Selah and Charis were with Scott’s parents. Lydia disappeared for a moment and slowly she came down the stairs and crumbled onto the couch and held back the tears, “When are Abigail and Josiah coming home?” The realization that just because “we” got home didn’t mean we were all home. We were not even half way through this shifting of reality for our family. Everyone had been focused on Lydia and she hadn’t really considered the affects, sacrifices, and difficulties each of her siblings had faced and would go through. And I was thankful she had this shield. I believe God let her see what she needed to when she would be strong enough to not take it upon herself but see it from sitting in His lap. He was in control and would be with Abigail and Josiah just like He had been and would continue to be with her. No one was done with the hard times but each had to learn to see the silver lining around the clouds.   I held her in my arms and let her cry. There wasn’t anything I could do but pray for God to comfort her and give her the courage to stay focused on the win God had for her. Her reality came a little sooner than mine. I had grown up having to face many “hurricanes” and He had been faithful then just like He would be now, for her and for each of the children.   I knew Abigail and Josiah were in the best place for them and I would have to teach Lydia, Selah and Charis to bless and encourage Abigail and Josiah while they dealt with the feeling of being torn a part. As home schoolers their siblings are their best friends, classmates, recess buddies, and project partners. They did everything together. I didn’t feel the full affect, which I know was a God-thing but that didn’t mean that I should neglect what my children were feeling.   The phone call came, “Mom, what am I going to wear to the dance?” Abigail and I talked through her wardrobe so she could pick out just the right dress. Then we discussed how to wear her hair. I knew if I had been there getting her ready I would have put a dab of make up on her so I talked her through that. All was well until a few days after the dance when I was sharing with some friends and I blurted out, “I just missed her FIRST dance!” I sat in a daze as I realized I would never get that opportunity back. May seem silly to be so…saddened by this missed experience with my daughter but for me, it brought to reality all I had missed already and a glimpse of what I would miss in the months to come.   Sometimes I didn’t want to be a “responsible adult”. Sometimes I had to fight the urge to load everyone up and head to Iowa, I had driven with a load of children in the van all by myself before I could do it again, I could do it now, but God assured me this was His plan and He would be with them. Besides we didn’t leave them with just anybody, we left them with my parents. We didn’t just leave them anywhere, we took them to Conrad, Iowa and the community had embraced them, helping them to be grafted into a school program with teachers who cared and provided opportunities and encouragement to excel.   And just in case I wanted to wallow, I recognized I still had responsibilities on the home front. Thankfully God reminded me of where I was to focus my efforts for the “right now”.

  1. Schedule time for Scott and I: a strong marriage produces secure children.
  2. Spend quality time with Selah and diligently work with her schooling while getting Lydia on her own school schedule.
  3. Charis insisted on potty training…because she was taking her diaper off 6 weeks before she turned 2! I was the one NOT READY to start the process! J
  4. Plan the 100 day Bone Marrow Transplant Celebration, Lydia’s birthday party and two weeks later Charis’ birthday party.
  5. Before we got home God had already assigned me to write a 52-day blog series from the book of Nehemiah on Building the Wall. I remember “discussing” this with God, “Really?! You think I have time for this?! WE aren’t home, Lydia is in the hospital, Josiah’s birthday is coming up, I am sure You told us to go to Iowa for Josiah’s birthday and I have to drive through the night with Selah and Charis 19 hours by myself and still not miss a blog!!!” Nope, I wasn’t feeling it…but I also couldn’t deny what God insisted I do. You know, He can be pretty persistent. J And since He is God, and I want to honor Him. I yielded, “Ok, so how are You going to give me the strength to do this?” And God being God, so tenderly, “One day at a time sweetheart. One day at a time.” October 1-November 21, God knew I needed to learn the concepts from the blog for the hurricane that was coming.

Now, as I look back, I can see that He gave me different assignments to keep my focus on Him and what really mattered, batten down the hatches before the hurricane hit. Problem was, I didn’t really know much about the hurricane that was coming.

Before Anna and Elsa there was Charis and Josiah :)

Before Anna and Elsa there was Charis and Josiah 🙂

A week later was Thanksgiving and we meet my parents with the children but when we had to depart the tears rolling down Abigail’s face sent me into the realization that things had been hard for her. And I wasn’t there for Abigail in order to counsel or encourage her. We couldn’t have those mother-daughter talks as we snuggled on her bed before going to sleep. She felt alone and I felt her pain. Probably for the first time and it hurt, no words to describe it, just tears, tears that needed to flow freely until Jesus could touch her heart and give her the courage to go forward. I was reminded of military families and the things they miss out on. I have a new sense of honor, respect, and even pain for their spouse and children. It is more than just fighting for our freedom but at times, the pressures on the family must be incredible, overwhelming, and even destructive for each family member.   It probably wasn’t good but I let my mind look ahead at all we would miss. I tried to force myself to be thankful for technology but really deep in my heart, I wanted to be there for Josiah’s FIRST band concert, Abigail and Josiah’s FIRST chorus concert, Abigail’s FIRST season of basketball cheerleading, seeing my Dad be one of Josiah’s basketball coaches!!! Someone sent me a picture of Josiah sitting by my Dad on the bench just before he was going to send Josiah in! Treasured picture FOREVER! I can’t tell you the number of times I saw my Dad prepare a player to go in to the game and I wasn’t there when it was my son!   This encourager was being pushed to my limits, celebrating when the pictures came in over texts, watching the concerts online, and seeing the video of Abigail doing one of the cheers were absolutely priceless! My heart overflows with thankfulness for everyone who sent us pictures and updates on our children over the school year. Blessed beyond words for each one of them!   I guess what kept me from loading everyone up in December, besides being raised to be responsible and knowing my Dad would not think this was being responsible…was that they were coming home for Christmas!!! However, I did struggle on two different occasions as the thought replayed in my head day after day, “Ten years from now, what will matter most, that you made the effort to be there or that you were responsible and saved the money?” I had to tell my mind to SHUT UP!!! It hurts bad enough, I can’t go, they will be here soon, God is with them, they are having fun, this is a great time of year in school…   In looking back I know the right decision was made even though it was tough. Our children know that we love them, they know that we want the best for them and for them to do their best in every situation but if I had run up there for everything it would have been difficult for them to really embrace and grow where they were. They have learned to seek God for themselves and be strengthened by Him. They have learned that God places people around them who will care and encourage them especially when the ones who they want to be there can’t.   Nobody “wants” to learn these lessons but when we do, we have been made stronger through the situation rather than snapped in half by it.  We learned and chose to see how each of us could win.  You see, we weren’t on different or opposing teams as it would have seemed.  We didn’t position our children against each other but to cheer for each other because ultimately we are all on the same team.  When we can learn from what we have faced everyone wins.  If you were one who offered support and encouragement to each of us to make the best of the situation, you were used to help each one of us make a win when it seemed like the situation was screaming, “You lose, you lose!”  But as we remained in Christ and were supported by those around us in our different locations, we won! In His Presence we find how each can win, Veridee

“We interrupt this regularly schedule program (The Return Home series) to make a special announcement.”

I will continue writing The Return Home series but something unexpected has come up and my Dad has asked me to “get it out there”. Those of you who know my Dad you also know he is like E.F. Hutton, when Dave Lee speaks you not only need to listen, but to act as well. J I love my DAD! The early years of responding quickly when my Dad spoke is a huge contributor to the attentiveness and urgency I give to what the Lord says in my life now.

 

On our return trip from Scott’s spiritual son’s ordination Sunday night, just after midnight my phone rang unexpectedly. Because of the time, I didn’t even need one guess let alone three to know who was calling. J My Dad, of course, who else would call me that time of the night? Not that I thought anything was wrong but because my Dad is a night owl (and that apple didn’t fall far from the tree ). I knew for him to call he needed to speak to me; otherwise, he would have had mom call in the morning. Lol!

 

I will get to why he called but first, those of you in Iowa have asked when we are picking up Abigail and Josiah.

The last time we were in Iowa the weather was like this...what will it be this time?

The last time we were in Iowa the weather was like this…what will it be this time?

  1. Ugh! I hate to say it but the truth of the matter is…we need a little stall time. With all of the hospital stays Lydia and Selah will not be done with school for another 5 weeks. (Pure torture for a home school mom who usually gets done by April 1st every year! In all we will be in school one week after we normally start the next school year! Talk about being out of sync with a schedule. At this point in my life, I think flexible could be my “title” not just my middle name, Flexible Veridee Hand lol!) If we do not finish the work and get the appropriate days they will both have to retake the grade they are in.
  2. Abigail and Josiah have endured/persisted through being a part and have done well, so they should get the benefit of what Conrad has to offer; pool, ball, church camp, tooling around town on their bikes, library activities, etc. Here, out in the country, they could return home to entertain themselves while the rest of us are still in school. Doesn’t make for a very good “homecoming”. Once again, it is laying down my desires to have them here, so they can have what is best for them. However, they both came to me with their decision with one stipulation…”Their” #1 cheerleader must make it to a ballgame this Summer. J They miss their Mother cheering for them! All those years of cheering at the ballgames so the fans at the top of the stands would join in have paid off! Lol Nobody cheers like Mama! (And all the mothers say, “That’s right!”)
  3. We will return toward the end of summer, after Lydia and Selah are finished with school and be reunited as a family. Oh the joy, the expectation and anticipation ahead of us is rich, our hearts overflow with love. We will start the countdown upon our return from cheering them on at the ballgames!

 

Back to the reason my Dad called after midnight, “Veridee, Pastor Nathan wants to know if you and Scott would share your testimony this Sunday night. What you guys have been through would really minister to some people here. We have some people who are really hurting from things they are having to face and need your words of encouragement.”

 

For those of you who know my Dad, he is an excellent encourager. He has the ability to speak such hope into people, players, and students it compels you to dig deeper to find a little bit more to give. Those who received his encouragement through words or just saw it in his eyes when he looked at you and clapped, “Come on girl, you can do it!” as he backed up into the coaches box on 3rd base or looked from player to player making eye contact with everyone in the team circle, you just knew he believed in you. So to have my Dad call and ask Scott and me to share a word of encouragement was like being back on the Comet softball team and hearing him say, “Veridee, you’re up! We need ya’ girl!”

 

Sunday night, June 8th at 6:30pm at First Baptist Grundy Center Scott and I will be sharing:

A Desperate Cry

Those of you in the local area of Grundy Center, Iowa have the opportunity to be encouraged by Scott and I. We will be sharing our testimony of the depth of our desperate cry when the unimaginable changed our world when our middle daughter was diagnosed with “ALL Leukemia” in January 2013. With a desperate cry, we became Storm Walkers.  We share so you can be empowered to walk on top of the waves instead of being swallowed by them.

 Join us at First Baptist Grundy Center, June 8th at 6:30pm. We would love to see you there!

 

Anyone else want to “get this out there”? Feel free to share. Thanks Dad for believing in me!

 

In His presence we find more to give,

Veridee

Just to be clear, when the enemy comes to threaten the life of one of my children or my husband, I am going to

#1 Seek God

#2 Follow God and

#3 Win

We can’t lose when God is fighting the battle for us.  All we have to do is make sure we are following Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and guess what?  God’s win results in a win for us too!  This is why He calls us “more than conquerors”.  We followed God and He led us to becoming more than conquerors in the different adversities each of us faced.  Our battle is not against a person or people, but God says in the Bible that we have an adversary, an enemy who prowls around roaring like a lion seeking whom he can devour.  I petition God and He gives me the strength to overcome my adversary.  Seems simple enough.

 

Let’s see if we can straighten out another thought process that led to further misunderstanding.  A year ago, in May, when the doctors told us the cancer was not going away but increasing in her bloodstream, they scheduled Lydia for an immediate bone marrow transplant.  Within two days Abigail, Josiah, Selah, and Charis were headed over 1,000 miles away for no less than 4 weeks but it led to 10 weeks for Selah and Charis and to over a year for Abigail and Josiah.

 

Now the main difference between the isolation protocol for a chemo patient verses a transplant patient is that even though the chemo depletes a person’s immune system it doesn’t knock it out for extended amounts of time whereas one who has had a transplant because of cancer the protocol is to suppress the immune system for a year trying to make sure the body stays clear of the cancer; therefore the cancer has no opportunity to regrow and giving the transplant the best chance to “take”.

 

I have shared this information and the following information before but for some reason, in the midst of the assessments of others made without listening, preconceived notions has led to false accusations. The only relationships that can’t be restored are the ones where people are unwilling to get the facts, pray, and move forward extending forgiveness and grace.

 

Following the transplant and the return of Selah and Charis, was the mandate to remain within 15 minutes of the hospital or we wouldn’t be released from the hospital until Lydia successfully reached 100 days, but for a year she could not go shopping, she could not play with large groups of children, and they specifically said she could not go to church.  (This is why is was so exciting when the doctors said in January that she was healed and we could possibly return to church on Resurrection Day, three months early.)

 

I certainly did not expect what we experienced upon returning home to Orangeburg.  I didn’t realize what a blessing it was to be hidden with the Lord for the remainder of the 100-day bone marrow transplant recovery away from home.  All I could see is that the further we were from the hospital the more things could start getting back to normal.  However, I didn’t realize we were trading in one prison for another.  It was like going from high security (hospital ) to a low security facility (staying within 15 minutes of the hospital) to a house arrest (returning home to Orangeburg).  No, it wasn’t really prison but when a child has so many restrictions from events, friends and family, location of the imprisonment doesn’t really matter.  (However, I was glad to be in my own bed instead of a hospital couch bed. )

 

The doctors had told us that a lot of bone marrow transplants do not make it to their 100 day celebration and they strongly encouraged us to plan a party.  I wanted to bypass the celebration for two reasons:

#1 It would send the wrong message in regard to Lydia being able to be around large groups of people and

#2 It would send the wrong message to Lydia, thinking that she could now go and do.

Worshipping Jesus at Lydia's 100 Day Celebration of successful bone marrow transplant and 100% cancer free, October 2013

Worshipping Jesus at Lydia’s 100 Day Celebration of successful bone marrow transplant and 100% cancer free, October 2013

We would have to go back through the rules and the boundaries of facilities and people.  Even at the party she was to be cordial but if she picked up on anyone having a cough or sniffles she was to politely move on.  We tried to be polite in letting people know that we wanted everyone to be a part of the celebration but if they were sick we would need them to celebrate with us from a distance.  Very sticky situation and not one I cared to be in.  It was like saying, “Go ahead, see if you can do this without someone being offended with you.” I was more concerned about someone being offended than Lydia getting sick or dealing with her disappointment afterward.  I knew it wasn’t going to be good but hoped for the best and left it in God’s hands.  The doctors kept asking Lydia when her party was so Lydia thought she was being “set free” only to come to the realization afterward that it was for one night, a few hours only.  “Remember Cinderella, everything goes back to the way it was at midnight.”  Very difficult for a 7 year old who had been isolated for so long.  Our hope was that it would trigger her appetite and it did for the night, but not after midnight.

 

Actually, I think the celebration backfired in almost every area for us.  When Lydia realized everything really did got back to normal (house arrest) after midnight she had no desire to eat, when she realized her brother and sister were not going to be home for her birthday this too caused her to retract, and when she wasn’t going to be able to go to church to be a helper with the children this hurt too.  But it didn’t just hurt her it hurt others as well who responded to us in disbelief that we really couldn’t go to church and she couldn’t be in large groups of people.  The doctors were faithful in asking every week what she had done.  I would get a look of disapproval and lecture if she didn’t answer appropriately.  I’t didn’t seem to matter whose question I answered, I couldn’t help but feel like I was defending myself based on the doctor’s restriction for the bone marrow protocol.

 

After being released from the hospital, there was detailed monitoring kept on us to make sure we were following protocol.  I would like to say that we followed all the rules but…that isn’t true.  Once again we were challenged with following what God had said to do rather than “man”.  We wanted to honor the protocol of what would give Lydia the best results according to research but sometimes there are other options for medicine, the kind of medicine that can only come from the love of family.

 

A time or two, we felt God telling us that the medicine Lydia needed was family. Lydia needed to be with Abigail and Josiah.  She also needed to know that Abigail and Josiah were not holding her responsible for their exile. This “family” medicine was also beneficial for Abigail and Josiah to empower them to succeed by making the best of the opportunities before them.

 

So I think the misunderstanding came because we did make time, bend the rules to keep our family focus on the win God had for each of us and support each other in the different adversities each faced but we did follow the rules otherwise.  With the adversity that we have had to face, I can’t speak for others but I can release them from the judgments they have placed on us because God has given me grace and I can extend that to others.  He revealed that at times, all of us feel that if someone is going to break the rules it should be for us, for what we think is best, and cater to what we want.  But in the end we need to let people be led by God and not our own desires and ideas of what “we” think is best for them.

 

As I have been processing what has happened since our return home, and the different accusations most likely coming from these misunderstandings, I have to say with all sincerity, all is well toward people and in my heart.  Yes, the tears have seemed like at times they couldn’t be stopped but God would put His arms around me so I could forgive and move on.  As much as I would have liked to get things resolved, He gave em the ability to forgive and move on. When someone has chosen to believe a lie, they can no longer identify the truth even with all the facts and witnesses.

 

I am so thankful God has healed my heart and taught me a valuable lesson I hope has changed me for the rest of my life.  I hope to always give people the benefit of the doubt, trust they are doing what is best for their family and situation regardless of what I may want them to do, and to bless them with wisdom.  I am sure I have failed at this up to this point but I hope I have learned from the pain it has caused me and to not allow myself to cause another that pain.

 

God will give wisdom to those who ask (Proverbs 4:5).  Since our return home I have cried out for wisdom and understanding for I didn’t know why or how people we loved could respond in such a way. I have clung to Proverbs 3:4-5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

 

However, if you lack wisdom or understanding and won’t ask for it… Assumptions only lead to accusations that are not substantiated by our limited awareness of the situation, the unknown restrictions, and the decisions others are faced with making.

 

In His Presence He healed my broken heart,

Veridee