The way of all men…

OUR1stcarA week ago, I woke up to an ominous message from my brother.  My father was in the hospital and it didn’t look good. I immediately notified our local family and started to pray. I knew in my heart, that my father was already gone the way of all men. It wasn’t until later that morning that I received the call confirming the news. That is when the tears flowed and it was hard to breathe. The world is not the same anymore.

You see, he wasn’t just my father, he was a great man. In fact he was the greatest man I  have had the privilege of knowing, and I have been blessed to know some amazing people. I expect that most people think their parents are great people, and that is a great blessing. It is even more to know it to be true. He did not invent cures for chronic terminal diseases. He did not solve the energy crisis or clean water problems for the world. He did notFamSunnyside lead civilization into a new era, or solve world peace. Those are all great accomplishments, but they do not make someone great. What makes a person great is not doing something in a moment in time, or even an era. A great person is not  great because of their actions. Their actions reveal their greatness regardless of the scale. A star is a star no matter its size, the size of its solar system, or its remoteness. My father was a star among planets. Everyone caught in his orbit was affected. You could not meet him and not feel the impact of that experience. I don’t know another human being that can make that claim.

I also don’t know anyone else that drew every breathe, and whose heart beat every beat for those around them, the way my father did. He was always concerned for others and if there was a way in which he could serve and make someone else’s life better, he did it. He demonstrated again and again that if something needed doing, and we could do it, then we should.

fam-kHis last day under the sun is a perfect example of my father’s life. His last post on Facebook was concern for those left behind in a war torn country. Even as his body was shutting down in its final moments, he was reminding my mother to follow her doctor’s orders. While he was in pain and his health was declining, his only complaint was that he didn’t want to burden my mother. I pray that I meet my Heavenly Father with the same love of others.

It was not just that he was focused on serving others (although that would be enough in itself). He was brilliant, kind, creative, devoted, dedicated and probably the most ethical person you could have met. He was also flawed, just like the rest of us. But he knew his flaws were not an excuse to remain that way. In short, he was a great man.

I will miss him immensely as I know the rest of my family and his friends will.  When a star winks out in the universe, its absence is most Guyers-2definitely felt. After spending time in prayer, I am at complete peace with his absence. The tears have been replaced with joy and happiness. I am at peace, because I know he is more than the clay and dust that makes up these bodies we know. I am happy because I know that his life and his trust all rested on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is able to enjoy the awesomeness of being in His presence.  My greatest regret is that those of you who don’t know him, will not have the opportunity in this life. 

My father has gone the way of all men, but he did not do it like most of us. He was a great man and he still is. I will get to see him again and that brings me great joy. I pray when it is my time to go the way of all men, my children and grandchildren will know the same comfort.

Blessings Dad.  I look forward to seeing you again. Thank you for all the ways you impacted my life.

34 Years of Abundant Life

19861220 Wedding Photo 1

When I took that summer job, it was my 2nd to last choice.  I was getting desperate because I really didn’t want to work in the fields again that summer.  Not that I objected to the field work.  It was good honest work, but I felt it wasn’t helping me move forward in my future aspirations.  Little did I know what I would find when I walked into that JCPenney 34 years ago.  The credit booth lady was a lot younger than I expected, and a whole lot more attractive, but I was trying to focus on getting a job.  She was good at hers though and drew me in.  I was a rising Senior in college after all, so I thought I had this.  Well nothing will humble you faster than being at a credit booth in front of a young lady you want to impress when you don’t have a job.  That is until she asked, “Are you 18 or older?”  OUCH.  That plan ended like most of my plans those days.

Back to the main goal.  Get a job.  I scraped my ego off of the floor and dragged what was left of my dignity to basement (where the offices were) and resume in hand, inquired about a job.  I was hired almost immediately and since my head was still spinning from the credit booth encounter, I wasn’t thinking straight.  The only 2 thoughts in my head were, 1) I am not working in the fields again; and 2) I HAVE A JOB! Now I can go back and talk!  And march right back up to the credit booth I did.  Only to discover that she was busy with another family as they filled out their application.  Crash and burn twice in 30 minutes. 

Fortunately, my future conversations were a little more successful (although I was still pretty awkward – women were like aliens to me and this vision of beauty came from a different world than I did).  We spent a great deal of time together and within 7 weeks of meeting, were engaged.  That December, we were married and have been best friends and soulmates for 34 years. 

My life changed forever when I walked into that JCPenney (the first store in the mall that I walked into).  I could have just as easily walked into Mervyn’s, or The Bon, or even Nordstrom’s, but I didn’t.  I walked into JCPenney because the parking garage was full, and I had to park on the street on the other side of the mall.  I remembered my mother always enjoyed JCPenny, so I thought, I would give it a try since I was here.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the way a full garage would change my life.  While a job in retail was the 4th choice on my list, it came with the greatest job benefit one could imagine.  My bride.

I am not the same person I was before I met her. I cannot imagine what I would be like, if not for her.  I flew by the seat of my pants in everything, having ideas but no plans (that is called dreaming young mean – it won’t get you very far).  She brings out the best in me, and I hope, I in her. That is the mark of a remarkable relationship.  And I owe it all to my Lord and my Beautiful.  This is not a Facebook relationship where it is all roses all of the time. Hallmark, maybe (without the 3rd wheel) where there are misunderstandings and/or bad choices and someone gets upset, but it all works out in the end.   We are real people and God is still working on us.  That means we have had to ask for, and give forgiveness more times than I can possibly remember.  Because doing anything else isn’t an option.

I look back and chuckle at that summer.  I still clearly remember, even though I was pretty much over the moon the entire time.  We were kids.  We had no idea what we were doing.  Yet because of the unshakable love of God, a dedication to always resolve our differences and to be more like Christ every day, we have decades of experiences in the rearview mirror and a full tank of gas to explore the future together.

Our journey together has brought us a whole bunch of other people.  Our 7 children, 2 additional children as spouses and 7 grandchildren (2 we will get to meet when our days are done) bring a level of chaos, noise and laughter that is invaluable.  This afternoon as I reflected on how full my heart is because of how full my family is, I was humbled and immensely grateful.  Grateful to my Lord for bringing us together.  Grateful to Beautiful for saying “yes” 34 years ago.  This my friends is abundant life.  A life of peace, joy and purpose.

Here is to another 34 Beautiful!  May they be as exciting, challenging and joyful as the last 34. 

Happy Anniversary!

Working from Home survival guide

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual fare (not that the usual fare is all that usual or regular to begin with).  Given that we are all “social distancing” many of us are now working at home.  It occurred to me that some of you that are newer to this, might benefit from a few of the lessons I learned the hard way over the decades I have worked, on and off from home.

Qualifiers

Just to be clear, these principles apply whether you are in your living room in an 800 square ft. apartment with a toddler watching reruns of Sesame Street on a worn out VHS tape (done that), or you have your own dedicated office space in your home (actually, I haven’t done that).  They will also apply if you are an introvert (done that) or an extravert (I can pretend pretty well most of the time).  What will differ is the particulars of how you implement the principles.

Chunk and Breath

That is not the latest birthing method, it is a work at home survival tool.

Chunking your work

If you are blessed to be in a busy role, you have an abundance of work.  This is a good problem to have, but it is still a problem if you don’t have a strategy.  Work Chunking is one of the most important because it makes many of the other principles possible.

Chunking is conceptualizing and pushing through your work in pieces.  No matter what kind of work  you do, it is chunkable, however, the type of chunks may vary.  If your work is project based, you might have chunks that are task oriented(e.g. write 4 pages).  If your work is transaction work, or “line work” you might chunk based on time or quantity (e.g. 2 hours, 20 calls, 30 email, etc.).  Most of us will find time to be the easiest divisor.  This is particularly true if your work, like most office workers, is a mix of a variety of activities.  You may also find that what you start with is inadequate and you need to adjust.  That is also fine.  What is not fine, is not having a plan with regard to when you have completed a chunk.

Breathe.  Seriously.  Breathe.

Those of you that know me, know that I am definitely not into mysticism of any kind.  This is not a criticism of those readers who are, it is just an qualifier that this concept is a healthy principle for everyone.

When you complete a chunk, you need to breathe.  This can actually be taking a minute or two to just clear your head and focus exclusively on nice deep breathing.  The science on this is pretty clear.  Clearing your head and your lungs will go a long way to help you regain perspective.  If you have an Apple watch, it has a great app, named Breathe (clever folks down there in Cupertino).  Try it out.  It is pretty helpful.

However, this step can be substituted with sitting on the porch rocking, watching the birds in the bird feeder, etc.  Just a minute or two of separation from mental stimuli is all that is necessary.  It is giving the brain, and your emotions a rest.  I actually love to pray for a bit.  It helps me reorient and let go of things beyond my control.

Catching up on Facebook, the news, or TV does not qualify.  Usually listening to music does not qualify either because music is intended to move your emotions and your goal here is to avoid external stimuli that causes strong reactions.   You are looking for inactivity that is calming.

Set Boundaries

Normally you have the opportunity  to transition from work while you commute.  When you are working from home, there is no commute so you need to transition almost instantly.  That means  you need set two kinds of boundaries and communicate them with your family. 

Set Work Day Boundaries

With work being at home, it is too easy to jump back into work and leave your family hanging.  Keep in mind that they likely need your time during this crisis as well.  For me, it was easier to create family hours, then working  hours.  That means that outside of an emergency the family has me from dinner until the children are in bed.  This means I shut off my notifications and don’t check my smart device during that time.  I belong to the family.  My team knows that if they have an emergency, they can call and I am ready to roll.  Short of that, they can email me and I will get back to it after family time is over.

Set Family Boundaries

One of the benefits of working from home is you are able to see your family throughout the day.  One of the challenges of working from home is you are able to see your family throughout the day. 

As you probably discovered by now, it is both a blessing and a challenge to have family this accessible during the work day.

Setting up boundaries will help them know when you need to focus and when your work is interruptible.  For us, it is the office door.  We have a community office.  The entire family shares my office (there are 4 desks in here) and I love it.  However, there are times when I need to give every firing synapse to a difficult problem.  For those moments, the office is emptied and the door is closed.  Everyone in the family knows that means “stay out or you may not survive the encounter.”  Fear not, none of my family members have expired yet.

This technique allows you benefit from both the presence of the family and the distraction free environment you can create at home.

Share the Load

If you have a significant other at home, they may likely be working as well.  In our case, my wife is running our household and a non-profit therapy farm while I sit in my comfortable chair and pluck away at my keyboard.  Sometimes, she needs help, or just needs to be free to get something done herself. 

This is where work chunking is really important.  If you chunk your work, you can transition between chunks to help mind the little one, or the dog, or goldfish, or whatever you may have at your home.  This enables you to plan ahead, coordinate with your work team and be helpful without causing additional stress to yourself and your coworkers.

This will lengthen your work day if you have to take time out to share the load, but this will also enable you to help your household weather the storm as well.

Don’t forget the Chocolate

You need to ensure you indulge a bit in what takes you to your happy place.  The breathing part is about resting.  This is about moving toward happiness.  For me it is chocolate.  So much so, that we have a chocolate lab, and her name is….Hershey.  I also like to build things or dig up weeds (funny, I used to hate that).  Whatever it is, make sure you include it in your routine.  

The point is to pursue happiness that is apart from your work routine.  While my work makes me happy, a person also needs to diversify a bit to stay balanced.

Don’t Forget to Date

While our favorite date places (like Tractor Supply and Home Depot – only partially kidding here) are now off the list, you can still take time to spend with your significant other.  Give the kids a game or a chore and go sit on the front porch and watch the sun set or sit on the back deck and listen to the crickets.  For those still in colder weather, you might escape to another room and just visit about the day.

The important point here is to ensure that you are still making time to spend with your favorite person.  This will fill both of your emotional fuel tanks like nothing else.

Summing Up

You can work from home and do it successfully.  Just like your work communication has likely had to change, so will your other habits.  If you are diligent about the suggestions above, you, your family and your coworkers will thrive, not just survive.

Pure Vanilla

20191014_130707638_iOSWe are often asked what is like in our family.  We have all kinds of funny little phrases that we use to quickly describe it.  My previous favorite was, “A tentless circus with lots of side shows.”  This picture above is my new metaphor.  Going forward, I am just going to show people this picture.

I am sure some of you who are wondering where this is going.  Well, that is exactly the point, so without further delay, allow me to explain.

Beautiful is away right now, helping Princess and her Prince Charming with the birth of their own Princess (to be blognamed after I get to know her a bit better).  That meant, I was on morning tidy up.  After I had worked at for a bit and was feeling pretty good about the general state of the house, I noticed that I had walked by this little gem at least a half dozen times.  Yes, that really is a botte of Pure Vanilla Extract. Normally, a bottle of vanilla extract wouldn’t even warrant notice, never mind becoming my new theme meme.  However, this particular bottle was sitting in our living room right next to the TV.

My thoughts ran something like:

  1. Is that a bottle of extract?
  2. Yep, vanilla extract to be precise.
  3. That will make a really nice icing, but it will yellow a bit. 
  4. Almond extract is a nice choice too.
  5. I wonder who put that in living room.
  6. I wonder what they were making.
  7. How about that,  I didn’t even wonder why that was sitting there.
  8. Yep, this sort of thing is common enough that it did not even phase me.

And there it is:  The very metaphor of plainness – vanilla, in completely the wrong place and this is perfectly normal for us.  When you have special needs children in your family, you learn to expect the unexpected, and you learn that your normal is not like other people’s normal.

You drive through the neighborhood and see the immaculately trimmed bushes and edged yards, and you think, “Good for them!  It must be nice to have that kind of time.”  You see other kids running out to go play after school, while yours is hustled off to speech therapy.  Other parents are posting their kids and their new sports trophy, or a picture from some exotic location while you are just trying to figure out which child has school the next day.  You have to ask your child three different ways if he likes his quesadilla spicy of plain, because you’re not sure if he really understands the question (and he is giving you a different answer every time – turns out after 6 times, he likes them both, but he prefers not spicy).  And you have big children that are still having toileting accidents.  That is our normal.  And we love it.

Ours is a blessed life.  We live  with some of the most amazing people on this planet.  I am privileged to visit with, and enjoy them every  day.  And Beautiful and I have the responsibility of helping them find their way in the world.  My only regret is that most of you will never have the chance to know these amazing people like we do.  They see the world differently and they enjoy deep satisfaction in things we are “too busy” to see.  They are eager to share that world with us every day and it constantly blows my mind.

That is our Vanilla Extract.  It might look like everyone else’s, but ours is sitting in the living room, and we are just fine with that.

Sunset, Sunrise

Fall (50)One of my favorite memories from my youth is watching the sun go down while sitting on top of the haystack.  I remember sitting there, up high with my legs hanging over the side.  I would sit there alone, feeling the wind slam into me (it seems like it always blew from the west), watching as the sky would turn from the sharp blue to the glorious color wheel of oranges, pinks, purples and blacks (further evidence for God – because let’s face it, who would ever think to put those colors together).  The force of the wind pushing me back off the edge was powerful, scary and comforting all at the same time ( Just like our God ).  At the time, I was simply marveling at the display of glory that was there every day!  God, in His wisdom chose to close out every day with a glorious visual feast.

Back then, I would often marvel that from the ground, it was the same sun and the same wind, but somehow, it didn’t feel the same.  It didn’t have the same overwhelming feel when my vision was a little obscured and I was safely on the ground.  Comfortable.  That is what we become.  Once we are comfortable, we just don’t marvel at God’s majesty the way we should.  We miss the work of a living God all around us because we safe, on the ground, where we can’t get hurt.

This year has been a haystack year for us.  We have been on the edge, pushed by the wind from our front row seat of God’s majesty.  The climb up the haystack was a lot more difficult than what I remember from my youth.  The wind is a lot more fierce and the edge feels a little bit terrifying.  But it has been a glorious sunset to behold!  We have been so busy with other things, that I am finally getting the opportunity to put some thoughts down.

Sunset #1

Beautiful completed her cancer treatments on September 27th.  That statement is as plain as I can make it.  Unvarnished because our emotional tanks were nearly completely drained at the end.  Just before her last treatment, Beautiful had another surgery that was unexpected and in comparison to her other surgeries was fairly minor.  However, she had some complications about a week after it was over.  As I was parking the truck at the hospital, trying to hurry because the ambulance beat me there, I remember the reality that this was the first point since knowing she had cancer where I felt like I might lose her.  I remember thinking that no one on earth had the benefit of knowing her like I did, but it wasn’t enough.  I remember praying that I needed more, and everyone else needed the opportunity to know God through her.  All of that happened in an instant before I needed to clamp it down and be there for her.

God is faithful.  He has given me more time and He has lifted that burden from all of us.  We are thankful for the growth we experienced, but we are also relieved to be watching this Sunset through the rearview mirror!

Sunset #2

Part of what has added to the busyness of our lives is we have had our home on the market to sell.  We are thrilled that our home has new owners today.  I still sit in an office full of boxes and our garage won’t see a car for a loooooonnnngggg time, but we are pretty settled and we can find what we need most of the time.  It is here somewhere, we just need to figure out which box.

To help add some context to the magnificence of this sunset, let me help provide some perspective.  A little over two years ago, we sold our dream house.  It was the 7th one that I had designed and had built and it included all of our lessons learned.  It fit us perfectly.  We all loved the home and it was a blessing to many.  But in the end it was a just a house that we made our home.  Giving up that home allowed us to be in a position to be part of something bigger.  By selling it we would be able to build a therapy farm to help children with special needs.  Fast forward 2 years and we are ready to begin!

Sunrise

God’s timing is perfect.  Most of the steps of getting this farm going have been difficult or time consuming or both.  There will surely be more difficult tasks in front us, but for now, we can be encouraged by the new beginning.  You see, not only did we sell our house today, but our builder and good friend filed our permits to begin construction today.  A small step, but it is the beginning of something glorious.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10

The passage above was angelic encouragement to the chief re-builder of the temple, Zerubbabel.  The work of rebuilding the temple was huge.  It was overwhelming, but it was also important.  Even though it was far from easy, it was worth every drop of sweat and more.  While our work is not on par with rebuilding the temple of God, we are still doing His work and we are rebuilding His children, those that bear the image of the living God.  We take comfort from the same encouragement that Zerubbabel was given:

“It is not by force, nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Zechariah 4:6

We have always known that our job is do the work and not force the timing or the results.  God has His purposes in all things and we are to be faithful and apply ourselves whole-heartedly to the work, but trust Him for the outcome.  We are not in control and we cannot work as though we are.  It is God who wills and who does.  Our job is to get working and witness what He does through us.

In other words, I don’t make the sun set or the sun rise, but I am still very much a part of the process.  We are there. We bear witness to the majesty of our God through glorious works He is performing.  The sunsets have been spectacular.  Now we will turn to the east and watch the new beginning as the Sun Rises on a new chapter. 

One year later…

pink-ribbonIt is hard to believe that is has only been a year.  Both Beautiful and I were amazed when we realized that today is the day.  So much has changed and we have grown in so many ways that it feels like a lifetime ago that this journey began.  We all have milestone events in life like that, some big day that changes everything.  I think every high school graduate feels that way at the time (I did not, but I understand many do).  For me the closest was getting married to Beautiful.  I remember all of the planning and excitement leading up to that special day.  It was a whirlwind, but I still remember it clearly.  Our lives changed completely that day and within no time, I could not remember what life was like without her.  Having children was similarly life transforming.  Our world changed with the arrival of Coco 28 years ago and we have had children in our home ever since.  All of these blessings are easy to recognize and almost everyone understands them as such.  There are Hallmark cards, and songs fill the charts  for every one of those milestones.

This one is different.  There are no Hallmark cards and there was no eager anticipation.  No sparkly eyed speculating about what the future will hold.  This one came down like a hammer.  I remember when I was in Junior High , and it was close to the end of the school year.  Our whole grade was headed to the gym to watch a movie.  I remember running across the gym to get a good seat in the bleachers. I also remember that one moment I was running, happy and carefree and the next thing I remember, I was lying on my back looking up at the ceiling of the darkened gym with my head pounding.  I was nauseous and dizzy.  I remember trying to sit through the movie with a huge welt on my head that was throbbing with each heart beat.  I remember being delirious throughout the movie, not understanding what was happening or how I got there.  To this day, I have no idea what happened.  Obviously I hit my head somehow, but I am still clueless as to how that happened as my last memory I was 20 feet from the bleachers.  That my friends is the closest experience I have ever had to sitting in that room and having the doctor tell us Beautiful had cancer.  We were hurt.  We were delirious.  And we had no idea how we got there.

What follows is not a complaint or whine session, and I hope you understand that we are exceedingly grateful for the Lord’s grace and blessings over the last year.  He has grown us and we are grateful for the opportunity to trust Him all the more.  I write this to give a voice to those that won’t speak and to give you a glimpse into what it is like to live with cancer.

We never ceased trusting our Lord through this process, but I remember Beautiful’s agony in those early days as she struggled to understand all of the implications.  She has always been a strong woman and she has always walked in great faith, but this process has also helped show both of us just how much iron she has in her.  The days of the big questions are behind us, but the reality of cancer continues to live with us every day.  Most days, it is like a third wheel whenever we spend time together.  Sometimes it is like a jealous lover that wraps her up and pushes everyone else away.  On good days, it is quiet and seems almost content.  But it is with us every day.

Beautiful has been through a lot.  Surgery after surgery after surgery.  Chemotherapy and hormone suppression infusions.  Prescriptions so complicated we had to get an App just to keep them all straight.  If we add up all of the days that she was unable to function and just needed to stay in bed it would have been months of time.   Making family decisions was a mess.  Beautiful wanted to participate like she always had, but her reasoning was frequently chaotic and she would come to heartfelt, passionate conclusions that didn’t make any sense.  Then 2 days later, she would feel completely the opposite.  Even  with all of that, I think the thing that bothers her most is not being able to do what she used to for all of our children.  When you go from being the primary care giver, to the primary care receiver, it is a humbling and identity crushing experience.  That is the thing that weighs on her the most.

It has been a growing experience for me as well.  We used to joke that I had 7 children and Beautiful had 8.  Those of you that know us, know that I have never grown up.  I just hide my childishness a little better than I used to.  This year, I had to grow up.  With Princess and Coco “off the payroll” we have 5 children in our home.  With Beautiful’s cancer, for much of the year I had 6 children, a job and a household to try to hold together.  Our plans for quality time and quality of life were completely abandoned for raw survival.  If the kids made it out the door for school with shoes on their feet, then we were good, they didn’t even need to match (yes that happened – more than once).  Eating together was replaced with just making sure everyone ate (no, you cannot have cookies for dinner).  My days were filled with “firefighting” whatever was right in front of me in hopes of ending that crisis before the next began.  When everyone was in bed, it was time to catch up on laundry, bills, dishes, email, whatever I had set aside to get us through the day.  I remember several nights working through a pile of laundry praying to God to give me strength to make it through this next load and because I could not handle one more thing on my plate at the moment.

Of course, not every day was like that.  There were times when we were able to enjoy relaxing as well, reading a book, watching HGTV or playing on the XBOX.  We had many days where life seemed pre-cancer normal again, but those were a little oasis in the seemingly unending desert.  The reality of how our life has changed always returns to remind us, that it is still there, still with us.

These days Beautiful is able to get around, but slowly, and painfully.  Her hair is growing back in (much curlier than before), and she remains in good spirits.  She has also been able to get back to some of the things she did before.  I haven’t done laundry in weeks now and it is great to see her back puttering in the kitchen, baking up something we all love.  We all love what the Lord has wrought through this process.  We are stronger as a family and we have a better appreciation for what matters.  We enjoy little things as the Lord brings them and continue to celebrate everything we can – we do love our cake around here.  God is good.  He has changed our world.  It has been hard, but it has also been a journey I would not change.  Would I ask for it?  No.  But, I still wouldn’t change it.

One year later, cancer is still a reality for us, but God has brought us to this point and we know He will continue to bring us through.

1 Week–1 ?

One

Beautiful’s journey with the harsh Chemotherapy has almost come to end.  We have 1 Week left (then 9 months of much milder chemo – every three weeks).  It also means the theme of this week is ‘1’.  Beautiful decided she wanted to write this week’s post so I will be turning the keyboard over to her after the update.

Chemotherapy builds and each week the effect is progressively more pronounced.  The effects that people feel vary, but her in her case, we have seen some consistent trends.  She is tired, nauseous and she has neuropathy,  all of which have been more pronounced.  Throughout her treatment she usually had a couple of days where she felt like normal (or closer to normal than the others), but not this week.  She has been tired all week.  The neuropathy has also been worse.  Friday she woke up and was unable to move her thumbs.  That improved over the weekend, but we expect it to be a little more severe for this last dose.  Despite her physical ailments, her spirits have remained in a fantastic place.  Once she was able to accept this “curveball” from the Lord, she has embraced it as her journey to better serve.  That spirit has remained and become stronger throughout.  I have been blessed to be here, in the front row, for it all.  We look forward to the end of her treatment, but we also know that our lives will forever be transformed by this path.  We are excited to see where the Lord will take us from here.

Beautiful Takes Over

This post of ONE is dedicated to MY number ONE.  My FIRST husband and my seven children’s Daddy.  First, I have to say up front I am NOT an eloquent writer like my husband, so here you have it.  ALSO a huge disclaimer I HAVE chemo brain and it is a real thing, so read with understanding and patience knowing that I am not fully here (in mind).  Smile Here is an example of chemo brain. . . I was talking with a friend the other day and I was trying to say the name of a horse.  I couldn’t remember the name, so I could only describe him with adjectives.  Fortunately, she does not have chemo brain was able to finally figure out who I was talking about.  Yes, this has been my life for a long time now.  I sometimes feel like I am on a game show trying to figure out the words to complete a puzzle, but I am only trying to say a sentence.  So reader be aware. 

First, I want to give glory to God for giving me such a dedicated husband that has been here for not only me, but our children too.  He has taken on pretty much the household chores and keeping the house running.  It truly has been a journey for him too, and he has done this without complaining, and even joyfully.  I have to admit we have really had a different perspective in life, as to what are the major things and what are things that can slide a little.  It has been so freeing to not have to stress about the little things and REALLY put priorities into perspective.  I have to admit that this journey has been a great time of growing for all of our family, but especially for John and I. 

I look forward to the Tuesday mornings we go off to chemo together.  He gets just as spoiled by the nurses at chemo as I do.  They have all grown to love John too.  I mean who would turn away a warm blanket, sweet or salty treats and drinks offered numerous times throughout the day by the nurses.  OK he has never taken them up on the warm blankets, but you can guess they know his favorite snacks and will go digging to make sure they have his favorites on hand for him each week. 

One of the best things about having a husband that understands is being able to just go lay down and take a nap ANYTIME you need one.  Sometimes it is just for a short time and other times I am out for the day or night.  I used to struggle with needing to do this and needing to take care of my family at the same time but I was always lovingly reminded that MY job is to rest and heal and to listen to my body.  THAT is a husband who loves his wife.  I do love my naps, but I look forward to the day when I am blessed  with the energy I once had to take care of my family.  I DO think it will take some time for all of the energy to come back.  I think I will take it slow to just make sure. Smile   Remember, I DO love my naps.  As we come to a close of this part of our chemo and start on our new chemo journey I want to say THANK YOU to my loving, caring, entertaining and most of all understanding husband.  We could not have made it this far without you.  May God bless you ten fold.

I LOVE YOU JOHN GUYER

2 Weeks–2 Grandchildren

2 Grandchildren

This week’s post Beautiful wanted devoted to two people that bring her incredible joy:  Our grandchildren.  Even on her down days, her spirits and energy can rally to visit with these two little people.  Please allow me to introduce them.

Mini Gogo is the young man on the right.  He is very much like his father was at that age, but he is still very much his own person.  Like his father, he is very bright, curious and loves tech.  He seems to be more active (hence the Mini Gogo name, rather Mini Coco), but it could also be that I have slowed down.  He has his own preferences and he is a beautiful blend of Sweetness and Coco.  It has been a joy to share time with him for his almost 2 years of life.

Cheeky is the young lady on the left and as you can see, there is no question why she is named accordingly.  She is very generous with her smiles and her cheeks get even larger when she does.  It is one of the most heartwarming sights you can experience to see her happy.  As she gets more mobile (rolling over now), her personality is beginning to immerge more.  We are looking forward to many more years together getting to know her better.

While we have always loved Psalm 128, it has even more special meaning now.

4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. 

5 The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!  Psalm 128:4-5

A Week of Thanksgiving

This week was challenging.  Beautiful’s Neuropathy continued, but it did not worsen.  She will likely experience it for the rest of her Chemotherapy and then during the period where her body recovers.  It is hard to say how long that will be.  Buttons and zippers are tricky but manageable.  Cooking is out.  And opening Soda cans is PAINFUL.  She did well getting the children through the last days of school before Thanksgiving break, but has crashed much of the time since.   “Chemo Brain” seemed to be in full swing and led to some very funny situations.  She had fun with it, which is always a good sign.   Those of the particulars of her days.

Her spirit is an entirely different matter.  It was a great week of Thanksgiving here.  We have so much to be grateful for that I am writing this post with bleary eyes as I hold back the tears.  Our Lord has been so generous that I find it hard to comprehend.  He has enlarged our family again this year with a great godly young man that is everything I prayed for for my Princess.  He added to our numbers with another beautiful grandchild that brings the world so much joy.  He has been healing, encouraging and transforming us through Beautiful’s trial.  And, He continues to show us, each and every day, that His love is real, and efficacious. 

Why Lord?  Why are we so blessed?  How can we possibly repay your kindness?

The simple and somewhat unsettling answer is we do not deserve it and we cannot repay it.  But that is also the beauty in it.  We give Him the glory for what He has done, and respond as He requires:  To live His way, and that includes paying it all forward to those that are hurting and those in need.  Not to earn or repay His kindness, but to honor what He has already done.  We are not saved by our good works.  We are saved for  His good works.

I am excited to see what great things He will bring this new week!

3 Weeks–3 Horses

Yes, you read the correctly, I wrote “horses.”  This post Beautiful wanted dedicated to her hairy boys.  It was not that long ago we had none.  In fact, my bride did not care much for animals at all.  They are messy, smelly, and germy (I realize that is not a word, but you get to read it anyway).  She is, or was, all about neat, tidy and clean.  She is now the embodiment of a 180.  Yes, she still likes her neat, tidy and clean, but she also appreciates the meaning of Proverbs 14:4

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox”.

While we are not talking about crops or oxen, were are talking about animals and benefits.  Yes, animals are messy and a lot of work. You can avoid all of that work without them, but what benefit they bring!  Without them, we miss sooooo much in life.  Give me a dirty trough any day!  We will take the work and the joy and you can have your clean, sterile spaces.  So without further ado, here are the boys, in order of appearance:

Oreo.JPGOreo

He is the first hairy boy added to the family.  Oreo is a rescue that was severely underfed when he was rescued.  Princess found him and they bonded pretty quickly.  He loves to please, but he is also a lazy boy and don’t even think about getting between him and his food.  That is serious business!  He has some  training, but he will benefit from more regular work, once we get things started (more on that later).

SundropSundrop

He was a gift, and a princely one at that.  We cannot ever repay the kindness we were shown when he was gifted to our family.  He brings Beautiful so much joy it is a blessing to see.  Sundrop is a Tennessee walker and he loves to do anything but walk.  He will make sure you really are serious about wanting to ride, when you try to mount, but once you are up, he is a big show off.  He loves to run but he loves to please as well.  The whole barn knows when Beautiful has arrived and is NOT at his stall, because he will let EVERYONE know.  The boy has serious lungs!

FerdinandFerdinand

A mini, and the latest addition to the family.  He is co-owned with two other families and it has truly been a great experience.  Co-owning anything can be a “challenge”, but everyone has been fantastic and I honestly think it as brought the ladies even closer together.  More importantly owning a mini is a bit of a gamble.  Like dogs, horses can have attitude in inverse proportion to their size.  Not Ferdinand.  He is very much like his namesake Ferdinand the bull. A sweet, quiet boy that will put up with just about anything.  His first month at the barn seemed like it was the opportunity for grown women to play “dress up the doll,” but with a horse.  He was, and is a great sport and puts up with it all.    This boy is something special.

Beautiful’s Week

One of the things I love about my bride is that, just like her mother, she always makes life about others.  Despite what she is going through, and it is a lot, she continues to remain steadfast in her desire to make like life about others.  She constantly helps me reorient on what is truly important in life: people.  It is truly amazing to press on with our efforts to build a therapy farm, despite this trial.  I don’t know many that would continue to take on this ministry when their own needs are so great. The world needs more people like her.

This was a different week for my Bride.  One of the issues with Chemotherapy is a condition known as Peripheral Neuropathy.  Essentially, that is the drugs doing damage to the nerves in fingers and toes.  It can be a subtle as tingling or as severe as the inability to use the fingers for simple things like, buttoning buttons, etc.  Cooking is completely out for obvious reasons, which are not so obvious until someone mentions that cooking is out.  Fortunately, hers has not been too bad.  The pain was manageable and the numbness not severe enough that she cannot function.  Because it is not debilitating, and we are getting close to the end, the doctor recommended we press on, and so we did.

This week was also special because my Beautiful had another birthday.  I know at our age, they seem almost silly, but we don’t take anything for granted.  It was a joy to celebrate her birth again. We look forward to as many the Lord will give us!  She was able to enjoy her favorite cake and had a visit from Sweetness and the grandkids, and Princess.  It was a great day for all! 

Celebrating another week with you all, while we celebrated another birthday of life is a tremendous honor.  We look forward to sharing about next week.

4 Weeks–4 Girls

IMG_0550

Eight weeks of Chemo have passed so that means the number of the day is 4.  Four weeks of chemo and 4 girls is the theme for this post!  The picture to the left is the four girls a couple of years ago.  We haven’t taken pictures yet this year, and last year we just did one group shot.  So…a couple of years ago will have to do.

Beautiful was blessed to have all four at our home today, albeit not at the same time.  We woke up to the the normal routine of getting the kids off to school so Curly Girly and Bright Eyes (middle left and right respectively) were part of the primary focus to get things rolling.  Curly Girly can turn anything into a task 10 times longer than you thought humanly possible, but she is also the first to volunteer to help.  It is a unique combination.  If the task is for her, she will take all day (e.g. 20 minutes to eat a child’s yogurt – what are you chewing?  there is nothing to chew in plain yogurt!?).  If it is helping someone else, she will shift gears and move faster than I am usually ready for.  Bright Eyes must share an exciting story with you that will include copious amounts of detail that might cover such important aspects as what type of braid was in the ponies mane, but it is not a normal braid it is a braid that wraps around other braids and it makes a braid out of braids and it shakes when the pony canters and each braid had a different color bow …(well you get the idea).  But the story will also be delivered in rapid fire (and a little bit monotone) so you better be on your toes because she KNOWS when you are not listening and feedback is always required.

Sweetness (far right) is Coco’s bride and brought over the grandchildren for Beautiful to enjoy (I of course benefited as well – it was great to be able to see them without competition).  What a treat to be able to share the day with all of them.  We get to enjoy hearing about what is happening in her, equally large family, and visit with the little people all at the same time.  Princess (far left) came and joined us for a bit and it rapidly became a little impromptu party.  They all love Aunty Guh and of course we all always happy to have a visit from any of the kids, but Princess always bring the sunshine with her.

Back to my bride.  Beautiful is definitely feeling the affects of her Chemo.  Her hair is almost completely gone now and that has created some funny scenarios.  I don’t want to say she worries about things, but she sure puts a lot of thought into situations that never even register with me.  For instance, she actually put thought into what she would do if she were pulled over.  To her, the wig doesn’t look like her license (although most people can’t tell it isn’t her hair) so she was concerned that a police officer might think she were disguising herself.  She was trying to decide if she should remove her wig to show she was going through Chemo.  I had to gauge my response very carefully.  I wasn’t sure if I was being punk’d or if I was dealing with “Chemo brain” (yes that is a real thing).  I took the safe course and just asked what she decided.  She hadn’t so I guess we will cross that particular bridge if we find it in our way.

We had a little extra help this week.  Thanks to the 5th grade Moms at Wake Christian Academy.  They made a bunch of freezer meals so we are well prepared for impromptu dinners when Beautiful is not up to it.  My meal repertoire is limited to about 4 and is very heavy in the meat and bread departments.  That would get old in a hurry.

We are looking forward to wrapping up another week.  While we do have some fun things planned (pictures, a birthday party, etc.) the real special sauce is knowing that we are one more week closer to getting Beautiful through her chemo.  We will continue to press on knowing that not only are we getting closer, but each day and each aspect of this challenge is shaping us.  We are being refined for a purpose.  It may be that purpose is to reach one other person (Beautiful meets someone new at chemo each week it seems), or it may be something bigger.  We don’t need to know, we just need to continue on and let our God and Father take care of those details.  He knows and He never stops caring.

Please continue to remember us in your prayers.  It is a source of great strength and it is a blessing to all.  Until we meet at the blog again.  Go Fourth!