Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update and a little inspiration.....

Well... John returned to work yesterday. It went fine, but on Mondays he only has to work the one job (MU) so today will be the real test. He plans to return to McD tonight.

Last night he climbed into bed, and there was NO winding down... before the opening credits of our episode of The Office were done, he was ZONKED! So I'm thinking he was a little tired from returning to work at ONE JOB. Tonight I better use my killer spotting techniques as he may not even make it to the bed before falling asleep!

Switching up his meds and increasing the pain killers along with lots of rest and heat/ice therapy has gotten him to the point where he can function again. However, his pain is still at a much higher level than we'd like it to be. Please continue to pray for his stamina. The pain wears him out A LOT. He is drained from just the simple tasks of a normal day. Also continue to pray about the discouragement. He is VERY down and struggling with despair over not being able to get past this. Finally, of course pray for healing... While we recognize that he very well COULD be like this the rest of his life, we refuse to accept that as the end. Our God raised the dead! Our God parted the Red Sea! Our God turned water into wine! What are a few spasmed neck muscles, excruciating headaches, and significant exhaustion to Him?????

So we're still here... hanging on... we had a LOVELY evening last night with two beautiful angels and their guys. Amanda and Amber came to celebrate Father's Day with a cookout at our house. We had a very nice dinner and then watched RV. However, our evening was cut short by the severe weather. They had to skirt out of here QUICK to beat the storms. While the storms did leave me feeling jilted and neglected (we got NOTHING out here in Dodge county! just a little thunder and lightening... no tornadoes... no hail... no hurricane force winds... BLECH!), they were also a good reminder to me. My God created this whole universe. He is bigger and stronger than the tornado that ripped through Eagle last night. He holds the power of those lightening strikes in the palm of His hand. He holds back the rain and sends it forth. I take comfort in knowing my Heavenly Father is THAT big and THAT powerful.

Hope you do too....

Friday, June 18, 2010


I just got off the phone with the Physician's Assistant from Dr. Ahuja's office. Here's the scoop:

Based upon our phone conversation, she believes that John injured himself without really even knowing it. She said something as simple as a sneeze could have done it. She recommended number one that he not return to his second job until this flare up has passed. (John's response to that was to roll his eyes and give me a look that said, "How are we gonna pay the bills if I do that?" I ignored him and plowed ahead.) She also recommended increasing pain meds and changing up his muscle relaxer. She said he should be alternating ice/heat and should consider a massage or chiropractor's visit. We have been getting the sneaking suspicion that John should go to the chiropractor; however, (no offense Dr. Hyatt) the idea of being adjusted has been a terrifying thought ever since he had surgery. Finally, if this does not improve by the middle of next week, John will need to come in and see Dr. Ahuja and possibly have some more scans done to see what is going on.

We are relieved but exhausted. This is the worst setback he has had in many months. In fact, I do not recall it being this bad since he returned to work. There was the nagging worry that something serious was wrong, so it is much more comforting to know that it is likely an injury of muscles that are still NOT very healthy. However, we are EXHAUSTED! It is like without any warning we were tossed right back into the thick of convalescence. John has been in bed for two days straight now. He initially called in sick just to his part-time job, but since yesterday has been off from MU as well. And because "that's just how we roll" my work has been INSANELY busy for the past couple of weeks, and I am trying to juggle nursing him, working, and school for the kids.... the house is a wreck... I HAVE to get to the grocery store (we are out of jelly! that is a full-blown, five-alarm EMERGENCY!)... and I am T-I-R-E-D! I know (not just in my heart but from EXPERIENCE) that His grace is sufficient and that we will get through this, but it wouldn't hurt if you could shoot up a few extra prayers for us:

1. Pain relief for John from the spasmed neck muscles and the WICKED headache
2. Peace and WISDOM about working his second job
3. Superhuman abilities and SLEEP for the Momma to juggle all of this
4. grape jelly! well actually that I'll get time to go to the grocery store ;)

Thanks so much our faithful friends! We really appreciate you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Romans 14....

I have read Romans 14 twice in the past two days... It keeps sticking in my craw and calling me back to my earlier musings about honesty.

Read these excerpts....

v1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
v4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
v13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
v15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
v17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
v19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
v22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.

It got me thinking about how we as Christians (heck! we as human beings!) get so caught up on arguing about who's right: should we baptize babies or adults, is it okay for Christians to consume alcohol, speaking in tongues, clapping during worship, KJV, NIV, yada yada yada!

Guess what? Here's my assertion: NONE of that matters! None of it! Every single one of those things falls under PERSONAL! Between each individual and his/her God. The only thing we as Christians should be asserting... The only thing we should be debating is the supremacy of the gospel. But we preach Christ crucified.... (I Cor 1:23) That is ALL that matters! That is what is important! Making sure everyone we love, everyone we know, everyone we come into contact with knows this one thing: they are a sinner without hope except for this CHRIST DIED FOR THEIR SINS. That is all that matters. That is what is important.

In a sermon, I heard Aaron Cole say that it is his responsibility to tell us how to get saved, and it is the Holy Spirit's responsibility to tell us how to change our lives. What a much better place this world would be if we ALL took on that attitude! "It is my job to tell people how to get saved. I will leave the life changing up to the Holy Spirit."

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a new bride. (In fact, truth be told, I am still learning it now... as an old bride.) I am NOT John's Holy Spirit. It is NOT my job to tell him what God wants for his life. "But Jami!" you say. "Of course God wants my husband to go to church every Sunday!" Yes, He likely does, but do you really and truly think that God needs YOU to impress that point upon your husband??? "But Jami!" you say. "My sister lets my niece's boyfriend sleepover and she is just fifteen! That is SO dangerous!" Probably. But AGAIN are you SURE that YOU are the voice God wants to use to convey that message. "BUT JAMI!" you say. "Doesn't the Bible tell us, Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way swill save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:20)?" Yes but AGAIN I caution you.... are you SURE that God is telling YOU to turn that sinner from the error of his way or do you just WANT to turn that sinner from the error of his way?

Again, I refer back to Romans 14:

v22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.

God does NOT need you to be the Holy Spirit, and I believe that 9 times out of 10, God does not use direct confrontation to save a sinner from the error of his ways... instead more often then not, I see God coming in as a gentle wind.... convicting a sinner by his/her observations or by a verse from the Word or a lyric from a song. It has been my experience that typically, little to no progress is gained from a trying to turn a sinner from the error of his ways with direct confrontation. Typically, from my observation, what happens is that "sinner" only gets defensive, stubbornly digging in his heels and refusing to budge. Therefore, I try so hard to put into practice this instruction (not just with regards to my interactions with my husband but with ALL)... so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, I Peter 3:1 (emphasis mine).

Now please do not mistake me. I am not saying that there is NEVER a time for confrontation or for debating. But here is what I am saying.... I think people are way too quick to judge, confront, debate trivial things, and I think that Satan LOVES that about us. He gets us distracted debating doctrine. He gets us tied up in arguing whose beliefs are correct. He gets us bogged down by petty issues. So that we have NO time for doing the ONLY thing we are called to do: share the gospel.

Mkay... I guess I'm done with today's musings... I need to get back to work (and back to nursing my ailing hubby)... In closing, I would like to point out that I am by NO WAY an expert on this issue. I struggle EVERY day to keep my mouth shut about things that are not my business. This whole blog was a bit of a reminder to ME about what I should be doing.

In some of my favorite words from one of my favorite guys:

"I'm just one beggar showing another beggar where there's food." Shane Houle.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A blast from the past....

Last night was like a blast from the past... the past of last fall... John was propped up on every pillow in the house... All night long he groaned and grunted just to get the strength to roll over... It was just like the days after he regained consciousness from surgery. The doctor recently prescribed a muscle relaxing gel to be applied to his neck muscles. Last night before bed when I was putting it on for him I gasped at the tightness and knots I felt in his muscles. That was NOT like that a day ago.

We are not sure what caused this set back, but I can tell you that not only has the pain been excruciating (the muscle spasming is all the way down his back, last night the pain was making him dizzy, and all this spasming is causing headaches to add more pain to the situation). However, on top of all that is the discouragement which is heaped heavily upon his shoulders. He is so VERY discouraged that he is STILL suffering the effects of this brain surgery. At his last neurosurgeon appointment, Dr. Ahuja told him this may just be the way it is the rest of his life! I say, "Nay! Nay! I serve a bigger God then that!" So I needed to rally the troops and say, "PLEASE pray!"

1. Pray for relaxing of muscle spasming
2. Pray for relief of pain
3. Pray for elimination of headaches
4. Pray for the shroud of discouragement to be lifted

While I am updating you all, I should probably make you aware of one other situation that is discouraging and in need of prayer. Ever since the surgery, John's memory has been VERY bad. I keep teasing him that he has a slippery brain now, but in all actuality it is not really a laughing matter. The doctor is sending him for an 8-hour cognitive test to get a baseline for where he is at right now. I have a theory (which the PA said was actually more likely than I realize... out of the mouths of medical idiots I guess :) My theory is that the constant and continual pain and tightness is so distracting that it is affecting his memory. When you are in a continual state of distraction, you are more likely to forget things.

Finally, wrapping this all into a big jumbled ball, all of this: pain, tightness, less strength then he used to have, inability to remember anything, is VERY hard for John. He has always been a very physically strong and imposing guy. He has always had stamina and strength. Now his superhuman abilities have been reduced to mere mortal, and it is really hard for him to accept. That is adding to the discouragement and pain.

So I guess I'm dragging you all back into the past with me... remember those days... the Kastners hanging by a thread and all of you supporting us with your prayers and love.... well we need those prayers again... We BELIEVE we serve a BIG God and we are TITANIUM strong in the assertion that should not one aspect of John's situation change, we will still love Him. However, we're praying for a few miracles here.

Thanks as always for your support!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Worship Wednesday: Strong Tower....

Just a good song to get you through this hump day....
(emphasis MINE)

When I wander through the desert
And I'm
longing for my home
All my dreams have gone astray
When I'm stranded in the valley
And I'm tired and all alone
It seems like I've lost my way

I go
running to your mountain
your mercy sets me free

You are my strong tower
Shelter over me
Beautiful and mighty
Everlasting King
You are my strong tower
Fortress when I'm weak
Your name is true and holy
Your face is all I seek

In the middle of my darkness
In the midst of all my fear
You're my refuge and my hope
When the storm of life is raging
And the thunder's all I hear
You speak softly to my soul

Monday, June 7, 2010

Reflecting on twelve years of marriage....

As of yesterday, John and I have been married for twelve years. We had a GLORIOUS weekend away from EVERYTHING. We shipped the kids off (THANK YOU Shawn & Jodi) and farmed Auntie Marge out (THANKS Mom & Dad), and we just hung out in solitude at our place for the whole weekend. It was marvelous! The highlight of our weekend was dream shopping at Home Depot… (hee hee hee)

But on this first day of the thirteenth year of our marriage, I thought I would do a little more reflection. Here are a few things that this weekend (and thirteen years) have taught me...

1. John Joseph Kastner is an amazing, enigmatic, hard working, funny, adorable, incredible, dedicated man. I just REALLY love this man. I love being with him. I love talking to him. I love everything about him. You know I’m sure after twelve years one or two of his flaws have presented themselves, but I have learned two things about loving my spouse: (1) Everyone in this world has positive and negative characteristics…. EVERYONE (2) It is MY CHOICE to highlight his attributes or emphasize his weaknesses… MY satisfaction level depends upon which choice I make. I work my hardest every day to CHOOSE to highlight John's positives while helping him work through his negatives....

2. Marriage is HARD! Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a newlywed or is lying. Taking two individuals and melding them into one cohesive unit takes WORK! It does not come naturally. Crucifying your own desires on a daily basis is not inherent, it is a learned trait. Even after twelve years, marriage takes work. I don't believe that will ever change. I believe marriage is a lifelong assignment. If you think you have completed that assignment and you and your spouse are still alive, well then you have some more thinking to do.

3. Marriage is worth fighting for. As difficult as it can be to meld two people into one unit, the benefits reaped from doing so FAR surpass the effort required. Having someone with whom to weather all the storms of life is an amazing blessing. Having someone who just "gets" you with hardly any explanation on your part is invaluable. Having someone who is always, always, always there for you is a gift that is worth fighting your butt off for. So don't be discouraged by point number 2, instead be ENCOURAGED, marriage may be a difficult, but it is definitely worthwhile.

4. A marriage can withstand ANYTHING if the people in it are stubbornly headstrong to this one purpose: marriage is FOREVER! One of the best things my parents EVER did for me was to show me that no matter what their relationship weathered, they were going to stick together. They taught me marriage was going to be hard, but exiting marriage was not an option. Trust me, John and I are both stubborn and headstrong so I think we've got this one in the bag.

5. Everyone in this world can benefit from a little downtime. Sometimes John and I do not realize the superhuman load we are attempting to carry: He works a full time job and a part-time job. I work a part-time job, homeschool four children, and care for my elderly aunt. Neither of us gets much sleep. Neither of us has much of a social life. We rarely go out on dates. We have never once been on a family vacation. We live life at a frenzied pace. We have always just adapted to this craziness out of necessity, but this weekend I realized how very, very, very nice downtime (and sleep) can be.

Well I guess that's about all I have time for (it's not all I learned, but Blogger stymied my efforts all day by way of a broken link that kept prohibiting me from posting this). I guess my closing is more of a dedication than a wrap up:

Happy anniversary John Kastner... I love you with all of me. Thank you for loving me when I'm unlovable. Thank you for believing in me no matter what. Thank you for being my biggest fan and my best critic. I can't wait to see what the next decade or two brings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birthday blog....

On the occasion of my birthday I thought I would reflect on what I've learned over the past 12 months. It's been a rocky year... one that resembles some sort of boot camp experience... but I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I learned A LOT:

1. It is God who holds my heart in His hands. He is the only One who will never let me down, leave me, or betray me. Friends, family members, spouses... They disappoint, leave, betray, even die... But He NEVER will. NEVER!

2. It is very important to keep my focus forward; however, glancing backward to remember where I have been is VITAL when attempting not to repeat past mistakes.

3. You can't fix stupid. This may sound funny coming from a teacher; however I have come to see that I CANNOT change the inane rules my insurance company has... I CANNOT change a headstrong, mule-like person... I just CANNOT fight city hall.... Therefore, some battles are better left unfought.

4. Stress.... It's a killer! Stress will catch up with you. It doesn't matter how much I think I resemble Wonder Woman. It doesn't matter that I think I can handle it. Put your body through continual and constant stress, and eventually, the effects will begin to show.

5. His grace is ALWAYS sufficient. No matter what I FEEL like. No matter what I FEAR. No matter what the devil is whispering to me.... No matter that those aforementioned effects of stress are beginning to show... His grace is ALWAYS sufficient.

6. People are crazy and we live in strange times. (Have to admit I stole this one from my mom and her healthcare seminar).... it's so true... read it again... marinate on it... I think you'll agree.

7. One ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship. (Spanish Proverb) When push comes to shove.... When I am down on my luck... When I feel like I have no one else to turn to... My family is ALWAYS there for me and this I can ALWAYS take to the bank: my Momma loves me.

8. This thing called parenting... Heck this thing called marriage... it just ain't as easy as it looks. There are days when I want to throw the whole kit and caboodle out with the used dishwater, BUT... the benefits... should I choose not to throw in the towel... are well, well, WELL worth it.

9. I am sooooo glad that God chose these specific angels to be my babies. They may be daredevils.... Their heads have been known to spin around.... But they are sweet and smart and kind and polite.... They LOVE Jesus with all of them and THEY ARE MY BABIES! And I am GRATEFUL!

10. John Joseph Kastner is the bravest man I know. He is no saint, and he is not perfect. But he bravely faces down EVERY challenge that comes before him. He will fight to the DEATH for his family and especially his wife. He will never give up no matter how insurmountable the odds seem... no matter how scared he is... no matter what it might cost him. I am ever grateful that my God chose THIS man to complete me... for without him I would be NOTHING.

So there it is... another year older, and actually, I think this year (more than many others) I am actually another year wiser as well. It is NOT a year I wish to repeat EVER again, but it is definitely a year that brought me closer to God, my husband, my children, and my family. It was definitely a year that made me stronger. Hope I'm not too whimpy though if I ask just one thing as a "birthday wish"...

Dear God, Can I please have an easier year next?

The many facets of God's will (with a rabbit trail into the dark before the morning)...

So often in life I find myself amazed at the fact that God's will has SO many facets. There are so many different aspects of His will, that when you dive in it takes awhile to appreciate all of them. Yesterday, as I sat on my driveway after two solid days of family time, watching my husband throw a frisbee with the kids, the fullness of one facet of His will struck me.

I believe with all of me that moving out here to the boonies was God's will. Initially it seemed like a dream that was "too good to be true.".. The slightest of all rent increases to move to twice the house, 10x the yard and the promise of finally OWNING a house. God brought it all together with lightening quickness which also made it seem "to good to be true."

Before we even moved (but AFTER we had already "signed our names" in all the appropriate places) our dream came true took a turn for the nightmarish. There was this miraculous thing sitting on our horizon, but Satan wasn't going to let us have it without a fight. We doubted. We worried. We hemmed and hawed, but through it all His voice kept saying, "Proceed." The fires got hotter and hotter. Stroke, Chiari Malformation, brain surgery, out of work for months... The first months in our new place brought all sorts of doubts: maybe we weren't supposed to move way out here so far from all our family and friends... So far from civilization and our renown brain surgeon.. Maybe we would be evicted because we wouldn't be able to pay rent now... Or maybe even worse it would no longer be just our dream house which was threatened but this little family we had built would lose its Daddy.

Its like that sometimes with God's will. As you start down the path to a great breakthrough or momentous victory Satan attacks harder (because he knows you're nearing something great). I heard the BEST song the other day, The Morning After, by Josh Wilson. This lyric stuck with me:

'Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It's just the dark before the morning .

It is always darkest before the morning and sometimes we have to fight REALLY hard to get to God's will for us. Satan's not gonna let us have it for nothing, AND I believe that is part of how you know that what you are doing is God's will: Satan will RAGE against you because he does NOT want you to be in the center of God's will.

Sorry I took a little rabbit trail into the dark before the morning... I need to get back to the many facets of God's will....

So fast forward 11 months from the momentous day we moved in here. We have traveled through all sorts of dark, scary valleys. We have triumphed over so many roadblocks Satan put before us. We are firmly in this house, eleven months closer to being homeowners. Our children are THRIVING in an environment where they have a HUGE yard and more space to live. But yesterday God was focusing my eyes on another facet of His will for this place! Moving to the boonies wasn't just about good financial decisions and a better home/yard for our children. It was about freedom for this family to BE A FAMILY. See back in Franklin we had a happy FULL life. Yet we sacrificed all our "family time" to service and socializing and GOOD STUFF, but again it left not much FAMILY TIME.

Out here in the boonies we are isolated..... Even a bit lonely at times... Yet we are free from some of the things that used to occupy so much of our time and attention.... Here on the threshold of entering the tween years we are poised to make our best steps or fall flat on our faces, and I believe a successful passage across the doorstep to the tween and teen years includes TONS of time spent as a FAMILY. The Daddy of this family isn't home much so when he is here we need to do stuff TOGETHER. Our isolation out here in Butt Nowhere, WI helps us do that. While I feel a bit like a fish out of water, and I miss random NDY kids dropping over, sharing nearly every meal we had with a guest of some sort, former cheerleaders popping in day and night, I appreciate the fact that without those things there is more time for the SIX of us to be the six of us.

So whether you are in the dark before the morning or are appreciating another facet of His will for your life... HANG ON! Take a look around you! Even the dark before the morning can be beautiful if you look at it right and His will has so many different facets to be appreciated.
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