Friday, December 23, 2011

My new house....

Sometimes I just MARVEL at God's ways! Ever since John had that seizure on 10/21, we have been struggling to survive out here in the country. It has been TOUGH... 30 min ONE-WAY to the bus stop has left me more tired than I knew was possible. About four weeks ago, we started to feel God prodding us to give up our dream of a peaceful country existence... move back to the city... get closer to MU and our families.

We started quietly trolling craigslist for rentals and learned several things:

1. There are A LOT of scams on craigslist
2.  We have a CRAZY good deal here in this HUGE house on 2 acres
3. You can try do something in your own power as long as you want but until it is God's timing your efforts are in vain.

Last weekend we found something. We went to look at it on Sunday. I cried all the way home. This place gave small a new meaning. My kitchen table wouldn't have even fit in the kitchen. Our king size bed would not  fit in the bedroom. It was S-M-A-L-L. When we got home, we got back on craigslist. Miraculously we found FOUR places and e-mailed them all. Only one e-mailed back that night. It was CUTE... small... but CUTE.

By Monday we had filled out a rental application and Tuesday I went to see it. God pulled the proper people and the proper pieces RIGHT into place at HIS timing, and we are moving THIS WEEK! I'm not lying. The moving truck is reserved, Time Warner installation set up, packing helpers lined up... We take occupancy TOMORROW! Yes I'm slightly overwhelmed by the thought of planning a move in under a week, the week between Christmas and New Year's. However, as I drove John to and from the bus stop yesterday I nearly cried. This was my last 6 a.m. trek to the bus. We will be moved in before the next time he has to go to work. We will be living 15 minutes from Marquette, 16 minutes from Heritage and 20 minutes from Oma & Poppa!!!

We looked and looked and LOOKED for 6 weeks. We started to doubt we had heard God's voice. We wondered how we would EVER find a place. We would have NEVER picked moving in winter, moving with only a week's notice, moving the week AFTER Christmas!!!! But God has brought EVERYTHING together in His timing. From my sister getting us 150 boxes from work, to my brother bringing them out here today, to my other sister offering to clean the new house and my brother-in-law being willing to drive the moving truck and MUCH, MUCH MORE.

So last night we finished up most of Christmas: wrapped the presents, made fudge... and today we PACK and clean and finish cookie baking.

I just want to leave you with this thought... wherever you're at right now... whatever your struggle... remember that God is never even a second late. I know you're weary. I know you're done hanging on to the end of your rope. But take heart! He is working behind the scenes whether you can see it yet or not.

God bless everyone! Merry Christmas! By the next time I blog, I will likely be in my new house!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.....

I have to chronicle this day... It is another one of those, "You MUST be making this UP!" kinda days.  But with God as my witness I swear that every word I am about to type is true. In fact there are even a couple of private, non-sharable things in ADDITION to all that I'm putting out there for the whole world to read that take the day to an even deeper depth of despair.

This day started much the same as the rest.... I awoke at the butt-crack of dawn to take John to work. He has had a HORRIBLE week. Hasn't felt right all week. VERY VERY dizzy... One day, he walked into a wall which caused enough concern that I called him in sick that day. Before he got out of bed this morning, I asked if I should call him in sick. He said, "No." One more time when we were halfway to the bus stop, I asked, "Should we turn around and go home?" He said, "No." He wanted to tough it out. He could work.

I came home and started RACING through my day... tons of work leftover from the day before... a bunch of stuff I needed to do for cheer..... all the while directing the kids through their chores and independent lesson parts.

Around 11ish I think it was, I got a call from John. He was not feeling well AT ALL. So dizzy he could hardly function, bad stomach ache, horrible headache.  I told him to get on the next bus and COME HOME!  He had his momma come and get him. She brought him ALL THE WAY home.

I continued on trying to get my work done, making dinner before we left for cheer, now nursing him, etc... Fielded at least three calls from the dr.'s office and four from the pharmacy. Took in some bad news that will make my life even MORE hectic. Hopped in the car to head for cheer. A little more bad news came my way (oh and SEVERAL more dr/pharmacy calls).

After cheer I ran one of my cheerleaders home and then returned to the school to wait for the boys' b-ball practice to end. I pulled the kids out of practice 10 minutes early to try to make it back to Hartford to pick up all of John's prescriptions before the pharmacy closed. All the way there we prayed and prayed and PRAYED... "Please God let us get there before the pharmacy closes!" When I realized we were going to be a few minutes past closing time, I called and they said they would keep the pharmacy open for me! WOW!

I flew into Walmart just a few minutes after 9, grabbed John's scrips and then as long as I was there, grabbed a few groceries and the rest of the Christmas presents I needed.

On the way home from Walmart less than 5 miles from my house, my tire blew. So there I was one of my top 3 worst nightmares coming true: stranded in between two cornfields on a dark country road. [In high school I made the mistake of watching Children of the Corn... driving in the country night has NEVER been easy for me, and this was what I had ALWAYS feared.] But here's the best part: I was stranded just miles from my house, but my hubby couldn't even come help me. Even if he decided to try to drive the broken down Buick (which we aren't sure even runs anymore) ILLEGALLY because he currently is not allowed to drive, he prolly couldn't even get down the driveway because he is SO dizzy!

I sat there with the cornfields closing in trying to figure out what to do. I called the tow truck.... (ohmigosh!!!!! Collete from Reliable is an angel walking around with skin on!!!!!) called John... texted my sisters and mom... and tried to call my neighbor. Sent her one cryptic text, "Can you call if you're up... stranded on Madison."  I was talking to my sister about how this could REALLY not be happening. There is no way this day could be real! I'm likely walking around in a bad dream I just can't seem to wake up from. When all of a sudden over the hill came the first pair of headlights I had seen all night. I said, "Jodi, pray this is my neighbor." The lights approached and then STARTED TO SLOW!!! It was! It was! It WAS my neighbor!

She took Noah and Jeremiah back to the house (they were btw TERRIFIED... Jeremiah had his hands over his face and was praying the whole time. Noah kept asking me to turn the radio up, attempting to appear strong but very, VERY scared of being stranded in the dark.) Then she even came back to keep me company until the tow truck arrived (she's heard about my cornfield phobia MANY TIMES).

Collette towed me back home so we could unload the minivan and then drove off with our only real form of transportation attached to her tow truck. I don't really have words to explain how vulnerable I feel right now. I literally can't even drive someone to the hospital if they need it. I am terrified and left virtually alone as John is completely unconscious (the way he has been most of the day from his ailment).

After being dropped off I busied myself with emptying my Walmart bags. I lifted the first one off the ground and it split apart, spilling its contents all over the floor... and that was when the tears started threatening to fall. I held them back until the kids were in bed... but now the typing of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad story is dragging them out of me.

So here... in my bed... pecking away at my laptop... tears STREAMING down my face and hope nowhere to be found... Here's what I have to say... here's what is in my heart:

I know... my Redeemer lives... I know my Redeemer lives... All of creation testifies... this life within me cries... I know my Redeemer lives...

I don't know why that is the song that is on my heart right now. Maybe because in the midst of all this chaos... in the midst of a blown tire that may have resulted in a damaged rim... in the midst of messed up anti-seizure meds that have left my husband foggy and unable to function... in the midst of the ick and filth and mess and YUCK of this day... I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES!

Nothing Satan can throw at me will change my mind. Nothing that happens to me can alter that fact...


Goodnight everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Favor ain't fair...

This is one of my FAVORITE Pastor Aaron sayings.

"Favor ain't fair." 

Recently I've been contemplating how, "Struggles ain't fair either...." So often it seems as if struggles just aren't fairly distributed. My great-grandmother buried 4 of her children before she died.... That just isn't fair.

I had a brief e-mail conversation with Pastor Aaron about this, and his reply was food for thought. He said that since the fall of man, NOTHING on this earth has been fair.

This applies to all concerned. Yesterday I wrote about Tim Tebow.... his recent success and fame could easily be attributed to hard work, dedication, a love for God, but you know what? Favor ain't fair! Ultimately God CHOOSES whom he uses. God decides a man's fate. How silly we are to think we control our own destiny! Yes Tim Tebow worked hard... he also loves God... but that isn't the SOURCE of his success... God is!  This also applies to those suffering.... "Struggles ain't fair either!" Pick up your Bible and read about Job. He worked hard, was dedicated, loved God, yet you know what??? His was a lot of suffering. In fact, his suffering is what he went down in history for.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that life in general is not FAIR. In fact fair is kinda a stupid word... It isn't FAIR that I was born in America where I am free to worship Jesus Christ and blab all about Him and my faith here on the internet while a pastor in Iran is on death row for preaching about Jesus. It isn't FAIR that my babies were all born in a sterile hospital, healthy and hearty while millions of babies in Africa are born in filthy, slop, hungry and frail from the moment they leave the womb. It isn't FAIR that I have my husband alive even though he is suffering, while many others have buried theirs and laid them to rest.

Life is NOT FAIR! Before you go refuting my assertion with your: "I deserve what I have!" or "I earned everything I have by my good choices." Let me just give you one final thought, torn from the words of Scripture:

..... all our righteous acts are like filthy rags....
Isaiah 64:6

The only thing every single one of us DESERVES is death and destruction for:

....all have sinned and FALL SHORT of the glory of God...
Romans 3:23

Therefore, I suggest we all PRAISE GOD today that "Favor ain't fair."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What God's taught me through Tim Tebow...

Tim Tebow! Wowzer! Is he the hot button topic in sports today??? I think he must be perpetually trending on Twitter!  I have to admit that until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea who Tim Tebow was, and I really didn't have a clue what Tebowing was either...

My thoughts on this Tebow phenomenon are many and varied. For example, I find it FASCINATING how many people are crucifying the dude for loving Jesus... REALLY??? In a world full of athletes who are in trouble with the law, concerned with only themselves, living lifestyles that are an example to NO ONE we are going to hate on a guy for loving God?  Mind-boggling that this is the way our world is!

However, that is not what this blog is about. I'm not jumping on the Tim Tebow bandwagon to talk about whether or not he should "Tebow". I have something different to say about Tim Tebow.  I read this article yesterday, and it really hit home. It struck me deep in the heart and brought a STRONG word from God.

Here's the part that got me:

If Tim Tebow’s professional career as an NFL Quarterback comes crashing down around him, or if he becomes wildly successful and rich, will he stand firm in his commitment to Jesus Christ?  My bet is ‘yes”.  What about the rest of us as Christians?  Whether faced with economic calamity or great wealth; popularity or being hated; will we remain committed to Jesus and the truth of His Word?  Time will tell…

See I think that is what God is trying to teach me through this recent (okay not so recent we are into our 3rd year of it now) series of trials and struggles. Will I stand firm in my commitment to Jesus Christ through this endless stream of medical issues, financial woes, and constant daily irritations? Will I keep my language pure? Will I keep my temper in check? Will I give him the praise and the glory when things are tough AND when they are terrific?  What if this NEVER changes? What if I am driving a broken down car, living in a rented house, and barely making it from payday-to-payday for THE REST OF MY LIFE??? Will I still serve Him? Will I still PRAISE HIM?

My answer is I will (however, lately my "I will" has been coming only after more and more and more pouting, stomping my feet and tons of tears). Yes, it is MUCH easier to "Tebow" when you are pulling off miraculous wins in the final seconds of a football game then when you are facing defeat after defeat after defeat. But I have to believe from the little I have seen of Tim Tebow that whether he is throwing touchdowns or interceptions he will still remain committed to Christ. I also believe that God is still on the throne whether we are facing success or defeat. Therefore the answer to my predicament is:  praise Him when the fridge breaks, praise Him when the furnace won't heat, praise Him when my husband is on his way to the ER, praise Him when I lose my writing job... and should I happen to end up in the end zone someday: with a writing contract... a car that works... enough money to pay the bills and (GASP!) accrue a little savings... FINALLY up on that podium with a State Champion cheer team... or best yet in that PROMISED LAND of no more Chiari Malformation woes, not trouble by any aneurysms... My answer will be just the same, PRAISE HIM!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When the simple becomes profound....

I haven't been writing much lately. It is from a combination of lack of time and something else. See lately I have been feeling (on my blog and in person) that people are sick of hearing about my struggles. So I've stopped talking and writing. It is a lonely and scary place for me... because I thrive off getting this crud OUT of my system and I cling to the hope that if I have to suffer at least someone can learn something from it... However, I'm just so raw right now I cannot take anymore correction/judgement/disapproval. Don't get me wrong... there are a few faithful out there that I can FEEL are dedicated to seeing me through to the VERY end of my struggles... but silence seems an appropriate choice to protect myself from the other stuff. All this to say that something has to BURN in my belly before I will write it out right now. I cannot bring myself to invite more criticism without a REALLY good reason. Well this morning I have a really good reason.

Basically I'm in a sea of confusion right now... Unsure exactly what God is doing here... Not seeing what He is bringing about... TERRIFIED (I cannot think of a word that actually expresses the depth of my fear) over my circumstances yet still somehow inexplicably just KNOWING that even though I cannot see Him working right now, He is still "on the clock" working on my heart... working on my circumstances... working out my perseverance....

I have been STRUGGLING through some SERIOUS attacks of the enemy.... ones where I can LITERALLY feel my struggle is "against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  I don't know really how to explain it... If you have ever been in a battle of spiritual warfare, you just "get it," I guess.

So yesterday on my way into town, Your Great Name by Natalie Grant came on K-Love. Now this song is not new to me. (I've blogged about it before.) And the concepts held within are not earth-shattering or ground breaking. However, as I flew down the highway, this line hit me:

     The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name.

And all of a sudden an epiphany occurred to me: when I am in the midst of those battles I need His great name. Now this is not a new concept to me. I know that when battling Satan we must call out the name of Jesus. I know that the very NAME of Jesus holds power we cannot fathom. I know that demons shudder and walls fall at the mere SOUND of the NAME of JESUS. But it struck me right then and there, the next time I am in the midst of a battle.... the next time I start to get the sense (through the absurdity of the sheer volume of CRUD that is being hurled at me) that Satan is toying with me, I need to call out the name of Jesus!

[Hang on... I'm not done yet!]

So this morning I awoke at 4:17 a.m. because I had to pee [sorry if that is TMI (too much information)]. I realized that it was FREEZING in my house so I went to the thermostat. It was 66 (thermostat is set at 68) I could hear that the furnace was running, but I couldn't feel any warm air coming from the vent. A groggy John reported it would take a few minutes for the blower fan to engage, but my gut said, "Nopes! Something else is going on here." Long story short, it was an easy fix... we have hot air blowing again but here's the part I must share... this is the part that is burning in my belly:

I sat at the kitchen table trying to concentrate on my devotions for the morning while John tinkered away in the basement. Finally I just stopped and started praying, "God PLEASE I need a miracle here. I NEED this to be an easy fix, because right now I cannot take another thing to deal with. As I sat at the table, praying.... just before I heard the blower fan engage, I realized that there were lyrics running through my head as I prayed, "Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name."  Those lyrics running through my head were God reminding me of the message He had spoken to me yesterday! I started repeating out loud, "Jesus... Jesus... Jesus... I need you Jesus. Please do something JESUS."

The simple can be profound. You don't need special words. God won't be convinced by a well-worded request. You do not need a formula or strategy... You need JESUS. For salvation, for eternity, for right HERE AND NOW... You just need JESUS.

The funniest part is that this revelation wasn't followed by a great mountaintop high... It was immediately followed by another dip down low into the valley of uncertainty and fear.... it was followed by the realization that something is wrong with John. I haven't put my finger on it yet, and I'm still assessing whether we can handle this at home or not, but he is NOT right and will not be going to work today. You know how I'm handling it? With an odd sense of peace and one word on my lips, "Jesus."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Repost: A sermon from Hannah Montana

I'm reposting again.... I am just TOO BUSY TO BLOG right now... So instead I am reading through my blog.... Today I'm feeling sassy so I thought I would repost a blog that got me in A HEAP O' TROUBLE!  Oh the heat I took for proposing that Hannah Montana might be able to give me a Word from God... To all of you nay'sayers who think Hannah Montana can't present a GREAT sermon straight from God, need I remind you???? God spoke through a donkey... A DONKEY!

I reiterate a line from this blog:  God uses whom HE chooses!

Hope he uses this repost in your life today.

A sermon from Hannah Montana

Friday, December 2, 2011

Repost: Don't be a Bildad...

I have been comforting myself through this most recent bout of trials with some of my own writings. I have been going back in my blog and reading stuff I wrote years ago and thinking, "Mhmmmm! that is EXACTLY what I needed to hear!"

After several recent encounters with Bildads of my own, I kept thinking of a blog I wrote back in the EARLY stages of this blog's development. I went back and read it, and  it REALLY ministered to my soul. We NEVER know the fullness of what God is taking us through... and ESPECIALLY of what God is taking another person through. I believe it is, therefore, a good idea to keep our Bildad"ish" opinions to ourselves. Reminding myself that even Job had friends who spoke out of turn and INCREASED his pain in a time of suffering, encouraged me.

I hope it encourages you as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


God has been teaching me a lot through this most recent series of troubles. See I think regardless of the reason WHY I am going through this (if there is a sin God is trying to weed out of my heart, if my faith is being tested, if there is someone in my life who needs to see me go through this so they can weed out a sin or have their faith tested...) there is ALWAYS at least one thing that I can glean from my trials. Whether that thing is the primary reason for my struggle or just a secondary lesson doesn't matter at all. Being the kind of person who CONSTANTLY asks, "God, what can I learn here?" That is what matters.

Because of the answer I have received to the "God what can I learn here?" question, I have several confessions to make.

Somewhere deep in my heart I still believe that if I follow the rules, life should go my way.  In spite of the fact that I see MULTIPLE examples in scripture that prove this to be a fallacy: Jesus, Job, Paul... I still think that if I love God and serve Him wholeheartedly, if I take care of the sick and elderly, if I give the shirt off my back to those in need, then I should just skip down a rose-lined path without a care on my mind. The problem is... for those roses along the path to grow, there needs to be a little rain. Because I have yet to root out this false belief from my heart, when the rain falls I feel challenged, chastised, discouraged.

I have too much on my plate. (Many of you are right now going, "DUH! We knew that all along!" Here's the thing. I know it too. I've known it all along as well. The problem is there is not much that I feel I can scooch off my plate. And some of the things that well-meaning people in my life have suggested I scooch off wouldn't actually make my plate any emptier... they would just fill it with a different thing.) Because I have too much on my plate, the smallest addition to my plate results in chaos. Remember a few days ago at Thanksgiving? You had that plate FILLED with goodies: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes covered in gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce. At one point, your plate was FULL... not a smidgen of white visible. Imagine if you had taken your fork and scooched clear a little space. Just a TEENY tiny space for that yummy look jello your Great Aunt brought. What would have happened? CHAOS! Yummy turkey, piping hot potatoes and scrumptious stuffing would be all over the floor! There is only SO much room on your plate and if you scooch a clear spot for jello... something is going to fall over the edge.  My life is that plate:  laden with homeschooling, telecommuting, elder caregiving, sick husband transporting, cheerleading coaching.... If I try to scooch a clear spot for a broken refrigerator, CHAOS abounds!

This weekend my parents took us all on Haugh Holiday. We went to Green Lake and stayed at the Heidel House (BEAUTIFUL resort, GORGEOUS grounds, GREAT amenities, COURTEOUS staff). We started Thursday with a Thanksgiving buffet. The way I tackled that buffet is (I think) the solution to a plate that is too full (in life and at Thanksgiving dinner). Some in our party went through the buffet line trying to get everything they wanted in one trip. I took a different approach. I went up, took a salad plate, and made myself a salad. Then I returned to the table to consume my salad. Next, I went for a hot plate, filled it with meat, vegetables, and stuffing. Returned to enjoy that. Finally, I headed for the dessert table.  I'm still not POSITIVE how this translates into real life, but I think it looks something like this:  one day at a time... one task at a time... slow down... risk being consumed by the fires burning all around and tackle one segment of life at a time.

I don't know where this train is taking us, but I trust the conductor. I can't see down the road. I don't know how this two more months of driving John around is going to pan out. I can't see how this STUPID refrigerator nonsense will be resolved. I can't tell you how all these messes in my life will be tidied up. But I TRUST THE CONDUCTOR. So hard as it is, I am trying to just relax in my seat, doing my part (and my part alone) while He does His job of keeping this train on track.

I hope these ramblings ministered to someone today. You know even if they didn't, this was an exercise in obedience for me. God wanted me to publicly admit these things and I have done my part.

This morning, I begged God to forgive me for my doubt, for the false beliefs I have held onto, for my inability to submit to what He is doing here. I am now begging Him to FILL ME with more of Him. So that I have the strength to tackle this crazy life of mine one plate at a time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful list....

Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! My FAVORITE time of the year! I love to be thankful and this year I AM thankful!  So this year instead of being verbose and eloquent, I'm just making a list.  A thankful list....

*John J. Kastner
*Noah J. Kastner
*Jeremiah D. Kastner
*Elijah D. Kastner
*Hannah E. Kastner
*Amanda & James Starkweather
*Amber Kastner (btw... HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT TO MY BEAUTIFUL 21-year old step-daughter!)
*my mom
*my dad
*my sisters and my brother
*my mother-in-law
*my friends who are always there with a listening ear
*my cheerleaders
*my Bible
*being a wife
*being a mom
*working from home
*homeschooling my children
*coaching cheer again
*my health
*Haugh Holiday
*turkey and mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce
*5/6 Boys Basketball at HCS
*my trials, which are building perseverance and making me mature and complete not lacking anything
*living in a free country that has people willing to sacrifice there lives to keep us safe (like my baby brother!)
*Jesus Christ my Savior, my Lord and my BFF

[I'm sure there's more but I have to get GOING. We leave for Haugh Holiday in 2 1/2 hours and I'm not even PACKED!]

May you have a BLESSED Thanksgiving filled with good food, fellowship and fun. May God remind you today of all the things you have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Maniacal laughter...

There comes a point.... past the slough of suffering.... beyond the trail of tragedy... far, FAR down the peak of excruciating pain, even a few steps past the distant dark of discouragement.... I like to refer to it as the mountain of maniacal laughter. This place is reached only after so much has gone wrong that it becomes comical. You can't even cry over your troubles. All that is left is to laugh like a maniac because most would not even BELIEVE what you have laboriously walked through is even true.

I reached this precipice tonight. It was after yestetday's refrigerator debaucle. Long past our brush with yet ANOTHER craigslist scam. Even after complete CHAOS threatened to make null and void a VITAL contract I had entered into. The maniacal laughter started after John reported not only did the doctor refuse to shorten the ban on him driving... but He actually EXTENDED it. EXTENDED IT!!!

I'm at that point.... the trials of my life don't even seem BELIEVABLE anymore! I mean who has TWO brand new appliances fail COMPLETELY when they are less than 18 months old? Who drives her husband 30 miles one way to reach the BUS STOP to get to work? Who barely escapes her SECOND brush with a scam on craigslist? Who does these things???? Jami Lynn Kastner... that's who.

Now you may think the maniacal laughter means I have gone crazy... but tonight I recognized it for what it really is... And the realization brought more laughter. I have been trying to figure out how I am going to do all of this.... how I will get John to work an hour away.... how I will make do until the fridge gets fixed.... how I will deal with this and that .... tonight I just started laughing when I realized... I CAN'T. I just CAN'T. this one is ALL God's. The ball is in His court, and if He wants John & me to make it through the next 2 months of John being unable to drive then HE will have to carry us through it. He will have to reveal some pretty crazy miracles. He will have to make a way when there seems to be no way.

I think the laughter comes in because I'm like... really Jami? It took you this long? It took this many things before you would finally LET GO and realize the One you serve didn't bring you to these herculean circumstances to watch you fight through them on your own... He brought you to this place to do MIGHTY things THROUGH you. So step out of the way and stop trying to DO IT! You are messing everything up! Let Him do it.

And I will. I'm laying down my tools. I'm done trying to figure this out. One day... one minute at a time.... I will just keep plodding on. I don't have to know how we are going to get there.... I just have to let Him navigate.

Stay tuned y'all. I just have a feeling that we are all about to witness SOME KIND OF show here in the Kastner household! Because in order for this to work out, God will need SOME kind of fireworks show.

God bless you tonight! May you too realize that He is in control. May you let Him navigate the way for you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When it feels like God is late...

Before I even start, let me please make it CLEAR:  I know that God's timing is not our timing. I know that He has not dropped the ball. I know that He is still in control.

But sometimes it FEELS like God is late. It feels like He should have stepped in weeks, months or even years ago. It feels like SURELY He has lost track of all the things currently heaped on one person's shoulders. It feels like He lost track.

I have been PRAYING! I have been BEGGING for prayer and I KNOW others are praying too... yet still here we sit.. nothing changes but for the worse.

I know all the Christianese for my situation: I know I need to hang on. I know I need to trust God. I know I need to consider the lilies of the valley....

I also know that I have been BEGGING God to let me catch just ONE title to write about for MONTHS now... nada. I also know that I have been trusting Him to bring GOOD out of John's most recent medical woes... nopes! Nothing but negative ramifications raining down on us from that. I know that every single stinking place I turn there is NOTHING but broken down, negative, NONSENSE coming my way.

This morning I woke up to the refrigerator incessantly beeping. This is a NEW fridge... just THREE WEEKS out of warranty. And it is DEAD. Won't cool anything... won't stop beeping... I was able to get the manufacturer to cover the service and repair it under warranty; HOWEVER, they aren't even coming for the service call until Tuesday (and then who knows how long till the parts come in)... What in the WORLD? What is up with us? We just have the WORST luck ever and I can't figure it out! This fridge is new and in 13 months it has NEVER caused us even ONE problem... Yet now... right NOW with John still unable to drive, my "layoff" from freelancing starting to squeeze us, and my schedule so full I have NO wiggle room... NOW I get to figure out how to CHEAPLY feed a family of 7 without a refrigerator. The timing on this couldn't be worse and I just want to know WHEN? God WHEN will you step in and help me out????

I have been crying much of the day.. this may seem like just a stupid refrigerator but I am TIRED and WEARY and fed up with being the poster child for Trials R Us!

I have been trying for the past month to weather this with grace and godliness. I haven't fretted or worried... I keep trusting that God is going to figure this out... that He will make a way when there seems to be no way, but I am DONE now... I can't keep believing that everything is going to be "okay" when quite CLEARLY it is not.  I know in my head that He is not late, but right now I feel like God has forgotten me.... like He doesn't remember that I already have a HEAVY load on my shoulders and I don't need anymore burdens to carry. I know that's not right but I also know that is what I feel. Defeated... Discouraged... Hopeless...

I want to believe that He's gonna rescue us but I'm just not sure I can.

So what do you do when it feels like God is late?  On the way into town today, I just kept chanting to myself, "I love God. I love God. I love God." I couldn't make it past that... One thing I know is I LOVE GOD... I suppose nothing else matters much.

I think often of that scene in Facing the Giants when the coach's wife is struggling with her infertility issues and she keeps saying, "I will still love you, God." I am SO there.... I am at the end of me... my hopes and dreams lie dashed on the rocks, but I WILL still love Him... no matter what.

Friday, November 11, 2011


For Lori Brady and to remind myself...  We just might bend girl but we WON'T BREAK!!!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

At the end of me....

I have been resisting blogging about this because I'm just not even sure what to say or how to say it. To some extent it all sounds like a broken record... and I'm not sure why anyone would even want to read more of it. I know I am sick of living it... so I don't blame you if you're sick of reading it. But I have to blog it because ALL STINKING DAY, God has been pressing on me to BLOG this!  Grrrrrr!!!!!

When John was last in the hospital and in the subsequent doctor's appointments when we were told he would be out of work for two weeks and unable to drive for four more weeks, I was bound and DETERMINED to handle this most recent medical nightmare like a champ! I knew in my head that God was going to get us through this. I remembered He had gotten us through impossible situations at least three times in the past 2 years. I believed in my heart He was gonna come through again. Therefore, because of my knowledge and belief, I so desperately wanted to do this one in a way that would make my Heavenly Daddy proud. No tears... No questions... No worries.... Just pure childlike faith that He would carry me.

About 2 1/2 weeks into this, it almost feels as if I am being punished for that desire. It is like Satan said, "Fine! If that doesn't make you worry, I'll give you a little more! What??? That isn't bringing the tears? How about this? Ha! I will get YOU yet! I will throw this dart at you!"

I am literally and truly and completely at the end of myself, and I know in my heart that this is where I find God. I know this is the BEST place to be because at the end of me is when He can finally work, but y'all I just don't know how much longer I can do my part anymore.

1. I am TIRED. bone-weary, achingly at the end of myself TIRED. I cannot count how many times I've cried this week... or even today... out of just SHEER exhaustion! My plate was always quite full and now adding an extra 2 hours of driving to it each day threatens to overturn the whole apple cart from its precarious perch (forgive me for the mixing of my metaphors... did I already mention: I'M TIRED!!!!)

2. I am WEARY of fighting and believing and persevering!  For example, let me just share one hour of my day with you. In the midst of participating in the annual benefits enrollment for MU, John and I came to the realization that our premium will be going up by $108 per month next year! WOWZER! "That was a sucker punch to the gonads!" (name that movie and you get a bonus point) As I was reeling from the implications and thinking, "How are we going to absorb THAT on the heels of losing a 3rd of our income due to the Great Tanking of Demand Media (if you haven't read the hoopla about that you're likely not a freelance writer)." When all of a sudden Noah brought in the mail, which revealed that the insurance company was denying nearly $2K in charges from Hannah's surgery in August. I called them, trying to maintain my composure... only to find that those denied charges were for the part where the doctor did the scraping of that rash Hannah had so that she wouldn't have to face a SECOND surgery in the future. I was terrified and about to vomit when they said there "was no pre-certification for that". I sat on hold for AT LEAST 10 minutes nauseous and churning. But don't worry the story has a happy ending.... after I provided the details they approved the claim... However, the damage the stress did to my heart, my body, and my spirit had already been done.  I feel like a boxer getting pummeled and just trying to make until the bell signals the end of the round. I am just WEARY... in fact as I just told my friend, I need a new word for weary that means MEGA weary... like way far beyond exhausted... past depleted... but not quite to dead... what's the word for that??? coma?

I guess by this point you are getting the fact that I'm begging for more prayers.... I know in my heart that even if I don't feel Him here at the end of me, He is here. I know in my heart that even if it seems like He missed His cue to intervene, He is not late. I know in ever fiber of my being HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN ME! But if I'm being gut-level honest, it sure doesn't feel that way.

Yesterday I retweeted Joyce Meyer:

It's easy to quit -- it takes faith to go through.

I'm trying y'all!  I promise I am trying to go through. And I'm not giving up. But if I'm being gut-level honest, I sure do want to.

Prayers MUCH appreciated!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Could you please pray for me???

I don't mean just for "US" over here. I'm actually asking for prayer for me... myself... It's nothing earth-shattering. It appears for the time being my hubby's brain is holding steady. Nothing is really "in the toilet"... But here's the deal:

1. I'm tired. I'm really, really, really tired. I decided yesterday that I'm not tired from the fact that I am again carrying the load of this entire family on just my back. [No offense to the guys out there, but let's all just be real: The mom typically carries most of the load anyway.] I realized that it isn't the carrying of John's share that is wearing me out. It is the fact that he CANNOT help me. It is the knowledge that when I run out of steam and the last drop is gone he can't pick up where I left off. Don't get me wrong, he has worked himself up to doing some stuff around here: laundry (what a folding maniac! you should have seen the living room on Sunday!), dishes, being the heavy with getting the kids back on schedule with school (just a FEW days off cuz daddy had a seizure and they are all kitty wambus!), and on Sunday night he stayed up and got the kids to bed. I got more sleep then I normally get in TWO nights (so much that I'm embarrassed to admit the exact number here on this forum)... So he's helping, BUT for example: the same Freecycler who gave us Kiah has some computers to get rid of. The kids DESPERATELY need a computer in their school station! She promised to hold them for us... I just need to get out there and get them. But I don't know how to fit in the one hour round trip to West Bend, and I can't ask John to do it cuz he can't drive. And it is only beginning... we have 5 more weeks of this!

2. I am DISCOURAGED about my writing. (Yes I purposely capitalized that word to try to show the depth of my discouragement.) I am so very discouraged. Maybe I'm not supposed to be a writer. Maybe I'm not gonna get published. Maybe God doesn't have something special for me to say. Sure my dad said the other day, "You're the best undiscovered writer I know." But I'm pretty sure they told John he had to say those kinds of things too when he got his "Father Badge." I'm going to tell you a secret: I'm writing a manuscript. I'm trying to finish it in time to submit it to the Women of Faith Writing Contest. (No, I'm not going to tell you what it is about yet.) When I started it about 3 1/2 weeks ago, I felt God was CALLING me to write it. Then John had a seizure, adding further confirmation that THIS topic was what I was supposed to write about. Now, I'm just discouraged.... my Demand Studios writing has TANKED. I've written TWO articles in the past three weeks. I used to average 25 - 35 a week. There is NO work to be had there. I have searched for other freelancing opportunities but haven't found any yet. I haven't written anymore of my manuscript since before John had the seizure. I don't have much time to blog right now. I just keep thinking maybe I misheard God. Maybe I wasn't supposed to start a platform with this blog and publish a book that would minister to people. *sigh*

So could you please pray for me? I would really appreciate it. I have my first official meeting with my new cheerleaders this Friday. The kids are finishing up swim and then diving RIGHT into basketball. John returns to work next Monday (I think we have a carpool worked out but please keep that in your prayers too... organizing and executing that is going to be FUN.) Elijah and Hannah are both sick. If you could lift me up in prayer today I would really appreciate it.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The load we bear...

Good morning everyone. I've spent a few days trying to catch up around here (and officially accepting the cheer coaching position at Heritage Christian School... Go Patriots!) and feel people may be wondering how things are going around here.

John is doing better physically. He seems to be adapting to his anti-seizure medication. While he is still dizzy, he now at least looks like he resides in this world, instead of appearing to be in la-la land all the time. The biggest prayer need related to John is for his spirit. He is just so DISCOURAGED... For a man who has always prided himself on his strength and power, being reduced to an infirm, restricted patient is NOT easy.

Jami is hanging in there. A little daunted by the task of taking care of EVERYTHING around this house again, but obviously not THAT scared as I still said yes to the cheerleading position.

Kids are fine. They are showing the wear and tear of their situation a little... one-by-one they have been dropping like flies to some icky cold bug that no doubt thought four slightly sleep deprived kiddos were a perfect target. But other than that they are doing well.

Laundry will be conquered TODAY!

Last night as we lay in bed, I could see how discouraged John was. I told him, "Babe, I know it stinks to keep going through this, AND I know this isn't fun to hear, but God is allowing us to bear this load because he knows we are strong enough to carry it." It is the Danielle Mabrey effect. When I had Danielle Mabrey on my squad, I knew that if I gave her something it would get DONE. It would be done on time. It would be done CORRECTLY. I never had to worry about that. As a result, I gave Danielle Mabrey more to do than I gave others. Was this fair? Not really. I was basically "rewarding" Danielle for being responsible by giving her more duties. But was it smart? Yups. Because Danielle had the tools to get the job done, it was the right decision to trust her with more.

I believe that is why we are "here again" in this muddle of this brain nonsense. God knows our shoulders are big and the size of our faith matches them. He knows that we trust Him. Is it fair that John Kastner has to deal with not one but THREE separate brain episodes, NEVER completely getting rid of them in between episodes? NOPE. But is it smart? Yups! Who better to proclaim God's power to the world that a stubborn, crusty old guy who refuses to give up and his Pollyanna-ish wife who never stops telling the whole world what they are going through??? We have the tools to get the job done.

So here's the lesson part:

What you are struggling with RIGHT now... What you are going through... I do NOT believe God would have allowed it into your life if He weren't SURE that you had the tools to get the job done. I'm not saying it will be EASY. I'm not saying you won't cry, scream, doubt or fear. But you WILL get the job done!

So go do it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Silver linings...

Phew! am I TIRED! The day went much as I suspected it would...with a few surprises thrown in for good measure... got to sleep in (woken by an unexpected call from my dear friend... didn't mind being woken AT ALL because phone chats with her are a RARE treat)... jetted downstairs to try to call through my work.... left a message for Dr. Ahuja's staff at 8 on the dot... was racing through all my work calls when I saw the number on my caller id... (it is SO sad that I know the first three numbers to the St. Luke's complex by heart)... Just as I suspected, Dr. Ahuja wanted to see John today. So I finished my work calls, loaded up the car (my plan was to jinx myself into NOT being admitted to the hospital by OVER-preparing... I KNOW we don't believe in jinxes BUT), I packed EVERYTHING, spare outfit for EVERYONE, laptop w/charger, phone chargers, contact case and glasses, my crochet bag, Auntie Marge... We put Kiah on the leash to stay outside all day so we wouldn't have a peed bed upon our return and LEFT...

We headed to my parents house (btw.. this is a WHOLE nother blog, BUT I have THE single most amazing family in the world... didn't even have to ASK my sisters to take charge of AM and the kiddos for me... just started the request... they knew where I was going... and VOILA I was at the neurosurgeon sitting peacefully next to ONLY John crocheting my little fingers off as we waited to see the Dr.)

Dr. Ahuja agreed with wacky Waukesha Memorial doctor (kinda).... He agree that John had another seizure... He agreed that it was likely related to that old aneurysm... However, he did not agree with the medication prescribed OR much else... He concurred what the pharmacist had revealed and discontinued TWO of John's current meds....  The anti-seizure meds that the Waukesha Memorial doctor put John on (along with a crazy high dosage) are what is causing the INTENSE dizziness. Dr. Ahuja prescribed a lower dosage of something different to prevent another seizure.

Here's the scoop:

John is out of work for the next 2 weeks.
After that, he can return to work with no restrictions other than that he cannot drive for another 4 weeks.
He has to see a neurologist about the seizures (we are already established with one in Hartford).
It was MENTIONED that if the medicine does not control the seizures, they would do surgery on the aneurysm. (but that is a WHOLE nother ball of wax that I am just LEAVING in my Lord's hands and REFUSING to worry about)

I am CHOOSING to look at the silver linings:

***We did NOT get admitted to the hospital, nor did we have to schedule another angioplasty of the aneurysm as had been suggested in the first call to the doctor.
***I got a LOT of my crocheting done while we waited.
***I get an ENTIRE two weeks with my baby home... a quieter pace... less chaos...
***The dizziness should subside shortly and will NOT be something John has to live with the rest of his life.

I just won't even focus on the negatives... I'm not even ALLOWING them into the perimeter of my vision! My God will take care of the icky parts and I'm just gonna PRAISE Him for the good parts... THE END!

Thank you for your continued prayers. I'm off to Walmart to get some scrips filled!

Who to believe....

Well, good morning all. Sorry I didn't get an update posted yesterday... Catching up is not for the faint of heart! Even though my neighbor took the time to do ALL of my dishes while she was caring for my aunt and the dog in our absence, I still had quite a bit to catch up on around here:

*TONS of laundry
*a little shopping
*cleaning up after what looked like a tornado blew through our house
*making lists titled: What to bring if I'm rushing out the door to the ER. and What medications John takes.
*making dinner
*showering the elderly and infirm that I care for
*loving on my babies who I missed SO much during that 24 hour hiatus

I wanted to provide a few more details so you can be praying:

1. we are trying to get in touch with OUR neurosurgeon. We are NOT at peace about what the neurologist at Waukesha Memorial told us, prescribed, et al... He (after just two tests and seeing John two times) basically contradicted MUCH of what our neurosurgeon has told us over the past 2 1/2 years. We are VERY confused and don't trust him at all because we trust Dr. Ahuja. We did not fill the medication the Wauk Mem doctor gave us (in fact even the pharmacist said, "Wow! this is a drastic change from what he's been on in the past... and there is a current med that should be discontinued if they are going to take this route.") and have left a message with Dr. Ahuja's office this morning. We are waiting to see what OUR doctor has to say.

2. John is bouncing back a little, but he is still VERY dizzy. He lost his balance this morning and fell to the ground. Thank goodness he was in an open area and there was nothing for him to knock his head on!

I wanted to say THANK YOU for all your support. You just do NOT know how much even just a short e-mail or quick comment means to us. Just knowing that we are on so many people's hearts and minds and most importantly in your prayers really buoys us during these times.

I'm sorry if I don't take the time to answer each e-mail and comment... I'm just way beyond swamped and trying HARD to listen to my Momma's nagging, "Take care of YOURSELF, Jami!" It is hard to keep all these balls in the air AND make sure I am getting a little rest too... So please forgive me if I don't reply to your messages... know that I DO appreciate them and I am FOREVER grateful for your support.

Finally, to the lesson part... I updated my boss this morning and in her reply she said, "I'll bet you wonder what the heck is going on and who to believe?" It got me thinking... I know she meant "who to believe" in reference to which doctor to believe... but the first thing that flew into my mind is I know who to believe.... I believe God... and He says he will never leave me or forsake me... He says He has a plan to give me a hope and a future... He says consider the lilies of the field....

I know who to believe. And I'm believing He will carry us through this yet again.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Hand of God....

We're home... I'm exhausted... I am suffering from a VICIOUS sleep deprivation headache, BUT I have to stay up a little longer to get our comforter out of the dryer (puppy left alone had an accident on our bed). Before I go to bed I wanted to quickly give credit to the Hand of God which was ALL over this most recent chapter in the saga of our life.

1. Atlanta... In August, we made plans for me to take a "women's retreat" to see my brown-skinned Momma in Atlanta. We put it on our calendar, scheduled it with Ros, and started shopping for airplane tickets. Just a few days before I needed to buy my ticket, I started to get this catch in my spirit... This just wasn't the right timing. I told Ros that with how much John's pain had been flaring up, I did not have a peace about flying to Atlanta and leaving him with the children. What if he had a flare up while I was gone? Then a few weeks ago my writing job TANKED out of the blue. I thought, "See! That's what God was protecting me from!" I figured God was protecting me from the "leanness" of our budget. Until Friday night... see my trip was scheduled from Thursday 10/20 to Sunday 10/23. I would have been IN Atlanta when John had the seizure.

2. Jean & Tanisha... Last night as we drove to McDonald's to get dinner, Tanisha said, "I'm just so glad we got home in time." Apparently she and Jean had been out running errands. They arrived home just 10 minutes before John started seizing. If they had not arrived home when they did, Noah would have been handling the situation virtually alone. As it is Noah was very traumatized by what he witnessed. I can only imagine what would have happened if he had been alone.

Besides these two MAJOR examples, there were many, many small things God worked out to bring the best outcome possible for us.

Now I know that some of you may be reading this thinking, "This girl is LOONY!" Her husband just had his second seizure in a year, his fourth hospitalization in just over two years.... his condition is unknown [we're just waiting till Monday to connect with John's neurosurgeon... no answers... no clue...] right now... our future is quite uncertain.

But I am not CRAZY! I saw the Hand of God ALL over this latest episode and it ENCOURAGED me in the midst of my terror... it calmed me in the midst of the storm....

I have NO idea why God is taking us through yet ANOTHER season of this nonsense.... I don't know if my faith needs to be perfected... I don't know if my spirit needs to be broken... I don't know if one of my readers needs to be encouraged by my testimony...I have NO idea... but you know what? I don't have to know WHY I am going through this... I just have to know WHO is taking me through... and He is right by my side... He orchestrated every last detail of this ICKY situation because He had OUR best interests in mind.

Last night when I finally got to the emergency room, Noah came to me and collapsed in my arms.

I said, "Noah, I am SO proud of how you responded today! You were SO brave!"
He said, "But mom I was SO afraid!"
I told him, "Noah, courage is not about whether you were afraid or not. Courage is being afraid and acting anyway."

Tonight I tell you, "Readers... faith isn't about whether you're afraid or not... faith is about trusting God even WHEN you are afraid."

I'm not gonna lie... I am TERRIFIED of the medical cesspool I am swimming in right now... but even though I'm afraid, I trust God. I know His Hand is over me... I know He has me covered.'

Thank you for your prayers! I feel them keeping me strong!

Friday, October 21, 2011

You just never know....

I woke up late this morning... because John didn't have to work, we slept in till nearly 7 which put me 2 hours behind... so I didn't hop in the shower... I just raced downstairs to start my busy work day. John and Noah left right away to meet up with Dave Loftis (John's former Pastor) and then head over to work on his sister's house.

I was busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger in the basement. I had been FLOODED with work Wednesday and Thursday so I was working, working, working.... I laid down next to Hannah to get her to fall asleep and woke up to a call from John. The second he started talking, I could tell something was not right. When I asked, he said, "I just don't feel well." I asked him to explain.... He said his face was tingling and his arm was numb. I had him call Noah over... I asked Noah to have John squeeze both of his hands. Noah started saying, "Daddy... Daddy..." He said, "Mom, Dad's not answering me." A flurry of activity began:

"Auntie Jean's calling 911."
I flew out of bed... started throwing on clothes and shouting to the kids... "Get dressed! We're leaving NOW!"
I headed down the hallway to tell Auntie Marge, "John is being taken to the hospital. We are leaving."
Took a second to text my sister, "It's happening again. John is being 911'd to the hospital. Spread the word and pray!"
As I jetted to the car, snatching my purse from the coat hook, I called the neighbor, "Rushing to the hospital... can you check in on Auntie Marge later?"
Hopped in the car only to have a call from the paramedic, "Mrs. Kastner, can you give us your husband's health history?"
As I rattled off the details I knew by heart, I lost the call. FLIPPIN cell coverage in the boonies!!!
Called the EMTs back... finished the health history. Called my nephew and my sister to get directions to the hospital.
Flying down the country highways.... the gas light turned on! GRRRRR! Really???? Stopped for gas... called John's daughters... took a call from Noah... talked to my sister... called Joe Prag to tell him not to meet John at his sister's this afternoon.... talked to John's mom... talked to my mom... yet STILL I had time left to kill and worries FILLING my head... I called my other sister to gab and have her keep my mind off my worries.


I wanted to scream! I wanted to cry! I wanted to rage at the world! I don't want to do this again! I didn't want to do this tonight (or EVER). I'm tired! It's been a long week!


So here I sit... we've been admitted to the hospital for testing... they think it is a seizure (which was the suspected culprit last year) but they have to do more testing to be sure.

This sure wasn't part of our plan for the weekend... tonight was supposed to be an NCIS marathon... tomorrow Savana's birthday party for the kids while John & I went on a date.... Sunday Amanda & James over for dinner...

Instead it was John's sister and boyfriend, niece and boyfriend, Amanda and James, the kids and I eating McD in the lobby of the emergency room tonight. Tomorrow, the kids will still get to go to Savana's party... doubt John will be released from this place in time for our date.... Noah stayed at the hospital with us (he by the way was VERY freaked out by the entire experience -- praying for God to remove the terrifying memories from his head).

I guess it just goes to show... that you NEVER know what each day will bring... kiss the ones you love... be GLAD if you are at home tonight instead of at the hospital... remember that we are NEVER promised the plans we've made for tomorrow... And just be GRATEFUL for what you have...

I am! I am GRATEFUL that John is in a hospital room instead of the morgue. I am GRATEFUL that my babies have an Oma & Poppa who love them and take them in without a second thought. I am GRATEFUL that I wasn't in Atlanta this weekend like I was supposed to be. I am GRATEFUL that Jean & Tanisha came home just 10 minutes before John's seizure so Noah wouldn't have to handle that alone. I am grateful for neighbors who let out my dog and take care of my aunt. I am grateful for stepdaughters who RUSH to the hospital to help. I am GRATEFUL!!!!!

Have a great night all! Love to all my Facebook friends! (WOW! my FB notifications are INSANE tonight!) our family, our neighbors, our friends... who have COVERED us in a blanket of prayer, rushed in to take care of us, stood on the ready... we literally COULD NOT make it through these things without all of you.  THANKS!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday...

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for a hardworking husband. (I know I included him in last week's Thankful Thursday so this is kinda cheating to be thankful for him AGAIN, but he really is a GREAT guy who deserves to be blogged about a second time.)

I am thankful that my hubby is HARDWORKING.
I am thankful that my hubby loves so FIERCLY.
I am thankful that my hubby is HOT. (You know you were thinking this too! You just know it isn't appropriate for you to say it!)
I am thankful that my hubby wears these VERY STRONG love goggles... (He thinks I'm just as beautiful as the day we met! REALLY??? do you SEE this gray? have you NOTICED the extra ____ lbs.??? He's crazy but I'm glad!)
I am thankful that my hubby is MINE. God picked the PERFECT person to complete me and I am THANKFUL!

So.... it's Thankful Thursday y'all!  What are YOU thankful for???

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Worship Wednesday: Stronger

[I know it's not Worship Wednesday yet, but it is Worship Wednesday Eve... that counts right?]

So this day has been spiraling downward. Not to be a Polly Pooper, but -- BEWARE! of days that start out a little too good to be true. So I was feeling down in the dumps... discouraged by the lack of writing assignments at Demand Media, downtrodden by thoughts of my nasty vehicular situation, and beaten down by my inability to connect with my honey because of his AWFUL defective HTC phone. Then to top it all off... I started feeling nauseous.... (LOATHE vomiting!) I laid down to rest for a few minutes and awoke still feeling like I was going to blow chunks. I reached deep down in my cheerleading bag of tricks and pulled out my DETERMINATION... you know that stuff I used to use when there were 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter and my team was down by 15 points. I forced myself to make an espresso and sit at the kitchen table doing math with Jeremiah. I did NOT feel like it. I was willing myself not to vomit. I just wanted this day to GO AWAY.

I didn't notice Hannah playing with my phone... [AMAZES me what apps this girl can launch by herself] She launched Pandora and all of a sudden Mandisa's Stronger was POURING out of my phone. (I swore I blogged about Stronger before, but I can't find it. How is it POSSIBLE that I haven't blogged about the one and only Mandisa before???)

Now for those of you who don't know this... I <3 Mandisa! She inspires me! She makes me laugh! I follow her on Twitter and she actually responded to my tweet once! AHHHHHHHHHHH!  Have you ever seen Notting Hill? Where Hugh Grant's sister is that actress with the googly eyes and the red hair that sticks up? When she follows Julia Roberts (who's playing a celebrity in the movie) into the bathroom? Just before that she tells Julia, "I absolutely and totally and utterly adore you and I think you're the most beautiful woman in the world and more importantly I genuinely believe and have believed for some time now that we can be best friends." Well I am the googly eyed redhead to Mandisa's Julia Roberts! I truly believe if we met, Mandisa and I would be BEST friends! [go ahead John J. Kastner... MOCK me... but I think Mandisa could be my friend!]

So anywhoos... besides the fact that I MAJORLY adore Mandisa... this song!  ohhhhhh this song! It reminds me of the DIFFICULTIES of 2009... brain surgery, moving, out of work, BAH! I just LOVE and ADORE it.

And then one more thing... the TIMING! it was PERFECT! Here I am down in the dumps... trying not to puke... wishing it were the end of this awful day... AND my sweet little princess conspires with my celebrity BFF to CHANGE MY DAY! Even Elijah refusing to write the days of the week on his math paper is not irritating me as much as before.

Thank you Mandisa! In the hopes that you can change someone else's day, I'm gonna attempt to embed the video for Stronger here:

Btw... just in case the AMAZING Mandisa stops by this page, when Pandora opened and this album cover came up, Hannah pointed at your picture and said, with awe in her voice, "Mom, she's BEAUTIFUL!" Yups... I know how to pick my friends ;)

[P.S. OHMIGOSH y'all!!!  read the comments! she read it! SEE! I told you! we'll be BFF's some day... maybe not till Heaven but that's okay too]

Soooooo discouraged....

I'm so discouraged right now. I NEED to post something to ONE of my sites to test if I fixed this silly problem with my new homepage... only I have no encouraging remarks to give at this moment in time.

Why does it so often seem you take three steps forward only to get knocked back two steps? ergh! So frustrating!

I supposed I should re-read my own blog and stop #1 and get on with #2 but sometimes #1 is so darn much fun! I'm tired of uncertainty in my job, insecurity in my worth, instability in my LIFE! I just wanna live in Utopia... no stress... no conflict... no jalopies... no work shortages... FLAPJACKS!

Well that's long enough for a test post I suppose....

Nelly Negativity is signing off... heading to find a little caffeine infusion that will change her into Polly Positive.

Peace out....

Words with Friends

I <3 this game!  A little too much I think.... And ever since Words with Friends connected with Facebook I found WAY too many of my FB friends on Words and have WAY too many games in the works at one time!

Anywhoos this morning I was trying to jet through my turn on all of my games... I looked at my tiles with bewilderment... stared at the jam-packed board in confusion... and wondered what in the WORLD I was going to spell with this situation. At that point I had several choices:

1. complain about my bad tiles and the lack of space on the board
2. make do as best I can with what I've been given
3. quit

We have the same choices in life you know. When we are looking at the "Scrabble board" of life with bewilderment. When we're thinking, how in the world am I going to pay the bills with so little money? How in the world am I going to get out of bed with all of this pain? How will I pick up the pieces of my heart and continue on?

We have some choices:

1. complain about our bad lot in life
2. make do as best we can with what we've been given
3. quit

I think most of us pick a combination of 1 and 2. I know I do a lot. This morning, I grumbled my way through an "f", a "g" and a "v" with no e's in sight and settled on "fig" just missing the "triple word" tile, GRRRRR! But I did the best I could with what I was given (after a bit of complaining). There are definitely those who just quit... diving headfirst into a pile of drugs, food, booze.... escaping in whatever way they can.

Here's today's secret:

Life sometimes give you an "f", a "g", and a "v" with NO "e" in sight!!! We don't all end up with viesruq (it spells quivers... for the Words-with-friends-handicapped). But here's the big difference between Words with Friends and this game called life... God's goal for us isn't a HUGE point total at the end. He doesn't want you to die with the most toys, the most children, the most accolades, EVEN the most souls won for Him.... This isn't a competition for who is the best. This game called life is about the journey... It's about stretching that money as far as you can and leaving the rest up to Him. It's about getting out of bed one more morning and gutting your way through the pain. It's about picking up the pieces of your broken heart and giving this ONE MORE CHANCE. It is about what I will do when I'm dealt 5 "i"s an "e" and an "a". It is about how I handle the viersruq and the iieiiai.

It is all about HOW you play the game.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Well, we HAVE a driveway!  A beautiful, paved with asphalt DRIVEWAY!

The asphalt guy called Thursday night to report they were coming on Friday, and the kids and I spent at least 3 to 5 minutes jumping up and down and cheering, "Asphalt tomorrow! Asphalt tomorrow!"  It was EXCITING!

The next morning we arose and the momma had a GREAT idea! Drop all planned lessons and turn this asphalt into a project... One great learning experience.... Only I didn't know that God had a lesson planned for me too.

On WONDERFUL Wednesday, the men arrived to grade the driveway. They scooped it out, flattened it to even and packed it down tight. By Thankful Thursday, we already had a gorgeous, flat dirt driveway. But since flat dirt does not last long, we needed more. On Friday.... OH FRIDAY...

I watched the men pour the steaming hot blacktop onto our driveway,

scrape it flat with a BIG ugly machine

and then press it down tight with a HEAVY steamroller.

As you saw in my very first picture, the results were beautiful! [and functional too]

As this process unfolded in front of my eyes I saw an analogy forming. This driveway paving project made me think of the struggles we endure in life. See sometimes WE are my driveway... full of fissures, pot holes, and bare spots. When people come in contact with us they have to bounce along over the flaws, hanging on for dear life to avoid being hurt.

Every once in a while we come to the realization that we need some work. We might pray a furtive, "God, give me patience." or "Lord, I want to trust you more." Sometimes someone else prays the prayer, "Father, get a hold of my daughter's heart!" or "Jesus, PLEASE change my spouse."

In He comes with His shovels and rakes, flattening out the rough patches and evening out our landscape. This part isn't too uncomfortable. You know the part where He reveals to us, "It is YOU being selfish." or "You don't have RIGHT motives." how bout "Your spending habits are out of whack." or "You should NOT be in relationship with that person." It's uncomfortable, humbling, maybe a little embarrassing. But at the end of it we are flattened out, smooth, functional. We don't hurt people as much with our flaws fixed by the grace of God.

He could just leave us like that... a dirt road, flat and functional... but if He did, it really wouldn't last long. The rain would reform the gulleys, the wind would blow away the dirt, eventually we'd be right back to where we were in the first place.

It is smarter if He sends in the asphalt guys. Ya, that's the PAINFUL part. Hot, steaming asphalt poured on top of us... job eliminated, child sick, car broken down.... The asphalt is scraped flat and pressed down nice and tight. It isn't fun. It is PAINFUL! All that black hot asphalt of affliction... the scraping away until it is nice and flat... and then as if to add insult to injury the steamroller comes out and rolls over and over and OVER us.

Right now we're in the place where our cars are parked on the road. We have to let the blacktop settle a little before we can drive on it. Struggles are that way too. I find at the end of a really rough patch where God has flattened me out and laid some asphalt on top of what He was teaching me, He typically puts up a little rope and flag barrier at the end to keep troubles away for a short season. [sometimes so short that if I blink I miss it!]

In the end, the Kastner family ended up with a BEAUTIFUL and FUNCTIONAL new driveway... solid and firm... able to withstand the weather, the traffic, the skateboards, bikes and bouncing balls....

In the end, you will end up with a BEAUTIFUL and FUNCTIONAL spirit... solid and firm... able to withstand the trials, the everyday traffic....

If God's paving you today, hang on. Let Him work. It may inconvenience you, cause you pain, smell kinda bad but in the end the results will be BEAUTIFUL.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday....

Yesterday as I was running the marathon of midweek services carpool (I so did NOT miss my calling as a soccer mom), Jeremiah was ruminating on his favorite holiday.

He said, "Mom, wanna know what my favorite holiday is?"
I said, "Sure Jeremiah."
He replied, "It's a tie between Christmas - cuz that's when Jesus was born, and Easter - because that's when he rose from the dead."

[THAT child! Oh heavenly day! he grabs my gut almost every time he opens his mouth!]

I told him those were great choices, and then revealed my favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving, because I love being thankful. A short while later (alone in the van for a few brief moments) "Thankful Thursdays" popped into my head.  What a GREAT idea! Why wait to be thankful only one day a year???  So a new tradition is born. To start us out, I am posting

Top Ten Things I am Thankful for this Thursday

1. Jesus... my Jesus... He will always be the #1 thing I am thankful for. He makes ALL of the rest of these thankful things possible. He carries me when I'm weak. He holds me when I'm sad. He cheers me when I'm weary. What else can I say? I am thankful for Jesus!

2. John Joseph Kastner... What an amazing man! Really!  He IS! Hardworking, dedicated, fierce... the yin to my yang... I am thankful for John Joseph Kastner!

3. my babies... oh my babies! these children push me to my limits... they test me, try me and purify my faith.... they inspire me, encourage me and LOVE me... my children are definitely my treasure. I am thankful for my children!

4. asphalt... I am thankful for this wonderful thing called asphalt... yesterday our driveway was graded and then a nifty steamroller came and packed it down (the kids are LOVING having Bob the Builder in our front yard I tell you!) and within the next few days... ASPHALT will be poured, rolled, shoveled (I don't know or really care how they get it on there all I know is they will GET IT ON THERE!) onto our driveway. I am thankful for asphalt!

keep rollin, rollin, ROLLIN!

5. Demand Media.... in spite of the drama and the DRASTIC slow down in title availability, it is an AMAZING opportunity which has jump started my freelance writing career and for that I am grateful. I am thankful for Demand Media!

6. my new duster... this one may seem silly to you, but my allergies have been AWFUL lately. I am pretty sure it is because I haven't dusted since... ummmm idk Spring???  so last night at Walmart I bought the most AMAZING duster! under $3... it has a REMOVABLE, WASHABLE microstatic dust cover thingy... So I don't have to buy pricey refills!!!  I'm pretty sure its my favorite purchase this fall! As an added side-benefit, it has me feeling quite eco-friendly... It is EASY being green today! I am thankful for my new duster!

Look at all that DUST already!

7. cool bulletin board... One man's trash SURELY is another man's treasure! My mom did some de-cluttering and look what I got! I just love the organizational spirit behind a bulletin board! Isn't it awesome? This pic is from when we first hung it... it's MUCH fuller now... Every time I walk by it, I smile a little bit. I am thankful for my cool bulletin board.

8. my mom is HOME from Rwanda... My mom spent nearly two weeks in Rwanda ministering to the orphans and widows who are suffering from war and genocide. It was life changing and AWESOME for her and I'm glad she went, but I'm thankful my mom is HOME from Rwanda!

9. coffee... what kind of a thankful list would this be without coffee??? I have a brand new favorite mug (another one of my Momma's castoffs) and some coffee all the way from Rwanda... although truthfully haven't been able to use the coffee yet... have to get my hands on a coffee grinder (Walmart didn't have any... grrrr!) Still... I am thankful for coffee!

10. homeschooling... I am so grateful that I get to homeschool my babies. It is the BEST, most challenging thing I have ever done, and I wouldn't trade it for the world! Not gonna lie, every once in awhile I log onto the Mayville School District's website to see when "real school" starts and ends... (just dreaming y'all!) but in spite of the struggles I am SO glad I homeschool! (If you're interested, hop on over to my homeschooling blog to learn more.) I am thankful for homeschooling!

Thus ends our very first Thankful Thursday. I'd love it if you'd play along. You don't have to list 10 things, but maybe you could take a second to quickly post a comment? just ONE thing you are thankful for today... c'mon! I'm sure you can come up with ONE!

Quick comment tutorial for the comment-impaired:

1. See that gray box down there? it is underneath my pink signature... a little further... underneath that row of pictures entitled "You might also like"... In that box it says "0 comments"... click on THAT!

2. In the box under "Leave your comment" type just ONE thing you are thankful for

3. Choose an identity... (anonymous is a PERFECTLY valid choice!)

4. Click on "Publish your comment"

5. Do not be alarmed that your comment doesn't show up right away... I have it set up so all comments require approval.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A GREAT day to wake up!!!

This morning I woke up to random men standing in my driveway. That may not seem like a GREAT way to wake up, but hang on until the end of the story, you will see how great it was. I rolled out of bed, located my glasses, threw on the first jacket I could find to cover my pjs [found $10 in the pocket! WOOT! WOOT! It IS gonna be a GREAT day!], threw a mint in my mouth [GOLLY my morning breath is BAD when I actually sleep at night!], and headed out to see what was up.

With my bleary, sleep-clouded eyes I could not read the words on the side of the trucks, but I could tell it had to do with my driveway. You know about my driveway right?  It first burst onto the scene of My Life as a Lesson way back in 2009, when we first moved in and John had to have brain surgery. It plays a quite notable place in my life. [If you have ever seen it, you know why...] I have mentioned it on this blog at least 10 times.

Every time it rains, a little more of our driveway washes away. Before this morning we had a rut down the east side of our driveway that looked like a fault line in a low-budget earthquake movie.

Our landlord told us this spring that he was just going to get some quotes for blacktop and have it paved in the fall, but over the summer we learned the blacktop prices were pretty high, and he wasn't sure it was going to happen this year.

So when I walked out there I was sure the guys were going to say they were laying down another layer of stone, which in and of itself would be GREAT! When the first guy I reached said, we're getting ready to blacktop the driveway. I looked at him in shock! The next guy confirmed his assertion, but STILL I made the boss guy tell me again! I swear I wanted to plant a big wet kiss on each of those asphalt guys! OHMIGOSH! We're getting blacktop! We're getting blacktop! We're getting BLACKTOP!

It is like Christmas in October around here and I literally can't stop the jumping up and down feeling inside my heart!

Don't worry.... there's a lesson coming....

Remember when you were that excited over God? Remember when He came into your life and forgave your sins and saved your soul from a fiery eternity in the pit of hell? Remember when he miraculously provided (for that car, that house, that bill)? Remember when he got your husband through brain surgery, carried your child through chemotherapy, provided those "benign" test results?

This jumping up and down feeling inside of me keeps reminding me that EVERY SINGLE day I should feel like that! Every single day is a GREAT day to wake up! I don't need random dudes in my driveway blacktopping it for this day to be GREAT! God loves me! Jesus saved me from my sin! I have a place in Heaven that NO ONE and NOTHING can take away!

It is a GREAT day to wake up!  Hope you can see that too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Be careful little eyes what you see....

Do you remember singing this song as a child???

Be careful little eyes what you see.
Be careful little eyes what you see.
Cuz the Father up above is looking down in love so,
Be careful little eyes what you see.

Idk if "Be careful little mouth what you speak" was a real verse; however, it is the verse that has been ringing in my head lately.

See I've realized that these four gorgeous beings I gave birth to are like little TAPE RECORDERS. They parrot back the things I have said to them with STUNNING accuracy (now do they actually apply the ones like, "Close the fridge!" "Rinse your dishes." "Wash your hands." not so much...), but they hear and remember.... typically the things I either didn't know they were listening to or that I wish they hadn't heard.

This morning Jeremiah said to Elijah, "Lying is like slapping God in the face. Mom TOLD me that!"

I thought, That's actually good! but when in the WORLD did I say that???

Other occurrences as of late have just really been bringing to the forefront of my mind that the words I speak are powerful and I need to be CAREFUL how I wield them.

However, there's another verse to this song too....

Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little ears what you hear

Sometimes that verse is EASILY applied. Recently Hannah came around the corner singing lyrics to a Katy Perry song... the application of which COMPLETELY escaped her, but hearing those words from my innocent princess's mouth was JUST enough to get me to turn THAT song off next time it came on the radio (or on Glee).

Sometimes it is not so easy. This past summer, I've been REALLY forced to teach my children to be CAREFUL how they hear other people. Sometimes they get stuck in this mentality that says, "I know what he meant!" They are often running up to me and saying, "I know he MEANT to hurt me. I know he MEANT to say (or do) that." I have another saying for those times, "You cannot know another man's heart."

It is SO true. Often I think we take offense, make judgments, assume hurts when the other person NEVER, EVER in a million years meant the word or action the way we interpreted it. I am a FIRM believer in the fact that we are responsible not just for the words we say but for the delivery of those words as well. If I say something that hurts or offends someone, even if I did NOT intend it the way it was taken, I am RESPONSIBLE for the hurt I caused.  However, I also believe in what my sister and I call "assuming benevolent intent." My sister Jodi and I frequently converse about the fact that we are BOUND by Christ's blood to assume that someone did NOT mean anything mean, vicious or sinful with their words until we have confirmation FROM THE PERSON that they meant that. When we feel hurt, we aim to assume benevolent (good, painless, harm-free) intent.

I try hard to teach my children this by following up the, "You cannot know another person's heart." message by telling them it is their JOB as a Christian to assume the best in people. That is WHAT Jesus would do.

My challenge to you today is to pick up these glasses I am extending to you. They are glasses that view the world as NOT out to get them. They are glasses that ALWAYS assumes the best in people. They are glasses that view hurt as UNINTENTIONAL. They are glasses that protect your eyes from seeing faults and slights until it is CONFIRMED that they were intended. They are glasses that help you ASSUME BENEVOLENT INTENT.

These glasses aren't that easy to wear. This world is FULL of people who are self-centered, crass and even CRUEL. But I believe these glasses help us to see people (and situations) the way Christ wants us to see them. Because more often than not, when wearing them, I see that people are more guilty of thoughtlessly choosing words or mis-speaking than they are of lying, slandering or trying to hurt me.

Be careful little eyes what you see.
Be careful little eyes what you see.
Cuz the Father up above is looking down in love so,
Be careful little eyes what you see.

Now, I gotta run. I gotta put MY glasses back on and then go apologize to my hubby for looking at him this morning before I had them properly in place.

Love y'all!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The application of my posts....

Yesterday I got an e-mail about my What ifs... post. As I read it I started to feel a bit of disappointment settle on my shoulders because the person had focused on something that wasn't really my point at all. When all of a sudden it hit me!  HARD!

It is okay if seven different people get seven different applications from my writing. I am NOT the one in control of what comes out of these fingers of mine. I write what's on my heart. I write what God is walking me through, and HE applies it to your here and now. All of a sudden I realized that it is GOOD if someone comments on or highlights a point I never intended, because that shows me that God is working. And if I wrote in such a way that EVERYONE only got MY intended purpose, then not nearly as many people would be touched by the words on this site.

Then I started wondering... how much of the rest of our life is tinged by that? I read the book Heaven is For Real this summer on the badgering urging of my mother. She wanted me to read it because it gave her such real and vivid visions of what Heaven will be like. I read it, thoroughly enjoyed it, BAWLED like a baby through it, but almost none of my enjoyment and bawling had to do with Heaven. Almost none of my "Aha!" moments came from the parts about Heaven. You know what hit me? You know what ministered to me? The similarities of that family to Job. The way thing after thing after THING kept happening to them, and they kept plodding on. That's what hit me. See as I read that book, I RELATED to their story. I could feel their pain. I know the pain of walking through the valley of Chiari Malformation, financial destitution, moving FAR away from loved ones, my life FALLING apart, all within the span of a few short months. Therefore, I bawled like a baby because I felt I had found some kindred spirits, a story I could relate to, company in my loneliness. Was that the thesis of this book? Nope. Was that the story the authors aimed to tell? Nope. But guess what it was the part that hit ME.

The point of my writing, the point of our lives, the point of our ministry isn't OUR AIM... It is just simply that people are touched. It isn't about the message I am trying to convey. It is about the message that God is bringing home to each and every individual reader. This isn't MY blog. It is God's. My job is simply to write what is on my heart. It is His job to apply some part to your individual situation.

So go ahead... glean WHATEVER you want from this post... I'm just grateful that you glean.
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