Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tomorrow is the day...

12/19.... post-op appointment... excited... nervous.... expectant.... hopeful....

Tomorrow a.m. John is going to get an xray then just before lunch we meet with Dr. Ahuja for results.

We are praying for:

1. the xray to reveal bone growth
2. to be moved to a soft collar neck brace
3. to be RELEASED to return to work

Will you please pray with us???

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Please pray for me....

This always seems to backfire on me.... when I ask for prayer I get prayer, but I also get some people attacking me for being too open about my needs or some people sending unsolicited advice (which is usually like lemon juice in a papercut) to help me fix my problem or just flat out JUDGEMENT about how I could be so open and honest and say what is really going on.  However, because I know that I desperately NEED those prayers that will come (Roz, Terri, Peggy, Renee, my sisters, MOM... you know who you are!!!) I have to put this out there and risk the other gunk.

I am REALLY and truly drowning a lil bit over here.  I can't remember the last time I had a full day off to just do nothing. I get up and start working at 6 a.m., and I literally don't get done with everything until around 9 p.m. EVERY night. My weekends have been fuller than my weekdays lately and through it all I am trying to carry the weight of another medical trial. Things are falling apart a little in my house. It's a MESS and I am trying to stay ahead of the chaos but it isn't really working. Cheerleading is amping up as well.... homecoming week is next week and (well anyone even slightly familiar with cheerleading or with high school for that matter knows how crazy a homecoming week gets)... I'm helping with the Christmas program at church and as you can all read a calendar I'm sure you realize that is coming quickly. And because that stuff hasn't seemed to crush me, Satan has started throwing all sorts of other unrelated little "flaming arrows" at me.

Every time I end up in one of these situations I think, SURELY I am as tired/overwhelmed/exhausted/under attack as I could ever be, but NOPE!  Each time I hit a brand new level of tired/overwhelmed/exhausted/under attack.

So once again like I did in a recent blog, I guess I will focus on what I know:

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

God IS with me.  No matter what it FEELS like. No matter how hard the battle rages. No matter what the devil throws at me. God IS WITH ME.... right beside me... in the thick of the fray... He will NEVER leave me or forsake me.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I need to confess these struggles to my friends/family.... so you can pray for me.... so I will be delivered through these struggles.  because YOUR prayers are powerful and effective.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

I need to equip myself.... pray and read the Word and praise God and ask for prayer and then I just need to stand. When I have done everything else I just need to STAND. It doesn't have to be pretty..... or perfect... The Bible doesn't say when you have done everything stand victorious and strong without mud on your face. It says after you have done everything, to STAND.

Thank you faithful friends who have journeyed with us through 4 long years of "in sickness".... Thank you new friends who are just catching the sequel of our story.... Thank you ALL and please whatever you do, PRAY that I might be able to STAND in spite of all Satan's attacks.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An update on John...

I'm sorry!  I know this post is HOPELESSLY overdue!  I should have written last week. The only excuse I have is that I have literally been racing from task to task for 8 days straight hardly getting a chance to take a breath.  (What else is new, right?)



John's surgery went SO well. There had been fears that since the MRI they were going off of was quite old, that when they got in there they would need to fuse more vertebrae then anticipated. However, when Dr. Ahuja came out to update me after surgery, he said that it looked better than expected when they opened John up, and the surgery went extremely well. WE SERVE A GREAT GOD!

This was literally the best hospital stay we have had in the past 4 years (which is saying something because John has been hospitalized 6 time since 2009!) Every single nurse, CNA, receptionist, doctor, therapist, security guard we encountered was AWESOME!  They were kind, friendly, helpful. Seriously if you need to go to the hospital, Kenosha Medical Center is the place to go! We were only in the hospital for 28 hours from check-in to discharge.  WE SERVE A GREAT GOD!

John is adhering STRICTLY to all the restrictions the Dr. gave:  no driving, lifting only 8 to 10 pounds, wear the neck brace CONSTANTLY.  For those of you who know him, I'm sure this comes as quite a surprise. John Joseph Kastner following the rules?!?!?!?  Really???  All I can say is:  WE SERVE A GREAT GOD!

Recovery is going EXCEPTIONALLY well! Every day, John gets a little stronger and his pain diminishes a little more. Just 8 days after surgery, and he is already taking less pain medication then he has taken in years!  We were able to attend my family's Thanksgiving celebration just 2 days after surgery, AND we made it to church this past Sunday! We are VERY optimistic about the success of this procedure, and we KNOW it is because:  WE SERVE A GREAT GOD!


For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
Psalm 86:10

Please continue in prayer for us.
*We are praying about John's 12/19 post-op appointment. At that appointment, we NEED the x-ray to reveal bone growth so that the Dr. will clear John to return to work.
*Also pray for me.  This Momma is WIPED OUT!  Monday I dove HEAD FIRST back into my regular schedule:  worked 5 hours, homeschooled, coached cheer, cared for a recovering hubby, an old lady, and a newborn. I am SO far beyond exhausted at this point and IT IS ONLY MONDAY! But don't worry.  I haven't forgotten

WE SERVE A GREAT GOD!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The things that I know...

My heart is full yet somehow the road by which these feelings typically travel out of my heart is blocked..... clogged.
I'm searching for just the right analogy to explain the raw and unadultered fear,  chaos and tension that is bubbling just under the surface of this calm exterior I'm trying to put forth.
Have you ever read the B book? It's an easy reader we have in our library. Pages and pages of B things are introduced. All balancing precariously on a bear on a ball until at last the tiniest bird lands atop the pile, and CRASH the whole thing comes tumbling down. Maybe that's the word picture I'm searching for.
I'm in the midst of a CRAZY full weekend which ends a VERY busy week. I hosted a brunch this morning,  coached a game after that and rushed to teach Christmas choreography after that all while developing a nasty cold. Tomorrow will bring the teaching of more choreography, prepping for the week and a cabke guy appointment.  Then Monday a FULL day of work,  capped off by cheer practice.   I am holding this all together.... placing my ducks in a row... yet still there is this eerie feeling that one tiny little bird atop my pile and CRASH it will ALL come tumbling down.
So what's a girl to do?  In times of uncertainty...  Facing another grueling mountain... Not feeling up to the climb... well I guess I will just focus on the things that I KNOW:
*my God is in control.... time and time again He has proven this. .. I don't expect this time to be any different.
* my husband is a STRONG and capable man who already triumphed over brain surgery
*my children are deeply rooted and will likely be the ones carrying me through on their rock-solid faith
*my family will rally behind me no matter what comes my way
*God's people will be faithful in prayer and in deed
And most importantly....  the thing I know best without a shadow of a doubt:
*He WILL be glorified through the circumstances of this coming week
Please continue to keep John in your prayers.  We are praying and BELIEVING for a SUCCESSFUL surgery,  a MIRACULOUS recovery,  and many MANY chances to proclaim His goodness,  power and mercy.  Thank you for praying with us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Worship Wednesday: From the Inside Out

This song WRECKS me every time I hear it!



From the Inside Out
A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in Your grace
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame


Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing You praise
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame


In my heart, in my soul
I give You control
Consume me from the inside out 
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out...

A thousand times..... again... STILL.... no matter how much... no matter how many times... When I fail, I'm CAUGHT in Your Grace! 

When the newness and excitement fades.... when the nearness of friends and family fades... when even my hope fades... YOUR LIGHT will shine when ALL else fades!

Even when my emotions want to run away from me... Even when I'm scared and uncertain.... Even when things are a chaotic jumble of tasks and bills and aches and pains... In my heart, in my soul, I give YOU control.

My whole purpose... is about bringing You praise. Whether I'm standing at the altar with a smile on my face or whether I'm knee-deep in the muck of troubles and pain... I just want to be lost in praising You Lord.... I want to disappear as You shine through me and the situations I face.

AND MY FAVORITE PART.... the part that TRULY wrecks me... leaves my face tear streaked... breaks my heart and heals it again.... and the cry of my heart is to bring You praise....

Today Lord, my soul cries out to praise you....
all I ever want to be known for....
all I ever want to spend my time on...
my legacy...
my purpose....
is to bring You praise.
Lord may You be PRAISED in my life today,
may You be PRAISED in my family today,
may You be PRAISED in this world today.
Amen

Somehow this just turned into a prayer. I couldn't help myself I guess.  I hope this song... it's lyrics... or my jumbled up thoughts regarding them both have ministered to someone in some way. Have a great Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just BREATHE!!!

On Saturday night, John reached out his left arm to me and said, "Isn't weird how my veins are bulging so much?" His arm DID look kinda freaky.... the veins in his wrist were BULGING. My first thought was, "Ohmigosh!  ER here we come." But I calmed myself.... considered the co-pay... and listened to my husband. We would wait until Monday to call Dr. Ahuja.

Monday dawned and by 8:45 a.m. the 45 minute old work day was KICKING my BUTT!  With 5 new reports on the day that cheer starts, I was expecting MASSIVE casualties.  I contacted the doctor before diving into my work, and they scheduled an appointment for John that morning. By appointment time, I was KNEE deep in reference reports and only hoping I'd get to my cheer preparations before practice time. I got the call from John confirming what we'd suspected. Even though the weird bulgy vein thing had dissipated, due to the worsening of his other symptoms, Dr. Ahuja wanted to do the surgery sooner rather than later.... November 26th to be exact. BAM!  here we GO!

I'm not really overly worried or stressed about the surgery, recovery time or the associated costs.... God has gotten us through ALL of that (and more) before.... so I'd be stupid to think He won't carry us through this time too. It's just OHMIGOSH that is 3 weeks from TODAY!  It immediately jumped from a tiny dot on the horizon to TAKING UP MY ENTIRE VIEW!

We are scrambling to scheduleapresurgeryauthorizationappointment-updateFMLApaperwork-informJohn'sboss-informmyboss-requesttimeoffwork-workoutcoverageforcheer-makearrangementsforthekids-andonandonandonandon.... I'mnotthatworriedbecauseIdomybestworkunderthegunBUTitisjustREALLYSOONnow.

This morning as I was talking to a friend at work (and I must've sounded just like the above text.... all rushed together without any spaces), she said just BREATHE, Jami.... don't forget to
BREATHE.  
And so I have adopted that one word as my new mantra:  BREATHE!  I am breathing in the oxygen vital to my body... breathing in the sweet aroma of the nearness of my Lord in times of trouble.... breathing in even the stink of the icky parts of this situation...

So here's the information you really want to know.... how you can specifically pray:

John
-SUCCESSFUL surgery that relieves ALL his symptoms
-Peace about the surgery, recovery, and about being out of work for a bit
-Endurance for the next 3 weeks of continuing pain, weakness, and numbness
-NO weirdly bulging veins

Jami
-peace in the midst the flurry of activity
-wisdom to work out all the details

Kids
-peace as they walk down this scary road again
-ability to articulate the fears/struggles they are experiencing so we can help them work through them.

Whatever you are facing today... May you take my friend's advice too and JUST BREATHE!

I will listen to what God the Lord says; He promises peace to His people, His faithful servants 
Psalm 85:8

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flashback Friday: Just DO it!

I am REALLY feeling this blog this week. Good reminder from myself...

Just DO it!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Struggles

I know I've blogged about this before, but it is a GREAT topic, so I'm doing it again.

I am thankful for my STRUGGLES. Yesterday morning I was really having a ROUGH time. [John is in a TON of pain these days. I am trying to rob Peter to pay Paul just to get through being on unemployment and then coming back to the land of the working. Noah is REALLY struggling with John's pain and impending surgery.] My troubles woke me at 5 a.m. so by the end of the day yesterday I was TIRED. Yet today I can still HONESTLY say, I am thankful for my STRUGGLES.  Why you say?

1. My STRUGGLES always bring me closer to God. 
Yesterday when I woke at 5 a.m. my heart was OVERWHELMED with sorrow. I fell asleep with tears on my pillow after consoling a WEEPING teenage boy who is terrified his father is not going to be around to watch him become a man. As I sat in the chair trying to pray, this verse came to my mind:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Romans 8:26

I just sat there whispering, "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus." and felt Him drawing me near and holding me close.

2. My STRUGGLES birth godly qualities in me (and my family).
While no one is actually EXCITED to go through struggles, we can all at least be grateful that they are never in vain. I have to say my children, my husband, and I possess compassion that we could NEVER have had without what we have been through. We TRULY believe that God can (and WILL) move mountains. We are able to PROCLAIM from the top of our lungs that His ways are better and that He has a plan and that He holds us firmly in the palm of his hands.  Without our struggles, I do not think we would be as sure, strong, steadfast.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

3. My STRUGGLES minister to others.
I'm not too excited to go through all of this again. I am so beyond weary of medical woes, doctor appointments, endless prescription management, and my dear husband in SO MUCH PAIN. But I am encouraged by the knowledge that watching us struggle through these tough things ministers to others. We get the honor of serving as God's billboard proclaiming to the world His wonders and mercies and love.

So go ahead.... think I'm crazy, but this Thankful Thursday I am thankful for my struggles.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Oceans

I feel this song will be the theme song of this next season of my life... it grips me and speaks RIGHT to my aching heart.



Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

See I might fall.... my feet may fail.... but my faith it will always STAND.  Through surgeries. .... through financial hardships... through heartbreak.... MY FAITH WILL STAND.

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

And when it gets tough.... when the waters start to rise.  When fears assail and worries come.... I will call Your name. I will focus on you... I will just rest in Your arms....

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

When the road gets toughest.... when the water rise highest.... when the tears flow abundantly then His Grace ABOUNDS.

You've never failed and You won't start now

This is my FAVORITE line of the whole song.  It WRECKS me every time I hear it. He has NEVER failed.  He has NEVER dropped me in my face.  He has NEVER let me drown. AND HE WON'T START NOW.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Trust that has no borders.  Standing when I should be falling. Deeper than I can even fathom.  How? By staying in His presence. By drawing near to Him.

I hope this song ministers to you like it ministers to me.  Please remember:

HE'S NEVER FAILED AND HE WON'T START NOW.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Psalm 62:1

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flashback Friday: God doesn't play favorites

This blog really ministered to me today. ... hope it ministers to someone else too....

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flashback Friday: The hill....

This blog was on my heart this morning....

The Hill

Hope it ministers to others who are facing a hill in front of them.  You can DO it!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Roughing up my heart....

Ugh... I don't even KNOW what to title this post.... *sigh* I guess I'll just figure that out at the end. Here we go:

John is scheduled to have neck fusion surgery the third week of December. For those of you who are thinking, what? who? how? why?  here are the details... the rest of you can skip to the bottom if you want.  Just scroll down until you see the bolded words Well so here we are....

If you've been with us for the duration, then you know that 4 years ago John had to have brain surgery to relieve the symptoms of a chiari malformation. Because of that initial surgery, disk degeneration (which he has always had) is worsening and manifesting in some icky symptoms (he is on week 3 of a CONSTANT headache right now.... he is losing strength and size in his left arm... he has pain radiating from his neck all the way down his arm...) Today they told us that left untreated it could eventually result in him losing all function in his left arm.  [Okay that's pretty scary.]

I believe it was back in July of 2012 that we first started hearing about this idea of neck fusion, and then again this past summer it came up. As this appointment to discuss it again approached we started hearing rumors (which are still as of now unconfirmed) that the lovely Affordable Care Act is going to DECIMATE our current AMAZING insurance benefits and knock us down to what all the rest of you have been dealing with for insurance [not being rude, just saying that we have had FABULOUS health insurance every since John changed jobs.... if the rumors prove to be true that will be a thing of the past come January 2014]....  Sooooo these rumors got us thinking that we might need to just DO THIS before we cannot afford to do it because of our "Affordable Care".... When they told us that part about the possibility of it progressing to the point where he would not even have any use of that arm, we were kinda like, "Okay let's get this puppy on the books!"

Again for those of you who want the details.... the gory details.... keep reading... the squeamish... well you've been warned.

So we have been told that this surgery will be MUCH less invasive, painful, difficult than the last one... [although I have to tell you that back in 2009 I DISTINCTLY remember Dr. Ahuja saying, "This is the best brain surgery to have. If you have to have brain surgery, THIS is the one you want to have because it is the easiest one."  WHATEVER!] apparently because they will go in through the front of his neck, moving his muscles to the side instead of cutting through muscle (like they did in the back of his neck) it should result in a much easier recovery. They will be fusing his C4 through C6 vertebrae together in order to give his nerves room to "live" in there and immediately relieving his pain, weakness in his arm and stopping any further degeneration.  Here's the visual they gave us of what they'll be doing.... that black thing is a titanium doo-hickey (yes that IS I think the technical term... at least as I heard it)... underneath the doo-hickey will be some plastic thingys that replace his degenerated discs.


Well so here we are.... walking down roads... living out scenes... asking for prayers... explaining medical terms we have become too familiar with.... all like we've done in the past....  In the short span of just 8 hours since I found out, I have been through the following phases:

Phase 1: I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me....

The first introduction of this concept of a second surgery actually happening, left me almost cocky and too assured.... "We can do this!  It's easier than the first time. So much is different. We are different.  This is going to be a walk in the park!"  It was in this phase we told the kids, and they pretty much seemed to take it in stride just like I was.

Phase 2: I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me....

After we told the kids, John and I laid down to try to get a little rest. I fell SOUNDLY asleep, slept too long and arose late for cheer practice and a bit discombobulated. At this point the realization that we were indeed going to do this AGAIN was hitting me and I was left feeling a bit dazed and confused by the punch that realization walloped. I raced off to practice, forgetting Regan's shoes, forgetting a cup of the coffee I asked Noah to brew for me, and forgetting about a certain female situation which I will provide no more details of in case my brother is reading this blog for he will SHOUT, "FOUL!!! TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!" (In fact he is probably already shouting that.) I drove to practice kinda forgetting where I was and where I was going for a little bit. I felt as foggy and hazy as the weather around me.

Phase 3:  I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.

I entered phase 3 as I pulled in the driveway after practice. I sat in the car for several minutes sobbing. "God I know I can do this with you. God don't leave my side for a second these next few months. God I NEED you!" screaming from my soul! My weeping left me in a place of quiet resolution. I can do this again. I can get through ANOTHER surgery. I can watch the man I love endure EXCRUCIATING pain. I can watch my dear babies trying to be strong with terror in their eyes. I can DO this.  And that's when God gave me my analogy.

When the surgical assistant was explaining the surgery to us, he said that at the end of the surgery they will "rough up" the bone (vertebrae) around the fusion site. He said they do this to signal the body, something is hurt here we need to fix it.  Then new bone will grow to "accept" the titanium doo-hickey and strengthen up that area.

God is roughing up my heart right now.  He is signaling my spirit that something is hurt and needs to be fixed. Over the next few days, His Holy Spirit will rush in and build "new bone" on my heart to accept this new situation and incorporate it into my reality and make me STRONGER.

As is typical when I come to you through the words of this blog... we NEED your prayers... for the big... for the little... for the seemingly inconsequential...

John is a little nervous/weirded out by this whole thing. I know he DESPERATELY wants his pain to come to an end but the fear that this won't do it or could even make it worse is assaulting him a little.

Noah seems okay right now, but he is the one ALWAYS hardest hit by John's health issues. #1 because John is TRULY his best friend and #2 because he tries to "step up and be the man" when John is down for the count and that is a tough thing for a 9 then and now almost 14 year old to do.

Details... our dr. is doing surgeries at a different hospital now we don't know if it is covered by our insurance.... we are hoping that the vacation time John has available will be enough to cover his recovery time... this will be happening RIGHT in the middle of cheer season, Christmas, etc... not the best timing in some ways but great timing in other ways.

I will try hard to keep you in the loop, but I expect that you will likely only hear from me when I'm begging for prayer or processing the tangle of emotions I am going through.

Thank you friends for your prayers and for always caring enough to walk with us through the dark times.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mt. Olympus

It has been a pretty tough week at the Kastner house.  John has been in a SIGNIFICANT amount of pain for several weeks. Our minivan has been developing random minor ailments that are easy to fix but still  stressful (well except for one BIG one which resulted in a flat out MIRACLE). We found out last week that a "restructuring" of my department will likely leave me with a LOT more time (and a bit LESS money). And to add insult to injury I was body slammed with the worst seasonal allergies I have had this year (and I was out of my EXPENSIVE allergy meds). It's been a painful,  EXPENSIVE, difficult week.

Several months ago John and I discussed how we have NEVER (not even once) taken our children on a vacation. We have been on MANY vacations most of them with  (and payrolled by) Oma & Poppa.... a few for cheerleading competitions.... but just these six Kastners going away together, just us. .. it has NEVER happened before.  When we realized that,  we realized that it had to change. 

We stressed a little about how we would afford this trip (fine!  I stressed a little! John has this Bob-Marley-like personality that's like,  "It's only money, Mon.... we'll figure it out. ") but began making plans for the first ever Kastner vaca. I hemmed and hawed, dragging my feet to make the deposit.  I was terrified that the second we committed John's health would go again, someone would lose a job, the car would die,  or something. But finally there was no more time to delay. I had to make the reservation.  I did.  And the bad stuff happened: John's not doing well,  I'm unemployed,  our car is driving me NUTS with a new noise every day.... but you know what??? We went anyway.


And I won't lie. I am STRUGGLING with the worry that in the coming months we might need this money for groceries... or that we might have driven all the way out here for the car to BREAK DOWN.  but in spite of the worry in my belly, it's like my brain hasn't gotten the memo.  WE ARE HAVING THE TIME OF OUR LIFE! 


***the chaos of packing all our stuff in the car
***the LONG car trip complete with "Are we there yet?" every 2 seconds and an unplanned potty break to ensure a bladder didn't explode
***roller coasters, 



go karts,  



water slides,  hot tubs,  rock walls 



and MORE



***collapsing EXHAUSTED into our gorgeous room too tired to wiggle from having WAY to much fun


This morning contemplating the REQUIRED Starbucks trip that was coming (our room had no coffee maker... NONE) I started to feel the worry threatening to escape my belly and attack my mind again and then I heard God whispering, "My daughter,  have I not carried you before?  Have I not ALWAYS gotten you through?  What makes you think I won't carry you this time??? Rest.  Relax.  Enjoy your family vacation!"

So here are the lessons I have to share today:

1. I am human.  Even though I KNOW that God will carry us through each and every hurricane we face, I still worry.  It is still hard.  It is NOT fun.  It is okay to be human.

2. Satan never sleeps.  He never takes a break.  He doesn't think, "The Kastner family has had a rough road to travel: brain surgery,  money woes, pain,  sickness,  loss... I think I will just do them a solid and leave them alone on vaca." NOPE! He will prowl around trying to steal your joy at EVERY turn.  He will fight to destroy you every time.

3. I can beat Satan.  It doesn't take much actually.... simply allowing myself to have fun here.... praising when I feel like crying. .. refusing to allow my worry to make the trip from my belly to my mind. I CAN defeat Satan.

4. It's gonna be all right.  It really TRULY is. It might get messy.  I might not enjoy every moment.  I might come out a little battered and bruised but EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT! 

In closing,  I want to tell you that our children have already profusely thanked us a zillion times.  Jeremiah screamed,  "Best vacation EVER!" As he came round on the swings ride.  I had so much fun on the roller coaster I peed my pants (true story.... prolly TMI... but still TRUE story)... and this trip is SO blessed.  I see God's fingerprints EVERYWHERE.  For example,  when we made our reservations we were told that all outdoor parks close after Labor Day. So we would only have access to the indoor parks.... but when we arrived yesterday the outdoor amusement park was open and they told us the outdoor water park would be open today. ... so blessed!



So.... I'm gonna go try to have so much fun I pee my pants again... but the one thing I want you to remember is: IT'S GONNA BE ALL RIGHT!

Hang in there folks!

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Flashback Friday: Don't be a Bildad!

I'm not sure why the Lord is leading me to re-post this blog entry, but I bet there is someone out there who needs to read it so here goes!

Don't be a Bildad!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday's Sermon: This is My Story

Three weeks ago, Pastor Aaron introduced a new series called This is My Story. Because he was taking a 30-day sabbatical, four different staff members would be preaching and telling their "stories" which were according to him POWERFUL and would minister to us greatly. I was skeptical that I would actually enjoy four weeks without Pastor Aaron's preaching, but then he gave a teaser to one of the stories. The story of a young girl halfway around the world on a mission trip to India when her mother passed away unexpectedly.... The story reminded me of my dear Christina, and I knew that come heck or high water I would NOT miss that story!

This weekend.... ohhhhhh this weekend!  Friday night we had our Pampered Chef fundraiser and a few hours before while I was still in the HEAT of barking out orders to the kids to clean up, trying to make homemade salsa and guacamole, and had not yet taken a shower, I found Auntie Marge wandering down the hallway wearing nothing from the waist down but one sock. This was my final clue that she was indeed, as I had been suspecting for about a week, ill. The doctor wouldn't prescribe anything without seeing her, and I couldn't get her to the doctor that night so I planned to take her in the next morning. We were up late from the Pampered Chef party and didn't get to bed till nearly midnight. At about 2 a.m. Hannah woke me when she banged her puke bucket into my head, "I think I'm gonna throw up, Momma." I spent the next few hours listening to her bark this AWFUL cough that made her sound like a yippy dog before drifting off into a VERY light sleep next to her. At 7 a.m., I heard Auntie Marge calling me from the bathroom. She had an accident that required a shower and full cleaning of the toilet/bathroom. The weekend proceeded much like that.... went to the urgent care with BOTH Hannah and Auntie Marge. Hardly slept AT ALL Saturday night as well because of a headache and some insomnia over stress... Sunday morning dawned, and I did NOT feel like going to church. I was EXHAUSTED... But there was NO WAY Satan was keeping ME from THIS sermon!  John and I devised a plan that involved going to church in two shifts in order to keep our little Sickie Vickie from infecting other children. I threw down a cup of coffee and headed off to first service.

The worship was POWERFUL and amazing as always. This guy they have leading worship at our church lately is nothing short of FABULOUS!  He wrote the first song we sang.... It was the debut of the song in Sunday service, but had been sung in Youth Group already.... Jeremiah leaned over and said, "Mom, this is IT! My favorite song I was telling you about!"  I love when my children are excited about the things of God!

So then it was time.... I had my plan... pay attention closely for some good stuff to tell Christina... wisdom that she would TOTALLY be able to relate to.  She came out... This adorable young thing who wasn't even BORN when I graduated from high school!  I was sure she had something to share with Christina but me??? I'm an old foggie.... I've heard it all before..... WHATEVER!  She ROCKED MY WORLD!  I mean it ROCKED MY WORLD!

Her testimony of losing her mother made me BAWL.... that I expected. I am such an empathetic person that I felt her loss, as told through her story, VERY deeply. But then like a right hook out of nowhere, this girl started getting in MY kitchen. She talked about the choice when you suffer a loss... the choice to be bitter or to trust God.  She talked about the fact that EVEN Jesus wept... so WE can weep too in loss. But I think what gutted me the most was her bare-naked honesty.... I am SO glad this young lady had the courage to say what wouldn't make her look the best in some circles. She admitted that on the way home to the United States after her mother had passed away she questioned God... she thought, "Really God.... I'm here doing YOUR business and You couldn't just have her hang on a little longer so I could say goodbye?"  It GUTTED me!  See I have felt that!  I have thought that!  "Lord, I've given you my life!  I've served you UNWAVERINGLY since I was a little girl! You really couldn't just protect this one thing I held MOST dear???"

After the sermon, I went forward for prayer. That was a BIG step for me!  I have RESISTED God's prodding to do so many times before at this church... I don't know why... I think mostly because I don't like the unknown of how it is going to go down... But this time... I just walked up there... straight to the beautiful, young whippersnapper who had just WRECKED me with her sermon. And as she prayed for me I felt a WEIGHT I have been carrying for several years lifting off my shoulders.... a freedom that it is OKAY to hurt and feel and WEEP... and a release from some of the weight of my guilt at not being "godly enough" to weather my loss with a smile on my face and pep in my step.

See I have LONG believed that God isn't afraid of our honesty. I have LONG believed that I had permission to weep. But for some reason, on THIS day, from THIS girl, in THIS moment I had a WORD from God that GRIPPED my heart.... and I really BELIEVED that it was okay to weep because Jesus did it too!

Today my friends let me encourage you.... Whatever you are going through right now.... Whether it is a MAJOR loss or a minor setback, it is OKAY to weep, to feel, to be angry, to be HONEST... It is okay because that is the model Jesus set for us.... He was honest.... he even got angry.... he even questioned God in the Garden of Gethsemane.... he WEPT... so we can too.

Oh and one final thing.... I realized at the end of the message that I didn't even know what to tell Christina.... I had gone to church "for her" so I could share things that would minister to her, but two minutes in I completely forgot about her because I was in the midst of my own moment with God.... Don't worry... I sent her a link to the live feed of the second service so she wouldn't miss out completely... And I'm pretty sure she'll read this blog too...

Jesus wept.
John 11:35


Friday, July 12, 2013

Flashback Friday: Your enemy the devil....

Here's an old blog of mine that MINISTERED to me yesterday.  I needed to remember that Satan will NOT take my resolutions sitting down. He will NOT just idly stand by when I pray for revival, when I ask God to renew me, when I get a WORD directly from God.... Nope! He ATTACKS hard and heavy!


Praying God's protection over all of you today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday: the Word of God

Hebrews 4:12 NIV
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Today I am thankful that the Word of God is ALIVE... It isn't some dusty, old-fashioned book of stories. It isn't the same-old, same-old I've read since I was a little girl. It comes ALIVE and ministers to me in a NEW way every time I read it!

This morning I opened up my YouVersion Bible app and started reading today's devotional entry in the reading plan I am currently working my way through. I read passages of scripture I have read a JILLION times... some I even have memorized.... and the words JUMPED off the page and ministered to me in a BRAND NEW way. It was as if I had NEVER seen them before. They brought me brand-new, deeper understanding. They brought me FREEDOM from bondage to wrong thoughts. They gave me the courage to let my spirit rise up and SCREAM at Satan "NO! I won't believe your lies anymore! I won't let you tell me all that I have lost, all that was broken, all that I am NOT! Instead I am going to tell you about the victory that was won! The RESTORATION that resulted! And who I am in Christ!"

Today I am thankful for the word of God because it is the data cable God uses to speak to me EACH and every day. But most of all I am thankful for the God that "data cable" is plugged into. That He loves ME enough to connect with me... to speak to me... to reach out anew every single day.

I pray that today the Word JUMPS out at you too. That He reveals something brand-new to you today. And I pray that the new thing He reveals to you smacks you RIGHT where you are TODAY with EXACTLY the Word YOU need to hear.

God bless everyone!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Glorious Ruins - Hillsong Live [church]

Hello, my name is Jami, and I'm a perfectionist. I still am... I always have been... I will struggle to my dying day to realize that God does NOT expect perfection from me....

Lately God has been working me through a season of removing a few layers of my perfectionism. It is NOT comfortable... It is not fun.

I want life to be orderly: bills paid on or ahead of time, rooms clean, beds made, children happily working on their lessons.... but there is BEAUTY in the disorder too. There is FAITH and TRUST in looking for God amid the late charges, rumpled beds, math tears.... Imperfection is my lot because I am human, and I need to learn to embrace that.... For in MY weakness HE is made strong, and with ALL of me I only want to reflect HIM more.  When will my thick skull realize that those very imperfections that drive me nuts are the areas where HE can shine through most brightly???

Anyways.... I haven't done Worship Wednesday in a long, long time, but this song is GRIPPING my soul as I walk through what seems like NOTHING but imperfections.... trying to crucify my longing for them to be perfect and trying to surrender to allow God to show me the beauty in my Glorious Ruins....

Here are the lyrics... and a video.... hope they minister to you.

Glorious Ruins
Hillsong Live

When the mountains fall and the tempest roars You are with me... When creation folds still my soul will soar on Your mercy... I'll walk through the fire with my head lifted high and my spirit revived in Your story... And I'll look to the cross as my failure is lost in the light of Your glorious grace... Let the ruins come to life in the beauty of Your name rising up from the ashes God forever You reign... And my soul will find refuge in the shadow of Your wings... I will love You forever and forever I'll sing... When the world caves in still my hope will cling to Your promise... Where my courage ends let my heart find strength in Your presence... I'll walk through the fire with my head lifted high and my spirit revived in Your story... And I'll look to the cross as my failure is lost in the light of Your glorious grace... Let the ruins come to life in the beauty of Your name rising up from the ashes God forever You reign... And my soul will find refuge in the shadow of Your wings

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's not about me....

This morning I read this on Instagram:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,
It is thinking of yourself less
C.S. Lewis

It got me thinking about how MUCH I think about myself. Everything is about me, me, ME!  How much sleep did I get? How do I feel this morning? What does this date in time represent to ME? What did this sermon say to ME? But guess what it is NOT about me!

I read this verse this morning in the YouVersion reading plan I am currently working my way through:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Did you catch what this verse says about why God comforts me? It doesn't say He comforts me so I will feel better. It doesn't say He comforts me because what I am going through is hard. It doesn't say He comforts me when I have had enough or because I deserve to be comforted.  It says, "who comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT WE CAN COMFORT THOSE IN ANY TROUBLE..."

It is NOT about ME!  The purpose of my suffering is multi-faceted; however, one thing is for sure God comforts me in my suffering SO THAT I CAN COMFORT OTHERS!

I don't know where I first heard this said, but I hear it ALL the time, "We are blessed so we can bless." Take what God has given you today:  financial blessings, compassion, sensitivity, hope, healing, COMFORT in your times of trouble, and USE IT to bless, love, inspire, heal, COMFORT someone else.

Blessings my friends!  Hope today brings many opportunities for you to spread God's love.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jesus is with you always....

Our pastor was on vaca yesterday, so our Executive Pastor, Ryan Coggins stepped up to bat. BOY did he KNOCK it out of the park with this one!

For me, I found myself in a place of reminiscing over all that Jesus has walked with me through.... but the whole sermon I could feel the Holy Spirit prodding me to post a link to this sermon... there is someone who either reads my blog or will stumble across my blog and they NEED TO HEAR THIS!  It is someone who feels as if Jesus has abandoned them.... It is someone who is struggling through DEEP and tumultuous waters.... Please if you are that someone God has put on my heart, listen to this sermon!!!!  I hope it ministers to your soul.

Jesus is With You Always - Ryan Coggins

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This is the day that the Lord has made.....

Yesterday morning I arose at the appointed time.... cheerfully woke my husband and headed to the kitchen. I prepared a warm, healthy breakfast for us, and then we sat across from each other at the kitchen table, enjoying our breakfast and coffee while reading our Bibles. We stopped a few times to share something that occurred to us while we read. It was quiet... It was peaceful... It was heavenly.

This morning I awoke to a smell that NO ONE wants to be greeted with. As I neared the bathroom the odor worsened and a quick glance into the bathroom confirmed my fears: Auntie Marge had an accident. I woke John quickly and then returned to the bathroom to clean the toilet, floor, and an old lady. All this taking place before I even got a cup of coffee!  John and I snatched a quick prayer before he headed out the door to work and then I collapsed at the table all alone with my coffee and Bible, and it occurred to me:

"Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" 
Job 2:10

God is mighty and on the throne whether my day starts with a beautiful coffee date or a WRETCHED mess to clean up. His goodness doesn't change with the events of my day! His goodness doesn't change with the events of this world! He is GOOD when bad things happen. He is GOOD when good things happen. He is GOOD.

Whatever your facing today:  it may be sunny skies and lollipops or it may be poop messes and unpaid bills.. even hospital nightmares... but your CIRCUMSTANCES do NOT affect God's goodness. He is good and just and right and HOLY wherever you are.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Your children are your character references.....

I can't really remember where I first heard this statement, but over and over and OVER again I have been seeing the proof of its truth.

Your children are your character references.

However, as I ponder the idea it has led me to some strange places.... come along with me please. There might be a lesson for you too.

#1 My children are AWESOME character references. First of all, I admit that my babies still poo sitting down; however, they are pretty amazing kids (especially out in public). They LOVE. They SHARE. They are COMPASSIONATE. The are POLITE. [Quick story.... as we have been praying for a little girl June to get a liver, it started getting pretty desperate. Jeremiah said to me, "Mom, I want to give her my liver." With tears welling up in my eyes, I said, "Jeremiah, you can't live without your liver." He said, "I know mom."] So my kiddos are pretty AWESOME character references.

#2 However, lest you think I would be prideful about that, let me assure that

a. they have their bad moments too [Story #2.... not going to out the thief, but at a play date this weekend one of my kiddos used the "five finger discount" to abscond with someone's toy.]

and

b. I often wonder HOW these children turned out to be so kind, compassionate, caring... because MOST days I feel like my parenting skills are a MAD HOT MESS! [The other day found me NOT very kindly telling my little princess, "Remember the part in Cinderella BEFORE the fairy godmother showed up??? THAT is going to become your life if you don't stop CRYING every time I ask you do to a chore!!!"]

#3 (the conclusion of this blog) It isn't as much in the discipline method I use, the content of the lectures I give, even the consistency of the parenting I dispense. Children learn what they live. Now I am not ANYWHERE close to perfect. I erupt under pressure. I have VERY little self-control. I am OVERLY sensitive. I could list flaw after flaw after FLAW here but that is not the point of this blog. My children are loving, sacrificial, compassionate and polite because they spend a GREAT deal of their time with a woman who is these things too.  (Please don't take this as haughty... it's not!)  So when I am struggling with a poor behavior in my children (Noah is SO sarcastic at the ripe ole age of 13! NO ONE puts away ANYTHING when they are done with it so the house is constantly a mess and things are CONTINUALLY missing. My kids are PROS at ANGRY outbursts.) I need to examine my own self and see if it is possible (and likely it is) that they are seeing me model these behaviors. [Last quick story: Yesterday, Noah asked me a question and DRIPPING with sarcasm I answered him, "Maybe." The world stood still for a second as the Holy Spirit SCREAMED in my ear, "That's where he hears that sarcastic 'Maybe' he keeps answering you with!!!!!"]

So the application of this blog: for me at least is this.... My #1 parenting priority has to be pointing myself towards Christ. Modeling Him in ALL I say and do. Because these precious little beings I am raising (positive attributes and flaws) are taking their cues from ME!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More and more and MORE lessons!

I have really been going through some battles lately. I told someone last night I feel challenged on EVERY front.

"Why can't we do speed math instead of regular math?"
"Why do we have to ALL take off our bows if someone forgets theirs?"
"Why do I have to get out of bed before noon and eat more than 2 bites of my dinner?"

I want to SCREAM at the top of my lungs, "Because I am the mom/coach/old-person-caretaker, and I said SO!!!" [In fact truthfully, I have screamed the mom version of that statement several times] I feel as if I am fighting SO many "challenges to my throne" that I am not handling many of them very gracefully at all. It is VERY draining to have to give a 3-point sermon defending every instruction you give. It takes a TON of energy and when you multiply the sermon by the instructions I give to: 4 children, 1 old lady and 17 cheerleaders.... I'm done!

Yesterday was ESPECIALLY trying. See we got this HUGE blessing. Our dear friends gave us a bunch of their old stuff (tv, DVD player, surround sound, entertainment center) because they were updating and that is leading to a FRENZY around here. The kids are so excited about where the new stuff is going to go and when we are going to set it up. They also got their backup Xbox back from their big brother, and they are CHOMPING at the bit to use it, because "we can play two things at once, Mom!" So I fought and fought and fought to get them through school and chores.

I was plagued by nightmares last night. In my dreams I was arguing with John, the kids, my aunt, cheerleaders, the bank.

This morning I woke up EXHAUSTED. I was getting ready to read my Bible and just started with, "God, please speak to me. Please tell me what this is all about. I must be fighting wars on every front because you want me to learn a lesson!" Before I even opened my Bible, His word came to me... through verses I made my sixth graders memorize years ago:

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 
James 3:5-6

It doesn't matter how many battlefields this war is raging on. It doesn't matter how many times and from how many directions I am challenged, questioned, even defied. God wants me to control my tongue! I have to stay patient, keep control of my words, even keep control of the impatient thoughts raging through my mind. This is NO small task as I already mentioned the WAY too many fronts I am engaged on. But God doesn't say, "Okay Jami since you are trying to do so much I will accept 50% effort on each front since that still equals 150% or 200%"  God expects me to be Christlike in each and every situation... in each and every contact.... with each and every word!

That is the tall order I am trying to fill today.  Please pray for me if you think of it because if you know me at all, you know that "keeping a tight reign on my tongue" has NEVER been my strong suit. But I am going to give this the old college try today!

God bless!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The other shoe.....

In spite of how great things are going, I have been VERY down in the dumps lately. I have been examining my heart and begging of God to reveal what is going on with me.... Here's what I have so far:

1. There is ALWAYS a bit of a let down when a stressful situation ends. I believe this is because when you are going through stress, your body is keeping you going with adrenaline. When the stress ends, the adrenaline leaves and you are WORN OUT.

2. (and this is what this blog is about) The other shoe.... I read this phrase in a blog earlier this week, "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop." When you have spent an extended period of your life under STRESS it is VERY difficult to step out of that mode. You find yourself looking and even waiting for the next thing to go wrong. I am not sure that this shows a lack of faith in God, it just shows the natural design of our wondrous bodies. See God made us so that when we touch a hot stove we jerk our hand away. But He also made us so that we REMEMBER touching that stove so that the next time we see a hot stove we remember being burnt and avoid touching it again. I think this is what is responsible for "the other shoe" phenomenon. See our bodies remember that feeling of happiness before the bottom fell out of our life and with that remembrance comes the recollection of the bottom falling out. We can't help but cringe at the memory. It is wired into us. Just like John will forever struggle with the tightness of neck muscles which were cut from brain surgery: I will always struggle with those memories. Simple things: Noodles & Company, the song Stronger by Mandisa, the feeling that everything is on the upswing IMMEDIATELY followed but everything getting worse.... these are indelibly imprinted in my psyche. And encountering these "triggers" can INSTANTLY transport me back to that time and place.

I do not know that I should waste time trying to erase these indelibly imprinted items. Instead I think that I need to recognize them and call them out as memories.... NOT prophecies. I also need to let that "other shoe" feeling call my mind back to the the times when the bottom fell out and walk ALL the way through the end of the story... because the end of the story contains the facts that God sustained us through it all.... that God's people cared and prayed and ministered to us... that God brought our family CLOSER together through the bottom falling out....  and that IN THE END WE SURVIVED!

So I am trying to be patient with myself. I am trying to realize that I am tired now that adrenaline isn't carrying me... and that this other shoe can be a reminder of all the good God has brought instead of a negative around my neck weighing me down....

Have a blessed day everyone!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Consider it pure joy....

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.... James 1:2

PURE joy??? Really??? PURE joy!!!

Pure: unmixed with any other matter

Joy:  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight

When I face trials I am to consider it PURE (unmixed with any other matter) JOY (the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight).  How exactly??? Trials aren't fun. Trials aren't easy. Yes they bring about good. Yes they have a silver-lining. In 43 years on this planet.... In 33 years of being a Christian.... I have YET to see ONE trial that didn't bring about something good, but PURE joy???  Joy unmixed with any other matter??? That is one TALL order!

Lord whatever You desire.... whatever You command... I vow to aim for PURE JOY when my body is aching and sore. I vow to aim for PURE JOY when I am assaulted by the unsolicited opinions of others. I vow to aim for PURE JOY when I am crushed by apathy, discouraged by lack of commitment, and disheartened by complacency. I vow to aim for PURE JOY when the struggles of this world, the attacks of the enemy, my own sinful desires assail me. I will aim for PURE JOY.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Where we are at....

The other day as I was pulling into the garage it hit me.... WOW! How far we've come!

I know I have been horribly remiss in keeping my blog updated. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that when I "go offline" it is typically because everything is going just swimmingly. The sad truth is that typically I only really blog when my heart is troubled, and I need to process what I am going through. But the other day as I pulled into the garage I thought, "I have GOT to blog about this!"

See for so many years we have STRUGGLED! Through health woes and the accompanying partner financial problems.... through stress and difficulties and worries and fears... But RIGHT now I find myself in VERY unfamiliar territory. I find that we are in a land of luxury, and I really LIKE being here!

We have TWO drivers and TWO vehicles.... that is luxury for us!

John has not had a "seizure-like episode" in over 13 months.... that is luxury for us!

We are actually paying our bills ON TIME... that is luxury for us!

Because I always need to find the lesson, I want to SHOUT an encouraging word to all of you:

Whether you are in the pit of terrible cars, walking through the valley of unpaid bills, or frolicking in the meadow of 2 drivers and 2 vehicles.... remember: to everything there is a SEASON. While it may seem like you've been stuck in UCK forever, this too shall pass! HANG ON! HAVE HOPE! You WILL get through this.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28
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