Wednesday, December 24, 2014

You are the boss of your feelings

Feelings lie. Feeling stink. Feelings are not reality.

It has been a rough several days around the Kastner house.

*John has been waking every night with an excruciating headache. The doctors are confused by the headache; however, they are not overly concerned by it because we are able to manage and reduce the pain on our own at home. However it is still pain, it is still waking him up, and we are all tired of it.

*Then to add insult to injury, last night, while I was trying to load the dishwasher, I knocked a plate shattering it on the ground. I called Noah to help me clean it up and ran downstairs to use the bathroom. As I was coming up the steps, I heard the boys shouting, "Hannah is puking!" I walked into the kitchen to find the shattered plate pieces still all over the ground just a foot away from Hannah's puke puddle. I was near the end of my sanity, as I cleaned up the puke puddle while Noah cleaned the plate. I then had to shower Hannah because the puke was in her hair. Somehow I kept it together (I think because I was praying under my breath the entire way). What followed was even more excruciating all night long I was awakened every 15 minutes by the sounds of Hannah's vomiting. At some point in the middle of that, John woke up with his nightly headache hardly able to walk or see anything in front of him. Merry Christmas!

I am so tired! I literally do not think I've had a full night's sleep since Wednesday December 17th (the night BEFORE surgery #3). I feel horrible, and I'm not sure if it's because I haven't slept... I'm coming down with whatever Hannah has... or just because I've been smelling puke for 24 hours... (I'm sure it's a combination of all three.)

I feel like I can't do this. I feel like this is too much. I feel like God has forgotten us and is letting Satan toy with us, but let me tell you what: FEELINGS LIE.

In recent months, I've been trying to help Hannah through a princess phase in which she burst into tears almost anytime something doesn't go her way. I've been telling her that I know she feels like she has to cry, but she is the boss of her feelings. I've been trying to teach her to tell her feelings what to do. When she feels like crying, I want her to tell her feelings, "No, I don't have to cry. This isn't big enough to cry about."

Over and over again during the past 24 hours my own words have come back to me. "I am the boss of my feelings." I can choose to feel like I can't do this or I can choose to remember that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can choose to feel like this is too much or I can remind myself that God's plans are to prosper me not to harm me. I can feel like God has deserted us or I can remind myself that God will never leave me or forsake me.

It doesn't feel like a very Merry Christmas in the Kastner household this year. However, I can remind myself "Born is the king!" I can remind myself that thousands of years ago Jesus came to earth as a little baby to die for my sins. I don't have to wallow in the feelings that aren't very merry.

I know some of you who are reading this are dealing with much worse than what I am going through right now. I know the holidays make you feel lonely. I know you just lost your loved one. I know you're struggling through a horrible diagnosis and praying for a miracle. I know it feels like God has deserted you. I know it feels like you can't do this. But you are the boss of your feelings! Tell your feelings what God says about your situation,  and then make the choice to believe them!

Whether you're having a very Merry Christmas or whether your Christmas isn't merry at all, I pray that you will choose to remember that God loves you so much he sent His only Son to earth.

Now I'm gonna give both my patients and my old person showers and then head off to bed.  I'm praying that I will get just one night of solid sleep that will give me the strength to face whatever tomorrow brings. But even if I don't sleep at all,  I'll be the boss of my feelings tomorrow too. Goodnight

Monday, December 22, 2014

Quick Update

Good morning!  Just a little update on how John is doing.  I'd say pretty well at this point.

Couple of PRAISE reports:

1. John went to church yesterday!

2. We found a craigslist recliner for CHEAP and that has SIGNIFICANTLY improved John's sleeping position.

There are a few things we could still use PRAYER for:

1. the past two mornings he has awoken with EXCRUCIATING headaches. Please pray that we are able to get these under control.

2. Please PRAY for the strength to return to John's arm, specifically his right arm.  This is a HUGE concern for him right now.

3. Continued peace as we walk through this.  We have COMPLETE and utter trust that God is carrying us through (how could we not after the miracles of last week); however, we are still on a GRUELING, sleep-deprived, pain-filled, hope-threatening journey.  Your prayers are appreciated.

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

James 5:16

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lessons from the waiting room

What a complete and total WHIRLWIND this week has been!

For those of you NOT on Facebook.... we did a WHOLE lotta waiting around today (to be expected when you're squeezed into an already FULL surgery schedule)

but by the end of the day John's second fusion surgery took place in 2014 and BEFORE Christmas shutdown!

It took longer than expected (again because of the extra waiting) but by about 5:30 p.m. I was able to get my first post-op look at him and see that he had pulled through JUST fine.

We had a bit of a rough go of it (a LOT of pain) around 9 p.m., but now he has walked the hall two different times,  eaten two yogurts,  and expelled air in the manner they were hoping for. He is currently resting peacefully.

Because I always want something good to come from my suffering,  and before I forget them, I wanted to share with you a few lessons I learned in the waiting room.

1. Keep your eyes in your own fence.

When you're sitting in a hospital waiting room,  without fail there are people there for much LESS serious issues than your loved one and people there for much MORE serious issues than your loved one.  Paying attention to their situation, looking over into their medical "backyard" does absolutely NOTHING to change the situation your loved one is in.  Therefore,  it is best when you are in a waiting room (and actually in ALL of life) to keep your eyes in your own fence.

2. He's got this.

Perhaps more than ever before I was GRIPPED by the knowledge that God was in full control of this surgery,  my husband's health,  my entire life.  If you came along for the whole ride (singing,  "Rollercoaster... ooooh ooooh ooooh"... all the way) then you know that we were up and down,  fast and slow, yes and no, ALL week long.

Because of Tuesday afternoon's MIRACULOUS 180°, I had such a strong and REAL knowledge that God HAD this in His hands. When I felt worry creeping in, I just reminded myself, "The God who put on a light and smoke show to get this surgery on the books did not bring you this far to drop you here. He WILL carry you across the finish line,  Jami!"

3. Keep calm and crochet on.

I've noticed this phenomenon before.  Sometimes when your are in the "thick of it" it is very hard to pray.  I remember VIVIDLY when Hannah had her eye surgery I couldn't close my eyes to pray because every time I did I got this vision of my baby's eyeball being sliced open. I remember thinking,  "THIS is why I splash my business ALL OVER Facebook."  Because thanks to Facebook (and email and texting) right at the moment my baby was in surgery GOBS of people were praying us through. Today when the surgery stretched on.... when the doctor never came out to update me.... when they told me this time he'd be recovering in the ICU... when I tried to pray but couldn't get much past,  "Jesus. ..." I picked up my crocheting and remembered we were COVERED in your prayers.

Thanks so much for journeying with us through yet ANOTHER surgery.  I sure hope one of these times we'll be writing the final chapter of this medical saga.

Until then... THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.  Your prayers DO matter!

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's a miracle! It's a miracle!

In light of my VIVID dream from last night, I encouraged John to touch base with the doctor this a.m. just to see what yesterday was about and to double check that there was NO WAY surgery could happen this year and with mind-numbing speed, in true THERE'S NO WAY IT COULD BE ANYTHING BUT GOD style:

John is having surgery on Thursday (that's THIS Thursday!).  

Pre-op appointment at 8 a.m. Surgery at 10 a.m. (OHMIGOSH-THIS-IS-ACTUALLY-HAPPENING) surgery on Thursday.

I need to GET to getting on my pre-op To Do List, but I just have to share my ONE THOUGHT:

God just didn't want ANYONE stealing ANY of His thunder.  As so many have said to me over the past 8 days, "God's GOT this!" and He did it in a way that NO ONE could question the fact that IT WAS HIM!

Thank you all for your prayers.  It is YOUR prayers that made a difference!  You were part of a miracle!  

Stay tuned.... I promise to keep you updated as we travel through this next act.

Forever indebted to you all,


You can't always get what you want

Things are pretty dark in this house right now. John is EXTREMELY discouraged by the events of yesterday. I am trying SUPER hard to "keep the faith".... hope.... believe.

This morning it's a little easier for me to do that because I awoke from a VIVID dream this morning.  It was so real! In my dream, I was on the phone with Dr. Ahuja's office, and they said they could fit John in this year if we were willing to come in on Saturday. I told them I'd come in wearing only my underwear if they could get him in this year, and then there we were FRANTICALLY prepping for a hospital visit. As I came awake, I had to struggle to remember it was just a dream because it seemed SO real.

I'm not gonna lie, I want that scenario SO bad. I desperately WANT to be rushing around making arrangements for a surgery this week. I desperately WANT to be SCREAMING on FB... "It's a miracle! It's a miracle!" I desperately WANT to save money by doing surgery this year,  to have this in our rearview mirror,  to have my honey OUT of pain. But in the words of the great Mic Jagger,  "You can't always get what you want." And the reality is that sometimes (actually more like OFTEN) God's plans don't look like my plans AT ALL. In fact,  let me tell you about "the best surprise God ever gave me."

My plan did NOT include having 3 boys in under 4 years.  My plan did not include being BROKE NO JOKE and finding out,  "Surprise! You're pregnant!" My plan included more than one form of birth control and a teeny tiny side-by-side.  But God's plan was SO much better.  God's plan included this sweet,  sensitive,  long-eyelashed, smart,  funny,  KEEP-ME-ON-MY-TOES,  little boy named Elijah,  and like I always tell him he is "the best surprise God ever gave me."

I don't pretend to know why this is the way.  I'm not gonna lie and say I WANT it this way.  All I know is that even though I don't like His way, I FULLY believe His way is better.... even though I still WANT my way, I'm going to submit myself to His way....  and no matter when or how this all goes down,  I KNOW that we are FIRMLY in His grasp....

being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Monday, December 15, 2014

The letdown....

Even when we do not get the answer we were wanting, God is still in control.... He is STILL good.

While driving to his 4 p.m. appointment today, John received a call from the doctor's office. They are unable to get him in this year. His surgery is still scheduled for 1/6/15; therefore, they cancelled today's appointment because they do not need to see him this soon.

There is discouragement and disappointment flooding this family tonight. The Mom is praying for PEACE that passes understanding.... for HOPE that will sustain.... for His way and not ours.

Thank you all so much for praying for us.  Please continue to hold us close in your prayers.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

And the bass keeps runnin' runnin'.... runnin' runnin'.... runnin' runnin'...

Yesterday we learned that John has to have yet ANOTHER surgery. To answer a few of the FAQs I fielded yesterday:

*It is a second fusion surgery (like he had last year). He previously had C4 thru C6 fused. This time they will also fuse C3 and C7.

*Once again as I understand it, this was not CAUSED by the Chiari Malformation but the condition is exascerbated by the changes brain surgery wrought on the anatomy of his skull/neck.
*The neurosurgeon we know, love and TRUST feels it is necessary. As neither of us went to medical school, and as we are DESPERATE for some relief for John, and because this doctor successfully cut open John's brain and has led us every step of the way since then, we are trusting his opinion.
*Yes, we did see this coming. In recent weeks the strength in John's arm has been DRASTICALLY decreasing, the pain in his neck has been DRASTICALLY increasing, and he is RARELY able to sleep.
*Yes, I will let you know if there is anything you can do for us. For right now, please STORM the gates of Heaven begging God for a slot to open up in the 2014 schedule so that John can have this surgery under this CURRENT year's medical claims and so that he will have the extra days of Christmas-to-New Year's shut down to recover.

As is typical, I ran the WHOLE gamut of emotions yesterday:

*ANGER:  Lord, WHY now?  WHY again?  WHY NOT before the end of 2014?!?!?!
*FEAR:  What if this doesn't go well? What if this doesn't work? What if? What if? What if?
*ACCEPTANCE: 2014 or 2015 DOESN'T matter. my stress here is over MONEY (money it will cost us in the brand-new calendar year; money we may lose if John ends up out of work without pay) and money does NOT matter.  I am a daughter of the King with His FULL resources behind me.  I may not WANT to walk through a valley of need again, but if I do, I need NOT fear because my Father will supply ALL my needs according to His riches in glory....
*HOPE:  Never once.... not ONCE... in the past 5 years we've been walking this medical journey... in the past 16 years I've been joined to this man.... in the past 45 years I've been on this earth.... NEVER ONCE did we EVER walk alone.... NEVER ONCE did You leave us on our own....

I found out around 4 p.m. yesterday.  I was a PUDDLE of tears, yet a still, small voice whispered to me "PRAYER." I found the strength to post a FB plea:

Then I gathered my babies, and we dove into prayer. There were a LOT of tears as I prayed (but my tears are a REGULAR house guest here). When John's turn to pray came, he paused after just a few seconds. As the length of the pause grew, Hannah must have looked up and with awe and wonder in her voice, she said, "Dad's crying." As far as I can remember, that is the first time during this medical journey that our children have seen him cry about it. He doesn't cry from the pain---no matter how bad it gets. He wasn't crying out of fear---honestly this man RARELY knows fear. He was crying out of a place of SHEER EXHAUSTION over all he has traveled through and out of WEARINESS from watching us struggle along with him.  The end of his prayer gutted me, "Lord let ALL of the difficulty of this situation fall on MY shoulders. Protect my family from it." OY!

So as we enter this next valley of difficulty, there will be close to a JILLION things you could pray for us (and don't hold back!  Let the Spirit lead you to WHATEVER topic He puts on your heart. We are NOT picky.  We will take ANY prayers we can get.)

But for today, the top 3 are:

1. Pray for John.  Pray that he may gracefully travel through this valley.... that he will TRUST God... and that he will FINALLY find RELIEF.

2. Pray for our children. Pray that God will use yet ANOTHER time their daddy has to be cut open to pull them CLOSER to Him.... to INCREASE their faith... and that Satan would NOT be given a foothold of fear or bitterness in ANY of their hearts.

3. Pray for this surgery to happen THIS YEAR.  I realize that these money worries are just "fluff 'n stuff" but walking through previous seasons of need and desperation have left me with what feels like a form of PTSD and while I know that God WILL get us through whatever comes, I really, really, REALLY do not have ANY desire to add yet ANOTHER thousand dollars of bills to the Kastner Medical Bill quagmire.

To those of you who have journeyed with us the entire time: THANK YOU for your continued prayer. I would have COMPLETELY understood if you had grown tired of our woes and distanced yourself from our situation.  I often wish I could just escape it too.

To those of you who have recently joined our lives: previous blogs (especially from the fall of 2009, the winter of 2011, and the end of the year in 2013) may help you get up-to-speed if you desire, and THANK YOU for joining us in prayer.

To my family:  you are my ROCK. Besides Jesus there is NO ONE, NOTHING that has been more precious to me through all of this than you.  Thank you for CONSTANTLY jumping to help me... For clutching me so tightly in your prayers... For opening your home (and your elliptical trainer) to me when I need to flee the stress for a lil bit... For letting me scream, cry, and say REALLY stupid things to get the gunk out of my heart... And for forgiving all my faux pas in the midst of difficult journey.

Firmly in His grip and EXPECTANTLY waiting for mountains to move,

Jami L. Kastner

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Lessons from the RV... my parents

I literally can NOT tell you how many times this past weekend that I thought, "I am SO blessed to have the parents I have."

These two!!!!  They are AMAZING parents!!! They started this parenting journey when they were just babies themselves:

They weathered tough things and grew up together and NO MATTER WHAT have ALWAYS put their children's needs (and most of the time our WANTS too) before theirs.

Fourth of July weekend was the MOST relaxing time I have had in a LONG time. I spent a TON of time getting some MUCH needed exercise:  walking all over, biking here and there, crunching and pushupping and STRETCHING.  I sat at the pool and soaked up some rays. I read a book (practically cover to cover). I watched my babies having a blast. I sat by a campfire and breathed in the yummy aroma. I connected with my family and ate yummy stuff and laughed and laughed and laughed.... (can you say, "Rickshaw?")  All of this made possible by my AMAZING parents.

One day as we sat by the pool, I told my mom I couldn't remember the last time I felt this RELAXED.... she said, "That is just priceless to me."  And I realized.... this woman.... would give ANYTHING she could to make my life better, to make me happy, to see me fulfilled and successful.

This Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for parents who have stayed together through thick and thin.... who love me and my children and my husband to distraction.... who sacrifice everything they have for me. And I'm thankful to the God who made these two amazing humans my parents.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lessons from the RV... God's opinion

Happy Monday y'all!  What a WONDERFUL, BLESSED, RELAXING holiday weekend I had!  My parents recently got an RV and have become seasonal campers at Westward Ho campground "up north" (not so far though) in Wisconsin.

This weekend we celebrated my dad's retirement and 4th of July up at the RV and it was AMAZING!  I spent A LOT of my time here:

soakin up rays.... reading a book... just RELAXING! During these quiet, relaxing moments I prayed a lot too.... And God spoke some reminders to my soul which should give me plenty of blog topics for a few days :)  So here's my first installment of Lessons from the RV....

God's Opinion 

Right now, I'm in the WORST shape EVER. Years of caring for the needs of others at the expense of my own needs have left me HEAVY, weak, inflexible and cardiovascularly SHAMEFUL. As I laid at the pool, it was hard not to feel sick over how I look and worry INCESSANTLY about "What people are thinking of me." I worry SO much what people are thinking of me at almost ALL times.  I worry about people thinking I'm fat. I worry about people thinking my house is a mess. I worry what people are thinking about my children, my husband, my marriage, and on and on and ON.

So this weekend as I was WORRYING about what people think again, and I felt God whispering to me, "You've forgotten about MY opinion."  See the ONLY opinion I should care about is God's.  Even the opinions of those I hold most dear:  my husband, my children, my mom, my sisters, my friends.... the importance of those opinions fades to NOTHING when held next to what I SHOULD be focusing on:  God's opinion.  I'm pretty sure that God doesn't care too much about the extra large size of my mumu-like fat-girl swimsuit.  I am quite confident that God isn't too worried about the cleanliness of my kitchen floor. He isn't sitting up there shaking His finger because my child had a melt-down or because my mini-van makes that WRETCHED noise.  He cares about MUCH deeper and more important issues:

*Like is my HEART in the right place when I'm cleaning up yet ANOTHER of Auntie Marge's poo-capades.
*Like how do I handled my child's melt-down... with patience and grace or like a maniac screaming and threatening.
*Like why am I wasting SO much time worrying about what others think of me when I could be PRAYING for others, or sowing His love through kind words and actions, or just CONVERSING with Him.

So I guess the first lesson I downloaded from this weekend was this:

re-focus on God's opinion, Jami, and let all the rest fade into the background....

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday weekend.  Stay tuned for more Lessons from the RV.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


My momma taught me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  I believe this wholeheartedly, backing it up even with scripture...

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

However, yesterday during a heated discussion about this topic, the thought was presented:  "if I filter out the negative things I'm thinking and don't say them I'm not being myself." [stick a pin in that one.... we'll come back to it...]


Two days ago I got this fabulous idea. Before I thought it completely through, I tweeted. (mistake much?)  See I thought:  each night I'm gonna tweet #whatGodsteachingmetoday

Not so bad... see on Sunday God WAS teaching me to keep my eyes in my own fence.... Throughout the day, He convicted me that my time is MUCH better spent looking in a mirror to see what I need to fix than looking out my window worrying about what others need to fix. I figured how hard can this be??? and Maybe someone else will benefit from #whatGodsteachingmetoday ???

Fast forward to last night.... I didn't wanna do it. I didn't want to tweet #whatGodsteachingmetoday....  See earlier in the day, I opened my BIG, FAT mouth and let nagging FLOW from my mouth... practically giving a 3-point sermon on what my hubby needed to fix.... (in retrospect, I coulda just applied Sunday's lesson...) So I didn't wanna tweet #whatGodsteachingmetoday because it was embarrassing.  It was supported by this verse which put me in an oh so NOT flattering light....

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Proverbs 25:24

But finally, in spite of my reticence, I tweeted

[Okay... another quick pin in that thought.... I'm fixing to tie this together soon.... I PROMISE!]


Final piece of the puzzle, as I sat at the table this a.m. filling med containers a snippy retort SPRUNG to my mind, and I BIT down on my tongue to keep it from flying out. (See I'm no dummy.... I didn't want to have to post ANOTHER humiliating tweet tonight.)

And then that thought.... that disagreeing rebuttle to my if-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say-don't-say-anything-at-all sermon popped into my head.... "if I filter out the negative things I'm thinking and don't say them I'm not being myself"... see THIS is what John was talking about when I gave him my 3-point sermon on positive thinking!  If we bite our tongue and filter out our negative retorts, suppressing negative words, saying only the "good things" aren't we denying our true selves? Are we being authentic? Don't we risk turning into something we're not? Are we setting ourselves up for a crisis when we hardly recognize the person we've become because we're biting back so much?  and THAT's when God showed up!  that's when he whispered to the recesses of my mind, "YES!  and that's the goal.... to become MORE like Christ and LESS like you." ouch!

Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.
I John 2:6


Okay folks, I think I'm finally ready to land this plane now.... Ready to remember all those pinned thoughts???

All these things tie together into these thoughts on employing a filter. I am a HUGE proponent of employing a filter between your brain and your mouth. I do NOT believe that everything we think has to come flying out of our mouths. I think we should practice what my momma taught me,  "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." 

It used to be a part of my positive thinking mantra:  your words have power.... think & speak positive into your life... blah blah blah.... but today I realized there is MORE to it....  by filtering out the negative.... by denying myself.... by holding back my snippy retorts.... I am allowing CHRIST to become more as I fade to the background!

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

Now I'm not promising this is going to be my #whatGodsteachingmetoday tweet tonight.... the day is so YOUNG and there are SO many convicting moments yet to be had!  But I just wanted to share this right away in case anyone else needed to hear.... it's okay to filter yourself.... it's even okay if you become someone you hardly recognize.... as long as that someone you are becoming resembles our Savior.

Have a GREAT day everyone!  God bless.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Valley strategies

Yesterday was a TOUGH day.  I'm still in a bit of an aftershock period, and I find myself continually ASSAULTED by the EXHAUSTION that follows an adrenaline packed episode and constantly HOUNDED by this almost overwhelming FEAR of what the next trouble around the bend will be. Yesterday I was NOT the victor against these two foes.  In fact,  exhaustion and fear KICKED my butt yesterday, leaving me prostate in a puddle of my own tears.

This morning as I hauled my WEARY bones out of bed, the chorus of Natalie Grant's song Held echoed through my brain,  "This is what it means up be held...." I and remembered some of the lessons I've learned before.... some strategies for when I'm in the valley.

1. IMMERSE yourself in the things of God.  Christian music, the Word of God, PRAYER..... soak in His presence so when you are in the grip of the battle HE is what oozes out.

2. Cut yourself some slack!  I am my own worst critic.  I am the voice SCREAMING, "JAMI, GET UP AND BE PRODUCTIVE! BE PERFECT!  DO BETTER!" But in times like the ones I'm walking through right now, I'm going to stumble and fall.  And instead of perfect, sometimes I need to accept nothing more than a good effort.... I need to congratulate myself for simply not giving up.  I need to be proud of myself for dragging myself up out of the mud and the mire instead of berating myself for stumbling and falling into it in the first place.

3. Learn to say NO. No to increased responsibilities... No to unnecessary endeavors.... I am an Armagedon-movie junkie:  Armageddon, Volcano, Independence Day... And any good action movie junkie knows:  when the spaceship is losing power, you turn off ALL systems that are NOT necessary for survival!  STOP doing anything you can get away with NOT doing. Do NOT expend energy on ANYTHING that is not vital to SURVIVAL!  People in my house are going to live if the kitchen floor isn't impeccably clean. We can eat a few more meals before I absolutely HAVE to go to the grocery store.  Cut back... Eliminate.... Reduce.... to save your strength for the battle you are in.

4. Never give up!  NEVER give up!  No matter how dark the night is... No matter how hopeless the situation seems... do NOT give up... do NOT throw in the towel.... joy (or at least a dimming of the CRAP) DOES come in the morning. Sometimes the victory is simply from NOT conceding.

Psalm 30:5 
For His anger lasts only a moment,
but His favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reluctant writer....

On Monday, I felt the URGE to write. It was pressing so hard on my heart. I cried back, "No! God! PLEASE! NO!"  Alas, the grip on my heart was not released.

So here I am again.... blogging for the second (maybe third) time this week. But I need to start by stating clearly that this time around I am a Reluctant Writer.

See blogging is so dangerous. It opens my thoughts, my feelings, my very heart to the scrutiny of others. Sometimes I get RANTS about how evil and off-base I am. Sometimes I get well-meaning but MISGUIDED helpful hints. Sometimes I just get plain out ATTACKS on my person... my situation... my family. The first reason for my reluctance is just simply that writing brings pain.

In addition to that, blogging again is somehow an admission that we are "in the thick of it" again. I don't want that to be true. I don't really FEEL like it is true. But somehow by needing the therapy of writing, by returning to blogging, somehow I am admitting that the Kastner family is again walking down the "road less traveled".... that pock-marked road full of pain, agony, and (if I'm being honest) doubt. I am reluctant because for me writing means I'm walking through a valley.

But on Sunday as I worshipped.... as I CRIED out to "my song"  I very CLEARLY heard God whisper to my heart, "Will you be My billboard again?" I nonchalantly with immediate obedience answered, "Yes. Always." Then He pressed in closer, "Even if the advertisement I place upon you is one of pain, loss, fear and uncertainty.... will you let Me display My power through you even then?"  The tears bubbled up and spilled from my soul.... I chewed on my lip a little... wringing my hands.... dragging my feet... yet STILL I answered (a little less certain, a little less buoyant), "yes."

I'm not sure WHY we are walking through another season like this. We never are. I'm not sure WHO needs to hear my sad tale. Sometimes you tell me.... sometimes you don't. I don't know WHAT this next valley walk will hold. I don't know WHEN we'll reach the other side. But I do know a few things.  I am CERTAIN of some.

1. I will obey. I will follow. Wherever God's going, that's where I want to be. Whether it's a hospital ER... bouncing along down the street in a minivan that STILL has something wrong with its suspension... holding a SHATTERED smartphone in my hand... or if by some pleasant surprise we turn back down a road filled with pom poms... happy, healthy, whole children... medical bills NOT looming so dark anymore...  NO MATTER WHAT MAY COME, I'M GOING WHERE GOD'S LEADING.

2. He is in CONTROL. No matter how chaotic the past 60 days have seemed. No matter how much my heart palpitates. No matter how many co-pays are bled from me. No matter how many casts grace that precious arm. No matter how many more plastic ER room chairs my rear needs to occupy. NO MATTER WHAT MAY COME, HE IS IN CONTROL.

So come along if you dare.... I promise to make time to write when God presses something on my heart. As always I will be brutally, gut-wrenchingly honest about what's going on. And you.... will you promise me one thing???  Will you let my life be a lesson?  I don't care if it's a lesson of what NOT to want for your life. Or if it is a lesson of GRATITUDE that you aren't walking through what I'm walking through.... All I want is for all this suffering to mean something. I just don't want it to be for naught. So please come along and read my life as a lesson.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I have blogged about this phenomenon before.... when God uses Pandora to preach a sermon to me. It happened to me again this a.m. as I biked, and I feel compelled to share the message(s) He spoke to me.

Oftentimes I find the "aftershock" can be worse than the "earthquake".... During the earthquake moments, I get by on adrenaline kept aloft by the prayers of MANY of you walking through my trial with me. But when the aftershocks come, my adrenaline has worn off.... an exhaustion starts to set in and I FEEL the stress and pain left in the wake of the earthquake.

This weekend might have been harder for me than when John was actually IN the hospital. Saturday was a nice reprieve [John and I had a kid-free day.... If you follow me on FB you know I found my dream rocker which I have been SEARCHING for for at least 2 years]

and Sunday morning God SCREAMED, "I love you Jami." from the worship set list [FB friends:  remember this post from Thursday night:

How many times in the past five years have I chased an ambulance to the hospital? 5? 6? Maybe even 7?

Today as I RUSHED to St. Luke's my fear was palpable, and I could feel myself losing it. Hannah and Elijah were in the van with me.... That was the ONLY thing keeping me under control. I knew if I fell apart they would too. And then God GRIPPED me with a lyric from this song bubbling up in my heart:

"I will look back and see that You are faithful
I look ahead believing You are able"

And His peace SWIRLED around my soul as I realized... 5? 6? 7? times He has gotten us through. This time WILL be NO different!

If you need a little encouragement tonight listen to this song. I'll be playing it on repeat as I drift off to sleep. 

well THAT song was the last song of the worship set yesterday.....] I BAWLED like a baby as the words washed over my soul!

...but the rest of the weekend was a murky MESS of pain, irritation and impatience.

Right now I am just past exhausted with VERY thin skin and absolutely NO patience. I am taking EVERYTHING personally. I am BLOWING UP (okay if not on the outside at least on the inside) over every minor infraction. And honestly, I don't even like to be around myself right now.

Last night I started feeling like I'm coming down with something [body aches, headache] and this morning I awoke with a sore throat, but I was BOUND and DETERMINED to bike this morning, and am I glad I did because God had a sermon waiting for me on my Pandora station! Because music ministers to my soul so much, I am including videos of the songs in case you want to hear one....

Pandora Station:  Barlow Girls

Song 1:
by Superchick (can I just say how I LOVE Superchick???  MMMMM!)

most gripping lyrics:
Tell me I can make it through this day
I don't even have the words to pray
You have been the only One who never left me
Help me find the way through all my fears

Lord, I'm so tired.... please get me through THIS day... I don't know how to pray because I don't even KNOW what emergency might be on the horizon... help me to face this day without fear, and NO MATTER WHAT don't leave me!

Song 2:
You're Not Alone
by Meredith Andrews

most gripping lyrics:
You're not alone for I, I am here
Let me wipe away your every fear
My love, I've never left your side
I have seen you through the darkest night
Your darkest night
And I'm the One who's loved you all your life

Every single dark alley I've walked down.... Every night I spent alone in my bed afraid of what the test results would bring... YOU have seen me through God!

Song 3:
by Natalie Grant

most gripping lyrics:
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

The promise NEVER has been ANYTHING other than I would be HELD.  And I have been HELD.

Song 4:
by Superchick

On this one the WHOLE song GRIPPED me....
How long will this take?
How much can I go through?
My heart, my soul aches
I don't know what to do
I bend, but don't break
Somehow I'll get through
'Cause I have You
And if I had to crawl
Well, You'd crawl too
I stumble and I fall
Carry me through
The wonder of it all is You 
See me through
Oh, Lord, where are you?
Do not forget me here
I cry in silence
Can You not see my tears?
When all have left me
And hope has disappeared
You'll find me here
And when I had to crawl
Well, You crawl too
I stumble and I fall
Carry me through
The wonder of it all is You
See me through
When everything I was is lost
I have forgot but You have not
When I am lost, You have not lost me
When everything I was is lost
I have forgot but You have not
When I am lost, You have not lost me

I have been crying in silence... trying to be strong... afraid to say how scared I really am... unsure if I can verbalize the pain in the depths of me.... but you HAVE NOT lost me.  You WILL NOT lose me.

As always I hope this jumbled mess has ministered to someone, but honestly the writing of it has ministered to me and maybe that's all God wanted this for.

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Update (i.e. The Earthquake)

The past two months have been a whirlwind. If you follow me on FB you don't need to read this.  I'm just updating those who aren't on FB mostly (Renee!!!!  this is for you!)

4/23/14 Broken Arm Elijah fell (while attempting a "professional bike trick") and broke both his radius an ulna. The ulna - just a hairline fracture, but the radius BROKEN and needed weekly monitoring to determine if he would need surgery

5/4/14 Broken Finger (Hannah's birthday) Jeremiah fractured his finger RIGHT at the knuckle. LUCKILY it stayed in place and did not warrant surgery....

5/31/14  Rusty Nail Elijah (while still sporting a cast on his left arm) stepped on a rusty nail in the backyard which went STRAIGHT through the shoe he was wearing and into his foot.

6/3/14 Ambulance Ride 1 John took a little ambulance ride to the ER because to rule out a fracture in his neck when he smacked his head HARD on cement

6/12/14 Ambulance Ride 2 John took ANOTHER ride in an ambulance. He was at a normal appointment at the neurosurgeon when he started having crushing chest pains that traveled down his arm. His blood pressure also skyrocketed so the neurosurgeon's staff called 911 and sent him to the ER. We spent a cozy 24 hours in the cardiac observation area only to be told his heart is VERY strong and it was a non-cardiac chest pains.

Needless to say, I am being carried through ONLY by the grace of our God and could use a week here:

or at least a week without a broken bone, tetanus shot, or ambulance ride.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happily Ever After Recipe

It all started with a BEAUTIFUL wedding. Then 7 moves... 10 cars... 6 churches... 4 kids.... 7 surgeries... 5 grandkids... 17 jobs... 1 old lady.... lost teeth.... broken bones.... stitches.... baptisms.... weddings... cheerleading.... martial arts... basketball.... baseball... soccer... endless searches for a little girl's glasses.... bickering children... sticky kisses... vomiting... snuggling.... copays.... electric bills... plenty of tears... more laughs (and fights) than you can count... and here we are with one BLESSED marriage.

My marriage is turning sweet 16 today and along the way I've learned some lessons:

*A marriage doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. There is PLENTY of beauty in imperfection. Flaws make beauty REAL. 

*Everybody's happiness looks different.  What makes me happy might make you MISERABLE and vice versa.

*Fairytales are stories.  Marriage isn't the harmonic melody and the rose petals under your fancy lace shoes while you walk down the aisle.  Marriage is better represented by the mud-caked face of a soldier in the trenches fighting and SACRIFICING himself for what he holds dear.

*Marriage is about becoming more CHRISTLIKE.  It isn't about happily ever after or China patterns or even kids who are your mini-me. Every part of this journey we are on is about becoming more like our Savior. That's it. Period.  The end.

So happy anniversary, Babe.  Marrying you has made me a better person. And this journey we are on, filled with excitement and fear, joy and sorrow,  peace and ire.... it's the best ride I've been on in my entire life!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You never know...

You never know when God's gonna use you.... or how.... Sometimes I write what I think is a GREAT blog, and I get NO response.... or even I get NAILED to the wall on how wrong/off base/heretical I am... Other times I write what feels like a jumbled mess... hardly makes sense to me... I have NO idea if people will properly infer my message or relate to what I'm trying to convey and BAM! It touches people. It ministers to them.

More often then not, it is when I'm thinking, "Gosh maybe I should just delete this one.... Maybe it was only the writing and getting it out of my soul that needed to be done and it should not go public because it makes NO sense." that is when I hear from people, "This was exactly what I needed to hear."

Sooooooo I have a lesson for you... my faithful readers.....

SAY it!  DO it!  Do NOT hold back on what the Holy Spirit is telling you to do!  I would bet a billion dollars there will be haters. I can almost guarantee you will get a little bit of flack. But I can also tell you if just ONE person is blessed, it is worthwhile.

sooooo.... tell that stranger at Walmart how great her hair looks when you think it.... risk looking like a stalker because your comment just might be the one that gives her the hope to make it through what she's struggling with.... ask that person whose sorrow catches your attention if you can pray for them.... it may be hard and they may say no.... but try!  Reach out!  Risk!  Take the chance!  Most often when you feel most inadequate is when God is waiting to move the most mightily.

You never know when He's going to use you..... You don't have to know.  You just have to DO whatever He's telling you to do.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
I Corinthians 1:27

Friday, January 31, 2014


Being a parent is TOUGH....  Some of us signed up for this job.  We thought, "Hey... I'd like to have kids." and BOOM!  Baby makes 3 or 4 or 6.  Some of us weren't looking for the position but were instead thrust into it, "What does that second line on the stick mean???"  Some of us wanted it so bad that we were willing to do ANYTHING to get it.  Adoption... Fostering... In-vitro.... ANYTHING.

But regardless of how or why we became parents, it isn't easy..... In fact, it is the TOUGHEST job I never knew I could love so much.

He was just 4 or 5.  It was his first experience with a team sport.... T-ball. And this day was HIS turn to bring the snack.  It was a momentous occasion for a 4-year old.  Bringing the snack.... Feeling like king for the day... being POPULAR because of the treats he had in his possession.  I will NEVER as long as I live forget the feeling in my tummy when the boom of rejection fell. See someone had screwed up and scheduled TWO children to bring snack that day, and NO ONE.... I mean NOT ONE t-ball player took Noah's snack. Tears brimmed in his little 4-year old eyes as he said, "Momma, no one wanted my snack."  In a flash I realized this was just the beginning.... The future held MANY rejections that I would need to walk through with him:  "Momma, no one sat by me on the bus." "Momma, I was the last one picked for kickball." "Mom, she doesn't 'like' me."  "Mom, I lost my job."  My heart SCREAMED, "God I can't DO this! I can't watch my baby hurt!  I can't stand the pain of this MOST precious person being hurt."

Be still and know that I am God....

She was 5.  We had been told this moment was possible since she was 4 months old. But we had done EVERYTHING to prevent it... baby glasses, patches, baby bifocals, oh SO many doctor appointments.... Yet here we were in a small curtained area waiting for them to wheel our baby girl back and cut into her eyeballs to fix them.  She looked at me with terror in her eyes.  "Momma, don't let them TAKE me." her eyes screamed out at me.  I had MANY reasons why I was going to let them take her. I had her future vision, appearance, happiness on my side. I was RIGHT to let them do this.  But she didn't need to hear any of that. She didn't need my well-thought out defense. All she needed to hear was, "I'm sorry." and "I love you."  All the way down the hallway I heard her scream, "I want my Momma!  I want my Momma!" Those screams still echo in my heart.... and through my tears, I just whispered, "I'm sorry. I love you.  I'm sorry. I love you."

Be still and know that I am God....

My cheerleaders have tried to explain to me what subtweeting is... I just couldn't seem to get it, but recently I have started to realize that I guess I already am a master at it.  See sometimes the situations that plague my heart are too sensitive and too confidential to blab the details.  So I blog about related topics.  I blog about safer topics. I leave out the details... the names... the specifics. Most often to protect OTHERS who didn't sign up to be a part of my "bare naked honesty."  

That's what this blog is about today... it's not really about t-ball.... it's not really about eye surgery... But it IS about parenting.  And how difficult it is.... it was difficult when a teething baby BIT me while nursing... it was difficult when I was putting patches on a screaming 2-year old.... it was difficult when someone smeared butter in the screens and broke THREE toilets (all in one summer I might add).... it was difficult when we were deciding if we should homeschool... and the fact that I love these little people more than my own life and I realize what I am doing is worthwhile does not change the fact that PARENTING IS DIFFICULT! broken hearts... needing to simply say, "I'm sorry. I love you." and no more.  It is DIFFICULT!  

Be still and know that I am God....

To every parent reading this I'd just like to say:

Be still and know that I am God....

It is tough.  There are many times that aren't fun.  But He has this under control.  When you just want to SCREAM at the heartbreak your child is suffering.  When all you can say is, "I'm sorry.... I love you...."  He has this under control.  

I doubt this blog will minister to anyone else today... but as is typical for me writing out my angst has been therapeutic for me.  

Hope you have a GREAT day!

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

Monday, January 6, 2014


Is it cold enough for you out there?  This morning I drove John to work so that he wouldn't have to make the 15-minute walk from his parking spot to his building. [Up here in Wisconsin it is so cold that apparently frostbite will set in with only 15 minutes of exposure!  Now THAT is cold!] As we turned out of our neighborhood, I was STRUCK (like semi-truck struck) by an overwhelming WAVE of gratitude. It happened so fast it nearly knocked me over.  For your own protection, I will take you through the experience a little slower...

Two years ago today we had just completed a WHIRLWIND move from our gorgeous, spacious, dream home in the country to a tiny, postage stamp lot, residence in the city. There was no doubt that God's fingerprints were ALL over that move. Mortal hands could NEVER have arranged the way it went down. It was just 11 days from viewing the house to living in the house. We moved a family of seven 40 miles away over the Christmas holidays!  Nothing short of a miracle!

So we were in the city... where we needed to be.... and things were better, but they were still TOUGH! We had 1 vehicle and 1 driver, but we still had 4 kids, 3 jobs and an elderly person to take care of.  I was responsible for EVERY bit of driving in this house, but I didn't give up ANY of my other responsibilities.  I still homeschooled the kids, cared for my aunt, worked from home, coached cheer, and cared for a sick hubby.  When I look back sometimes, I literally have NO idea how I survived. I was literally and truly carried through that season of life by my loving God and my amazing family. 

Every day I rose (like today) and drove 30 to 45 minutes to get John to work and get back home, before starting the INSANITY of my day: work-homeschool-clean up after kids-clean up after an old person. Then I would have to take a break in the insanity of my day to drive another 30 to 45 minutes to retrieve John from work and then coach-work-school some more-make dinner-clean up after AM some more. Every single solitary errand that needed to be run, I was responsible for:  library to return books, get groceries, Walmart, pickup prescriptions, oops ran out of milk, get to practice, BAH need emergency first aid supplies.  EVERYTHING was on my shoulders. 

Fast forward to this morning, as my husband was turning out of our neighborhood, and I was BY CHOICE to keep him safe but NOT out of necessity, riding along to get him to work, and I was OVERWHELMED with the realization of all that God has done for us in the past 24 months [*two drivers *two vehicles *hubby FINALLY on the mend] and AWE-STRUCK by the blessings I've already come to take for granted [*having an extra hour and a half each day of NOT driving him *having a second vehicle (thanks to my AMAZING parents) *sharing the errands with John] and AMAZED that He would do all of that for a wretched creature like me... which all led me to REMEMBER His great love for me.

Yesterday at Life Church we started a  new series titled Re-. Aaron Cole kicked it off with an AWESOME sermon titled Review. He encouraged us to regularly Review our lives.... to remember the goodness of God.... as we drove to church I heard Brian Houston from Hillsong on KLove encouraging us, He's "never failed and He won't start now."  Then during worship we sang the song those lyrics are from.... God really wants me to REMEMBER..... and I plan to do that.  This morning I am remembering how BLESSED I am and how FAR He's brought us.... it is proof positive that

  He's NEVER failed, and He won't start now.

What do you need to remember today?  Take a few minutes and replay it all in your mind. Remember the goodness of your God, and be blessed everyone!

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.
Psalm 77:11

A million apologies.....

I just logged on to blog (post coming soon) and realized that I never updated by blog (only FB and Twitter) about John's appointment!

There was bone growth!
He got a GLOWING report!
He was cleared to return to work AND got approval from MU to do it!

sooooooooo..... He's back to work and WELL on his way to returning to normal (well as normal as can be).

Thank you all for your prayers and sorry for this lapse in communication.
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