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!

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