23 December 2017

Merry Christmas

I must admit that, this year, my reflection letter is more difficult to write than ever before, when it really should be one of the simplest to type up and send out.  I’ve looked at my computer screen for days with nothing but my closing quote picked out and notes with a few of Kirstyn’s and James’ major accomplishments to share.  You have done what Romans 12:9-16 asks.  You have been faithful in prayer.  You have mourned with us.  So now that I have nothing but good things to share, I have no idea why I hesitate to allow you to also rejoice with us.

Matthew 11:28 tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This year we have had some time together to res t, rebuild, and reconnect.   We asked for rest in Him and our prayers were answered.  We did not have to take our children to a single funeral or explain to them any more terrible illnesses.  While the flu went through our house, none of us had to go to the hospital.  As a family, we were able to travel to Hawaii and Port Aransas for vacations during the summer.

I had two positive oncologist visits this year.  This summer we made the decision for me to not drive for a month, so I could try a new seizure medication.  The results of that change have been fantastic.  My energy level is up and I am able to think much more clearly now.  We believe I am also having fewer night time mini-seizures now, as I am having less eye issues.  We just increased my night dose again in December and I am experiencing very few side effects with this medication and for that we are so very thankful.  My favorite day each week is Wednesday, when I study the Word at BSF.  We finished the book of John last semester and this fall we are studying Romans.

David is still enjoying his job with Pearson Air.  He was able to coach James’ basketball team last winter and then this past fall helped coach the defensive line for his 4th grade tackle football team.  We still do not take for granted the blessing of having him home for dinner every night and here with us every Saturday.

Kirstyn finished 7th grade with numerous awards and straight A’s in all Pre-AP classes and is doing the same this year in the 8th grade.  She made Show Choir this year, was in the spring musical and the fall play, she plays keyboard twice per month for our KidsRock praise team, and occasionally sings in church. It seems we are often watching her on a stage, and I am constantly impressed by her talent and confidence. 

James is in the 4th grade.  He has been in advanced classes, and has been in the Gifted and Talented program.  He recently read 8 books and tested the highest.  This allowed him to be his school’s team captain for a district Battle of the Books.  He has also been invited to be on a 4th – 6th grade UIL Number Sense team that will also compete this spring at District.  He played basketball and football.  He says football is the most fun because “he is big and he gets to tackle and because he is pretty good at it, too.”  He did find his hustle this season and even with 22 boys on his team, he got to play both ways the entire game and he got at least one sack every game!

The kids got brave and spent a week totally off the grid at Brookhill Ranch Camp in Hot Springs.  Their faith in the Lord was deepened and their relationship with each other was strengthened.

Both kids have played golf and taken lessons all year!  In the junior league they play in, they have started playing on the same team.  Kirstyn has started using my dad’s driver, fitted with a new pink grip, and James has gotten very good at reading the greens and putting.  One very hot summer night we watched them eagle a hole when Kirstyn drove the green and James sank a very long putt!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the book ‘Wonder’ that James’ class read this year and a movie we really enjoyed as a family.  “The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average – though those things are important, to be sure.  It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year.  That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.” R. J. Palacio, Wonder


12 August 2017

A New Muscle

She thought she was strong but she had no idea yet...
Photo credit Paul Knudsen Portfolio Studios 2011

When you are pulled back you are being set up just like a slingshot for a major launch to do great things, to go far.  The further you are pulled back, the further you have the potential to go.  Turn your setbacks into comebacks.  That's my paraphrase of what I heard Michael Jr. say this week when he was speaking at the Global Leadership Summit.

Resilience is a muscle.  That muscle in my life was very weak.  I had not yet had much opportunity to even try to use it.  Of course, now it feels like we have been training it hard as a family for the past six years.  I'm starting to feel ready to train others... I should be on the mic!  Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Option B, "In my experience, survivors want the opportunity to teach and not be shunned because they went through something unknowable, still people hesitate to ask questions out of concern that probing will dredge up trauma."

But now my question is what and where?  I hear people say to me that I inspire them.  I am still teaching at the gym.  As much to make myself keep going and some so that I continue to have a platform to share my "no excuses" story.  But lately that isn't enough.  Maybe because I haven't been writing.  I actually have 5 saved drafts but the most recent one is from June 2016 so I'm not really writing anymore like I was.  I've been frustrated.  Frustrated with my weight and my illness and my limitations that my illness puts on me.  When I'm not asked to speak or help with something I wonder, do people not want to bother me or do that think I'm not up to the challenge?

I want to share my "no excuses" story that includes more of my faith and how that faith has helped me tell my fears to shut up.  For 5 long years I stared at my expiration date and did not allow myself to dream.  Gary Haugen said, "Fear is the silent destroyer of dreams!"  Jesus reminds us in John 15:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  I have to change my thinking from defense to offense.  What can and will go right instead of focusing on the alternative.  Today I will do something I love because I don't know how long I have left, none of us do.  Today is a gift.  If I'm still here next year, I will attend the Global Leadership Summit again...it gave me lots to think about and a little to write down!


03 January 2017

2016 Reflection Letter

            We pray that this letter finds you facing the start of 2017 with renewed energy and a deepened faith as you have seen prayers answered and joy renewed.  We continue to fight for our faith to be bigger than our fears.   We studied Ephesians 6 this year and have been finding ways to apply it.  One way we have been able to do this was after reading “The Prince Warriors” by Pricilla Shirer:  “That is why you must always follow the Way of the Armor, because sometimes your worst enemy…is yourself.”
This year we had the privilege to see prayers that we have prayed for several years answered.  With those answered prayers came big changes for our little family.  At the end of February, David was hired as Financial Manager for Pearson Air here in Arlington, and, in leaving the car business, he was able to start spending his Saturdays with us.  He says he could not have imagined a better position for himself and looks forward to a long career there.  In 2016, I had 2 more stable MRIs and my brain cancer continues to behave itself.  We have made several medication changes and I am feeling some better.  In June 2016, I crossed a major milestone with 5 years survival. Then in October after almost a year of searching, we found and purchased our forever home.  God’s hands were all in the details of that process and our home of 15 years sold in one day.  We moved in on November 17th and are still getting settled.
We’ve been learning.  David and I attended the Global Leadership Summit where David’s leadership skills were challenged and built, and I walked away determined to be present more than perfect.  Kirstyn started junior high and took on all advanced placement classes, and continues to work very hard to make all A’s.  James spent countless hours studying Albert Einstein and learning the beginnings of how to write computer code.  He was designated as Gifted and Talented and is currently watching YouTube for “life hacks” and “science experiments”.  Both kids have taken up golf and have been playing in Jr. PGA leagues.  We’ve even been able to play as a family… it’s only slightly humbling to have the kids giving me advice and pointers.
Kirstyn (13) continues to amaze us with her music talent and bravery.  She went from singing on the KidsRock praise team to the Youth Praise team.  She has had opportunities to sing solos in the 6th grade musical, talent show, summer camp, and in “big church” in our Christmas kickoff called Hanging of the Green.  She also made All Region Honors Choir through school and is still playing piano and collecting blue ribbons and trophies. 
James (9) is our left brained child.  His math skills impress us all.  He really started to enjoy golf when his coach taught him how to read the greens.  He went from holding the club to lying down with a level and a sheet full of mathematical formulas and like the rest of us is practicing getting his body to do what he knows needs to happen to sink the putt.  He played basketball and football, and really found a love for the game (and his hustle) when he put on a helmet and pads for the first time this fall. 
We have traveled to visit family and for adventure.  David and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on our first cruise.  In July we went to the beach and built sandcastles.  And in December we went to Disney with our kids and our moms. We shared in so much joy when we attended weddings and birthday parties.  We mourned the loss of my Uncle Johnny, Great Uncle Frank, and Great Uncle CA, and continue to be reminded of the importance of family and living out our faith in Jesus.  We celebrated Thanksgiving in Arkansas on the farm and then Christmas in our new home with both of our moms and my grandmother here.
We wish you many blessings in 2017, and I want to leave you with James’ takeaway from Harvest America, “Stuff you do might be good, but that’s all just doo-doo.  All that really matters is what Jesus did for us.”  So go forth, and share the Gospel and the love of Jesus in your own way and we will too!  Our prayer going into 2017 was said best by Oswald Chambers, “Beware of spending too much time looking back at what you once were when God wants you to become something you have never been.”