Monday, February 15, 2016

One Very Long Decade

Ten years ago today I had loaded up my Ford Taurus station wagon and was leaving Tampa for my new ministry in Waycross, GA. My first few months in Waycross were going to be hard, as Marilyn and Will remained behind so Will could finish 5th grade at his school. Still, I was excited to see what new adventures God had in store for me. I stopped at the Tampa Christian Bookstore on my way out of town to pick up a few things for my new office, and while there I received a phone call from my Mom. My Dad, who had been very sick for a couple of months, had passed away. Obviously my plans changed and my trip was delayed as we took care of my Mom and dealt with Dad's passing. Ten years ago today. My Dad is such a huge part of who I am, and I still miss him every day. In some ways it doesn't seem that long ago. And in some ways it has been a lifetime. These have been 10 very long years...

Why so long? Let me count the ways! I survived 5 months without my family, but just barely. Thirteen months after Dad's death my life fell apart. I lost my ministry and for a short period of time my freedom. We moved back to Tampa, where from 2007-2009 I was basically a hermit, certain no one outside of my family really wanted to see me. I was unable to find a job and felt pretty useless. Through the support of some great friends and this blog, I began to bounce back. Then in 2012 I was diagnosed with diabetes and had the big toe on my left foot amputated. In 2013 I lost 2 more toes, this time from my right foot. I was dealing with not only the disease but some emotional turmoil in my personal life as well, and life just got difficult. But with lots of support, love and encouragement I made it through the rain.

And then came Sunday, August 16, 2015. My beloved dog Conner, who had been my constant companion through so much of the decade, passed away. On Friday of that same week my best friend, Lisa Jewett, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. On Saturday, Will moved out of the house for the first time and into his apartment at the University of Central Florida. Since that week much of my life has been spent caring for Lisa, visiting doctors, spending nights in hospitals and trying to take care of myself at the same time. Sharing life with her has been a true blessing, and her good news last week brought a smile to my heart. And then on January 30 we received a call that my mother had been taken to a Hospice House. On February 5, my Mom died. And somewhere in the midst of the pain it occurred to me that these 10 years had come full circle. It has been a kidney stone of a decade in many ways. My prayer is that it has now passed.

The Apostle Paul once wrote that in the end, 3 things remain- faith, hope and love. And that has certainly been my recipe for survival. I could tell you that my faith in God has never wavered, but that would be a bold faced lie. I have doubts every day. But my faith has never left me. My friends and family have shown faith in me, even when I didn't deserve it. Faith has helped keep me afloat. And because of my faith and the faith others have shown me, I always have hope. Even in the darkest of times there is hope for a better tomorrow, and that hope is always present in my heart. I may be down, but never out. Life hurts, but there are reasons to persevere. There are people who have given me hope to carry on. And I am blessed.

And love? Love is everything. The past 10 years have taught me that whatever the question, love is the answer! All the Sunday school cliches- God is love, Jesus loves me, love one another- are all absolutely true. It becomes clearer to me each and every day that life is about understanding that I am loved by so many people in so many ways, and that sharing that love with others is what makes the world go 'round! I know so many of you love me. I hope you know how much I love you.

So here's to the next 10 years! May they be full of love, light and joy. And may the peace that passes all understanding fill out hearts so that we will never be content with merely surviving. Let's get out there and truly live!!!

Because of Jesus,