Thursday, September 26, 2013

I don't have a choice, right?

So like everyone else I have things that I am really good at.  I'm good with math, I'm good with a sewing machine, I'm good at general problem solving.  And usually we really enjoy the things we're good at.  On the flip side there are a lot of things I'm not so good at.  Waiting is one of of those things.  I don't like waiting in lines (unless I have my smart phone and no kids).  I don't like waiting for things to arrive.  Waiting is just not fun, in fact I do very little online shopping for myself simply because I want it now.  I don't want to have to wait for something to ship, but I've been a little more open to it lately.  We live in an instant gratification society.  And with all the technology we do very little waiting.

We saw Kevin this weekend.  And let me tell you, in the federal prison system there is one thing you can count on..... WAITING.  We waited in our normal line.  We wait for Kevin to be called and come to the visiting room.  Basically from the time we get there to the time he makes it into the room is usually around an hour.

But just to be able to see him I really don't mind waiting.  I've concluded that the rules change based on the moods of the guards.  One day one thing is okay and the next day it's not.  And I'm not going to lie irritates me.  Kevin looked at me and said, "Yeah honey I don't think you'd do well here.  Because really there's not a thing you can do about it."  And he's right.....there is nothing I can do about it.  I posted this quote yesterday morning.

At first I liked this quote, but the more I thought about it the dumber it sounded.  It's one of those fluffy things people can say without thinking and we all kinda just smile at the fluff because well fluff makes us feel better.  We love the fluff, but it's not real life.  Real life is that we don't have a choice.  The reason our track record is 100% is because what else is there to do?  Now if we want to get really deep with it I know you can say, "Well there are people who emotionally check out or who take their own lives or have a break down...." And while I'm still living and so are you, there are times most of us have thought about how being with the Lord sounds so much better than enduring hardship (not to compare this to actual suicidal idealizations....ok I'm getting off this subject). And we've all had our break down moments which kills the whole 100% (Here's one of my better ones. The part I left out of this blog is the fact that I kicked my car out of anger and put a big dent in it.  Yup that happened.) We all make it through because we have to.  I'm all my kids have right now.  No matter how much my carnal mind just wants to lay in bed all day and cry, I can't do that.  I have to get out of bed every morning and take my kids to school; I don't have a choice.  But the last few days, it's taken everything in me and the strength of the Lord to be able to do that.

Our visit was good.  But Kevin said something that rocked my world and sent me into a downward spiral.  He said, "So I have a date.  December 4th, 2017."  At first what he said didn't register.  I don't think that far ahead.....ever.  I'm just moving up to thinking in terms of months and not days.  So I asked him, "What do you mean date?"  And he said, "Release date."  And I felt that same panic that I felt in the courtroom rise up in me.  That uncontrollable emotion, but by the grace of God I was able to push it back down.  "Wow that's a long time from now."  I said.  "Well with the RDAP program my date would be June 4th, 2016."  The conversation moved on from that but those dates were in the forefront of my mind the entire time.  For someone who is only used to thinking days ahead, it was simply overwhelming to think about.  Kayden broke down in tears when we left and again I felt like my heart was physically being ripped out.  It was such a beautiful day and I needed a break from life so we went to the park that is right on the other side of the prison. (I'll never understand why there are parks next to prisons, but hey, it works for us.)  The kids had some cheetos left over from our visit so they decided to feed the ducks and these ducks and geese were not shy.  In fact they chased the kids across the park.  It was hilarious!  And for a brief moment all was right in the world.

So we made the long drive home.  But that date.... It's all I could think about and all I wanted to do was crawl in bed.  And that's what I did as soon as I put the kids to bed.  And the next day I woke up got the kids to school and came home and crawled right back in bed.  For 2 days I lived life at the absolute lowest level of effort.  I did only what was absolutely necessary.  We skipped extracurricular activities and I refused to leave the house.  

Kevin tried to make it better by saying, "We've already done almost 2 months, we only have to do this 16 more times."  Which made me feel a little better, but for someone who hates waiting.....well yeah.  I didn't touch my Bible and I just wanted to be left alone.  But I eventually had to shower.  And for some reason in my bathroom I can not ignore the voice of the Lord.  So yesterday afternoon I sat in my bathtub crying.  Actually it was more like complaining and whining, and being a brat. I just kept thinking I want this to be over and I want to share our testimony together. I want it to stop being hard!  I want to stop building such an incredible testimony. I want a year that doesn't involve life altering events!  And the Lord reminded me of something He told me before Kevin left.  He said to me, "The moment that I stop writing that testimony and you stop sharing it, is the point where you have real problems!"  And then I kept hearing the word "Patience," which as we covered above is not my strength.  I mean I don't have any other choice but to be patient right?  I can not change my situation.  And he said, "BUT I CAN!"  And yeah that shut me up.  And bless the Lord, He made it so easy for me.....I opened up my Bible app and the verse of the day was 
Psalms 27:13-14 NLT "Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord . Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."  
And you know what.....I have seen the Lord's goodness.  Our yard get's mowed every week, because of a man who loves the Lord.  Our dogs had somewhere to go while we were gone, because of a family who loves the Lord.  Our hotel room was booked because of that same family.  Dinner is randomly provided for us because of women who love the Lord.  And I get random checks in the mail from people who love the Lord.  I still get paychecks from Kevin's work that they are under no obligation to pay out because my husband loves the Lord.  He walks in the land of the dead(from a spiritual standpoint) and he has to be patient.  And I get to walk among the living and through them I see the goodness of the Lord and I'm having problems being patient?? 

 Ugh but there are those words I hate again......WAIT and PATIENTLY   But Lord, if that's what you called me to do I can do it.  I don't have a choice right?  And the Lord reminded me of those verses in James...James 1:2-4 NLT  "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."  So of course  I had to go search pinterest for a picture of this verse to post on facebook, but instead God decided he wasn't through teaching me something and he smacked me in the head with this:

And again I was left speechless and convicted.  Turns out I do have a choice.....I have a choice of how I'm going to act while I'm patiently waiting on the Lord.  Stomping my feet and being a brat and choosing to not participate in life is not being patient.  In fact it's the opposite.  I continued reading in James 1 and finally found out why my husband says that it is his favorite chapter in the Bible.

James 1:12-15 NLT
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Yes I think when faced with the choice of the crown of life or death......yeah I think I'll take the crown of life!  How about you?  What will you choose today? Again my life all goes back to choices.  If I can choose life through cancer that is trying to kill me I can surely choose life through this. 

 And I have a God that pursues me when I forget that.  You can be a positive person, but without someone there to consistently talk you off the ledge, no one can be positive all the time.  My God does that for me.  He never leaves me, even if I am being a brat.  Even the best parent has a hard time with a bratty child.....we get frustrated and angry.  But our Father doesn't work that way.  He loves us even in our lowest darkest moments.  He's there to wrap his arms around you.  All you have to do is CHOOSE to let Him.

Watch this ladies......I couldn't have said it any better.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Beginnings and the Chaos that follows

So it's been a crazy, crazy month.  Our visit with Kevin ended so sweet and peaceful  We had such a great day with him the next was much different than the day before with the key incident.  I finally received this picture in the mail from Kevin.  It was taken shortly before we left on Sunday afternoon.

Everyone keeps asking how he is....and well on average I'd say he's great considering the circumstances.  I mean he has bad days....and those honestly tend to correlate with the days that he is unable to work out.  That has become a big part of his life there.  It's how he releases frustration as well as builds relationships with other guys there.  Not to mention he's lost close to 20 lbs in 6 weeks.  Turns out that working out actually helps you lose weight......especially if you do it 2-4 hours a day in the blazing texas heat! Amazing right?  When he walked in on Saturday I remember thinking, "Man, he looks hot."  Anyone who's been married for over 5 years can understand that's not something women think about their spouses on a daily basis.  He's moved from a dorm unit into 2 man cells which he loves.  He can pray and study and read in peace.  Only catch is there is no air conditioning!  Yeah the average temperature this month has been eh around 98 or so.  Yeah um NO THANK YOU!  But Kevin never complains.  He's just grateful for the quiet.  It reminds me of this praise song I love and it says, "You are stillness, You are quiet, you are comfort and peace."  In the stillness and quiet, it's easier for him to get in God's presence, even if it's Texas hot!  

It's been a month of firsts for us.  We came home and had to get ready for the first day of school.  My baby started Kindergarten this year.  I have to say,  I pictured this day much different.  I've been dreading it since the day he was born.  I expected to drop him off and make it just outside of the building and be able to turn into Kevin's arms and completely fall apart.  But that is obviously not what happened.  The morning of I was completely prepared....which is so unlike me :)  

teacher gifts...check

hot breakfast.......check

1st day of school notes ........ check

We got ready to go and right as we're getting ready to pray (which is something we do everyday before school) the phone rang and my heart seriously lept.  All I wanted was for the kids to be able to talk to Kevin before they went to school.

This picture still brings tears to my eyes.  Kevin was able to talk to them and pray over them.  And there was nothing I wanted more than that.  So then we did what every family does on the first day of school....we took a ridiculous amount of pictures!

And then it was was time for me to walk out of an elementary school without a baby, toddler, or preschooler.  I teared up walking down the hall, but then I realized this is a new beginning.  We are entering a new stage of life and this is just one step closer to Kevin coming home.  We had plenty of breaking down lately and now it was time to stand up.  I went into the "tears and cheers" breakfast for the kinder parents, where I sat with my friend Jenny who had just buried her sister (who battled breast cancer) the day before.  Oh yeah wait....what was I crying for again?  I forgot.  Afterwards I walked out and got in my car and realized it was the first time I'd been alone since Aug 5. (except for a dentist appointment where I had about 10 minutes alone driving.) and I sat there and soaked in it for a while......then it was time for interviews.  Yup I had 5 interviews scheduled and you want to know how amazing God is???  I never sent out one resume.  Or even made one phone call for that matter.  It just so happened that I had 5 different companies try to recruit me right at the time that I needed a job.  That is the favor of God right there.....there's no other way around it.

My baby boy also started t-ball this month.  And as hard as it is to not have Kevin here to coach him, by the grace of God we were placed on a team with some amazing Godly men.   And I couldn't be more grateful for that.  In fact, I prayed for it!  And of course because life has become insanely crazy I decided to volunteer to be team mom!!!  I've concluded that the key to making time pass by quickly is to stay busy.  And I am completely in love with watching a bunch of 5 years olds attempt to play baseball.  It just makes my heart happy.  I mean how can you resist this??

Oh and then the first game.......I am seriously in love!  Look at this face!  How can you not love him??

We also got to meet my cousin's new baby and say goodbye to him.. He is our real life hero and is leaving on his first deployment in the next few days.  Prayers for safety for him and peace for his family would be much appreciated!

So after all the piano lessons. gymnastics classes, t-ball practices and games, homework, room-mom meetings, interviews, lunch dates.......the list goes on and on, I was seriously losing my mind.  And after the 2nd time having to wake kids up early to do homework that I overlooked I decided it was time for an intervention.  I had to get our lives all in one place.  Single moms, or any moms for that matter, take note of has become our command center and is working beautifully!  The kids put their papers for me to look at in the bottom folder for me so I don't have to dig through backpacks.  And our calendar is color coded.

So far it's working flawlessly.  Kevin still has no clue what I am talking about.......He's never seen this kind of organization from me before.  Pretty sure if he walked in and saw it, he'd have a coronary!

With all the firsts we have come across a lot of new people face to face.  Teachers, coaches, other moms, potential employers, classmates, ect....... and to be honest I have not been completely open with them about our's just awkward you know?  I can't just lead with, "Hi I'm Nicole and my husband is the only dad who's not here because he's in prison for something that happened a long time ago when he was a completely different person!"  I think it would make everyone a little uncomfortable.  I'm beginning to understand the stigma behind why people hide this.  It's easy for me to sit here at my computer in my PJs and write about our story, but it's quite another to come out in a conversation and give them our testimony (plus I'd need a few hours just to cover the last 3 years).  It's just kind of heavy you know?  Is it bad that I just want to wear a sign that says, "Please read my blog so that I can stop being vague about where my husband is?"  It would make my life so much easier!  I've seen this posted so many places and it is so profound! 

You never know what the mom or dad that you meet at t-ball practice, or at the room-mom meeting, or at the gymnastics class, or anywhere for that matter is facing at home on a daily basis.  We're all walking a different path....some are harder than others and some are for a season while others are life long.  We all have hills and valleys.  Being open enough for people to feel comfortable sharing their stories with me is something I pride myself in.  Take the time to be kind to someone may be the one person they choose to let in.....and when people let you in, you have to opportunity to share with them.  I share how Christ has changed my life and how leaning on Him and Him alone can lift burdens and set captives free!  I challenge you to be that kind of light today.

I start my new job on Monday as a loan officer.  (Insert shameless plug:  If you live in Texas and are looking to buy a home or refinance your mortgage I'm your girl!  Seriously please contact me!)  Monday is my 30th birthday as well.  It's another day that I never thought I'd spend without Kevin.  In fact I had to call and order my own birthday cake today.  Our tradition is that you can have whatever you want for breakfast on your birthday and I always pick cake :)  I may not have Kevin this year but on the up side I have hair! :)
This was my last birthday.
It's funny how when you've survived cancer every birthday means so much more.  And this next weekend we're going to see Kevin so Happy Birthday to me! :)