... being thankful ...

Today is Thanksgiving and there is SO MUCH to be thankful for . . . . 
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Today, I am thankful for the blessings that God has given me as I have followed him through this year.  I have learned so much to lean on Him, to lean into Him and to trust him in ALL things!  

I wrote this blog post a couple of days ago, and didn't get the chance to add pictures and post it, so am getting to it now . . .  

November 18 . . . my Birthday . . . I’ve always liked Birthdays . . .
mine or anyone else’s!  I like to make a big deal out of them, and
celebrate the person who is having a birthday!  Last year, November 18
came just 13 days after Rickey went to Heaven.  Sigh.  Not much reason
to celebrate, for sure.  Yet, we still did celebrate some.  I was
spoiled by my family, my friends & my co-workers.  It was a day that I
will not forget.  In the midst of the most intense grief I could
imagine, God sent many angels to minister to and to love on me that
day.  I will NEVER forget when a bouquet of flowers arrived at work
and I opened the card that read, “Love, Bud” . . . (our name for each
other).  For a moment I was speechless (quite a feat for me).  I
actually looked at the card and put it back in the envelope.  I then
took it back out and looked at it again, and then at Tessa who was
standing near me.  I showed it to her and she smiled and told me
“That’s why we had to go for ice-cream” (the florist is on the way to
the ice cream parlor).  My sweet kids had sent me flowers from Daddy –
one last  time – a gift I will cherish forever! 

 A few days after my
birthday was the ride to Green Bay with my brother in law to pick up
my sister in law from the airport – and the Lambeau Field Christmas
Tree Lighting (which we missed . . . but that’s another story for
another day!), and a fun meal at Margarita’s!  

Good memories mixed in
with the bad – very bittersweet.

This year, November 18 came with a little less fan-fare.  It was a
Sunday, and we planned on having the Northland University students
over for lunch.  Because of this, we did pizza the night before with
my mom and dad and had cake later with the granddaughters (who both
celebrate November Birthdays as well!).  Sunday dawned sunny and
beautiful!  A wonderful day for a birthday!  The day was quiet (if you
count 9 college age kids, an almost 7 year old, an almost 5 year old,
my 3 girls and a friend  as quiet!) but wonderful!  Besides the crowd
at lunch (which also included my mom & dad!) the day was spent with my
girls who mean the WORLD to me, Cody (family friend),  two precious
granddaughters and Rick.  Later in the afternoon, two of Rick’s boys
came and visited too, making my day complete!   God sent angels again
this year, God provided a wonderful day – a good end to what most
certainly started as a bad year.  And another “first” was behind me –
I had spent my first “year” (my 45th) without Rickey.

As the day came to an end and we all headed to bed, the phone rang.
It was only 9:22, but Rick looked at me and said, “That can’t be
good”, and I thought to myself, it’s not even 9:30, it’s not that
late.  I answered the phone to be HIT with words oh, too familiar,
“Please pray, right now, there’s been an accident”.  In this case, all
ended up to be o.k., but, let me tell you, fear grips me at those
words.  I remember ever so clearly speaking those words over, and over
and over on that long, but short ride to the E.R. last November 5.
“Please pray, right now, there’s been accident, we don’t know much
more. “ Amazing how quickly you can be put back right to the MOMENT
that your life changed in an instant.  The call came from our awesome
friends who had actually gotten the SAME call from us.  The same
friends who graciously met up with the group that Kajsa was with on
November 5, and drove her back to us.  Back to the hospital.  Those
friends who stayed close by our side throughout November 5th, 6th and
beyond last year.  This time it was their brother/son.  He’d been in a
car accident.  He was being taken to their local trauma center.  They
didn’t know more.  “Please pray!”  Oh, the agonizing minutes of
waiting until we heard that he was alive, he was breathing on his own,
it appeared he would be o.k.  Moments that we all knew too well.
Moments that had been our own nightmare just a short year ago.
Moments with a different outcome than ours, for which we are so
thankful!  As his Momma put on Facebook, “Thanksgiving came early”.
Oh, my, yes it did.  There will be days of healing ahead.  There will
be car insurance and hospital insurance to deal with.  There may be
some lingering effects of the accident, and memories of it will always
be there, but he is o.k.!  He is alive!  And, we are all thankful for
this ending to this “Please pray” phone call.

A couple of things come to mind as I think over the events of Sunday night:

1.      Do I think that the prayers prayed on Sunday night were answered,
and ours last November 5 weren't?  NO!  That is not what I believe at
all.  I did and still do believe that our days are in the Lord’s
hands.  God did not hear the prayers of His people any less on the day
of Rickey’s accident than they did Sunday night.  He had just ordained
a different outcome.  Rickey is more alive than ever today – it’s just
in Heaven not here on earth.  The Lord called him home.  I really do
believe it is as “simple” as that.  Not the answer to prayer I’d have
chosen, yet, God’s answer in God’s time.

2.      Life can, and does, change in an instant.  We really are all just
“one phone call from our knees”.  We can’t know.  We don’t know.  We
can only see as far as the moment we are in.  We can make all the
plans in the world.  We can have all the dreams we want.  Plans are
good.  Dreams are wonderful.  BUT, we are only promised THIS BREATH.
THIS MOMENT.  What will we do with it?  Just this week, I’ve also
learned of 2 people who I know who died unexpectedly.  One was the
sister of a classmate (50 years old), and one was a young man (mid
20’s) from our town – both gone – too soon for earthly standards, but
gone – in an instant . . . a life changing instant.

As we head into Thanksgiving, I’m challenged anew to remember that
life is just a fleeting breath – for me, for those I love, for
everyone.  I want to make the most of each moment.  I want to love
while there is time.  I want to, especially when it is the focus at
this time of the year, be THANKFUL for all that God has blessed me
with.  He has “taken” from me more than I ever dreamed He would
“take”.  I don’t understand, and won’t this side of Heaven.  He has
also “given” me more than I ever dreamed he would “give”.   He has
offered healing and restoration that I didn't expect.  He has blessed
me beyond measure!  Daily I’m reminded of the blessings that He sends
my way.  I truly have so much to be thankful for, and really, don’t we

Don’t wait for the unimaginable to happen.  Don’t wait until you
experience the fragility of life to LOVE those you have been given.
LOVE them TODAY.  THANK God for them TODAY.  ENJOY them today . . .
even when the house is a mess, the dishes aren’t done and the laundry
is piled up in mountains in the laundry room (some of my “battles” for
control!) . . . Love today, enjoy today, be thankful today . . .
because we learned again this week that tomorrow may not come.


Waking up in PARADISE ...

... November 5 (and Saturday the 3rd, and the 8th {funeral day}) have come and gone.  With little fanfare from most of the world.  To most, they are just dates, to us, the dates our world changed.

Thanks to the PRAYERS of so many friends & family, the visits, the cards, notes, e-mails, text messages, Facebook messages . . . we made it through those most difficult days.  We spent some of the weekend with Ashley & Brian & Ty - going to the movies and then a "girls lunch" (+Ty!!).  There were memories, tears, and yes, even laughter.  God is gracious and He gave us much grace this past week as the memories flooded back . . . speaking of memoires . . . 

Yesterday was November 9, 2012 . . . . My mind kept going back to
November 9, 2011 . . . it was a cold morning.  There was some
snow/sleet/rain falling from the gray overhanging clouds.  A dreary
day to be sure.  A day that the hunters would have loved – there was
just a bit of “tracking snow” on the ground – enough that tracking
that buck would be made easier.  A day that Rickey would have loved to
be out in his stand – waiting for that next hunting story to happen.
Instead, many of us who loved him were gathered around a hole in the
ground, awaiting the arrival of that wooden box that held the remains
of his earthly body.  I was cold, so cold.  I went to the cemetery
alone – the girls didn’t want to go, and I just couldn’t make them.
Others had offered me rides, but this was something I had to do on my
own (yes, I'm just a BIT stubborn).  I needed to be able to arrive and
leave when I needed to – not on somebody else’s time table.   When I
arrived, I saw my boss and my co-worker (who is also one of my dearest
friends).  They were standing with umbrellas – out in the cold – for
Rickey, for me.  I know many other people were there, but theirs were
the first eyes that made contact with mine, so I went to them.  They
moved slightly and made room for me - in between them – both covering
me with their umbrellas.  As if the umbrellas could shield me from the
pain that was engulfing me.  They DID shield me from the wet
snow/sleet/rain that was falling and I appreciated that as I stood
there shivering in the cold.  I grabbed on to each of their arms, and
held on – they were my life preservers at the moment.  My boss was
wearing a corduroy jacket; I can still feel it in my hand as I clung
to it.  Even today as I remember, even today as I type these words,
the feelings come flooding back to me as if it were this morning that
they happened, not a year ago.  Watching Rickey’s brothers and cousins
bring that wooden box across the snow covered lawn, and set it in
place – its “final resting place”.  I was very confident in the fact
that Rickey was not in that box.  The outer shell of his earthly body
was all that remained in there, but still, it was the last bit of him
left and soon, it would be “gone” too . . . I had once heard someone
compare our earthly bodies to a glove – the glove is the outer shell,
but when the hand is removed, the glove does nothing . . . much as our
body – the “outer shell” remains, but the “hand” or the spirit/soul is
gone, and the body is just that, a “shell”.  I knew with certainty
that all that was left on earth was the shell of Rickey.  I had the
calm assurance that at about 11:00 a.m. on November 5, he had left
this earth for paradise.  That still does not make watching them lower
the casket into the ground something that is easy.

Memories . . . yes, time does ease the sting, but they are still there
– flooding back more some days than others . . . .  memories that can
still can make my heart skip a beat.

Reality . . . . yes, the reality that life IS precious and not one of
us are promised our next breath.  I think that is one of the “lessons”
that I have been slowly learning throughout this year.  The reality
that we need to savor each and every moment that comes to us . . . the
good, the bad and all the “normal” moments that make up our lives.
For one day, those normal moments will be what our memories are made
of.  Life is filled with much more normal than it is with the grand –
either good or bad – but we take those normal moments for granted – we
assume they are normal and therefore will be repeated.   I know that I
took my normal days for granted.  I know that I thought life was good,
and life would continue to be good.    The sun would rise and set, and
I’d go on my way with each day, happy, healthy kids, happy, healthy
husband, happy, healthy me.  I really didn’t give much thought to the
fact that life could change so instantly.  Now, I know it can.  I’ve
been given an up close and personal lesson of that fact.

As this first year of “Our Journey To A New Normal” has drawn to a
close {meaning that we have survived the first Birthdays, Christmas,
Easter, Valentine’s Day, Anniversary . . . and all those yearly
“milestones”} there is a sense of unbelief that an entire year has
passed.  We did survive all of the “firsts”.  God was with us every
step of the way, and He went before us to prepare the path that we
were required to walk.  None of this year’s journey has come as a
surprise to God - not ONE moment of it.  Much of it may have surprised
us, causing us to walk by faith, not by sight.  I still don’t
understand why we were called to walk this journey.  I don’t
understand why I had to find out what it meant to be a “widow” at only
44 years old (I turned 45 thirteen days after Rickey died).  I don’t
know why my girls and Rickey’s 2 older kids have to go on through life
without their Daddy here to guide them.  I don’t know why the
grandkids have to miss out on having their Papa.  I don’t get it that
Rickey’s parents had to bury a child (no parent should ever have to do
that).  I don’t know why his siblings & sibling-in-laws & all of his
extended family & friends have to feel the sting of death.  It isn’t
fair.  Not at all by our earthly standards.   Yet I will cling to the
hope of eternity and the promise that God does not ever leave us or
forsake us.  I will also cling to the words my precious “middle”
daughter penned on the anniversary of her Daddy’s “home-going”:

“Daddy, I miss you!  From the not so great Easter pictures (and she
posted one of them!) the gum stealing, the Packer loving, and
everything in between.  But November 5th last year, for reasons I
don’t know, you positively woke in paradise.  A place I can’t even
dream of!  You are home.  More at home than ever.  The pain of the
people you left here is real, but what’s even more real is the joy you
have being with your Maker.  I miss you.  Everyday.  “But someday soon
we’ll be together, where a moment lasts forever..”  Love you!”

Isaiah 11:6 says, “and a little child will lead them” . . . I could
not have penned a more fitting tribute to Rickey Roger Rye than his
middle daughter did.  Yes, we miss him.  We miss all the fun loving
things that we did with him.  The good and the bad and ALL the
“normal” moments in between.  We miss them all.  But, oh, what a
beautiful picture she painted (I LOVE word pictures) . . . You
POSITIVELY woke in PARADISE, a place we can’t even dream of!  You are
HOME . . . more at home than ever . . . what is MORE real than our
pain is that Daddy is experiencing REAL JOY because he is with his
Maker!  THAT is our hope.  THAT is what we stake our claim on.  THAT
is why when I remember November 9, and that wooden box being lowered
into the ground, I remember it with sadness, and an aching heart, BUT
I also remember it with HOPE . . . the HOPE we have in those promises
that Taya so beautifully spoke of.  The truth that God took her Daddy
“home” . . . more “home” than he’d ever been.  We KNOW that he was
ready, and as our first year without him came to an end, we grieved
for our loss, but also rejoiced for his gain.  Philippians 1:21 says,
"For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain."  For in that blink
of an eye on November 5, 2011, Rickey certainly DID gain . . . he
awoke in PARADISE!

So many changes ...

We like to tell people that we love Chattanooga so much we moved here twice! Since my last post in 2020, we spent eight months in Michigan...