Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hou Shan Lei

We made it through Sam's first year. He began to do somewhat better overall and life settled down for us to a degree. We still had no money and overwhelming medical bills but we were just walking daily, trusting God.
Then the unexpected happened...

I got an adoption newsletter from All God's Children's Adoption Agency. Every once in a while I'd gotten one from them over the years. This one was different. There was a picture of this little abandoned Chinese boy with a vision problem that looked like Sam's. Little Hou Shan Lei had been abandoned near a police station in the city of Chengdu, China and was now in the Chengdu Social Welfare Institution. The agency was desperately trying to find a family for him because his time was running out. At that time in China, a special needs child's file was given to an agency for 3 months. If the agency was unable to match the child with a family, his file went back to China and that was usually the child's first and only chance to find a family. All God's Children (AGCI) had had his file for 2 months at that point.

So I'm looking at his picture and I felt God speak to my heart about adopting him. He looked rather pathetic and very sad in the picture. But I just knew God meant something else, like for me to be a contact for whatever family adopted him. I could tell them where they could take him for surgery etc... So being the helpful person I am, I called the agency and gave my info to the caseworker. I told her she could pass it onto whoever adopted him and they could call me. I learned something from that phone call...Don't call an adoption agency and leave your phone number!!! A few weeks later the agency contacted us and asked US to consider adopting him. I was quick to tell them we had no money and lots of bills. His case was about to go back to China and they were afraid he'd never get a chance for another family to adopt him. The caseworker was so sweet and had so much faith that God was in this! Before I knew it we were filling out the paperwork to begin the adoption process.

To send in the paperwork we had to put a deposit of $195 on him to hold him. To be honest, it was difficult for us to find that money! I wondered how we were going to find the rest of the $20,000 we would need to complete the process!! Unbelievably China approved us and the formal adoption process began.

To this day I can't really remember all the details of the finances but every time we needed a payment somehow it was there! There are Christian foundations that will give grants to families who adopt especially international special needs kids. I applied to 11 foundations and we received 3 grants totally $ 13,000! Various business people gave us gifts ranging from $100 to $4000. God worked unbelievable financial miracles for us!

One thing I have to say is although God did so many miracles, He did not do a one until we stepped out in faith. When we stepped out in faith, it was with great fear and trembling. It seemed so impossible for us at the time that we knew if it happened it would only come by the hand of God. The agency gave us no promises of help, just of prayer! I felt almost embarrassed to tell people what we were doing because it looked so foolish in the natural. At times I felt like we were frauds because I just did not see how this was going to happen. And I have to say, we had people question why we were doing such a crazy thing. Some did it to our face and others did it behind our backs. But God was on our side!

Remember, Sam was only a year old. We had over $20,000 in medical bills. I was not working , Jon had one job, working as a chaplain for the Florida Department of Corrections making about $30,000 a year. We got no money from any government agencies. We were living in a trailer on the prison grounds...not the most financially stable moment of our lives to say the least!!!!

I've never depended on God more than at that time. God just did one financial miracle after another. By the time we were about 4 months into the process, I realized God was going to make this adoption happen!

When Sam was first born, I had applied for SSI/Medicaid for him. We were turned down several times. Through a contact from my work days with probation I contacted our state senator and he made it happen! Sam was given SSI/Medicaid and it covered most of his outstanding medical bills. This did not happen until we stepped out in faith to do the adoption!

It was becoming apparent that God was going to cause all this to come together. I began to worry just a bit because God was making this adoption happen so fast and we would have to support another child with medical needs on Jon's one salary. About that time, Jon began filling in for a pastor who had had surgery. The pastor was retiring and Jon was voted in as the new pastor of Branchborough A/G. So know we had everything in place. Of course when Jon took the church, Sam lost his SSI/Medicaid but we are thankful that we were able to get out of the majority of our old medical debts.

On January 8, 2006, Jon preached his first sermon as pastor here. While he was preaching the evening service, I was in a cold sad orphanage picking up our new son, Hou Shan Lei! What a day for our family.

We renamed Hou Shan Lei - Shadrach James. What an amazing journey Shad's adoption was!
We learned, when God speaks if you will listen and follow His voice, He will cause His will to come to pass. The Bible is very clear as it speaks to us regarding orphans. God loves orphans, and He commands us in Scripture to take care of the orphans. Orphans are so vulnerable. They have nothing and no one really cares for them. We saw how God just opened the windows of heaven and blessed us when we did what He asked of us. Jon and I joke and say if you want to get out of debt, adopt an orphan! Forget all those silly prosperity preachers, just do what God says and take care of the orphans and God will take care of you!
All the paperwork we got on Shad led us to believe that he was completely blind. He's not! He is only blind in one eye. The other eye is 20/20! Unfortunately it is not correctable. It seems his right eye was damaged in some horrible way prior to him coming to the orphanage. We have wondered at times what happened but it's hard to tell. Our doctor in Miami said that eye was basically shredded. Evidently that led his Chinese parents to abandon him. But God had a plan for his life! Who knows what Shad will become? He has an outgoing personality and is very smart. In alot of ways he is like Jon, very much a people person. He's also a self starter. I keep telling myself that will be a good thing! Sometimes now it can be a problem!
Shad is now 5 and will go to school in the fall. He asks some hard questions about what happened to him in China and sometimes we don't know what to say to him. He's a deep thinker and I hope he will learn as he grows to accept life and trust God. He may go through some struggles regarding his adoption as he gets older.
The pictures above are in order, Shad's referral pic, my first pic holing Shad, and the picture that was taken the day he was abandoned. If you click on them, you can enlarge them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The first year with Sam or "You couldn't pay me a million dollars to repeat that year"

2004 what a year! Sam was born and Central Florida got 3 direct hits from hurricanes! It was a wild year...

Sam came home on an apnea monitor. His brain was immature and the system that regulated his breathing and his heart beat didn't really work like it should. Most baby who have apnea have it only when they are asleep. Not Sam, he'd have an apnea while he was wide awake. I went for months in total terror. I was afraid to leave him for a second. If I was home alone with him, I'd take him and his machine with me to the bathroom. It was a tough way to live.

He then developed reflux. Alot of babies have reflux and they spit up all over the place. Not Sam, he'd reflux and then aspirate it into his lungs. On April 27, 2004 we almost lost him because of this awful reflux. I'd picked Steve up from school, rented a movie and got pizza so we could "relax" together. I gave Sam his reflux medicine in a little apple juice as recommended by the doctor. We had just turned the movie on, and I heard Sam make a weird noise. I picked him up out of his swing as the apnea monitor went off. He had totally quit breathing and was turning blue. Steve quickly dialed 911 as I began doing CPR on Sam. He didn't respond so I ran out of the house to our yard and began screaming. Luckily it was right around 5pm so most of our neighbors were home and they came running. Several tried CPR on Sam and got no results. He just kept getting bluer and bluer. It was awful. Then one of our friends, Troy, came running and grabbed Sam put him on the ground and worked on him so hard. He got air into Sam but he wasn't really responding. The fire and rescue truck arrived and took over. Sam was stabilized and sent to Lakeland Regional. In the ambulance he quit breathing again and was suctioned with some help from me. All the EMS workers were young and acted as afraid as I was, that was not very reassuring. When we got to the hospital, one of our pastors from Victory was there. I was so relieved to be at the hospital and to have someone with me that I promptly began throwing up on his shoes. Ever since then I always felt like he kept me at arm's length:) Poor guy! Jon got there and rode the helicopter with Sam to Tampa General where he was kept for several days. Sam actually had no bad after effects of this episode, in fact, it made the doctors take his reflux much more seriously and we were sent home with a suction machine and oxygen. I, on the other hand, had Post Traumatic Stress! No kidding. For several years I could barely talk about what had happened that day and I dreamed about it on several occasions. That was so frightening!

He continued having episodes like this for about the first year none were as bad, but there were times that we literally were suctioning him with one hand and had the phone in the other hand to call 911. Then he'd start breathing...

Of course we were dealing with his eyes through all of this. He had his first cornea transplant on 4/21/04. He was only 6 weeks old from his real due date. At that time, Sam was the youngest person to have a corneal transplant. Due to his eyes being abnormally small, he was also the smallest eye ever to have a transplant. His right eye was done first and he had a cornea from a 21 yr old male, motorcycle driver. That's all the info we were given on the donor. It caused us to weep to think someone cared enough to allow his organs to be donated. We were allowed to write a letter to the family through the Lion's Club. We couldn't give any details except for the fact that their unselfish gift, gave our baby some sight.

We began the eyedrop routine that we carry on today. His drops are given to control his eye pressure, and to keep his eye from trying to reject the transplants (and the implants that he now has). They also fight infection. Over the years we have had some changes to the prescriptions, but they have essentially remained about the same.

In August of 2004, his left eye was transplanted. This cornea came from a 31 yr old male, motorcycle rider. Again we were thankfully to the family that made this unselfish donation. We wrote another letter. Unfortunately this eye did not do as well. He began rejecting it with in a month. Actually we were at Olive Garden for my birthday and I was holding Sam and noticed that his left eye had a brown tint to it. The next day we were in Miami and the doctor confirmed what I had saw. They fought the rejection hard. His eyedrop schedule went to every 10 minutes that he was awake. He also had several steroid shots put directly into the cornea but it didn't work. Right before his first Christmas, the doctor told us to quit putting eye drops into that eye. It had totally rejected. What happened is a white film containing blood vessels grew over his left eye. He probably could see light through it like you would a solid white shower curtain. My heart was broken as we had tried so hard to save his little bit of sight in that eye. I just cried and cried about his eye.

One thing you have to understand, a cloudy cornea is not Sam's only vision problem. He has very low vision in his eyes. so to have a clear cornea does not give hims 20/20. Maybe 20/200... but with a cloudy cornea, there's nothing but light sensations. Every little bit of sight counts so much for him!!!!

So we're dealing with all of this and also we had no money! Of course I had to quit my job to take care of Sam. Our main savings were gone in a few months. I applied for different government benefits for Sam but we were turned down for everything. At the time we were leasing a beautiful home in north Lakeland that I really wanted to buy. Jon began to realize we would have to move long before I accepted it. He brought up the subject to me and it really upset me, but what else would we do? Thankfully Jon's parents had set up a small trust for us that we were able to use. Jon had the idea of buying a trailer and putting it on the prison's property as they have a park for their employees. That way we'd have no monthly house payment. I was not thrilled with the idea but what could we do at this point? So in between numerous hospital stays for Sam, we began looking for a trailer. It was not any fun, we wanted a good used one. What I think of a a good used trailer and what the ads in the paper think are two different things. My father in law was helping us look and he is good at getting unbelievable bargains but his idea of what we could live in and mine were not the same to say the least. It was a stressful time. I think if I had it to do over, I'd handled the whole process a lot different!!! I had a very sick child to deal with did not need the stress of looking at crazy, roach ridden trailers!

Finally I found one that was nice and in our price range. We bought it and had it moved to the prison then we waited and waited for all the county certifications to be done. That turned into weeks. Our lease ran out as we were waiting. so we stayed with my brother in law and sister in law who graciously kept us and our pets. (If I ever win the lottery, I'm buying them a brand new home!!) Finally everything was supposed to be hooked up and county certified. We had to go to Miami for his second transplant in August and we were told when we got back at the end of the week, we could stay at the trailer. So we drove from Miami to Polk City. Everything worked but the a/c. Obviously we couldn't spend the night in a trailer in August without a/c. So I go out to see if maybe something could just be plug in. I did something and was knocked on my butt!! It was a wonder I wasn't killed. Thankfully we have a friend who has an a/c business and he came and finished hooking it up that night. He told me to stay away from he a/c!!

Soon after we moved into the prison trailer park, we were hit with two hurricanes. The second one knocked off power for over a week to our area and phone service for more than a month. That was a trip. During the hurricanes, we'd stay in the prison's administrative area (outside the fence). While we had no power, we still would sleep up there in offices. The prison has it own generator so we had a/c and electricity for all of Sam's machines. At that point he had three!

He was also going to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy Vision therapy came to our house. All in all he was 7 therapy sessions a week. He also saw several specialists monthly, pulomologist, gasterologist, neurologist and cardiac. I was so busy taking him all over the place. we were in Miami several days monthly sometimes we had to do two trips in a month. I'm telling you no one could pay me a million dollars to live through 2004.

Also right after we moved into the trailer, I was coming home from taking Steve to school and Sam to physical therapy and the inmates were doing our yard. As I was getting out of the car with Sam, one of the inmates said hi to me. Well I knew him from my probation days and he had an electric hedge trimmer in his hands. thankfully he didn't carry any grudges!!!

It was a rough time (seems like I say that alot!) but God brought us through it. In my next posts, I will write about some of the miracles that happened to us during this time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


During the time I was dealing with all depression and anger at God. God spoke to me one morning on the way to work. I can even tell you where I was on Hwy 98 south at the last red light by the 7-11. God spoke clearly and told me that I would have a son named Samuel and he would change my life. That was it with no details! I don't go around getting words from God but I knew in my heart it was from Him. This was probably 3 or 4 years before he was born.

So Jon and I decided time was running out if we were going to have another baby. I went on fertility drugs for almost a year and finally I got pregnant! There were problems from the beginning. On a ultrasound, his heartbeat couldn't be detected. I went every few days and although the egg sac was growing, there was no heartbeat. Finally 2 weeks later there was a heartbeat.

Then the morning of our 14th anniversary, I woke up to blood everywhere. We just knew the baby had died with that much blood. Jon rushed me to the hospital where they quickly did an ultrasound. The tech reassured us there was a heartbeat and asked if we wanted to know the sex. I nodded yes as I was crying from relief. "It's a boy!" I really started crying then because I remembered what God had spoken to my heart. She thought I was upset that it was a boy.

So onto bed rest! That is so boring! I stayed on bed rest for a couple of weeks then tried going back to work and I'd start bleeding again. finally I just went on bed rest until my 30th week. Then I got permission to go back to work but was only for one week. Then the doctor began worrying about my low amniotic fluid and the baby's lack of growth. Back on bed rest...

The next week the doctor decided the baby needed to be delivered. At that point, he would do better on the outside than the inside. For the first time in my life, I was speechless. The doctor was concerned when I just looked at him. He was sending me over to the hospital to get a steroid shot to help Sam's lung development and wasn't sure I could drive. I was barely 32 weeks, not really showing and knew the baby would be facing some issues at delivery. Anyhow with me speechless, the doctor was really worried. We all got a big laugh about that later. It's probably one of the few times in my life that I've been speechless! I was terrified. Then when I got over to the hospital for the shots, I got a tour of the NICU. I'd never seen babies that small, so I really got scared! Steve was technically a preemie by a few days but he did not suffer any problems having been born right at 36 weeks.

On February 11, 2004, at 10:14 am Samuel Jonathan Clanton came meowing into the world via C-section (which is God's gift to women!!!!). It was a tense delivery as we didn't know how he'd do once he was delivered but thankfully he did breath on his own although he eventually was working too hard and had to be bagged. The doctor brought him to me so I could see him, they were bagging him so of course that had me terrified. I shooed them away and told them to get him to the NICU! He actually was doing ok but it was a new experience for me to see a tiny 3 pound baby being bagged and ventilated!

He did well throughout the night and was on room air by the next morning. We were so pleased with how good he was doing. I got to hold him and my brother in law took pictures of me holding Sam for the first time. The noise or the flash caused him to open his little eyes. The picture above is the moment that forever changed our lives. When Sam opened his eyes, I was looking into his tiny face, and Jim was taking a picture from over my shoulder . At that moment, I knew something was terribly wrong. I quickly asked for a doctor. No one had noticed Sam's eyes, up until that point. I called everyone over to look at him. The nurses and the doctor basically poo-pooed it. The NICU doctor told me that premature babies often had vacant looks in their eyes. Well Sam's eyes were cloudy, the iris and pupil were not easily seen through the haze is his eyes. On top of that the eyes were incredibly small his left eye was noticeably smaller than the right eye. It looked as if he was a baby kitten with his eyes only half opened. The doctor ridiculed my conclusions and told me to chill out. Ok how many people reading this know me??? You don't say something like that to me!

There were so many other issues, his feeding, apnea etc., that I let the eye situation rest for a few days as the doctor promised he'd bring an opthamologist in to check Sam out. I kept waiting and on the day Sam turned one week old, I told Jon before we got to the hospital that I was going to throw a fit and hoped he wouldn't be too embarrassed. I was tired of waiting and tired of being nice. I went in the NICU that morning with a purpose, when the doctor made his rounds, I began questioning him again about when the opthamologist was coming and he told me that the guy wasn't going to run any red lights to get here. (just writing this makes me want to punch his face in-what a good pastor's wife I am). At that comment, I got my sore body out of the rocker and got in the doctor face and told him in no uncertain terms that he better get the eye doctor there soon and he better pray that Sam's problem was not getting worse because he was sitting on his butt doing nothing and he better not ever speak to me like that again! Needless to say the NICU was silent, all the nurses and parents were listening to my every word and they did not have to strain to hear me!!! It's probably a good thing I'd just had a c-section or I may have thrown that doctor around the NICU a few times.

Finally the opthamologist got there that evening. He examined Sam and came out to speak to us. I'll never forget him(and he probably won't forget me either!) He set on his rather large briefcase in front of us and said very compassionately "There is no easy way to tell you this.." I just starting saying "I know he's blind" and crying, Jon was crying, Steve was there and he started crying (later we found out that Steve thought Sam had died). It was heartbreaking. Although we knew something was wrong, everyone around us kept saying everything was ok, so to be told we were right was not what we wanted to hear. I remember trying to calm myself down so I could listen to the eye specialist. He explained that he'd never seen what he suspected that Sam had, "Peter's Anomaly" He explained it was very very rare and in all his years of practice, he'd never examined a patient with the anomaly.

After he left us, to no doubt have a stiff drink, I had to go hold Sam, to touch him and to remind myself he was the same baby he was before that diagnosis. We also had to comfort Steve and to explain to him what the doctor had told us. So we all trooped back in the NICU to connect with Sam. The NICU doctors ate crow to say the least. They both apologized to us for not taking us seriously. They both said they had never seen anything like what Sam has. I told them that they need to listen to parents.

That experience, has unfortunately been the norm for me with Sam. I've had many experiences similar in other areas where doctors did not listen to me. I now double check everything and totally go by my gut if I feel something is not right. In the beginning, like in the NICU that day, I was somewhat embarrassed to confront medical persons, now it is second nature to me. I've delayed surgeries, had doctors and nurses thrown out of his room and off his case, and I've signed him out of the hospital against medical advice (that was when they put him in the room with a baby with RSV!!- they wouldn't change his room so I signed him out and took him home. He was only there for observation following an eye surgery) I don't even get embarrassed anymore. Jon has even become out spoken over the years. Last fall when Sam lost all his sight and had a couple of surgical procedures back to back, I couldn't walk him into the OR, I just was so upset so Jon took him and he quizzed the anesthesiologist as thoroughly as I would! Go Jon!

That night after we got home, I went into Sam's room and just lost it. For years I didn't remember this episode but now I do, it's like a bad dream. The room was so cute, everything was a sweet Winne the Pooh theme and there was a large oval window at the front of the room. It was a perfect nursery. All I could think was that Sam would never see that cute room.

When I say it was a rough time, I mean it was rough! Sam spent a month in the NICU and during that time, we began learning to live with Sam's blindness. That meant calling and trying to get services for him, we did not have any experience with a blind child and it meant rethinking our lives. I'd wear the same perfume every day, Red Door, so he'd know it was me and not a nurse. To this day, he has an incrediable sense of smell. All day long I stayed at the NICU with him. When he was asleep and there was nothing for me to do , I sat in an office calling agencies and trying to figure out what we were going to do. When we would get home late at night, I'd go on the computer and research his eye problem. I got little to no assistance from anyone at the hospital except for one nurse who told us her son had gone to Bascom Palmer at the University of Miami for an eye surgery. We found out through our research that children with Peter's were candidates for corneal transplants as the cornea was one of his main issues. The cornea is like the windshield of the eye. It protects the eye like a windshield protects the occupants of a car. However the windshield must be clean for the driver to see through it. In the same way, if the cornea is cloudy or diseased, even if there is nothing else wrong with the eye, a person will be blind or partially sighted.

So we began to look at hospitals that did corneal transplants on children. There are only a few. We decided on Bascom Palmer because it was closer that any other ( Ceder's -Sinai Calif., Emory-Atlanta, John Hopkins-Maryland) and had an ok success rate with the transplants. Kids reject corneas at a HIGH rate, much worse than any other transplants. The cause of the rejections are unknown. I'm so glad we chose Bascom Palmer, not just because it's closer but it's become like home to us. On our first trip there, I just could not see how we would make the commitment to it as we know we'd be there alot. It's in the middle of the hoody-hoody in Miami! There's about 15-20 different hospitals on the campus. It's a huge area between Little Havana and Liberty City (think riots in the 80's) Why are so many hospitals in bad inner city areas????

Anyhow I just couldn't see us going there on a monthly basis as we were told we'd have to do for years. Oh well, I got over it! Now there's nothing like the relief I feel driving up to the front of BP knowing whatever is going on with his eyes is going to be taken care of!! I've even gone on my own with the kids. It's amazing what you can adapt to when you have to!!

So when Sam was 4 weeks old, we brought him home with an apnea monitor. He was about 4 and 1/2 pounds. Little did we know the "adventure" that was ahead for us. God gave me a Samuel who changed my life!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama's disrespectful remark on the Special Olympics!

I'm so mad about Obama's remark that he bowls "like someone in the Special Olympics". How incredibly rude and disrespectful to all special needs peoples and their family and friends! Obama likes to represent himself as this politically correct guy who sees no differences in anyone. According to Obama, you can be any color gender, sexual orientation and no one should notice or comment, but evidently it's ok to joke about someone who has mental or physical disabilities! I'm going to write a letter to him regarding this matter. To me this is the height of insensitivity, to attack innocent people who have overcome so much in their lives.

In my opinion, my son Sam who will probably participate in the Special Olympics one day, has more character in his little tiny toe that Obama will ever have.

I can't believe the president of the United States, the leader of the free world would publicly say something so derogatory. It shows what is in his heart. We have a long 3 years and 9 months to go!!

If you are interested in writing a letter regarding this comment please do. Google Sarah Palin and read how she slams Obama for this remark!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Theology 102

Theology means "man's study of God" So in using the term theology, I'm sharing with you my study of God and His attributes. I'm not using a ton of scripture or trying to get too deep in terms that are not used by laypeople but what I'm writing can be backed up by scripture. I'm sharing my heart, not writing a thesis although I can and have done that many times before. I hope by sharing my heart with you, God can use the things He has brought me through to encourage you on you journey.

I really didn't mention in my last post the role I believe the devil has in suffering.

First I don't believe God brings anything bad on people. Sometimes when people fail to follow God's laws something bad may happen to them but it is a consequence of their actions, not God's judgement. For example, a person gets drunk and goes down the highway at 100 miles an hour and wraps the car around a telephone pole. Who's fault is that? At the funeral you will hear folks saying it was so sad that God took that person. Gimme a break! That wasn't God's doing!

Second, the devil yes I believe in a real devil, comes to steal, kill and destroy. His aim is to cause as much suffering on this earth as possible. He wants to influence your life in a negative way. I believe that between the sinfulness of man, the influence of the devil, and the fact we live in a fallen world, is the answer to why life is like it is.

I don't believe every bad thing is a direct attack of the devil but is indirectly influenced by the devil. For example, last year I had a car wreck, it was pretty bad. I hit a young girl's car going 55 mph. She was in the wrong for pulling out in front of me. I later found out she had been told not to cross across the highway like she did but rather turn and go to the light on the next corner. Her disobedience to her family caused the wreck. So in a sense her disobedience caused the whole problem. Where does disobedience come from? Not God. So what was the root of this situation?

Another example is my son Sam. Sam has numerous birth defects including blindness. How do I deal with that situation and theology? I believe Sam was "fearfully and wonderfully made"by God who is the giver of life. I believe his deformations came as a result of the fall, not from sin on his parents part, not from God not paying attention or being mean to us and not from a direct attack of the devil. We live in a fallen world and sometimes chromosomes don't go where they are supposed to go. I'm looking forward to the redemption of our bodies and the day my son can see clearly and speak to me! If I have to wait a few decades that's ok. Life is short, eternity is long! What is this life span is the light of eternity? Just a mere blink of the eye!

So I hope I've made clear my position. I don't believe in any way that God puts suffering on us but that He knows what is ahead in our lives, prepares us and walks with us through whatever comes our way. I also do not believe that God puts things on non believers. I believe He can use situations to draw people to Him but He is not the creator of bad situations. Most of the time we can create enough problems on our own!

Everyone wants to know where was God on 9/11. He was there. He did not put in those evil men's heads the plans to fly planes into buildings. He did not conceive that terrible plan. Just as He doe not cause a cancer to grow in a person. We live in a fallen world. That decision was already made by Adan and Eve. We can learn to trust God in situations. He is not going to protect us from everything in the sense we will live some perfect life in Utopia where nothing bad can touch us. But He will walk with us through everything if we trust Him.

Although I went through my time of wrestling with God over the death of my babies, I get frustrated with people who blame God for everything but don't have any relationship with Him to begin with! You hear on the news when things happen. If a drunk driver kills an innocent family, there's always someone who questions why God let this happen. Put the blame where it should go. On the person who caused the wreck, the industry that sold the alcohol and the devil who influences people to yield to their sinful nature!

Everyone is willing to blame God for the hard times but where were they when life was good? Were they serving God or themselves? Most of the time they didn't give God a passing thought until something bad happens and then they blame God for it. I've seen that countless times and it frustrates me.

I just wanted to add this to my last post so you can understand where I'm coming from.

So what is my theology now?

Having gone through so many things and seeing others go through hard times in their lives, I've come to trust God deeper. In the Pentecostal/Charmastic movement the emphasis is not on suffering. The emphasis is on deliverance. Here's the 7 steps to deliverance or the 10 steps to healing. I believe that makes for shallow Christians who are no more different than someone doing voodoo to protect them from evil spirits. You know what I mean....

My absolute favorite story in the Bible is Shadrach Meshach and Abendogo. As they are facing the fiery furnace they say "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us but even if He doesn't, we're not going to serve your gods." That's real faith. God did deliver them but first they went into the fiery furnace. Sometimes we go into the fiery furnace of life but God can be in there with us just like He was with them.

In Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith recounts so many of the great people of the Bible and how God wrought miracles for them. But even in that chapter the Bible speaks of those who were persecuted tormented and killed, who received a good testimony but did not receive the promise. I'm so glad God put chapters like that in the Bible. He rated those folks as highly as He did Moses and Abraham!

Do we serve God for what He can do for us or for who He is? I've met many people who have been disillusioned when life got rough and they went through the same doubts and confusions that I did but decided not to serve God. I know quite a few from my Bible school days who are no longer serving God. For the most part, these folks grew up in church but when life really hit them, their faith couldn't stand the test. I think I know the reason why that happened. Wrong expectations of God that they were taught.

God does work miracles but we live in a fallen natural world. God himself set the world into motion. God does not step into our circumstances every time and do a miracle for us. If He did, there would be no more death or disease. That would be nice but that's not reality. If He did miracles every time we asked like some kind of genie or heavenly grandfather, then that would not be the God of the Bible and God does not lie.

God did create a world in the beginning with no sickness or death. Man chose to sin and that brought sickness and death into the world. God gave man the free will to chose and man chose to sin. We pay the price today for what happened but God is creating a new heaven and earth where there will be no more sickness and death. That sounds harsh that you and me have to deal with sickness and death because of someone else choice doesn't it? We know actions have consequences and the consequences of Adam's and Eve's disobedience is far reaching. But we have a choice today to trust God through our short lifetime and then know an eternity that is free from all sickness and death.

I have had times when God has graciously intervened in my life and times He has given me the grace to go through the problem without a miracle of deliverance. I've learned to trust God with the outcome. Trusting God is a difficult place to get to but it's wonderful when you can reach that place knowing your life is secure in His hands. There are examples throughout the Old and New Testament for us to follow.

So my theology is a simple one of trusting God through life. there will be trouble and hard times but God will see me through. We live in a fallen world where we are bound by the laws of nature. I still believe in miracles but I trust God whether I have the outcome I want or not. It is a peaceful way to live. I do have the hope of eternity. This faith has brought me through the last few years with our little Sam.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The twins-the hardest post to write!

After Steve was born, we were so happy. He was just like having a real life baby doll. In July 1996, I went to the dentist to have some work done on my teeth. They took a beating while I was pregnant with Steve. The dentist asked me to do a pregnancy test before I came in as I wanted to be put out during the dental work..well it was positive, as was the next and the next....

We were shocked to say the least! I had a sonogram at 9 weeks and the tech said "There's baby A and there's baby B" Wow twins! What more could we ask for? As excited as we were, I felt something was not right about the pregnancy. I only shared that with a couple of people and of course their response to me was to encourage me everything was going to be alright. But I feel God was preparing me in a gentle way for what was going to happen.

At 20 weeks I had the AFP test and the test indicated that one of the babies had spinal bifida. I had not felt much movement at all, which had concerned me. We went through genetic counseling and I was scheduled for an in depth ultrasound at Beth Israel Hospital on the upper East side. That morning as we left home, I was afraid of what the test would show. I remember I drunk a large glass of OJ to try and feel movement but felt nothing.

As the tech did the sonogram, we had a large screen to watch it on. As soon as she located the first baby, I just began saying "the baby is dead". She quickly located the other baby who was also dead and without saying a word, ran to get the doctor. Jon (ever positive) was trying to calm me down. When the doctor returned, he confirmed that both of the babies were dead.

That morning we had driven into Manhattan, thank goodness we didn't have to take the train home. However as we drove down the streets of NYC, all I could see was baby strollers and pregnant women. We wept all the way home. I remember we just laid on the bed and cried for a long time when we got home. It was an awful day.

At that time we had a HMO and it took a few days for them to decide what to do as I was so far along. I was offered the choice of delivering the babies or having them surgically removed in a procedure similar to an abortion. I chose to have them removed. Due to the gestational age and the fact they were deceased, I was sent to a doctor who specializes in abortions. As you can imagine, I was not happy about that and told everyone! Here I wanted my babies so much and I was going to have to deal with someone who took life daily from other babies. It was a rough time. The doctor was an incredibly sweet man. We actually got close to him and he shared things with us about his life and family. We discussed the fact he does abortions for a living. His explanation was he felt he was helping women caught in no win situations. I believe he really felt he was trying to do good by helping others. We never condemned him and he was so incredibly open with us that it was unreal. By the way, I'm not talking about some doctor on the backstreets of Brooklyn. This guy had an office next to where the Trump Towers were being built. He was a very rich and successful man. It was just weird how we three connected and shared with each other. He wanted info on Teen Challenge and we gave him a box of "The Cross and Switchblade" I believe even in the hard time we were going through, God still used us to reach someone who was hurting.

The planning and everything took some time. When I finally went into the hospital the babies had been dead for more than a week. There were some concerns medically. Emotionally I was so fragile, I can't even believe I survived.

When I get really afraid and upset, I draw into myself. The night before I went into the hospital to have them removed, I walked the streets of Brooklyn alone talking to the babies. I was so sad, even remembering that night after so many years has me weeping now. It was cold dark and windy but I wanted them to know how much I loved them and wanted them. Even after knowing one of my little guys had spinal bifiida, I still wanted them. I couldn't stand the thought that they would be taken out of my womb by force. We had so many dreams for our little family and knowing they weren't going to be a part of it just broke my heart. As long as I live, I will never forget that walk. It was a dark night of the soul.

The next day October 30, 1996, I checked into St Luke Roosevelt. The same hospital that I had checked out on October 30, 1995 with my little Steve. The procedure was done and I was in recovery and I started to hemorrhage. I bled profusely for hours. As fast as they could give me a transfusion, I would bleed it out. This went on for hours Every trauma doctor was brought in but to no avail. No one was really telling Jon much but my nurse who just happened to go to Times Square Church told him to call everyone he knew to have them pray for me. Sometime in the afternoon, I began not being able to see but I could still talk and hear. I kept begging them not to let me die. I had Jon show them pictures of Steve. I told them I had to live to raise him. The nurses told me later, they would have to walk out of the room as they would start crying. No one really gave me much of a chance of survival at that point. (we learned all of that later) What happened to me is called DIC -it has a big long name- but it basically means your blood loses the ability to clot it can happen in a childbirth situation or if you've had a great trauma. I was told it is 99% fatal. One nurse told me she had never in over 25 years of nursing met someone who had survived it. Late in the afternoon, Jon came in he could only come in for a few minutes at a time. There had been a change, I was worse. Jon described me as having a "death dew" on my face. He got that from an old church hymn. He described me as unbelievably pale with a sheen on my face. At that point he dropped to his knees and began praying and rebuking death. Within the next few minutes there was a complete turn around and within the hour I was given hospital jello to eat. I did stay in the hospital for a few days in ICU but God intervened in my life.

My father in law had come to be with us and it was a good thing he did! He kept Steve during this time. Steve had just turned 1 year old and of course he was still in diapers. Well when I got home, Steve was happy and playing with his PaPa, but when I went to change him, I found the diaper was on backwards. We did laugh about that! Papa admitted that Steve's diapers were the first he'd ever changed!

I was a wreck physically and emotionally when I came home. My belly was bruised in colors I'd never seen from all of the compressing. I was weak from the blood loss. That same month, the whole of New York City had a scare from tainted blood products. My hospital had reportedly got some tainted blood. Well I was given so much blood and blood products we are very concerned. I spoke with my doctor about the issue and I was told, I would not have lived out the afternoon without the transfusions. My blood was traced and all had come from the New Jersey blood bank which was reassuring but I still had to have HIV testing done at 3, 6 and 9 months. That was nerve wracking to say the least and added to my mental state.

A few days after I came home, I got a package in the mail from the funeral home. It was the twins' ashes. I was alone and I just sat and held them bawling. Here I was holding my twins and instead of smelling the sweet baby mil smell, I smelled smoke. It was awful, we had no idea, that they would just UPS them to us and were totally unprepared!

Around this time, there was many changes going on in both ministries we were involved in. We were contacted and asked to move to New Jersey and help start a Teen Challenge with a minister friend that Jon had known for years. Jon had already been doing a weekly outreach in Newark so it seemed like it was a natural progression. I was incapable of making any decisions so I told Jon whatever he wanted to do...So we moved in February 1997 to NJ. Wow what a mistake!

The gift of discernment (or some may call the gift of suspicion) is something that I have very strongly. Jon and I have discussed it in depth and have come to the conclusion that some of it is God given and some is just plain "street smarts". Jon does not have it as strong as I do. He has a gift of mercy and compassion and no one ever has accused me of having that gift! That's why we work so good together now. Years ago we didn't work together very well (more on that later...)

At that point in our lives, the only thing getting me out of bed was Steve. He was the only happiness in my life. I was so emotionally fragile, I wasn't paying any attention to anything in life. Just kinda going with the flow...

So we got moved over and soon I realized something was not kosher! Although Jon had known this guy for years, we did not know he had had some issues and had been disciplined by our denomination. He had successfully completed what was asked of him and was restored back to ministry. Evidently he was still dealing with some stuff in his life. Needless to say, that man is out of the ministry today and unfortunately fell back into drugs and has lost his family. We just knew something was not right and we were not comfortable being involved. It was one of those situations where you might not have much proof but you know something is rotten in Denmark. So in July'97, I called my father in law one morning and told him I had to come home. I was hysterical on the phone and basically said I was coming home whether Jon did or not. I don't think I made a lots of sense that morning but he was on one of the next flights to NJ and helped us move home. I think he thought I was losing it which I was!

As you can see, my father in law has been with us an many major occasions of our lives. He has quite a few health problems right now and is in his 80's but I just have to say I could not have had a better father in law! He's been better to me than my own family ever was and I appreciate him.

Coming home was good in some ways. Jon got a position as a Chaplain for the Florida Dept of Corrections and I began working directly for the Florida Dept of Juvenile Justice as a probation officer. Steve got to be with his cousins and all of our friends' kids and he was happy as any 2 year old could be.

However a rift had begun between Jon and me. The roots of it started long before losing the twins but that loss took my away my foundation. It began growing larger and larger and it was only God's grace that saved me and our marriage. I'll share more in my next post.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The perfect child-Steve

It was 14 years ago today that I found out I was pregnant with Steve

We were living in New York and came down in January '95 to visit our family and go to some revival services. I was prayed for at those services at Carpenter's Home Church to have a baby.

Although we wanted a child, it was more like we kinda wanted a child. We really couldn't imagine having a child. Neither of us were that crazy about other people's kids. But what the heck everyone else was doing it so why not us?

Anyhow by the time we got back to NYC, I was already having morning sickness. Forget that, it was all day and night sickness! By March I was so sick I was sure I'd contacted some horrible illness maybe AIDS from one of the students. Someone suggested I was pregnant but we really didn't take it seriously. Finally I told Jon I had to find out what was wrong with me. We decided to rule out pregnancy by going to a Christan pregnancy center for a testing. Much to my amazement it came up positive. It was a small building and I screamed down the hallway "Jon I'm pregnant!" I actually started hyperventalating I got so excited. The whole office was laughing at us. We were so excited.
Well the excitement lasted for a few days but the realities of pregnancy soon came back. I lost 20 pounds and a tooth during the pregnancy. I threw up daily 5 or more times a day. It was a tough time. Even my old Jewish doctor felt sorry for me but refused to give me anything for the nausea.

I had 9 sonograms, every time the tech would say "I think it's a girl" Well on the 9th sonogram, a new tech said "Look there's his scrutum" I began telling her "No it's a girl". She told me if it was a girl she had a problem:) That sonogram was on our anniversary and only 2 weeks before he was born. I had a bunch of baby clothes to return.

During the pregnancy I was monitored closely because of all the problems I was having. I had to have fetal monitoring 4 out of the 5 workdays. So I was almost daily taking the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan. My father in law came to visit in October so he could spend some time with us before the baby came. Our baby had different ideas. During a routine doctor visit, something was going wrong. The baby's heartbeat was declining to the point it could not be picked up. I was taken from the monitoring floor of St Luke's Roosevelt hospital to the Labor and Delivery floor in just minutes. Jon and his dad were somewhere in NYC sight seeing as I was being prepped for a c-section. (remember these were the days before cell phones) Thankfully the baby stabilized and a few hours later, I was able to get ahold of Jon and he came to the hospital. That was Wednesday. The staff slowly induced me and I woke up Friday morning in agony. It was a hard but short labor. He was upside down in a position called "sunny side up" It was rough. When the baby was finally delivered, I weakly asked "what is it" I still thought the tech was wrong. The doctor said "it's a boy". My heart sunk because I thought I realy wanted a girl but then I was handed this little bloody screaming boy, and I definetly became a believer of love at first sight. In my head I have a vivid picture of that moment and it was like pixie dust was sprinkled on us. I had never experienced such an emotion in my life.

Steve was a very easy baby. He became the joy of our life. He slept through the night his first night home from the hospital , never had the terrible twos and has always been a happy easy boy. He's now a teenager and we are all three so close. He's very open with us about things and he is just a joy to have. God couldn't have given us a more delightful son. Steve introduced us slowly to parnethood. He didn't give us too many surprises, thank goodness! sam on the other hand kicked our butts!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Marriage - first few years

I don't know what happened with the pictures, sorry.
The picture of me and Jon together was taken on Liberty Island, after visiting the Statue of Liberty. It is one of my favorite pictures of us ever!
The one by myself is taken at the top of the World Trade Tower. All my pictures from the WTC are very meaningful to me. When I flew into Newark on my way to China, the view out of my window took my breath away. Where those beautiful towers stood now just a hole in the ground...
The last picture is the main office of Teen Challenge. The older building to the right is where we lived. It was nice on the inside.

Ok back to the theme of marriage....

So Jon and I eloped. The pictures I posted yesterday of those incredibly thin people was from a small ceremony we did at Jon's parents' home so the family could be included.

Our first few years were good. Jon went back and finished SEC. I took a job as a juvenile probation officer with a contracted company, BAYS (Bay Area Youth Services). It was a great place to work right out of college. At that time, the director was a Christian and everyone in the office was SEC grads (except for an office worker who was a Jehovah Witness-that was an interesting combo!) We were all friends and had a good time working together. There wasn't alot of paperwork in those days. My starting salary was $14,700. I was so happy to be making the big bucks!
Jon's parents bought us a little trailer in an adult trailer park as a wedding present. Somehow my father in law talked the owner of the park into letting us live there. She figured with us being bible school students we wouldn't cause too much trouble and we didn't! The trailer was a one bedroom and the smallest non RV trailer I have ever seen. All the appliances were either pink or avocado green. I hate pink anything to this day!

In 1992 we got appointed as Assembly of God home missionaries to New York City. That was our goal and we were thrilled. In the A/G, missionaries have to itinerant. That means they travel from church to church raising their budget. I hated being in a different church each service but Jon loved it. We finally moved to NYC early in '94. We lived at Brooklyn Teen Challenge where we worked. We had a dual appointment we also were helping to plant a Decade of Harvest church, City Church, which was meeting at the Teen Challenge Center.

Working in ministry in NYC was a ying/yang experience. There were things we loved and things we hated. I love NYC, the people the subways, the beat of the city. There is no place on earth like it! I had mixed feelings about Teen Challenge. I loved the students and could connect with them. I never fit in with the most of the staff. That was a new experience for me. Everyone usually loves me :) I didn't really enjoy working day to day with the students because as staff you were encouraged to be rather heavy handed with them over little things. It was very militaristic with no room for individual thought. I personally did not see that benefiting the students in the long run as they had to learn to make decisions for themselves in the future. The women had alot of emotional scars and were encouraged to let it all hang out. There was alot of weeping and wailing and I just do NOT do good with emotion like that. That's not how I handle things by rehashing the past and I don't think it's healthy. Heck I've not had that easy of a life but I don't cry about things every time I turn around..."Let it go!" is my motto. I think the women's program was handled much differently than the men's program. Jon was happy and somewhat fulfilled between the two ministries. It was not at all what we expected and we did not feel we were used to our full potential. I began doing more office work and helping to schedule services for the Teen Challenge choir. I was happier doing that than working in the program where I didn't feel comfortable with some things.

However during that time, the unbelievable happened! After 6 years of marriage and basically trying to have a baby most of that time, I got pregnant out of the blue!!!! Thus began the most fulfilling role of my life!

Just to let you know my crazy dog is still barking furiously at every car. We got up with her 3x last night but to no avail. Just when we'd get back to sleep, she'd start barking and running up and down the fence line at every vehicle that came by. By this morning she had almost lost her voice. But we were outside today working and she calmed down some and now she's having no problems with her bark! I'm calling a vet friend on Monday if she keeps this up to see if he'll put her on psychotropic meds!!
Tomorrow- all about the perfect child!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th and dogs

Well it's Friday the 13th...SCARY!

My crazy possum chasing dog has finally lost her mind.

Her name is Happy. She is a 1 year black Lab that someone generously left at the front of the church back in early February. She's going to be a big girl, she's already about 50 pounds. Being a young dog, she is much more active than our dear Brownie (a chocolate Lab) someone so generously put in our yard February '08. (Do you see a pattern in the month of February? Next year, I'm going to be sitting outside with a shot gun!)

Our yard is totally fenced in but Jon was pulling Sam in his wagon today and had let both of the dogs come with him. It was about 5 pm so I warned him there was too much traffic for them to be out. At that moment Happy started chasing one of the cats, Smokey, across the street. There was a truck coming and nothing we could do. I screamed and ran towards the road...the cat made it across safely but the truck hit Happy. Thankfully the truck hit the brakes hard. Happy got thrown up in the air and she went to running back to me as fast as she could, barking furiously. We checked her out and she is fine, she's eating and playing. The only after effect is that she seems to have PTSD! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is barking furiously at every vehicle that comes down the street! What are we going to do? There is no calming her down at this point. We are envisioning a sleepless night!

Here is our pet list...

Sweety (inside corgi)

Buddy (our inside cat)
Baby Bubba (named in honor of our old Bubba)
Big Tom
Scaredy Cat
Bob (really Bobbie a midget cat with no tail)
Assorted others who come to eat now and then.

We've had 4 cats die this year. We've lived here for 3 years and not one had been hurt before. Two got ran over,, one was an unkown death and one old guy we had to have put to sleep. It's been sad for the kids (and me too). Even Jon cried fora couple of them.

The cats came with the church. I've worked on getting everyone fixed. Big Tom and Scaredy Cat somehow know when I'm getting ready to take a cat to the snip snip clinic and we don't see them for a couple of days. I've never seen anything like it. It's like they can understand English! They happen to be the proud parents of the yearly kitten litter! I get everyone there shots each year, it's quite a production to say the least. This year thanks to a grant, at PetLuv I got all my animals taken care of for free! That was great since even at a low cost clinic it gets expensive.

So as I'm typing this, the dog is going crazy, I don't know maybe she hit her head...

Tomorrow I'll share some more thoughts on marriage if we get any sleep tonight.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Jon and I re met (there's that word I created) in a very unique way. I had broken off a long term relationship and although I had already graduated, I decided to return to SEC to get an education degree. It could be done in 2 semesters so I thought that was a good thing for me to do. On the job board at SEC was an ad for an assistant director of a homeless shelter. Man that was right up my alley. You mean people actually got paid to work with the homeless! I called the number listed and talked to a real nice lady who I assumed was the director's wife. She tried to talk me out of applying and told me it was no place for a woman. I assured her I was used to working with the homeless and thought it would be a fine job. She then proceeded to try and set me up with her son who was actually the director of the shelter. She gave me his background and told me all about him. I thought what a weird guy still living at home. (I didn't know his dad had recently had surgery and his younger brother was going through a hard time so his mom had really wanted him to move home during that time).
I then called Jon at the shelter and told him "I'm the one for the job" (I still get kidded about that statement) Jon didn't seem to impress by my declaration but did give me an interview. What an interview that was, 2 hours and I'm not sure we discussed the Talbot House much! We remembered each other from the class a few years back. He told me the board would have the final interview and say in the matter. So as I was leaving I told him we should get together for coffee sometime since we had so much in common. He leaned up against my old brown bomb and said " How about Friday night at Olive Garden?" WOOHOO..... That was September 13

The board did hire me and Jon was my boss for a short while. We worked together and dated as much as we could. Within 2 weeks we were talking marriage. Some people thought we had lost our minds. All I remember was I had no fear or reservations about the relationship. Jon was the kindest man I'd ever met. I saw how he handled difficult people on a daily basis with respect. He treated the homeless just as if they were businessmen wearing $1000 suits, instead of bums wearing the latest outfit from he Salvation Army.

One of his friends talked to him about the suddenness of our relationship and tried to talk him out of getting serious so soon with me. So he and I met and talked it out one morning. I told him I didn't care when we got year , Christmas break or today...Well he though today sounded good to him! I thought he was really just kidding. So I said let's go to lunch. We ate at the old Ryans' on US 98 South. After we ate he continued to say what a good idea it was to get married TODAY. So off to find a payphone and call the courthouse to see how to go about it. We found out that in Florida at that time, a couple could apply for a license and get married on the same day. He went to his house and got a suit and I went to SEC and changed and off to Bartow we went. At that point I think we were thinking we'd just get the license and then get a minister friend to marry us. Well once we were there, he decided we should get married in the new little wedding chapel in the courthouse. So we did with a justice of the peace named Molly doing the honors. That was October 12, 1989! One day short of one month of dating!!

When we left the courthouse I remember thinking "What have I done?" But I wasn't really afraid just freaked out! He actually had to go to the homeless shelter and work for a while. So I packed and then that night we went to Clearwater for a day honeymoon.

While I don't recommend such a short dating period, it certainly has worked for us. This October will be our 20 year anniversary. Several of the people that were so concerned about us getting married so soon have since divorced themselves. I think that just shows that commitment is what matters in a relationship. Jon and I have gone through some storms in our marriage. There was a time I thought we would probably divorce each other but we made it through. I'm so glad we did. I'll discuss some more in another post.

A few months after we were married, I took Jon up to meet my aunt and grandmother. While we were in Perry, I went through some old journals I had saved for years. In one on December 7, 1983, I wrote a prayer to God for my husband -to -be. It was a freezing cold day and due to our water pipes being frozen, we didn't go to church that morning, a very rare occasion. So I spent the time joureling. I wrote and asked God to save my husband -to -be and call him into the ministry.

Well for some time in 1984, Jon had been searching. He'd been raised in a Methodist church and had a reverence for God but not a real relationship. He saw a news article in the Lakeland Ledger about old First Assembly on Main Street that Karl Strafer pastored at the time. The article caught his attention so he decided to go that Sunday December 7, 1983. He was challenged in that service and gave his heart to the Lord.

Now you can call that a coincidence but we saw God's hand in that situation! It shook us up in a good way and showed us although we had no big sign that we were to marry each other prior to our marriage, we certainly had confirmation after our marriage!!!! To us it was an amazing sign that we were in God's will for our lives. What are the chances of my prayer being written at the very same time that Jon is in a service being challenge for the first time in his life to begin a relationship with God? Pretty neat huh?
The pictures are from about a month after we got married and we had a ceremony including his family at his parents house. Were we skinny or what?? Steve looked at these pictures and asked who those people were! I don't know why these pictures are saving so small. They are scans from old pictures but if you clink on them you can enlarge them.
See ya soon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Glory Days at Southeastern College

The last post was very depressing but it's my life story so just be glad you did have to live it:)

Now on to Southeastern College...

Going to SEC was the best decision of my life up to that point. I always think about how the decisions made when a person is a teenager and early 20's really shape the rest of their lives. Who has the sense to make good decisions at that point in there lives? It's scary!

I started SEC on August 24, 1984. Believe me I know the day, I had been counting down the days on a calendar and was thrilled to get there. The first person I met went on to become a life long friend. Kim and I met in the bathroom, both of us primping in front of the mirror getting ready to go to the cafeteria. We often laugh at that auspicious meeting but we clicked as only special friends can. We left together that afternoon and somewhere on the way picked up Todd. That was the beginning of the best group of friends that SEC has ever known. The group went on to include my roommate Jan, Todd's roommate Stephen, and Kim's roommate Mary Beth. There were others who joined our group especially from the guys' hall in Bauer called "The Ghetto" and our corresponding girls' hall in Bethany called "The Ghettoette's" but the core was us six. We are still in contact with each other although I only see Kim on a regular basis as everyone else lives out of state.

My Freshmen and Sophomore years were magical to me. When I think of that time, I think of laughter and spreading my wings. SEC in those days kept a pretty tight rein on the students so my wings didn't spread too far. The craziest think I remember doing was me and 2 others who shall remain nameless went over to the USF campus in Tampa to a Christian night club. It was a forbidden thing to do. All we saw was a bunch of people dancing to the latest Petra music with some disco lights. We had a blast! However on the way home one of my friends lead us in a prayer of repentance He was the one dancing the hardest in the club :)

My pet name was Cabbage Patch-this was the 80's remember. I still have friends that call me that. Kim and I were recently laughing and talking about old times and we realized we were the "in crowd" at SEC. Then we really started laughing! I admit I was a "social butterfly" My roommate Jan and I used to see who could go on the most dates in a semester. I think I hold the record. However we had to define "date". Was it a date if you just walked Lake Hollingsworth or did he have to hold your hand and take you to TCBY? I won't tell you what the record is that I hold but it's in the double digits. But what's so neat is that it was all so innocent.
After our first couple of years everyone had to get more focused on what was going on personally. I got extremely involved in the outreach ministries of SEC. In my Jr year, I helped to led a street outreach to OBT Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. It's an area where there is alot of homeless and prostitution. I did a summer internship in Brooklyn New York inner city and decided that was where I was headed.

I worked many different jobs while at SEC, both on campus and off. I was a janitor, cafeteria worker, teacher assistant, a temp for the post office, a clerk at Kmart...those are just a few. It was a good experience for me, I certainly knew I was going to finish college so I didn't have to work so many hard jobs.

I made so many good friends at SEC that I remain friends with to this day. Some I may not see very often but when I do see them, it's like the years melt away. Although it is a bit disconcerting to run into someone and they are now middle aged! I'm on facebook and I have to admit there are times when I do a double take at some pictures. We're middle aged. It really hits when when we are on campus. Jon and I say how young the students look and they seem so much cooler than we were. Everyone walks around with their cell phones, Ipods, laptops..all we had were pay phones, stereos and what was a computer? Anyhow I love you Southeastern friends!

I met Jon at SEC sorta. He was in my Urban Context for Ministry class. It was an all male class except for me (that was the good thing about being a Bible major I had a class full of guys!) I remember him because I didn't know him and I knew ALL the other guys in the class. Jon sat in the front row on the right side by the window. He stood out to me because I knew everyone else. He says he tried to talk to me once and I snubbed him, The truth is I knew he didn't live on campus (or I would have known him)and back in those days if you didn't live on campus, it meant only one thing, you were MARRIED. Well I wasn't interested in talking to some old married man when there were some many other fish in the class! Anyhow he says he had a crush on me but just never had the courage to really try to get to know me. He can even describe some of my clothes that I wore including a cute denim jacket that I wore alot that year with pins on it (remember the 80's) So he loved me from afar...(he lived off campus because his family lived in Lakeland off of the famous Lake Hollingsworth and he had a mama and a maid that took care of everything so he had no desire to live on campus!)

About that time, I began dating someone exclusively. It was a bad relationship that lasted 2 years. I wanted love and a family but only got heartache in an abusive relationship. I finally had the sense to call it off after I graduated. That relationship is my biggest regret of my SEC years. But even in that I learned many things and I learned what I was looking for in a mate. Which did me well because soon after, I "re met" (I think I just made up a new word) and the rest is history! More in the next post about my love!

Where I came from...

ok I didn't come from Mars!
I grew up in a small town, Perry Florida. It's in the "Big Bend" area of North Florida. It was and still is quite isolated being 50 miles from Tallahassee and at least 25 miles from the nearest small town. I was actually born in Tallahassee almost on US 19 if the story is true. I was born into a very dysfunctional situation. My parents were in the process of separating/divorcing and I was the youngest of four "stair steps" My truck driving father also had several children from a previous marriage or relationship that lived in the "home" It was a very poor situation for a newborn to be in. My grandmother lived next door and she was probably a factor in the chaos that surrounded us. I was a sickly child which didn't help the situation much. At some point my mom began waitressing at the Walker Truck Stop where several of my female relatives worked. She let my great aunt Boots (that would be my grandmother's sister) start keeping me pretty much full time soon after I was born. Boot Mama (that is what I called her) was already 66 when she took me to raise. She was born in September of 1899.

I only have one memory of my father and it was when I was about 2 or so. My mother was living in a small trailer. I'm not sure if he was still living there or not. But she was sick and Boot Mama took her some food. He came into the trailer and had an argument with my mother. Looking back he was probably drunk. He pushed my sister Laura down and slammed out the door. Not a real Hallmark moment. When I was in college I had some weird thought to get in touch with him. He only lived in south Georgia. I actually sent him some pictures and a letter but never heard back from him. About 10 years ago I got a phone call from a lady who introduced herself as a younger half sister. She explained to me that "our father" had died from colon cancer and cirrus of the liver. She was contacting me to get me to sign over my right of any "inheritance". He had an old truck and a trailer. I told her she could definitely have my part! She then went on to tell me about him and the family in Georgia. Needless to say it was the typical poor rural Southerner lifestyle that can easily go on Jerry Springer. I have never heard from any of them again.

My mother soon left Perry herself taking with her my 2 brothers and 1 sister. She lived up and down the East coast, concentrating on cities where there were naval bases. I saw her about 4 times in my growing up years. Each time she was "married" to a different man. My poor siblings had a rough life. My mother is still alive and in poor health. Although she is only in her mid 60's she is on various meds and wheelchair bound. She lived a rough life and it shows. I have not seen her in about 20 years nor do I have the desire to do so. She wants to see my kids but I gave my oldest son the option and he did not want to meet her. She still lives in chaos and problems. When I do talk to her it's what I call a "Jerry Springer phone call". It is overwhelming to me.

My siblings have each had quite a bit of difficulty in their lives and I hold our parents responsible. I'm not going to share about them out of respect to what all they have gone through. I really don't have much of a relationship with them but do enjoy talking to them on the phone occasionally. One of my brothers hasn't been heard from in years by anyone and I just hope he is ok. Maybe life just got too much for him.

So I grew up with my great aunt and her husband who I called Poppie. Her sister Ruby also lived with us. We had an old wooden frame house on the poorer side of town. Although back then most of Perry was poor. My aunts took me every service to the Church of God right down the street from our house. Back then it was a large interesting congregation and very Pentecostal. I'll have to share some funny stories about it some time.

We had quite a bit of land which was farmed and had chickens, pigs, cats, doge, ducks, rabbits etc. When I was only 2 Poppie died and my Uncle Mack (my great aunts brother) moved in with us soon after. I always adored my Uncle Mack, he was a father figure to me. Until I was 12 I was pretty happy. There were the animals, the farm, the huge grapevine that my uncle put a swing under for me so I could play and read on it. School was ok, I was in gifted classes always and found school work easy. I did get picked on quite a bit especially the older I got, wearing coke bottled glasses didn't help. I didn't really miss having parents. I felt loved.

Then my uncle got lung cancer and died in the summer of 1976. It was traumatic for me. Soon after my Boot Mama began a decline in her health. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's when I was in Jr. High. She died when I was a senior in high school. During my teenage years, I was unhappy. It was a rough time to say the least. Probably the only thing that kept me out of major trouble was the Lord!! My aunt Ruby had no desire to be the primary caretaker of an Alzheimer's patient and a teenage girl at the same time. She was a difficult person, with some mental issues. There were people in my life that helped to guide me. My best friend's mom Mrs. Harris was a rock as well as some pastors and their families.

Well I was sure not planning to remain in Perry and really felt God calling me to Bible College. I found out about Southeasten through a pastor's wife and really felt God was leading me there. I actually have a frozen picture in my mind of going to the mail box and getting out Southeasten's catalogue and feeling God speak to my heart saying to go there. I didn't even know where Lakeland Florida was! My family was not at all thrilled with the idea and fought me all the way. SEC is an Assembly of God college and that was a big factor against it in their minds. I was determined and did everything to make it happen, including picking peaches in Madison Florida with migrant workers to raise the money. No one helped me with the expenses but it was a good character building time. I look back on that time with fondness At the time it was rough but it really did build in me a self reliance and a reliance on God.

So I came to good old Southeatern fall of 1984. I always say SEC was my salvation in many ways. In my next post I will share about my years at SEC. However the content might not be suitable for young readers...just kidding! It was a blast!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yvonne's Yarns-Of Possums and Dogs

I asked my brother in law Jim for a catchy title for my blog and he came up with "Yvonne's Yarns'. Well this story I'm about to tell you is the God's honest truth with no embellishments!

As I told you, my husband pastors a rural church. We live next door to the church in a parsonage. It's convenient with the children, especially Sam who is quite sure the service is over after the music stops. Anyhow, a few Wednesday nights ago, I took him home early. I heard one of our dogs barking in the backyard and a whole lot of hissing and spitting going on. I though our younger dog was bothering one of many cats we feed, so I rushed out to protect it. The backdoor opens out and the dog had the "cat" pinned against the wall. I went out the backdoor and came face to face with a very mad hissing possum! I'm not sure who was more surprised. I began yelling and jumped back inside. (I was quite worried about what I yelled...not quite sure what I said but it wasn't "praise the Lord"!) Well the ruckus continued...This is not something I learned to deal with at Bible College. There is no class on how to maintain order between your dog and a possibly rabid possum during a church service!! I thought possums were supposed to play dead! I went and got a guy from our church that made the mistake that night of sitting on the back pew. He came out and was trying to help and suggested I get my gun and shot the thing. Well I was pretty sure that that might just disrupt the service just a little bit. We finally got the crazy thing to run off and the dog to quiet down. (don't worry the dog has had his rabies shots!)

Then a few nights ago, Steve our oldest, came running out of his room yelling that there was a porcupine outside his window. I've lived in Florida most of my life and am pretty sure that there are no porcupines here. So we all go running out to investigate and there was the crazy possum again, this time fluffed up like a cat. The dog was messing with it and it was spitting and hissing. We got the dog's attention for a minute and the possum ran off, so did the dog. In a minute, it came back with a very dead looking possum that she wanted to drop at my feet. Needless to say, I did not want the possum dropped at my feet! Don't worry as soon as we got the dog in the house, the possum came back to life and ran up a tree. See my life is never dull!!!!

Let me introduce myself...

Welcome to my new blog! I hope you will enjoy getting to know me as I go through my day to day life. My issues may not be quite what you are facing however, I hope you can learn from me. It's my hope that you will look at life with me and learn how to face life's difficulties with faith in God. I plan to write daily about my life and how I face the various challenges. No matter what happens in life, God is in control and He will have the last work. That is a comfort to me.

I'm 43, married to a minister. My husband pastors a rural church as well as is a prison chaplain. He is very fulfilled in his life and ministry (and very busy). We have three boys. Steve is 13 and is being homeschooled this year. He's a great kid with a calm loving personality. I enjoy his company and talking with him. Our son Sam is 5 years old and has significant special needs. He was born premature and blind. He now has some sight thanks to corneal implants which are experimental. He is nonverbal and developmentally delayed. But Sam is a joy to us. Having him has made me reach deep into my faith and become a much realer person. Shadrach (Shad) is also 5 and is adopted from China. He has a vision impairment that is not correctable in one eye. We feel God lead us to him after dealing with Sam's vision issues. He is a great kid and has quite a personality. I will write in detail about each of the kids in the future and how God has used their lives to change mine.
Well goodbye for now! Sam's vision therapy teacher is here and then we go and do church errands...