Saturday, December 13, 2008

My final test is done and I have one paper to go. I am glad to have this test completed. I will begin working on my final paper tomorrow. It is the one where I have to write my theological belief statement. Say a prayer that I can accomplish this before midnight on Tuesday.

Tonight Bruce, Geni and I went to the Lamar Madrigal Dinner Theatre. It was held at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church here in Arlington. All three of the show choirs performed with the Madrigals performing last. All of the groups were just wonderful and the Madrigals were exceptional. Travis had a solo and he sang beautifully (would you expect anything less?). It was a wonderful evening filled with the sounds of the season. We had a really great time.

Philippians 3:13 says, “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,…” Around our house we are all trying to get into the excitement of the holiday season. All of us remember that last year we spent Christmas in Houston at MD Anderson Hospital where Casey was receiving treatment for cancer. Bruce and the kids came down and we were all together for a change. I put up a tree in Casey’s room, hung stockings and bought a gift for everyone either at the book sale, online or at the gift shops that were in the hospital. They were just remembrances for everyone.

On Christmas eve, Geni stayed in the room with Casey while Bruce, Travis and I stayed across the street at the Rotary House. Early on Christmas morning we were awakened by a phone call from Geni that the nursing pod had emptied into his room because his heart rate and gone through the roof and he was getting sicker by the minute. It was the time he had pneumonia, an upper respiratory infection, RSV and mouth sores all at the same time. Even though I tried to make it a festive Christmas there was an element of fear because Casey was so sick. The volunteers provided a gift for the patients and a delicious lunch for patients and families. Casey was too sick to join us for lunch so we went down to Café Anderson and had lunch just we four.

We are all trying to put last Christmas behind us, but after losing Casey so recently, it brings back all of the memories of each holiday last year and how Casey was with us for all of the holidays. We are going to try to try and begin a few new traditions this year. Last week, Travis decorated the “Casey tree”, a live oak tree that Jana Hurta donated to our front yard in honor of Casey. Then, Travis and Geni set up three Christmas trees on the front porch and decorated those in their favorite colors. Next weekend we are going to cut down a Christmas Tree. And we will see what happens after that.

We know we will never forget the last year of our lives and the life that is no longer with us, but we are straining forward trying to get beyond the hurt and loss of our son, brother and friend. A light has gone out of our lives in the last year. And now we approach the time of year when scripture tells us that the light of the world is coming in the form of a baby.

Have you ever noticed that God announces things with light? When God announced Moses’ entrance into the world, the Egyptian ministers, sages etc…claimed that a star proclaimed the birth of Moses. The Magi followed the star in the east as it came to rest over the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived. That star stayed in place a long time. The light of that star was the guiding light for the Wise Men. Even though the Kings were not present at the birth of Jesus they kept following the star until it led them to Jesus. The shepherds received the news of the birth of Jesus by the singing of the heavenly host. I feel sure they were bathed in light and their light had to be so bright it filled the sky with heavenly brightness maybe even too amazing to look upon. The light all of these people saw led them forward to see what was present at the end of the light. The light in Egypt proclaimed that a deliverer was coming to deliver Israel out of bondage. The nation of Israel walked out of Egypt led by one who was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Wise Men were led by a light to the light of the world. The light of the world is Jesus.

We will never forget the extraordinary year we have experienced. I don’t think God wants us to forget, but I know He would want us to walk forward, so that is what we are going to do. God calls each of us to seek the light. In seeking the Light of the World, we, too, are seeking the deliverer. The One who can deliver us from the darkness of sin, fear and sadness will shine His light on us and lead us into the light of God’s love.

Take special joy in this Advent journey and search for the light. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mom update: I called Mom and Dad’s house around 5:00 hoping one of them would answer the phone. All I got was the answering machine. Then I called the hospital and Daddy answered the phone. After I told him I had really hoped they would not have had to answer the phone at the hospital he told me they were checking out at that very moment!! Yea!! Please understand, my Mom and Dad have been married for 56 years and with the exception of the two years Daddy spent in the service during early marriage (and Mom went over for the last year) and an occasional visit to the hospital for each of them, they have rarely spent a night apart in all of that time. Praise God from whom all blessing flow!!

Deb Koplen update: Bruce spent a great deal of time with Deb today. Her pain is being well managed and she is off of her IV pain meds and some of her pain medications are being reduced. She is still confused and having some hallucinations, but she is feeling much better. I checked her counts while I was there tonight. Her WBC (white blood cells, remember?) are beginning to recover and her HGB is not bad. She is still not eating very much so they have started her on TPN (a liquid nutrition). The Deb I saw today looked better and felt better than the Deb I have seen for the past three weeks since she went into the hospital. I just pray her confusion will ease up soon. Please continue to keep her in your prayers.

Psalm 126: 5 says, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” I had a moment today. The Village Jewelry Store called today to tell me that the pendant I had repaired was ready. I may have shared this story before, but it bears repeating. 32 years ago right about now my Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was Christmas time and Daddy really wasn’t thinking about buying anything for Christmas so he told my brother and I to look for a gift for Mom. I found a beautiful butterfly ring at Zales Jewelry Store and the cost was $125.00. The ring has opal wings, a yellow gold setting and diamond antennas. We took the change jar kept on the back of the kitchen counter which was filled with quarters, half-dollars and silver dollars to the store. The clerks in the store thought we were collecting for come cause. When we told them our story about our Mom, and the clerks gladly helped us count out the change. Would you believe in that jar was enough to make the purchase. Mom handed me the ring upon Casey’s diagnosis with cancer.

The ring has become a symbol of hope and new life in our family. The ring is, however, rather fragile and has had to be repaired several times throughout its life(opals are among the softer precious stones and break easily). Shortly after Casey died, I took it to the jewelry store. I had the butterfly repaired and removed from the band and fashioned into a pendant. I will need to get a gold chain in order to wear it. Perhaps if it is a necklace then it won’t break so easily.

When they called me today the clerk said, “I am holding in my hand a beautiful butterfly pendant.“ It caused me to stop and the tears came pretty easily and I told the story of the ring to the woman on the other end of the phone. She told me that she had breast cancer. She said, “I think I was meant to hear this story.”

I have shed many tears over the last year and I still have moments when I miss Casey so very much. And then there are moments I take joy in the fact that he is happy, living in God’s perfect love and presence. He no longer has cancer because nothing imperfect can live in the Kingdom of Love. He was washed in the healing streams and was completely healed before walking into the kingdom. Casey’s last complete sentence to me was, “Mom, I just want to stand up.” Well now he does! I take joy in the knowledge that Casey stands before God every day, tall, strong and at perfect peace. Our assurance is that we will all go to God someday and live in that same state of constant joy. I am sure I will shed tears forever because I will always miss Casey, but I will always take joy in the knowledge that he is where God is and we will all see him again someday. Casey has new life.

God gives us a chance to have new life every day. Every day we choose Christ. We choose to love those we meet. We choose to help someone who is in need. We choose to worship. We choose to forgive those who have wronged us and the hardest part is to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged. We choose to allow the crucified Christ to live and work in our lives each day.

Spread your wings and fly my friends and take joy in the journey.

Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mom update: She is still in the hospital. She is totally sick of the hospital and to quote Mom, ”your daddy is beside himself.” Her heart rhythm went wonky again. Doc Benson, her PCP, is going to talk with Doc Issacs, the heart doc, and figure out what to do now.

Deb Koplen update: she has changed rooms. She is now in 3206. She is still sleeping a lot, and pain management is going well. Doc is trying to manage her pain meds now and keep her more alert at the same time so she can spend more awake time. She still needs visitors. Go and see her if you get a minute.

Luke 1: 17 says, “the angel said, “With the spirit and power of Elijah, John will go before Him…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” I have so much to do and I am on a deadline. I have a theological belief statement and an online final due by midnight on next Tuesday the 16th. This week I studied on Monday, Travis had a concert on Tuesday, worship tonight, choir practice tomorrow, Travis’ show on Friday and…then there is school to teach and family to feed and…mom is in the hospital and our good friend Deb and…the list could go on and on.

Jesus came into the world through the birthing process. I have to believe that from age 0 to 30 that God prepared Jesus for His calling here on earth. God came to earth in the body of Jesus so that we could know Him. And then there was one sent ahead to prepare the way of the Lord. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, the evangelist called to prepare a nation to receive a Savior into their hearts and lives. How did John prepare the people? John told the people to prepare their hearts through repentance and to ask for forgiveness of their sins. He did not ask them to prepare their homes, he told them to prepare their hearts.

How do we prepare our hearts for the entrance of Jesus? Scripture tells us that in order to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, we, too, must be born again. We must begin again as a blank slate willing to be taught all things new. We must be taught to love as Jesus loves, serve as Jesus serves and forgive as Jesus forgives. Are our hearts prepared for the coming of this one precious child? I heard this saying on the radio a long time ago and it seems to fit the thoughts for tonight. “Jesus could be born again a thousand times in Bethlehem, but unless he is born again in our hearts once then it is all for naught.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What a day!! First, I spent the day with 67 first graders and 25 adults on the Tarantula Train that had been transformed into the North Pole Express. (The Tarantula train is a narrow gauge train that goes from Fort Worth to Grapevine, Texas.) The inspiration for this event is based on the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. It is a wonderful Christmas book and I highly recommend it to be added to your family library if you don’t already have it. We (teachers, students and parents) all dressed in our pajamas and robes, sang songs, listened to stories and had a visit from Santa all while riding the steam engine train in Fort Worth. So cool!!

And then tonight Bruce and I attended the Lamar Choir Holiday Concert. The choirs sang beautifully. It was a wonderful concert. It will most likely be our last Lamar Holiday concert to attend as Travis is graduating this year. We have been attending these concerts for almost 10 years. Casey, Geni and Travis were all a part of the LHS choir program from the time they were freshmen. What a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Mom update: I spoke with her today and she sounded wonderful. She is still in the hospital and says she feels really good. She says all systems are back in balance and she is waiting to go home. I hope she gets to go home soon. She and daddy are getting pretty lonesome for each other.

Deb Koplen update: she had radiation yesterday and a blood transfusion today. I am not sure what her blood type is, but she will need blood from time to time. I plan to donate blood on Saturday. I will ask Carter Blood Care about setting up an account so that Deb can receive the credits for blood donations.

Psalm 27: 14 says, “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” November 1, 2007, Casey and I were in DFW Regional Airport going to Houston for Casey’s admission to MD Anderson Cancer Hospital. The tickets had been donated by a co-worker of my Aunt Linda. We arrived at the airport and tried to get moved into first class due to Casey’s enlarged hip and the larger seats in first class would have made the flight far more comfortable. We had orders from Doc Adams to present for an upgrade to first class, but there were no seats available. I began to pray for God to make a way when there seemed to be no way. I saw the flight crew by the gate and went and presented our problem to them. They began to work the problem.

The crew boarded us last and placed us in the front row just behind first class in seats where the arm rest could be raised to provide extra hip room for Casey and I could sit in the seat next to him. Then our flight attendant, realizing the pain Casey was in, came by and said as soon as the flight leveled off then Casey could stand and be more comfortable. Then they called ahead to Houston and had an ambulance meet us on the tarmac. As soon as we landed Casey and I were swiftly taken to the hospital. What we had hoped for did not occur, but what God made happen was the first step in a journey of a thousand steps. It was our first step into the place of surrender into the hands of a saving God. Casey and I waited for God to lead us through each step of the journey and ultimately into the journey for the next year.

The lessons learned during the last year are lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life. These lessons have become embedded in my daily living. God is always present. God may not always answer or provide an immediate solution to our problems or situations but if we ask He will answer and provide the answer or solution that is best for us even. Maybe when an answer does not come immediately then God is telling us that there is a better solution and to wait for His intervention and guidance. We are so used to immediate gratification that when we are not immediately satisfied then we go ahead with our own will and do not wait for the perfect will of God to make the way for us. The scripture says, “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” This must be a pretty important lesson because the instructions are given twice in the same sentence.

The students in my classroom this year are extremely talkative. In fact they are so talkative that they don’t listen very well. The situation was getting so difficult that I had to do something. I implemented a new set of instructions. In very large letters on a piece of chart paper I wrote: When Mrs. Chrystie gives instructions…1. STOP TALKING! 2. LISTEN TO DIRECTIONS. 3. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. I repeat these instructions throughout the day.

Do you think this is what God is telling us when we don’t listen? We live in a microwave, drive-through, online, instant message, text messaging satisfy-me-right-now world. How dare God tell us to have courage and wait?! Maybe I need to post these words in my car, at my desk, throughout the house and anywhere I need to stop, wait and listen to what God has planned and then be courageous enough to wait for His perfect will to be worked in my life. Sounds like a journey to me.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you all and stay warm, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mom update: She is still in the hospital. Her heart rhythm went wonky twice today so they are giving her medication to try and correct the problem. She seems to be feeling pretty good, just very disappointed about not coming home today.

Deb Koplen update: she had a radiation treatment today. She was awake more, a little less confused and talked a bit more. When I phoned her nurse today she told me that Deb had only had pain medicine once today. Sounds like feeling a bit better to me.

Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go to get away from your spirit?” My question is “Why would I want to get away from your Spirit?” Have you ever thought about that question? God is spirit. He has no form which makes God limitless. We have all kinds of things that dictate our actions. If it is cold we dress warmly. If it is hot, we dress in shorts and flipflops. Gravity keeps us anchored to the ground. God isn’t anchored by gravity because he created it. He isn’t affected by heat and cold because he created the weather. God is as completely present in Texas as He is in Oklahoma or Okinawa. But for us, God, His spirit, is as close as our very next breath. He is as close as the mere whisper of His name.

God remains with us always while we are walking on the earth and when we are risen with Him in death and into new life. We cannot get away from His spirit of love and grace. We cannot get away from His faithfulness and trustworthiness. We cannot get away from His forgiveness and tender mercies. And again I say, why would we ever want to!!

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Today did not turn out as planned, but I think some progress was made. Christmas is almost here and none of us have been overly excited. It is a bit difficult to get into the spirit of Christmas after having lost Casey so recently. There are times I go out and see Christmas items everywhere and it is so overwhelming that I would hit a wall and no longer be able not make a complete thought. I have walked out of more than one store in the last few days leaving either an empty basket or a basket with several items inside and unable to make the purchases. But I think progress was made in that area today.

Last night we found out that it was Travis who decorated the “Casey” tree with tinsel and brightly colored Christmas ornaments while we were in Sherman. I became a little braver and bought a Christmas wreath for the door and a cute mailbox for the front porch. Later, Geni and Travis decorated three trees on the front porch with ornaments. Each of the kids has their own tree. Geni’s is purple and silver. Travis’ is multicolored. Then, together, Geni and Travis decorated one for Casey with dark red and gold (for OU of course!) We do not as yet have a tree in the house or a gift purchased, but we are slowly getting there.

Deb Koplen update: Bruce and I visited her today. We read the cards and emails she has received in the past couple of days to her, presented her with a Christmas Tree (the tree used in Casey’s room in Houston last Christmas) and a snowman blanket. She is a pretty sick lady as she has had chemotherapy and radiation in the same week. The mouth sores are beginning to appear. So the term “miserable” is very applicable.

The staff is giving her medication for nausea and pain and tonight they are going to begin a “magic” mouthwash for the mouth sores. I checked her counts today and they are pretty good. The only thing they are supplementing right now is her potassium. She is still experiencing some confusion and does not remember having had radiation earlier this week. It took some talking, but we finally convinced her that she had indeed had some radiation treatments. Deb then ordered us to build a poster for her to be able to see at a glance when she has had the treatments. We will take care of that soon. She needs some visitors and lots of prayers. If you visit her and she is asleep just sign the guestbook and leave a brief note to tell her you were there. Thank you all mighty and wonderful prayer warriors.

1 John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that conquers the world—our faith.” You know, Casey has already achieved victory. He has met the King of Kings face to face and lives in a world where there is no pain, sorrow or tears. Casey is in a place where he is immersed in the perfect love of God all of the time. The reason Casey is in heaven is because of the gift of faith God placed in his heart. You see Casey not only had “faith in the future, but he had power in the present.” While Casey was ill he had all of the tools with which to fight the disease of cancer, but the emotional, mental and spiritual battles one must fight while battling the life altering disease require tools as powerful as chemotherapy and radiation. The tool Casey needed was given to him by the Great Physician Himself. He gave Casey the gift of faith.

God gives us the same gift of faith to battle whatever life throws at us. Victory is what is attained when we let go and let God. When we let God work in our lives and surrender to Him then the His gift of faith is released back to Him and we tell God we believe His way is the The Way.

Christmas will come whether we are ready for it or not. And Christmas will come whether we decorate a tree, hang a wreath or buy a gift. I think the point I am trying to make is that we must prepare not only our homes but our hearts for Christmas. We must prepare for the coming of the Christ Child into the world. Preparing our homes and yards is not nearly as important as preparing our hearts to receive Him in joy. Receive Him in joy by forgiving someone who has wronged you. Receive Him in joy by loving someone not easy to love. Receive Him in joy by listening to someone who just needs to talk or needs a visit or a warm hug. When we receive Him in joy then we become “God with skin on” to those who need to know what joy is all about. As we journey through this season of Advent prepare cookies to fill your tummy, a cup of hot cocoa to warm your chilliness, decorate a tree to fill your eyes with wonder and beauty and then make a place in your heart for Jesus, Son of God.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all bunches, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

PS Geni has a final on Tuesday and Wednesday. My paper and final are due on the 16th, Bruce’s work has slowed down and he is getting concerned and Travis is singing almost daily for the next two weeks. Say your prayers and we will keep you in our prayers. Gc

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.