Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Christian Retreat Weekend

Friday evening through Sunday evening I had the privilege of experiencing my very first Christian Retreat Weekend (CRW) at the Shalom Retreat Center through Hope Church.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  I can't say a whole lot about it in this post because Jed is attending the men's retreat the first weekend in March and I don't want to spoil the surprises as it will be his very first CRW too!  However, I will say that I made phenomenal new friendships that are sure to last a lifetime.  The power of the Truth and the absolute rawness (nakedness! ha!) of some of these women's testimonies is utterly indescribable.  There is such beautiful healing in the sharing of your pain - the purging of your "baggage" and "junk".  Such a freedom in being the self that God created you to be.  "God doesn't make junk". 

When I got home Sunday night, I was greeted with two very happy children.  I've never gotten so many hugs from my 17-month old before!  I think he just might have missed me :-)  And I usually like my time away to decompress, but for some reason, I really missed my kids this weekend.  Nora has become my little buddy, my little partner in crime, my mini-me.  It's been fun to have her help clean (yay, free cleaning service!), bake and just be a more responsible 3-year old in general.  She is getting to the point of wanting to please us more and more rather than push our buttons to see how far she can push us!  It. Is. Awesome.  Oh, but don't misinterpret.  She still has her meltdown moments.  They are just fewer and farther apart.

Poor Archer has been battling cold and allergy symptoms for a few months now, and I found lumps on his neck and the back of his head.  His pediatrician says that they are swollen lymph nodes (which means he has an infection of some sort), but they just don't know what.  All of the tests came back negative, so we are basically just watching him closely and monitoring him.  Please lift him in prayer that he begins feeling better SOON.

I am still struggling with many unanswered questions of Junior's death and the aftermath of that horrific tragedy.  Starting the night after his funeral, I began to have nightmares.  Mostly of not being able to get to him (or someone else close to me) in time and having to watch them suffer and die. The guilt of not being able to help them and the lack of control I have in the situation is overwhelming.  I think once I am to the acceptance stage of my grief that the nightmares will stop, but I'm just not there yet.  And I think it's going to be awhile yet.  But I am so incredibly blessed with caring and compassionate people in my life to help me through this dark valley.

Overall, very busy winter/spring.  I am very happy that I decided to do the Girlfriend's Upgrade Bible study at church.  It has forced me to be more disciplined in my Bible studies.  It also doesn't hurt that I've made some wonderful and beautiful new friends either! My heart is overflowing!!!

Lead me to the cross 
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, Lead me to the cross

Friday, February 11, 2011

He Gives and Takes Away

These past three days have been a fog and my emotions have run the gamut.  I work for the Dubuque Community Schools Buildings & Grounds Department and when I got to work Tuesday, it was a scene of chaos and something you would see in your nightmares.  My boss met me at my van when I pulled up and by the grim look on his face, I could tell something terrible had happened (it didn't even click that there were 5 police cars blocking our shop).  Everything was happening so fast and nothing was making any sense to me at all, and it still isn't.  My boss told me that there was a bad accident.  Junior (one of our electricians) was killed.  Dale (one of our grounds guys) accidentally ran him over with one of our trucks.   I was horrified, not only that Junior was gone, but that Dale had to be hurting so unbelievably badly having been behind the wheel.

I don't want to get into details out of respect for the families and just because I don't want to relive it again, I just wanted to give a little background information so you know why this post is so completely different from my others.   And why, if you see me over the next while, I'm not my usual self.  I am grieving.  Our department consists of (7) electricians, (2) painters, (3) grounds crew and (3) carpenters.  We are a family.  We know each others' personalities, we know each others' quirks, we know each others' families.  Our department has been hit hard over the past 2 years with budget cuts and losing a few guys to the layoffs, so we've been brought even closer.  With this horrific tragedy, we need to lean on each other and support each other to get through this.  The one who needs our support the most is Dale.  He is struggling with unimaginable guilt and it is our duty as friends to get him through this.  It's almost like being in a war together.  We stick together. And me being the only female in the department? I am their sister.  I am their daughter.  I am their granddaughter.  We all look out for one another.

Today we are going to the wake together as a department and I am so scared.  I am scared that I am not going to be able to keep it together emotionally.  I am PRAYING that Dale has strength.  I am praying that the arms of Christ will be wrapped so tightly around him that he will feel a bit of peace, even if only for a moment.  I can't even wrap my brain around everything that has happened.  I can't even process it.  All I have been able to do is cry and pray for the families and everyone else who is hurting so badly from such a tragic loss.

Junior was the brother I never had.  He teased me incessantly.  I think I heard at least once a week that Jed & I had better get working on our next baby (because before I had Nora I used to say I was going to have 6 kids!) and that I needed to buy his house from him so we could have room for them all!  He was always trying to sell his house to me!! (joking, of course!).  He also had this fake rat that he used on a few of us to get a reaction out of.  Oh. Man.  That thing.  He was the last one to have it, so we're in an all out search for it because his wife wants it.  Now how many people do you know want a fake rat to remind them of their husband?  Tells you what kind of a comical character he was!!! :-)  I am really going to miss him.  He had in infectious smile and laugh.  You always knew when Junior was around because of his laugh.  He was a larger than life man who always put his family first and never had a bad word to say about anyone.  He had a good ear and would listen to me complain about this or that and I always felt better when he left.  What an outstanding man of character lost only too soon.  33 years of life.  Many sources say that's how old Jesus was when He died.  Junior was always pulling a prank of some kind.  And you never knew when to believe what he was saying or not.  One time he had the entire second floor of the Forum believing that another (not so popular) custodian was coming back from retirement to work at the Forum again.  Oh what chaos! Ha ha!  I was crying and laughing so hard when we were retelling this story!

Goodbye Junior.  You have brought such a joy and laughter to my life, and literally the lives of everyone who ever had the pleasure of being in your company.  In the words of David Crowder, "Everything will change, things will never be the same, we will never be the same."  May the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

"For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5