Monday, July 12, 2010


Have you ever seen the movie "The Shawshank Redemption"?  It was Isaac's favorite movie, the first movie we ever watched together, and has become one of my favorites.  I never actually asked Isaac why he loved that movie so much.  I knew he liked the characters and the one-liners in the movie.  I knew his favorite quote came from that movie (Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.).  But it wasn't until recently that it really hit me how very much that movie is about hope.  I'm sure some of you are thinking "Um...duh, we knew that all along."  Humor me, ok? 

Do you know what the last words of that movie are?  I HOPE.  Isaac had such amazing hope.  He loved to share it with others, and remind me of it when times got tough.  I love the last lines of the movie.  I like to think that if Isaac could choose a movie quote to say as he crossed from earth to Heaven, it would be Red's words:  "I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel.   A freeman at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope I can see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams...I hope."

This movie has been on my mind a lot lately.  My favorite line of the movie is "Get busy living, or get busy dying." and everytime I start to mope around or throw myself a pity party, I hear that line in my head.  I know that's exactly what Isaac would say to me.  He'd say  "Jess - get busy living!  You'll have plenty of time to talk to me when you get to Heaven!  Stop moping around and get busy telling people about Jesus, because Heaven is fantasmatical!"  (He made that word up)
So with that all being said, I'm reworking my blogs a bit.  I find that I want to share more about my day-to-day life, and the grief is not at the forefront of my life any more.  I'm not going to completely stop writing on this blog, but just don't expect to see much here.  I've renamed my "The Space Between" blog.  Go visit and check out its new name...I think you'll like it.

Thank you for all of your kind messages and encouragement.  Thank you for letting me be open and honest, and share my heart with you all - broken and healing.  Expect me to keep posting at the other blog about what God continues to do in my all things random, DIY, crafting, cooking, and otherwise interesting to write about.  I hope you'll follow me there!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


This morning I heard this song on the radio - it is called "I Need You" by The Swift.  It is beautiful, and there was one verse that I think describes well what I feel at this point in my journey.  I can see the valley, it's still there...but I feel more like I am soaring above it, not of my own strength but with the strength of God. 

"Today my soul is soaring
Way over mountains high
Though I can see the valleys
They're all just passing by
It's not that I am stronger
Look at my feeble wings
But I've been lifted higher
Yaweh's lifted me in His own strength."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Today I Choose

It would be easy today to choose sadness.
It would make sense to choose pain.
It would be simple to just curl up on the couch and cry.

But I will not.

Instead, I choose to feel joy.
I choose to remember the happiness.
I choose to be thankful for the time we had.

Today, I choose

Isaac and Jessica Smith

Thursday, June 24, 2010


One of the phrases I hear all the time is: "Isaac's watching over you!" or something to that effect.

But I disagree.

I don't think he is.  In fact, I actually hope he isn't. 

If I believed Isaac was watching over me, then for me, everything I believe about Heaven would be wrong. 

Heaven is supposed to be this amazing, awe inspiring, beautiful, wonderful, beyond perfect place.  There is no pain, no sorrow, no tears in Heaven.  So how then, can I think that Isaac would choose to spend his time watching me here on this crummy earth?  When we are in Heaven, we are supposed to spend our time worshipping at the feet of God.  Why would I think Isaac would choose me over God?

I think that the moment Isaac crossed over into Heaven, he either just in some divine way knew everything important that would happen in the lives of those he loved, or it just didn't matter what was happening here on earth because he was so darn excited to be in Heaven! 

If I can equate it to anything, it is sort of like the time I was home with Isaac before he died.  I didn't think about what was going on at school, what my students were doing, how my substitute was doing...because the time I was spending with Isaac was so precious and valuable that I didn't care what happened anywhere else.  I hope that's how it is for him now, that the time he is spending with God is so sweet and so precious and so wonderful that he doesn't think about life on earth.
I told Isaac I'd be okay.  And I am.  I think a large part of that comes from this belief that he is not "watching over me".  Strange, yes.  But, I think if I believed he was watching me, I'd hang on to him more...and he clearly told me that he did not want me to hang to him.  Of course I will always love him and I will carry our memories close to my heart. 

I believe Isaac is not watching over me, but that's okay...because my Savior sure is!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Psalm 23

For awhile now I've been meaning to write about the title of this blog.  "Walking the Valley" came to me almost instantly when I set out to start writing. 

Typically, when I think of Psalm 23, I picture a TV scene - people dressed in black, gathered at a cemetery, standing around a casket, with a priest reading this Psalm.  But, the more I have thought about it, the more I think that Psalm isn't for the person who is dead, but rather for those left living.  Think about - "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" - the dead person isn't walking through that, the dead person is dancing in Heaven!  We, the ones left behind, are those who are walking through death's shadow.  As I read the Psalm again, I know this Psalm is for those of us left behind.  It is a reminder to us, that even when our journey takes us through the darkest valleys, we need not fear when God is with us.  He will provide for our every need, lead us in the right direction (even if that's not the easiest way), and save a place in His house for us when it's our time to head there!

The song "You Never Let Go" by Matt Redman has been one of my favorites throughout this journey.  It is based off of Psalm 23, and its first line is "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Your perfect love is casting out fear." This is exactly how I have been feeling throughout this.  So while the name does come from that Psalm, for me it mostly comes from "You Never Let Go", the song.  If there is one thing I can say I have learned through this, one thing I can say I absolutely know about God it is - HE NEVER, EVER LETS GO.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spotted in my yard...

Do you see it?

Thanks, Isaac ;-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June's June 1st - my birthday! interesting month.  It's my birthday, it's the month school ends, it's the month Isaac and I got married.  And, is the month Nick & Friends Sarcoma Foundation is featuring Isaac's story!  Check it out!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When I'm thankful you are not here...

Sunday morning I woke up for church and I was laying in bed thinking about how I miss going to church with Isaac.  I was just thinking about how I miss the feeling of finding him in the lobby in his red sweatshirt and hugging him.  And then I heard this voice (makes me sound a tad crazy, huh?) that said "Do you miss how I almost never made it sitting through a single church service because of the pain in my hip?"  Well... of course not.  I hated seeing him in pain.

Things like that have been in my thought process a lot this week - things that make me thankful Isaac is not here.  Sounds strange, I know.  I wish Isaac was still here, but I wish he was still here and he was completely cancer free and totally healthy.  I don't wish he was still here going to get blood drawn twice a week, driving to Pittsburgh for chemos, flying to Houston and just praying there was some treatment.  I don't wish he was still here chained to an oxygen tank.  I don't wish he was still here taking huge amounts of pain killer just to make it through the day.  I don't wish he was still here and I had to check my phone every half hour wondering how he was feeling that day.

Every single day I thank God for freeing Isaac from the chains of cancer.  I don't wish Isaac was still here...but I sure wish Heaven had a phone so I could talk to him. 

Check this song out - it's called "The Valley Song" by Jars of Clay, and it happened to play on my Pandora as I was writing this!

"I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy.
When death, like a gypsy,
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek Your face."

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Best Worst Week Ever

That blog title didn't make sense, did it?  It's the best way I can describe this week.  It was not a great week...but it was also one of the best weeks I've had since Isaac died.  Strange, huh? 

It was not a great week because I was feeling extra emotional (it's totally awesome being a woman!) at the beginning of the week, and just found myself overall feeling empty rather often this week.  I spent some time this week looking back - looking at old emails (I saved every single email Isaac and I sent each other!), looking at the notes our hospice workers left every day they saw Isaac, and even read all my old blogs (some of which, I actually really forgot about writing).  It just reminded me how quickly Isaac's condition went downhill - and how that was the worst part of the entire experience for me.

It was a great week because I have experienced awesome encouragement this week.  A group of wonderful gals and I have been emailing each other every day to share what we read in our quiet time (quiet time = time spent with God, reading the Bible, praying, etc.)  For a few of us (me included), this meant actually having a quiet time every day - something I've been out of habit in doing.  I look forward to their emails every day, knowing I'm going to be encouraged!  I also kept hearing really fabulous new songs on the radio at random times every day.  And, I got a handwritten letter from a busy college student in the mail today.  (a busy college student who spent every day of his last week of winter break sitting in my dining room with Isaac...and harassing my poor overweight cat!) 

I was thinking about this idea of a "really good bad week" this morning.  And, this verse 'randomly' happened to show up in my quiet time:  "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)  Um....coincidence?  I think not.  More like a perfect reminder from God that the reason I have hope...the reason Isaac had hope...was our faith in Christ!  The reason I can smile through the tears is how completely confident I am that God is using all of this pain FOR GOOD!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grand Canyon - 2 miles

I was reading through some old emails between Isaac and I, and I found this.  It is just absolutely, exactly what Isaac wanted his life to be about.  So, I'm making him a "guest blogger" today.  Enjoy, and be blessed!

I am extremely insecure in the fact that I feel absolutely powerless to accomplish something great in man's eyes. But you know what? I'm actually ok with that. My friends can earn their degrees, get their houses or apartments, cars, tv's, vacations, whatever, etc. I'm fine with them doing that. But I'm not content with doing that. I want to help to change people's hearts and minds to think, and reason more clearly. To make people take a step back from all those material things that make us happy but not joyous. I want to grow to know God more, to love and connect with Him more. When I die, I don't want to leave a legacy, I want my life to be like a sign that points to the Grand Canyon and says: "Grand Canyon 2 miles".  Most people will look at the sign and not even think twice about the sign in itself, but instead, will look forward to getting to the Grand Canyon. Do you understand what I mean? I think that is a perfect picture of what God is telling us. I'm there, but I'm not as important as I thought I was. and you know what? I'm ok with that too! God hasn't called us to impress man. He's called us to do what He asks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grace Like Rain

Whenever it rains outside, I can't help but sing Todd Agnew's "Grace Like Rain"

...Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me...

So today, I was in my kitchen this evening listening to Pandora (Hillsong Station!) making some salsa and getting my lunch ready tomorrow when "Grace Like Rain" came on.  Which, if you've never heard the song, is "Amazing Grace" with an extra chorus.  I paused for a moment and just looked outside at the drizzle while I sang the song and this verse stopped me in my tracks:

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing Your praise
Than when we've first begunI've heard it tons and tons of times before.  I've sung it many, many times before. 

Here's what hit me tonight: 
I have to live without Isaac here on earth for a few years...but when I get to Heaven, I will have eternity to spend with him.  The song reminds us when we get to Heaven, even after we've been there for ten thousand years...we'll still have that much time and more to sing God's praises!  Our time in Heaven never, ever runs out!!!  I'll still have all the time in the world to be with my Lord.  And I'll have all the time in the world to be with Isaac.  When I grasp the number "10,000" makes living the next 60 or so years (Lord willing) here on earth a little easier.

I'm sharing with Chatting at the Sky.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Think Like a Tree

I was going through some poems for my students today and I found this poem I just love!  It is simple, but beautiful, and I think depicts much of how I have approached this journey.

Think Like a Tree
by Karen I. Shragg

Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

I shared this with Melissa at The Inspired Room

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Random thoughts related to moving forward...

It's been a little more than 10 weeks since Isaac died.  It felt like April would never end, and now I can't believe we're in the 2nd week of May!  It seems things have settled a bit, and thoughts of moving forward come to my mind more often. 

The first thing I debate in my mind is my involvement with "activism".  Through the past monts, I have had the privelage of meeting many wonderful families and people who have been affected by cancer.  Part of me just loves this - I love reaching out to these people, sharing my story, etc.  But, part of me wants to step back from this.  I know several families who have lost loved ones to cancer and are doing all kinds of wonderful things to raise money and awareness.  Many are doing all kinds of awesome things.  They have started foundations, are doing awareness events, or starting websites in the name of their loved one.  For awhile, I had the thought that when Isaac died, I would do something like this.  Isaac and I had talked about starting a soccer tournament through his high school soccer team and after he died, someone approached me about starting a memorial run in Isaac's name. 

A small part of me wants to spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to raise awareness and champion this cause.  But...most of me does not.  Is that selfish? Maybe. I am 28, and the rest of my life - Lord willing - could be 60+ more years!  I remember a conversation Isaac and I had just a few days after we called hospice.  We talked about what my life would be like after he died, and Isaac told me he wanted me to move forward.  He said he had thought about writing me a letter to read after he died, but decided not to because he didn't want me to have anything I felt like I had to hang on to.  He said he didn't want me to spend the rest of my life mourning over him.  So, for me, if I spent the rest of my life championing the cause of osteosarcoma awareness, I think I'd never really move forward.  And that's not what Isaac wanted, and it's not what I want either. 

I will keep writing, I will keep reaching out, I will maintain the friendships with others through this time...I'm just not going to organize fundraisers and run races and do things like that.  To those who are doing those things, I think you are awesome and you need to keep doing it for those like me, who just can't.

The other issue related to "moving forward" is about dating.  I've had the "are you ready/when will you be ready to date" conversation with several people over the past few weeks.  So I thought I'd just go ahead and write about it!  Am I ready to date?  Easy answer: yes.  I miss having that 'someone' - like on Grey's Anatomny when Christina tells Meredith "You're my person" - I miss having "my person".  It occurred to me though one day, that while I am ready to entertain the idea of - someday in the future - dating again, I am not ready right now.  I recently got a new car, and when I was cleaning out my old car one of the things I moved and immediately placed in the new car was the "I love you" post it note Isaac had left in my car one morning.  That was when I knew - I am not ready to put Isaac away.  Being really, truly ready to date again would mean that I would put things like that post-it note away.  And I can't do that yet.  I like being reminded every single day when I get in my car, that he loved me.  So, that's where I am.  Someday I'll "get back out there" and date again. Am I ready?  Yes, and no.  Will I write about it when I do start dating?  Yes. 

Disclaimer:  No one in my life has made me feel like I need to date again.  No one has pressured me.  No one has asked about it in such a way to make me feel bad.  It's just a question I've been asked, and I wanted to answer.  I know it will take time, I know I will know when I'm ready.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thoughts on Bitterness

Bitterness. It's a word that has been on my heart this past week. It's been almost 10 weeks since Isaac died, and I can honestly say: I am NOT bitter. Have you ever heard the song "Held" by Natalie Grant? There's a line in that song that says: "This hand is bitterness. We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrows. The wise hand opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow."

That's how I feel about each day. Every day I have 2 choices when it comes to bitterness: I can choose that hand, choose to be angry at God, choose to let the anger overwhelm me. Or...I can choose the wise hand. In flower language, lilies of the valley symbolize the return of happiness. I can choose to focus on being angry and bitter, or I can choose to focus on peace.

I credit a large part of my peace to Isaac. I started dating, fell in love with, and married him all with the full knowledge that he had cancer. We never sugar coated the reality of our situation. He never promised me we'd grow old together, and somewhere inside me I always knew that too.

I credit more of my peace to God.  I remember one night before Isaac and I were married.  We had just gotten scans back that said there was cancer in his pelvis again.  I was so angry and afraid.  I cried and sobbed and screamed at God (and Isaac).  I was so angry and felt like God had let me down.  Something about that night really hit me and I asked God to change my angry heart.  Rather than playing solely for Isaac's healing, I began praying for peace no matter what happened.  I prayed God's will to be done, and that He'd just grant us strength and grace in the journey.  I could no longer feel "God let me down" when I prayed that way.  I began seeing His grace in my life.  That's where my peace comes from.
I remember one day during our time with hospice, when Barb (Isaac's mom) and I were standing in the kitchen talking. She said that some of the women in her Bible study said things to her like "I just can't imagine losing a child like you are", and she very calmly said "That's because you weren't called to lose a child. God has called me to this." I 100% know what she means. That is where my peace comes from - knowing that this was God's plan. Of course I am sad, hurt, broken hearted, and lonely. But admist all of that - there is peace. God is bringing me through something I never thought I'd be able to survive; how can I do anything but trust Him through every other circumstance in my life?

I've heard the cliche "Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies." and I believe that's true. No good could come from my being bitter. I hope though, as I share with you what God is teaching me, good will come from my choice to embrace peace.

P.S. Did you see I started a new blog? It's called "The Space Between"! Check it out!  You can see pictures of the repainted dining room!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A letter (tears flowing!)

Dear Isaac,
I hope you are having a great time on your tour of the world with God.  I know you've probably seen every bird you ever talked about wanting to see, and every nook and cranny of our earth by now.  I wish I could be on that tour with you, but I guess when I get there, you'll just have to be my tour guide.  You can show me all the things you know about Heaven that I don't know yet, and "na-na-na-na boo boo" at me that you know more than I do!! 

Things back here on earth are going okay.  I always told you I'd be okay, and I am.  I just miss you.  I remember that I used to tell you the part of your death I dreaded most was the time between "There's nothing more we can do for Isaac" and your last breath.  But now, I think the past 2 weeks have been the hardest.  At least during your last month, when I was sad, I could climb into your hospital bed and even though you were totally loopy and out of it, you'd still give me a kiss.  I remember one time I was crying, and you pointed at my tears and said "I'm not sure what all this is about"...and it made me laugh.  You always made me laugh no matter how bad I was feeling.

Sometimes I look back and I wonder what I'd do differently if I could have a "do over" with our relationship.  The only thing I can come up with is...I'd have married you sooner.  If I had known that we'd get just 8 short months of married life, I'd have had you drive us straight from Wildwood Lake where you proposed, to the courthouse in downtown York.  I'd have started our married life immediately. 

I loved being your wife.  I miss waking up beside you every morning and coming home to you at the end of every day.  I miss cooking for you, and the silly things you did like putting way too much cheese in your chili.  I miss how hard you worked at being a great husband, and how proud you were everytime you did something "husbandy" like mowing the lawn or fixing something around the house.  I miss how much you cared for the youth at our church, how you wanted Charley and Weston to seek passionately after God, and how you found creative ways to demonstrate His love for them even when they least suspected it.  I miss how you encouraged people like Kreeger, and Caleb, and Chris (all of them!) to question and wonder and speak openly about their faith.  I miss how you always had to try to do things better than Ned, I think iron definitely sharpened iron in your relationship with him - you two always tried to outdo each other, but you both came out better in the end because of it.  I miss how did things like buy a book on reptiles for a hurting teen, not because you wanted to try to win him over or something, but just because you knew he liked reptiles and the book made you think of him.  I miss your excitement over the fact that we could have lots of "couple friends", and through that I met the McGinnis's and the Suereths.  I miss how much you loved your sweet sister, how you were so proud of the way she was seeking to find her own walk with Lord and you always wanted to hang out more with Abbi.  I miss how much you wanted to learn from your dad, and how even though you would nag at your mom, you always said "my mom is AWESOME". 

But the thing I miss most of all is the way you encouraged and loved me.  Whenever I was having a really bad day, or something really important was happening like a job interview or an observation, you'd send me text messages and emails to remind me that you loved me...and when I'd come home, you'd tell me you prayed for me all day and then you'd ask me about every little detail.  I remember one Monday morning, after a Sunday night I spent REALLY not wanting to go to work the next day, I woke up to find a sticky note with "I love you" written on it stuck to the cabinet in the kitchen...and another on the bathroom mirror, and on the steering wheel of my car, and on the page of the book I was reading, and inside my computer screen when I opened my laptop.  I miss you.

I know that you are so happy now...happy to be free of cancer and enjoying all that God has to offer in Heaven, and I rejoice for you every day.  It's just lonelier down here on earth now that you're gone. 

I can't wait to see you again!  I love you!
Still your wife,

P.S.  Could you please ask God to let you use Facebook from Heaven so I can keep updated on your status?  Thanks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Psalm 6 kind of mood

The past few days I've been feeling a bit like David in Psalm 6.  Today marks 7 weeks without Isaac.  And I think it finally sunk in. 
The first 2 weeks or so, I was so overcome with relief that I didn't feel the grief - I was just so glad that he was in a better place, not feeling any pain, and that neither of us had to worry about cancer or doctors or medical bills anymore.  Then, I went back to work and was able to distract myself with my work friends and my students.  But the beginning of this week it was like it all just hit me.  I wanted to curl up in my bed with my cats and just sob (which, I did last night).  The reality that life keeps going on, the days keep going by, and Isaac keeps not being here is finally sinking in.  Sunday I was sad, Monday I was weepy, but yesterday was the worst.  I cried before I got out of bed, while I brushed my teeth, while I ate breakfast, on my way to school, during my planning period at school, on my way home from school, in the car before going into the gym, in my car after leaving the gym, at the grocery store, and finally at home.  This song was my heart's cry: "Homesick" by Mercy Me "You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times.  And at least a thousand times, I've rejoiced for you.  But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry, is how long must I wait to be with you?  I close my eyes and I see your face.  If home's where the heart is, than I'm out of place."
I know there are many, many people in my life who I could've called to come sit with me while I cried, but really - the only person I wanted to be there was Isaac.  I think that's been the hardest part of this whole experience.  The one person I want to be there while I am crying is the person I am crying about.

Really, I expected him to still be here at this point.  When we were in Houston in December, we made plans to return for another appointment over Easter weekend.  Isaac was determined to make it to at least April 6th, so he could say he was one of the 1 in 5 osteosarcoma patients to live past 5 years.  If you knew Isaac, than you know he was STUBBORN, and I thought surely if he set his mind to living until April 6th, he'd live until April 6th. 

So today, I'm trying to have an Isaiah 61 kind of day - "God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes" (v. 3) - and allow God to take my pain and use it for good.  I feel better so far today - much more emotionally stable!  I didn't even cry this morning when I pulled out the toothpaste tube and saw "12/21/09" written on it, which Isaac did because he wanted to see how long it took us to use the whole tube.  That's such an "Isaac thing" to do, isn't it? 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Put your sword away!

Twice this weekend the same passage of Scripture came up for me.  Once on Saturday while I was doing some devotions, and once today during Pastor Ed's message.  In both contexts, it was about forgiveness.  I've prayed and prayed if there was anyone in my life I was struggling to forgive, and have come up empty.  (That's a good thing, yay for good people in my life!)  But, as I mulled over this passage in my mind, I realized there was a lesson for me in the words. 

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.

"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)

When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?"

And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."

"I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
(John 18:1-11)

Peter...the disciple so many of us identify with.  As Pastor Ed said, he seemed to have a "foot shaped mouth", always saying the wrong thing or making some kind of mistake.  He acted before he thought things out.  Peter swore his allegiance to Jesus.  If you were passionately loyal to someone, like Peter was to Jesus, and their life was being threatened...and you had a sword...wouldn't you do something about it?  Peter did.  He reached out with his sword and took a swipe at that soldier, cutting off his ear.  The thing is, Jesus never asked him to do that.  Jesus never wanted Peter to fight a battle for him.  Jesus knew that He was to follow in God's will, even if that will meant His own death on the cross.

I felt a bit Peter-ish in our battle against cancer.  Like I was cutting off ears in an effort to save Isaac, when his earthly healing was never God's plan.  I read about other people brandishing their swords in the battle against cancer, too.  Cutting off an ear here, maybe a finger, if you're lucky -  a whole leg...refusing to accept that their loved one's cup might be death.  Please don't misunderstand me, I'm certainly not saying that I think anyone fighting cancer with a poor prognosis should just give up.  But, during Isaac's last weeks here, I was the one who had to decide it was useless to continue giving him treatment.  That was one of the hardest decisions I had to make.  But, looking back, I know that giving him another IV of medication would have been like Peter cutting off that soldier's ear.  Sure it might have hurt the cancer a little bit, but it wasn't going to stop it and it wasn't going to prevent or even prolong the inevitable.  It was in that decision, that God said to me "Put your sword away!" and asked me to just allow Isaac to drink the cup God had given him. 

That's where my peace comes from.  That's why when people ask me "How are you doing" with a sad look in their eyes, I can look back at them and smile and say "Better than I ever expected to be".  I am just so sure that Isaac is in Heaven and that this was God's plan all along.  I also know that if I can get through this time in my life, God will get me through anything.  He didn't abandon me in this time of need, He is right by my side every single step of the way.  I'll just keep putting my own sword away, and let Him fight it out for me!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Message

My friend Michelle shared a video with me today that brought me to tears sobs.  You may remember a post I wrote back at the end of January, where I was just hoping for a few minutes with a lucid, "normal" Isaac to make sure he was okay with dying and just talk to him.  I never had that.  From that weekend in January on, Isaac was never "Isaac" again.  There were things he did that showed us he was still there, and we did have conversations where he told me in his loopy voice that I was doing a great job taking care of me, and that he said when he got to Heaven he wouldn't have to worry about all the cancer anymore, and that he was just plain exhausted.  But I never got even one minute of regular Isaac again. 

Then Michelle sent me this video, and I'm pretty sure it's the "sign" or "message from Heaven" I've been waiting for - the message that tells me that Isaac is okay and that he was okay with the portion God had given him even unto death.  I think if Isaac could video tape his thoughts in his last month of life, it'd sound a lot like this guy:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Life Change

I'd never really thought about it before, but this time of year was a time of significant life change for both Isaac and myself.  For me, it was April 4, 2004 that I went to see a co-worker in the Easter play at my church, and one week later began my journey with Jesus.  For Isaac, it was 5 years ago today - April 5, 2005 - that his doctor told him the nagging knee pain was osteosarcoma. 

I was looking back through some messages I'd sent Isaac on Facebook, before we even were dating, and in one I said that I just prayed that: 1) God would continue to show Himself to be faithful to Isaac, and 2) God would do something to remind Isaac that he was not fighting this battle with cancer alone.  I realize looking back, that I think I was the answer to my own prayer!  God took a little over 3 years to bring Isaac and I into each other's lives, but the perparations He made for us to be right for each other began long before that. 

Going through life is like putting together a puzzle without the picture on the box to guide you.  Sometimes, you have no idea what pieces go where, how the pieces all fit together, or what the picture is going to look like in the end.  But, then you find that all those random pieces somehow do fit together to make something unexpectedly perfect. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Today marks 5 weeks since Isaac left this world.  I really prefer to write about the times when I am feeling most hopeful, most filled with peace, most joyous...but this week I had my first major "breakdown" since Isaac died.  Sure I've cried...I've cried hard...I've sobbed - but this was my first uncontrollable-curled up in a ball-half a BJs box of tissues kind of episode.    

Maybe it was because I spent most of the weekend alone - which though not unusual in my pre-Isaac days, was a change from the past 2 1/2 years of my life - I don't know, maybe it was just my mind and spirit finally settling into the reality of my loss.  Whatever it was, I found myself a shattered mess on Sunday night.  All late afternoon/evening I was mopey, I cried here and there out of the blue.  I decided maybe looking at our wedding pictures would help - I knew it would probably keep me crying, but I thought maybe seeing the happiness would help dry my tears.  As I was looking through the photos, I came across one of our wedding ceremony that I hadn't looked closely at before.  In this photo, I could see the look on Isaac's face that he gave me the whole way through our ceremony.  I never expected to cry like I did at our wedding, but I told Isaac later that the reason I kept crying was because everytime I looked at him he was looking back at me with such a deep and intense love in his eyes that it brought me to tears.  If you've ever spent any time with the two of us, you probably know this look - a little smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.  When I saw that picture, and saw that look - it finally hit me what I miss most with him being gone. 

I miss being loved by him.

I never really thought about that.  I knew I'd miss talking to him, hugging him, laughing with him, crying with him, falling asleep next to him, all of that stuff - but I never thought about how when he died, I'd never experience being loved by him again.  Isaac loved me with this all consuming passion and wild abandon.  He would've done absolutely anything to make me happy.  It takes a lot of patience to put up with me sometimes (right, Mom and Dad?), and he was so gentle and caring and selfless when it came to being my husband and loving me.  Being loved by someone like that is absolutely, hands down, the BEST feeling ever.  It's like God took everything good in the world and wrapped all up and presented it to you in a gift.  I like to think that feeling is just the way we'll feel every single second of every single day when we get to Heaven.

Our wedding ceremony... 
On that day, we laughed.

On that day, I cried.

On that day, he smiled from ear to ear.

 And on that day, I felt loved like never before.

Happy is the heart that still feels pain,

Darkness drains and light will come again.

Swing open up your chest and let it in,

Just let the love, love, love begin.

("Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson)

Photos by Captured Moments Photography

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reason to Sing

If you attended Isaac's memorial service, you sang "Desert Song".  This song has spoken to me many times since I first heard it.  The song reminds me that in every trial, pain, or battle - I can cry out to God...that in everything in life, God is there.  Through all of the trial and uncertainty of Isaac's disease, God was the reason I could still find joy. 

Recently, I heard another song with a similar message that I love, especially right now.  It's called "Before the Morning" by Josh Wilson.
"Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there’s a God who loves you where is He now
Maybe there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Someday somehow you’ll see you’ll see

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning."

The bottom line is:  Unlike our circumstances, God NEVER changes.  Unlike our circumstances, God is ALWAYS good.  That's why, we don't sing praises to our circumstances - we sing praises to our God.
Image from: Volume 25 @

Monday, March 22, 2010

Joy is the theme of my song...

...and the beat of my heart and that joy is found in You! 

If I could describe the past few days in one word, it would be, surprisingly:  JOY !  Remember my post a few weeks ago about Anticipatory Joy?  And the one about my lemon?  Well, as anticipated, my awesomely faithful God has been giving me heaps of sugar and turning my lemon to lemonade faster than I ever thought possible.

One small, JOY-bringing thing lately was the weather.  How can you not be happy when the sun is shining, it's warm out, and everything is budding and coming to life?!?  I can even appreciate the rain today - it's a good reason to relax on the couch!

The biggest thing that brought me JOY was the message our pastor delivered yesterday morning.  As I've experienced joy the past few days, this little voice keeps popping up in my mind asking if it's okay to feel like this so soon after losing Isaac.  I know I deserve to be happy, Isaac would want me to be happy, and all of that - I just didn't expect it this soon.  It's not total and complete happiness, everytime I see a picture of Isaac, my heart breaks a little.  But, I think there is a big difference between "joy" and "happiness" - and I do feel joy.

This morning's message validated my JOY.  It started with a trashcan and a recycling bin on stage at church.  Pastor Ed asked us what we do with our pain.  Do we simply try to throw it away...let it sit and fester in a landfill?  Or do we put it in the recycling bin, asking God to take our pain and reshape it into something good?  I knew my answer.  I knew that all along, God was not doing this in vain...that God was going to us it, and I was working hard to keep giving Him my pain and letting Him use it.  It gives me so much joy to hear from people who say how much Isaac inspired them, or who are encouraged by ready my words - it is for those reasons that I can feel JOY

I could rehash the whole sermon for you, it was that good, but I won't!  (You can listen to it here if you'd like!)  I'll just pull out my favorite verse:  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  Isn't that awesome?  All the crap we go through on earth is NOTHING compared to the total and complete JOY we will feel when we finally reach GLORY!  It reminds me of the joy Isaac is feeling in Heaven right now, and how awesome it must be, and I am so happy for him!!  That hope - that hope that he is Heaven because I know he had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ - that hope is what gives me JOY

Friday, March 19, 2010

I am okay

A strange thing happened this week...I didn't cry every day.  As I was walking last night with my friend, Michelle, and talking about how things have been going, I realized that this past week has been different.  It's been just a little over 3 weeks since Isaac died.  When I say it like that, 3 is such a short amount of time, but I feel like it's been longer.  Maybe it's the change in weather, maybe it's the fact that I went back to work...but it just feels like it was so long ago.  I guess mentally, it was.  When I look back, Isaac was here in body until February 24th, but his mind was gone long before that.  There were glimpses of him, little ways we knew he was still with us in some capacity, but I honestly can't remember the last "real" conversation we had after the hospital bed arrived.  So, for me, my husband has really been gone since the beginning of February.  I mourned the loss of his sweet spirit while still getting to kiss him goodnight every night.
On Wednesay, I was driving home from work with the sunroof open, windows down, and radio blasting.  Isaac loved to drive on sunny days like that, too.  I found myself thinking "Man, Isaac would love to be sitting in this car with me," but instead of feeling sad - I was happy.  I was happy thinking about the times we drove random back roads on beautiful spring days, just listening to music and enjoying the weather.  I was happy thinking that while this was Isaac's favorite time of year (the birds are starting to chirp!), he's in Heaven now...and it's so much better there than it is on even the most perfect day here on earth.  How could I want him to come back from that?  Sure, I wish he was sitting with me in the car, but the joy I felt with the sun shining on me and the wind blowing through my hair is nothing compared to the joy he is experiencing at the feet of Jesus in Heaven.  And that felt felt so freeing. 

I am sad still sometimes.  Not in the way that makes me feel like the cartoon character who is followed around by the gray rain cloud...I feel more like there's this empty hole that follows me around - and when I look at it, I remember that Isaac's not here, but I don't look at it all the time.  I am starting to feel happy again...I feel free.  And, I think it's Isaac up there in Heaven who's cheering me on.

"My dead heart now is beathing
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I'm free.  Now I'm free.
Lift my hands and spin around,
See this Light that I have found,
Oh the Marvelous Light, Marvelous Light."
"Marvelous Light"

On a note unrelated to this blog post...
Nick & Friends Sarcoma Organization is a non-profit organization founded to support and raise awareness for all types of sarcoma.  They have been so supportive of me and many families affected by sarcoma!  They have designed a NASCAR for Toyota Racing's contest.  The car is covered in yellow ribbons, each bearing the name of one of the members of Nick & Friends support list - including ISAAC!  How cool!?!  You can vote for their car every day for the next 2 weeks, so please vote!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Isaac's favorite passage of Scripture was Isaiah 55:8-9 ("For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.") 

When it came to getting cancer, instead of thinking "Why me?", he thought "Why NOT me?  What makes me better than someone else?".  I'll be honest - when it came to falling in love with him, sometimes I thought "Why me?".  I wondered why God would have me wait 27 years to fall in love, and then allow me to go through such pain with it.  For awhile, I really believed that God would heal Isaac because there was no way He would allow me to continue through such pain.  I prayed hard for total healing for Isaac, and everytime we got another scan that showed more cancer...I got angry at God, because clearly - it was His fault.  One day, though, my prayers began to change.  I continued to pray for that miracle of healing, but I also began praying that God would give me peace no matter what the news was.  I prayed for grace, patience, strength, and the ability to accept God's plan - no matter what that plan was.  God answered, and continues to give me all of those things and more. 

Of course, there are moments when I am sobbing and sad and feeling crummy.  There are times when the grief smacks me in the face and I just have to give in to it.  There are times when I miss him so much I think my heart actually hurts.  But, they are just moments.  Sometimes, they are minute long moments and sometimes they are hour long moments, but they are just moments.  God has graciously given me peace before and after the moments of grief hit.  He reminds me that there is reason for everything, and that the pain I feel is not in vain. 

During Isaac's last hour with me here on earth, I read chapter 55 of Isaiah to him and I was struck by the verses that followed his favorites:
"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11
This is a promise I hold tight to.  The promise that all of this - every tear, every moment of sadness, every pain - has a purpose.  I may never know that purpose here on earth, and I know I will still feel the pain of this loss for a long time.  But, I'll endure that pain for now, because the things God is giving me and teaching me through it all is worth every tear.  I'll live through the pain, because I got to be in love.  Totally, madly, head over heels in love.  It may have been brief, but it was beautiful...and it was worth it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things lately

I returned to work on Wednesday.  It was good to be back and to see my co-workers and friends again!  Man, am I tired though!!  My substitute will be staying in the room until tomorrow, which has been great, because I haven't had to actually teach anything yet.  I'm a little shell shocked coming back, and glad to have the chance to ease back into it.

Another special addition to my first few days back was the delivery of a "sunshine basket" (actually, 2 sunshine baskets!) from my pals at Dallastown.  2 baskets full of presents - I'm supposed to open 1 present a day until the baskets are empty.  I'll be honest...I opened 5 tonight.  Haha!!  I didn't mean to, but I did.  One, I was told to open first (goodies from Brown's that no one would want to go stale - thanks Megan!).  The second one I wanted to open was from someone (D'Orsie!!!) who was trying to convince me to open all the gifts tonight, and so she pointed hers out to me so I could open it up.  But, I opened the wrong one, so I got an extra!  The 4th one tipped over in my car (so, naturally, I had to open the card to see who the gift was from).  And finally, the 5th one I just wanted to know what was in it!  Haha!!

I wish I could say thank to every person individually who has sent cards, packages, letters, emails, etc. and offered dinners, weekends away, even weeks away...but I just can't right now.  Please know how very much I appreciate them all!!!  My mind and my emotions are just so tired right now, and most of the time I just don't even have the energy to talk on the phone.  (well, let's be honest...I never liked talking on the phone anyway!)  So, someday, I will happily answer more phone calls, write back to emails, take you all up on the offers of dinners out and time away....but for now, I am content with my couch, some Dawson's Creek DVDs, a good book, my cats and the down time by myself. 

Thank you all again for your support!  I have so many wonderful friends I can lean on when I need to, and knowing that - I'll be okay.  One day a time...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Love matters, God is good...but sometimes life sucks.

I originally started this blog as a place to share/vent my personal feelings as I walked alongside my husband.  I didn't feel his CarePage was the place for that, but I wanted to write it all down somewhere.  As this has evolved, I have a new purpose.  There are a few things I hope you see in this blog, a few things I hope you come away with after reading all my ramblings.

1.  Love matters.  Love matters, and love is enough.  Don't hold off falling in love until "the time is right" - you never know when or if that time will come.  People give all kinds of excuses about why they aren't ready to make the leap into marriage:  they aren't financially stable, the haven't finished their next college degree, they want to live with the person and test it out first, they aren't sure what the future holds.  Well folks, you're never going to have all those ducks lined up in a neat little row.  We went into marriage on one salary with the possibility of huge medical bills in our future (Thank you, Capitol Blue Cross, for that NOT happening!), I am still not finished my Master's Degree (year #6...), we didn't live together, and we sure as heck had NO clue what the future held for us.  But ya know what, at the end of the day, the one thing I was absolutely sure of was that I was totally, madly, head over heels in love with Isaac and he felt the exact same way about me.  And that is what matters.  Marriage is not about all the other stuff, marriage is about LOVE.  And if you have enough of that, you'll get through all the other stuff.  It won't be easy, but you'll get through it. 

2.  There is a God and He is GOOD.  Isaac and I were both youth leaders.  This summer at a youth event, the students did cardboard testimonies.  Basically, you get a piece of cardboard and on one side write something bad/negative you dealt with in life, and on the other side write how God has changed your life or your view of that thing.  Over 4 years into his battle with cancer, Isaac's cardboard testimony said "Cancer sucks" on side 1, and "God is good" on side 2.  That's exactly how he felt, too.  He didn't try to explain why he had cancer, or try to understand what God was doing through all of it - he just knew his God was good.  Even in the midst of terrible crap like cancer, God is still good.  God is good - all the time, all the time, He is good.

3.  Sometimes life sucks.  Yep - it's true.  Even when you're a Christian.  Even when you have the God of the universe on your side.  Even when you are in love with the funniest, smartest, cutest, most awesome guy in the world.  Sometimes, life just sucks.  As cliche as it is, I feel like I've been handed the world's largest lemon...and right now, I don't have enough sugar to even begin to make lemonade.  But you know what?  Every day, teaspoon by teaspoon, God gives me a little more sugar...and one day I'll have lemonade.  But for now...I'm dealing with a big freakin' lemon.  And that's okay.

Thank you for walking this valley with me.  I hope you are encouraged in some small way by my journey.  Please, pass this web address along to a friend who might be encouraged by it too!  It's a lot easier of a journey knowing I have company along the way!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Up the rollercoaster...down the rollercoaster...

Yesterday I didn't cry once all day.  I didn't even tear up a bit.  I can't remember the last day I didn't cry.  My mom came over and helped me repaint the dining room, which is where we had Isaac's bed...and where I spent 24 days and nights sitting starting at the yellow walls.  I didn't mind the warm, buttery tone when we first moved in...didn't love it, but made it work.  However, spending the time staring at it coupled with what happened in that room...and it was time to say goodbye to yellow!  The room is now Glidden's Antique Beige.  It looks pretty darn white to me, but it's not white!  It is definitely lighter and brighter, and I think it made me feel lighter and brighter yesterday.  (It needs a few touch ups, but I will post pics when it's done!)

Today...different story.  Today I can't tell you the number of times I have cried.  Today I curled up in a ball in my chair and sobbed because I actually felt my heart aching.  I decided I'm going back to work next week on Wednesday.  This morning, standing in my kitchen, I had a slight panic attack about this.  It's not that I don't want to go back...I adore the people I work with, and my students never fail to make me laugh.  The thing is...going back means moving forward.  (now that I type that, it seems a little funny - back means forward!)  Right now, the only thing that has changed from my life is the fact that Isaac is no longer in a hospital bed in my dining room.  I still am not going to work and I can just remain in this little bubble of safety.  Going back to work means I will have to face people who will look at me and I'll know they are thinking "Poor Jess" (understandable...I'd do the same thing).  It means I will have to come home every day to an empty house.  It means moving on...accepting the fact that Isaac isn't coming back and I have to start living life without him. 

And I know...God is with me through all of this.  I honestly expected to feel angry at Him or feel like He is far away, but I don't feel that at all.  I'm sure much of that has to do with the many prayers of my friends, family, and even people I have never met who are reading this journey.  I put a little counter on my blog on Sunday, and it's already over 700 hits.  Wow!  I am humbled...and I am so happy that this little piece of my life has reached so many others.  God is doing great things through this!  My friend Michelle said she thinks "God's going to be doing some incredibly awesome, joy-bringing things in the lives of those hurting right now" and I know she's right!  I also know I'm not the only one hurting right now, others of you are hurting too - over Isaac and over many other things.  It is my prayer that this slice of my little life somehow helps you, somehow brings you peace, and somehow reminds you that God is good - all the time.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anticipatory Joy

anticipate: (verb) to expect; look forward to; be sure of

I was sitting in my car at a stoplight today when it hit me: I am not happy.  I don't feel joy right now.  Sure, I can laugh at things that are funny and still crack sarcastic jokes, but the actual feeling of JOY is just absent right now.  I feel sadness, loss, grief, loneliness...but not joy.  Depressing, huh?  At first, sitting at that stoplight today, that's what I thought.  But, I realized that while I don't feel joy right now, I do feel what I like to call "anticipatory joy". 

Isaac used to tell me the one thing he actually liked about being in pain, was the way it felt when the pain was finally gone.  (I imagine he's feeling amazing right now!)  So now, here I am - feeling the pain of grief...but anticipating the joy that will come when that pain is finally numbed a little.  The joy that will follow when I get through this grief.  Psalm 30:5b says "...weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."  I am holding tight to that promise right now.

I remember the days before Isaac and I got married, and I was counting down the days to the wedding.  I loved driving with my windows down blaring "The Best Thing" by Relient K and just feeling so overflowing with joy.  I know I'll get there again.  I know it won't be easy.  I know I have an awesome God, loving family, and amazing friends to help me.  I know there will be a day where I am driving, windows down, radio blaring, and feeling joyful.  But for now, I'm letting myself be sad, cry when it hits me, curl up on my couch and wallow when I need to, and trying to move forward the best I know how. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finished the race...

At 6:30 yesterday morning, my Isaac quietly left earth and entered the glorious gates of Heaven.  I wanted to share with you a glimpse of that precious time. 

Tuesday, Isaac was unresponsive.  He didn't say a word, barely moved, and only opened his eyes once all day.  I knew this meant that he was nearing death, I just had no idea how near he was.  In the morning, he lay there in bed just groaning and breathing very uneasily.  I switched him from nasal canulla to an oxygen mask and that eased his discomfort.  That evening, I started to hear his breath become raspy and a bit "gurgly".  I know that is one of the signs that a person is in their last hours, but I have heard Isaac breath that way before - even before we called in hospice.  I figured he had more fluid on his lungs and I'd call the nurse first thing in the morning. 

Around 4:30 Wednesday morning, I awoke to hear him groaning again.  His breath was very uneasy and it was obvious he was uncomfortable.  He was breathing like he had just run a mile.  I gave him some morphine and Ativan (an anti-anxiety that helps calm him), waited 30 minutes, and when those meds didn't seem to help, I called the on-call hospice nurse.  At about 5:15am, she had me repeat the doses of the meds, plus give him another to help dry up the fluid in his lungs.  After about a half hour, he was breathing really comfortably.  In fact, it was the most comfortable I had seen him breathing in a few days.  I thought the storm had passed and we'd be okay for a little longer.  I looked at the clock, saw it had been an hour since I gave him the meds and it was time to repeat.  I told him I was going to get more meds and stepped into the kitchen.  I poured some coffee, grabbed his meds, and when I came back into the dining room, he was gone.  I could see he wasn't breathing and couldn't see his heart beating in his chest.  He was just gone.

That's the technical, medical play-by-play.  But, something more important was happening in that time between 5:30 and 6:30am while I waited for the meds to ease his discomfort.  I decided there was no way I'd be able to go back to sleep, so I pulled out my Bible and sat down at his bedside.  I read to him from the Psalms (I remember reading Psalm 121 and Psalm 23, plus many others!), Isaiah 55 (8-9 were his life verses), and Revelation 21-22.  Here's a verse I remember reading and praying "He who testifies these things says 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20).  I prayed as I read that "Yes, Lord, come...come for him quickly" and the Lord answered! 

I also pulled out my phone, and turned on my Pandora app to my Hillsong station.  For some reason, I started writing down the son  gs that were playing in that last hour.  The first song was "This is Our God", which I just found to be so peaceful and comforting.  Then, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" came on and that's when I thought I should write the songs down because I knew God was telling us something...little did I know, it is very possible Jesus was right there with us just asking Isaac to see Him.  Next, came "Spoken For", which really got says 'take this world from, I don't need it anymore, I am finally free' - and I think that's probably exactly how Isaac was feeling.  The list also included, "Desert Song," "Your Love, Oh Lord," and "Your Grace is Enough".  The last song that was playing was called "Came to My Rescue" - Wow!!!  Came to Isaac's rescue, indeed! "I called, You answered.  You came to my rescue and I want to be where You are." 
But for me, the songs and the verses were not the sweetest part.  I am so glad to know that in his last hour, Isaac was hearing the Word of God and praises to His name.  But...I am the most joyful knowing in his last hour I was there.  I was holding his hand, I was telling him over and over that I was right there with him, that I'd do everything I could in my power to ease his pain, that he was a wonderful husband, and how very much I love him.  I was at first surprised that death came so quickly.  But then I remembered one of the last real conversations Isaac and I had last week.  I remember telling him not to hang onto this world.  I told him that the moment he sees Jesus he should run to Him as fast as he can and not look back.  I told him "When you see Jesus, you run.  You run as fast as you can to Him and don't hold on to us back here.  We'll be okay." I like to think that's exactly what happened.  He saw Jesus.  He didn't hesitate for a moment, he just ran into the arms of His Savior and was healed.

Monday, February 22, 2010


When I first heard the song "He Loves Us" (the David Crowder version), I immediately loved it.  I couldn't put my finger on it right then, but there was something in that song that spoke deeply to me beyond the simple chorus of "He loves us, oh how He loves us".  I've listened to it many times since then, and it's taken me a few weeks - but this week I've finally landed on what I love so much about that song.  Here is the first verse, then I'll tell you what I see in it.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

It starts out "He is jealous for me".  The first of the 10 Commandments says that we are to worship no other gods but Him.  "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:5a) As I began examining my life, I started to really see the meaning in this simple phrase "He is jealous for me", especially when connected to that 1st commandment.  God is a jealous God.  He wants to be first in our lives...and I have to confess, He has not been first in mine. 

Looking ahead to 2010, I had been filled with disappointment, sorrow, and loss.  One obvious loss in my life will be Isaac.  And, there are other things that I will lose this year as well.  One is my parents, who are a huge part of my life.  They are retiring in June, selling their house, and driving off in an RV (yes, you read that correctly).  I will miss having them just a short drive away, spending Saturdays shopping with my mom, calling on my dad when I have car trouble, and just generally knowing they are nearby.  Another loss in my life will be the team I teach with.  In just the short few months I have been on team with them, I have come to rely heavily on them for a daily dose of humor, support, professional advice, encouragement, and lots of coffee.  Next year, when the school year starts, I will be on a different team with mostly different people.  I will miss my new friends on the Wildcat team, not just because I love teaching alongside them, but because they are incredible people who have become close friends of mine very quickly, and have given me immeasurable help and support during this difficult time. 

I can't tell you the number of tears I have cried over these losses...the number of times I have asked God why...and the number of times I have dwelled on the dread I was feeling when I looked ahead into the future.  All I could see was this cloud of loneliness surrounding me - my husband, my parents, and my school friends would all be, in some way, gone.  But, as I dwelled on the words "He is jealous for me", God began to change my thinking.  God began to tap me on the shoulder and make me realize that maybe He is allowing all of these things to be stripped away because He is jealous for me...He wants to be first in my life, and I have put Isaac, my friends, my parents, and many other things before Him. 

So, I continued looking at the song and the phrase "Loves like a hurricane, I am tree.  Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy" - and realized that these losses are my hurricane.  Hurricanes are huge and destructive.  They blow such strong winds that they often leave nothing but smashed and broken pieces behind.  God is loving me this way - He is loving me with such power and strength, that like a tree in a hurricane, I have no choice but to bend beneath His mercy.  He is loving me in a dramatic and powerful way, that feels painful to me sometimes, but it is what I need to draw nearer to Him. 

This thought process was spurred on when I read a blog that gave me the most perfect illustration of God in my situation.  It describes a parent who lays their child down for a nap because they know the child needs sleep, but the child doesn't want to nap and thus stands in the crib and cries.  The parent wants to rush to the child and pull them out of the crib and stop their tears, but they know the child needs this sleep - so they stand outside the child's room on the other side of the closed door just waiting until the child settles down.  Isn't that beautiful illustration of God and us?  I am that child, in the crib crying...and God didn't just put me there and walk away...He, like that parent, is standing on the other side of the door, listening to me, knowing it hurts me and wanting to pull me out of this and stop my tears, but also knowing this is what's best for me.

"And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affection is for me" - well, that is where I am right now.  I am realizing just how beautiful God is, but more importantly - how much He loves me.  That even without my husband, with my parents far away, and on a new teaching team - God remains the same. 

"He loves us, oh how He loves us."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Notes from my husband...

Something that has always impressed me, as well as most who know Isaac, is the way he has dealt with cancer.  As we have sat around talking about Isaac here and there, something that a few people who know him well have mentioned is that Isaac never seemes to fit here on earth.  Most of us have the "dream" for our life, we knew what we wanted to be when we grew up...but not Isaac.  Since I have known him, he has gone through saying he could be a teacher, janitor, Best Buy employee, Blockbuster employee, volunteer at his favorite fish store, work at an aquarium, and many other possible careers!  He has always had such a wide variety of interests, and always said he never felt like he belonged here. 

Today I started reading back through Isaac's old Facebook notes and saw so much evidence of his frustration with life on earth, his struggle with understanding God's plan for his life, and his acceptance of the reality of death.  So, I thought I'd pull some quotes from some of his notes to share with you all.  There's a bunch, and if you read only one - scroll down to the very bottom and read the last one, it's the best.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I can't really put my finger on it, but most of the time I am either out of sync with the rest of the world or people are just plain boring. I find that I feel so much older than my peers, but I'm really not. I get frustrated though when people seem to go through the motions. It seems everybody has a plan for the future of when they will do then. What about now? What are we going to do now? I find that people say they will aspire to do something once they get their degree, then they will be able to do something "important" or whatever. The trouble with this thinking is that we find ourselves holding off the past "presents" the present and when we get to the future (which will then be the present for us) we continue to claim that we will do something in the future.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
For some reason though I still have a good attitude about this, its a little scary to think that I could die, but it is pretty liberating to know you are an unbound person, free of all the crap that the world throws at you, a world that says you need this or that to be somebody or to make a difference. For me its just living, living one day at a time, in the trust of Him who has given me this affliction, not for my glory, but for His.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
It gets very boring very quickly in the hospital just because there really is no freedom, like to go outside, walk anywhere you want, its kinda like jail, and your sick and getting nailed with something else even other than imprisonment. Makes me wonder how many other 21 year olds are going through something like this again. I can't help but wonder that, I feel so alone, with this. It is my burden to carry, and mine alone, I realize that, I will continue to live just like normal people who don't have cancer or the pain that I carry around yet still smile about, cause I know that I as long as I'm alive I have reason to be, simply that God still wants me here.

Friday, January 5, 2007
Been thinking about how so many people look forward to so many things and when they get there, they look forward to something else, its like a cycle that never ends. I think this happens in life too much, we find ourselves in high school wanting not to be there waiting for the day that we start college. When we get to college and get used to it, we long for the day we graduate, so we can get a job. When we land that great job, what do we have to look forward to? Retirement? Perhaps we should look at life differently, that what is, is now. We long so much to see our dreams and goals achieved, yet when we do achieve them, we move on as if they never happened, on to another goal, another achievement. Bask in the beauty of the moment, every moment, whether it be a good one or a bad one, you may not have a next "moment" to hate or enjoy at all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I actually can't believe I made it to 22, two years ago when diagnosed with this, I woulda laughed at you, I seriously thought I'd be dead, but God is good all the time, and I'm living in His grace day by day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
It is good to think back about how things used to be with me. I was excited that I was going to be a missionary, my heart was for people in other countries that have never heard the gospel before, and I was going to be a part of that! Now, I am in a different place and a different time. I'm unsure of what I'm supposed to do specifically for me. I flounder in so many ways, beckoned by obscure reasonings of other people only to come to the conclusion that reason alone will not suffice truth, no matter how hard I try. Perhaps God has given me this cancer to get me thinking deeper about issues that can be answered so easily by theology, the Bible and pastors or professors, but so hard to come by when you have to make the actual choice on a difficult matter. Maybe it is the experiential maturing that I need to someday use as a gift to other people, or perhaps it is a lesson that life is hard, and it should be that way because thats what makes it worth living for. I thank God for all the blessings he's brought into my life. People who come from understanding backgrounds, people who have been through hell, and come out praising God for their afflictions not because it made them stronger Christians, but stronger Christians who "have been there". They are an encouragement to me beyond words.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Today I realized how much I don't fit in still. I'm so different from people, my worldview is lightyears away from most peoples. We don't even think about the same things. I feel that all of my friends are awesome friends and they relate as best as they can to me, but at times I still feel at loss for somebody to really connect to. I don't know if this is a good thing or not. Perhaps I need to see what other people are thinking, understand who they are, to take some time to sit down with somebody and just talk for a couple of hours. I hope "normalcy" comes soon, I want to be one of you again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007
Human-ness, if there even is something else, just doesn't seem to be for me.

There is one note that has struck me the most, so I saved it for last...written almost 3 years ago exactly.

Why I am excited to die

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sorry for a such a strange title, don't worry, I have no intentions of committing suicide of any sort. I just came to the realization that death is so much closer to us than any of us think. I am exicted to die to see what reality of life is beyond this. I have hope that what I believe as a Christian is what will happen. I will not be naive and say that I know 100% that when I die I will go to heaven, I have a hope grounded in faith, not blind faith, but a faith that is backed up by many evidences and rational that I will go to heaven. You can't really know anything 100%, but you sure can come close, faith takes you the rest of the way. Another reason for being excited is that I won't have to deal with this cancer crap anymore, It'll be done and instead of a body of flesh and bones, I'll be a body of flesh and spirit! I can't see getting bone cancer if I don't have any bones! haha

On the flip side, I realize the scaryness of death. What if I am completely and utterly wrong about the afterlife? What if things are exactly the opposite of what I now believe? What happens then? I am also coming to realize that death is lonely, even if you die in the presence of other people, it is something that you do utterly alone when you are "gone", well unless you join the huge massive collection of souls as some hindu's and buddhists believe.

In conclusion though, I feel that I my purpose here is not over, that I have many things to look forward to... meeting new people, traveling new places, developing relationships, and pouring myself out for others. If I can do these things I think I will have fulfilled a good part of my purpose for living.