Done Dating: Part 2

My first Done Dating post was the announcement. This one is more of an explanation of how I got there and why I can be confident in my decision.

My friend Katie and I have only known each other for a little over a year. We met after the hard chemo was finished and I was healing from radiation and the after effects of chemo.

In normal circumstances, Katie and I never would have met. Her husband is a pastor of a church I had never stepped foot in and had never even been curious about stepping inside. Not that I questioned their church, I was just happy with the church I was regularly attending and very heavily involved with volunteering.

She started a MOPS group at her church and I was invited by a friend from Epiphany Station. I explained I have no preschoolers left and so a MOPS group was not really my thing. I was assured they were also a MomsNext group for mom’s with older children and I agreed to give it a try.

I was through what we thought was the difficult part of cancer, life was moving forward, and I was interested in social activities that were not overly time consuming. I enjoy group social activities that are regularly scheduled; especially if they include food and a craft!

Katie was very pregnant and we did not socialize much. We were familiar with each other but I would not have called us friends.

Then it happened.

I went to Rochester for my reconstruction in March 2016. I flew down on with Angel Flight Central and was scheduled to fly back with them as well.

I was released to fly home on Good Friday. With my appointment time and the volunteer pilot’s schedule, flying home Friday was not an option. Then the weather was bad for small aircraft travel and my weekend flight was canceled. I was heartbroken.

When I knew I would be going home before Easter I had visions of surprising my boys at church Sunday morning. With no available flight, my plan was crushed. I posted my heartbreak on Facebook and was flooded with messages of sympathy.

Then Katie said she would come and get me…she would drive to Rochester (384 miles) to pick me up and bring me home so I could surprise my boys and be home for Easter. This plan was coming together on Good Friday.

The caretakers of Nazarene Well House (where I had spent my post operative time) knew what was happening and they offered to meet up with Katie so that was it…they drove North and she drove South the day before Easter and got me home in time to surprise my boys at church Easter Sunday.

Our friendship has grown from there and she has become a best friend. She babysits our cats when we are out of town, I babysit her animals when they are gone. I can walk into her home as they start a meal and sit down at the table as if I was invited.

A few weeks ago when tragedy struck and four people died, she comforted me, she engaged me, she got me through. When I did not know how exactly chicken eggs were fertilized (she has chickens, I was curious) she taught me. (Note to self: Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know…I didn’t really want to know). When she needed help taking straw off her septic field, she put me to work. When my heart is rattled and confused and breaking and filling all at the same time, she grounds my feet.

This woman, a mere stranger just 15 months ago who let me carry her water and nothing else when we stopped for coffee on our way home from my surgery. The woman who understands my humor, who gets me, who loves to see me growing closer to Jesus and helps me through the tough spots.

This woman is why I know I no longer need to be on dating websites where men with questionable motives lurk. She is the reason I do not need to be searching for my life partner.

If God can bring together Katie and I, He certainly can bring together the man I will spend the rest of my life with. He certainly can make things happen without my assistance.

I thanked Katie for this the other day; telling her that our friendship gave me the understanding that I did not have to be out there looking for ‘The Right One’ when God already knows where to find me.

Lord,

Thank you for everything You have provided through Katie and her family. They are truly my family here with so many others.
I am so thankful that You have opened my eyes through her about the ways You work and that she has been able to show me just how much You can do.
For my future husband, I pray he also has a friend or group of friends who teach him lessons he doesn’t even know he wants to learn. (save him from the chicken stuff though if he doesn’t already know)
For all of my friends whom are now family; the thanks goes to You. I am eternally grateful.

Amen

Faith Filled Friday

I just found this on my Facebook from June 24, 2007 (my seventh wedding anniversary). I am leaving it unedited:

Well everybody, I have good news and bad news…GOOD NEWS FIRST: I am still pregnant…
the BAD NEWS is:
-I had hemmorhaging this past week
-I had premature preterm rupture of membranes
-It has been determined that I have a low lying placenta.

The doctor in the ER has said there was a prognosis of ZERO…I was heart broken (as you can imagine).

Jay had just left that day for a fairly long trip and was parked for the night when I called him with the news. I knew there was nothing he could do and told him I would keep him up to date through the night.

After several calls in the middle of the night (Jay, my parents, and Kara) I was finally taken upstairs to a room at 1:30am.

The next morning I was scheduled for an ultrasound after being counselled on the probability that Stickers was already dead…the nurses were great…I could not have done this on my own.

The doctors were very shocked when they did an ultrasound and found Stickers in there with a strong heartbeat… Then the attitude was that we would be waiting for the baby to die so they could perform a D&C…There was no way Stickers would make it through these complications.

Jay was turned around and on his way home when he had to stop and gather himself after I called with the great news.

I spent one night in the hospital and was sent home with the advice to prepare for “fetal demise”…why can’t they just say go home and wait for your kid to die…then come back and we will rip it from your body.

As you can all imagine, I have done a TON of research on everything that has happened and none of it was very promising. After the membranes rupture, approximately 50% deliver within the first week, and another 50% everyweek thereafter. I have done the numbers and have discovered that we have a 5% (yep…FIVE PERCENT) chance of carrying this child to the age of viability (24 weeks)…and even at 24 weeks, it would mean weeks or months in a neonatal intensive care unit with a survival rate of about 50%. Everyday inside me after the 24th week increases the chance of survival.

We sat down, discussed the options, statistics, and everything we could think of. My biggest fear is delivering too early and having a baby so small that it could fit in the palm of my hand. We had had a routine ultrasound only five days before this all happened and saw that Stickers was growing big, and had a strong heartbeat. This little being had two arms and legs, eyes, ears, fingers and toes…perfect in every sense of the word.

That was Tuesday night and Wednesday…it is now Sunday and I am still carrying this miracle. Jay and I keep saying that obviously nobody explained the rules to this kid so we are going to think positive.

Oof

*strong language warning*

I’m not gonna lie, I used to have a terrible potty mouth. I used the f-bomb as a comma in everyday language. I have worked SO HARD at being aware that the language I use may offend people I am not even sure are paying attention. That being said…talking to my mother and my brother in this situation I knew there were no other ears listening. I chose to not edit these words out of our conversations for authenticity’s sake…people who know me now, know how hard I have worked to be free of such vulgar language…knowing how I lost it…they know this is beyond understanding. 

My week started out as every other week does, I dropped my boys off at school, waited for Squishy (the baby I babysit) to be picked up, and went to work.

Mondays are so difficult for me. Saying cya later to my boys every other week knowing nobody can love them the same way I do is, even after four years, heartbreaking. I never asked for the divorce, they never asked for it; yet they are still paying a price that is unfathomable to so many.

I go to my second job, and things are as usual. I love my job at the middle school. Those kids fill my bucket every single day. I regularly post on my personal Facebook page about how awesome the middle school students I work with are. I make sure to tell the parents I know how great their children are; because as a parent, there can be nothing more comforting than to know that your child is just as awesome as you think they are! 

…and then it happened..

My brother (650 miles away) posted:

At a loss for words, cant imagine the hart ache.

Earlier in the day I had seen a woman post on the community page about her husband, son, and a family friend were late returning from a canoe trip. So I sent him a private message:

Me: Did they find the canoers?
Darcy: Ya, not good news. 😦
M: ALL OF THEM????
D: From the information I got so far, ya. 😦
M: Oh fuck
D: Yup
M: Oh fuck oh fuck
D: That’s all I can say too.
M: I got nothing
M: Just oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck
M: This can’t be real even
D: Too close to home.

Now, at this time, I only knew of the father, son, and the father’s friend (a friend of my family). I sent my mom a text

Me:SHANE CRIPPS???????
Mom: He and Dylan and 2 more died.
Me: Dylan is younger one?
Mom: Ya, almost 15.
Me: That’s what I thought.

Dylan is Shane’s youngest son.

Two fathers (best friends) and their sons out in a canoe for their first paddle of the year. With all of them dead on scene, only God knows what happened. They were all found floating next to the capsized canoe. They were all wearing personal floatation devices. We are left with two women have lost not only their husbands, they have each lost a child. Each of these women also have a surviving child.

I can still hear the screams in my own ears…my screams. My devastation…my hurt…my disbelief…my shock.

Later that evening my mom called. When I answered I lost it…”what the fuck Mom?” My mom lost it…the strongest woman I have ever met, known, cherished replied through her own anguish, “Oh my God it’s so awful.”

We talked until we were both calm, she told me of the man who refused to check out of Shane and his wife Li’s hotel when the news broke…like literally my mother had to go over and threaten him with the police because he, “…paid for a view of the river and I am going to have a view of the river.”

In perfect Colleen fashion, “Sir, I understand your disappointment. I can assure you though, you can leave with me, or you can leave with the police…but you ARE leaving.” I know she said this with a voice so calm, not even for a second betraying her anger. I also know that her eyes were so full of tears for this family.

I love that woman more than life itself! I am so thankful that Li and James (her surviving son) have my mom.

My mother than picked up all of Dylan’s hockey team and drove them to one of the coaches home where they had opened their home for the boys to all be together.

Shane Cripps (44), Dylan Cripps (14), Connor Sykes (33), Liam Sykes (6) all gone.

My father and another man went out to the boat launch later that evening to bring their vehicle back to town.

Some people bring brownies…my mom and dad do the logistical nightmare stuff. That is how they bring brownies. I mean seriously…the last person in that vehicle was a friend who is now dead. My mom drove around town picking up and dropping of a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds in the midst of their shock and grief.

All of this happening on the first weekend my parents’ campground is open to the public…so I know that in between all the running and shuffling, and tears, and shock they are also greeting guests, guiding tourists, mopping bathrooms, collecting garbage.

Time only stands still for those who are grieving…the rest of the world continues to spin, and somebody has to clean their bathrooms and make sure the garbage is taken care of so the bears don’t come.

On Wednesday morning, word got out that the wives and children of the deceased are planning to go out to the boat launch, which over the years has become haven to those not willing to pay a dump fee at the city dump. The litter and garbage is atrocious out there.

A post was made on the same page the wife posted asking if anybody had seen her husband and son on Monday. By 5:30 pm the place was immaculate. The city dump waived fees for people bringing garbage from the site, people showed up with water and food and they took out several FULL pick-up trucks of garbage in time to allow the families the opportunity to begin processing their situation.

As I work to process this grief from so far away I am in constant contact with my family back home and reaching out to my local friends to keep me afloat. My friends have surrounded me with the love I knew they would…keeping me safe from letting satan enter into this turmoil.

…and then it happened…

My girlfriend (Jessa’s mom) sent me a message that the roller coaster has officially started. Miss Jessa has a grade one brain bleed, her lungs are having issues and she is going to be started on steroids that are going to cause her to feel yucky…

And I’ve got nothing. I cannot even process this. I try to send love, I pray, I try to talk with her and comfort her…and I’m just lost. We will get through this, we just need to connect…we need to get back on the horse and we need to refocus.

The NICU team reassures everybody that these things are ‘normal’ for a micro preemie and that she is still doing so amazingly awesome. The roller coaster is started and we are firmly buckled in.

…and then it happened…

On Friday I am almost finished my work day…less than an hour to go and we stop for lunch.

I check my Facebook and receive notification that my friend from childhood has lost her mother to cancer. Oh shit I just CANNOT do this…

FUCK YOU CANCER! #itsnotaboutme

Is my Facebook update. I do not even remember the last time I swore on Facebook. even the times I have REALLLLLLLLLY wanted to, I always edit it and find better words. At first I did not post the hashtag…but did so pretty quickly so that people would not think I was sick again. 

Not yesterday. Nope, I did think about it. I thought about posting something heartfelt and loving. And then I realized that nope, this WAS heartfelt. These words perfectly summed up what I needed to say at that moment.

I texted my mom, “Call me.” I only have a cell phone, I cannot afford the plan that allows for calls to Canada (it would be an extra $15/month). When I need my mommy…she calls me. 

Mom: Hey
Me: Mom…Giselle died. (sobbing)
Mom: Oh shit, we knew she didn’t have long…you told me that, right?
Me: Yep, Michelle called and said it was close not long ago…just not this week.
Mom: (I can hear her voice crack) It’s going to be one of those years Deb; there are already forest fires burning up here; it’s not going to be good.

She comforts me and I get back to work. It’s all I can do.

There are beautiful things happening all around me…and I am searching SO HARD to be mindful of them…I really am.

I am also hurting and my tears are always falling, and I am letting them. I have cried this week at work, at the grocery store, at Thief River Falls House of Prayer, in my vehicle, on the phone with my landlord, in my bed, in the shower.

It has been one heck of a tough week.

Last night I posted on Facebook:

Two hours ago I said I was going to bed…I just cannot sleep. I went fishing with God earlier but apparently the fish had already talked with Him and were safe. I had supper with friends, I vented/shared love with a friend over FB…and yet my heart is still so hurt tonight. #INeedATripHome

This morning my mom responded “less than two weeks. XO”

Then I got out of bed this morning and was met by this mountain of laundry. I posted a picture of it and said “Apparently the laundry doesn’t care about the week I’ve had…I’m so not ready to die on this mountain! #GriefWaitsForNothing

Just seeing the laundry waiting started the tears again…but it is real life. Grief does not mean your underwear stays clean, grief does not remove the worm poop you wiped on your jeans when you were fishing last weekend before this all happened.

I am struggling, I am devastated, I am grief-stricken. I will be okay. I am surrounded by love, by prayers, by those God has put on this rollercoaster with me.

Lord,

I know there are lessons and beauty in all this tragedy…I am working so hard at seeing those wonderful things through my tears and my hurt.

I am so thankful for those who remind me that the tears are okay and that I don’t have to be strong through this. It is completely okay for me to be on my knees in pain and anguish.

When I’m ready to get off my knees, I look up and I see so many hands held out to help me. They have been praying with their hands on my shoulders. They have been doing all they can so I know I do not have to get through this on my own…I one have to get through it and they will not let me do it alone.

Guide me trough this agony as I glorify Your name.

Amen

 

 

 

Princess Kiwi

My girlfriend gave birth last week to a baby girl at 23 weeks 5 days gestation…16 weeks 2 days short of full term. Four months early…FOUR MONTHS EARLY.

Jessa had open heart surgery today to close two holes in her heart which are common in micro-preemies. After surgery they are going to keep her sedated for a couple days to allow her tiny body to heal. Mom and dad have been warned that after surgery can be a time of turmoil for babies and that she may have a decline in the next couple days. Knowing it ahead of time is not going to make any of it easier…knowing is not going to lessen the stress felt by all the people who are already so in love with this little miracle.

The first thing I did when I found about the baby I asked Mom what she needed of me and offered tangible things. I could start a Caringbridge page, I could be the go-to person for people to contact with information, could I please start a fundraising page…

I am the main contributor to the Caringbridge page, Mom and dad call me with updates and I post and share on social media. I started a YouCaring fundraiser. I am organizing a supply drive for the Ronald McDonald House where they are staying while their baby is in the hospital.

…and yet I still feel so helpless…

And yet I know I wish somebody had done all of that for me…somewhat.

I posted all my own caring bridge entries. Mostly because I wanted it to be an accurate recording from my perspective of cancer. I do know that there were days I wish my family was here so my sister could post just exactly how sick I was and how desperately I needed people to be praying and loving on me. Those were the things I could not ask for. I could not ask for people to make sure I had food in my house…because I couldn’t eat much anyway. I couldn’t ask for people to clean my house because it was a disaster before I had cancer so I didn’t feel like I deserved  help in that area.

I wish I had even one friend here I was close enough with to just show up and do things. Nobody knew me well enough to know that I would never ask. They just figured that if I needed something that I would ask.

I know that Jessa’s parents don’t even know where to begin when it comes to asking for help. The early part of any crisis is the time when you don’t even know what you don’t know. You have no idea what your needs are. That’s where they are right now.

Little Jessa Dawn needs continued prayers and support. Her parents need financial support as their home and family is just over two hours away from the hospital they are in.

I pray every day, several times a day for this little princess. The boys and I have had times where we just drop everything and pray for the baby, for the family, for the doctors, and for everybody else involved.

If you are interested in following her journey, you can join us at:

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/princesskiwi

cam_21
After heart surgery and sedated.
cam_16.jpg
Mommy fixing her bedding

Dear Lord,

We see a miracle with Jessa’s every breath. We are so thankful for the opportunity to watch You show up and show off. We know it’s You…only You could get us this far. 

Help us help Mom and Dad along this roller coaster of a journey. Speak to us and tell us their needs, help us meet their needs. 

Continue to wrap them in love and grace and mercy throughout this journey as we all praise your great name. 

Amen

Thankful Thursday

In just 30 hours my boys will home and I am so thankful that yesterday I got to see them both for a few minutes. One had a doctor’s appointment and the other had archery league.

It gave me the strength and resolve to get through today and tomorrow. I am also recovering from a severe sinus infection and possibly something funky in my lungs. My energy has been super low and I have been letting my body heal so taking it easy…which is emotionally difficult for me.

I learned through cancer that taking it easy was not an option, it was a necessity. My heart figured that once we were finished with treatment and surgeries I would be able to move on and continue living life. I had no idea that my life would look so different.

I expected some down time with healing, getting my energy and stamina back. I had no idea it would be so difficult. I push myself…then I question if I am pushing too hard on a healing body or not pushing hard enough. There is no manual for getting back in shape after cancer.

This weekend is walleye opener so we’re going fishing. The little one asked what time:

C: Like 12:01 am it starts?

Me: I guess so. We’ll go when we get up in the morning…like 8 o’clock or so.

C: Ya, sometimes I get up around 7.

M: That’s fine, it’s light by then.

C: Sometimes at 6.

M: (to myself) Oh man I hope not…

I just want my kids home…sooner rather than later. I know, I know…patience D…patience.

I’m working on it.

 

My Testimony

Last Wednesday for the Youth Group I shared my testimony. Well, part of my testimony. If I had shared it in its entirety it would have taken much longer than the 40 minutes I spoke for.

I had asked Mary if I could speak that day (thinking it was my one year cancer-free day) and she was delighted to have me. She said I needed to speak for about 20 minutes and it would be great if I could come up with some questions for the leaders to use in their small group sessions.

Well, as I tend to do…I put a few notes together literally on my way to the Youth Center. I think I looked at them twice. I prefer to just speak, it is more authentic and flows better than a prepared speech. Unfortunately, it is not great for time management.

The video is posted on the Faith Through Turmoil Facebook page and is in two parts. Josiah’s phone either died or filled the memory so he had Spencer record the second part. My 20 minutes turned into 40…oops. #sorrynotsorry Some stories just need to be told. The students (grades six through 12) were listening intently. A few sixth graders were a bit chatty in that they were trying to interact with me…in any other situation this would be fine, as I am trying to share made it a little difficult and you can hear me at one point say, “Gentlemen…Stop.” Which they did.

I am trying to figure out how to merge the two videos. I have sent a request to a friend of mine, hoping he can help. I am guessing it is a common skill for some people; I am not one of them.

Sharing my testimony helped me to encourage the students I work with to see me as a mentor, not just the Lunch Lady. I told them that I work my job for them, I serve them with a smile and try my best to remember names because I want them to know they are important to me.

I explained that I pray for their families to be whole…whatever their family looks like. Whether they are living with both parents, single parents, foster parents, grandparents, parents who are getting divorced…I want their home life to be whole for them.

While I may seem like  have it all together in their eyes, I was sure to point out that following God is not always easy and sometimes it down right sucks. There are days where I feel like I cannot go another minute following the rules…and often I fail. I likened it to hockey practice…you do not all of a sudden get good and never have to practice again. You keep practicing, and keep practicing, and keep practicing. Until you die you are always practicing. Faithfulness is no difference. Eventually you are going to miss a pass, wiff a puck, trip on the blue line. You just get back up and keep going.

God,

Thank you for using me to reach these kids wherever they are in life. Continue to give me the story, the words, the compassion for them. In the darkest corners of their being, bring them light.

Surround my kids with your love, grace, and comfort today. I am missing them terribly today.

Amen

Growth

Today it hit me.

I am going to be okay.

This does not relate to anything medical; I am talking about real life. Just living life.

I have learned in the last two years that God truly does provide for our needs. Our needs may be spiritual, emotional, financial, physical, medical, educational…the list goes on and on.

Through two years, our prayers were heard and answered.

Our testimony through cancer and beyond has been nothing short of a miracle. I am so glad to be able to see it for all it has truly been; a gift from God.

We remained faithful, we made some Big Ask prayers, we reached out. I swallowed my pride more times than I can count, I learned to trust people again, I learned what love amongst friends truly looks like.

A few of my closest friends now met me in the midst of the battle. There are times when I wish I had known them before it started, and remember that God’s timing is always perfect. Some of them have become the most important people in my social circle right now.  This is a reminder to me that relationships come and go, people grow and change. Sometimes, friendships end and that it is okay.

I do not enjoy the perceived relationships people have through social media. Although I am a Facebook fanatic, I keep my friends list under 400 at all times. I have some friends with over 1000 contacts!

As I am just as raw and honest in real life as I am on this blog I need to keep that circle small for my own sanity.

Speaking of sanity, I see a new counselor now and as we ended the appointment the other day she said, “OK, first of all, you are not crazy…” I told her that I want every session to end like this because when it has been pounded into your head for 20 years that I have been the problem, it is so difficult to overcome that when the abuse continues beyond the marriage. 

Anyway…because I am always so open and raw, I keep my social media circle relatively small. I always giggle to myself when I want to invite people to a local event; most of my contacts are not local. That is why I love Facebook, it keeps me connected to my family and friends from afar. The local people on my list are part of my inner circle of trust; my local family.

We continue to have some Big Ask prayers and I am so grateful that I learned through this journey to write down in a notebook all that we pray for so we can go back and look at God’s answers.

Being a believer helps me pray the biggest prayers, because I know there is nothing impossible through God.

John 14: 13 – 14

13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (NLT)

When I pray I ask for some pretty outrageous things and am confident that God will answer them perfectly. I will continue to pray, and not stop. While I wait for the answers, I will continue to live my best life, to serve others, to minster as I am called.

Dear God,

I am reminded today though this writing just how wonderful you are. I thank you for all you have provided for me throughout my life. Although I sometimes think my prayers range from small to outrageous; you hear each of them with the same love. You answer each one perfectly. 

Lord, I ask today for people to join me prayer; Spring is here and summer hot on its heels and we want to be active and outside together even more. I would like for the boys and I to get new bikes this year as our old ones have been outgrown and worn out. Helmets also will be needed for all three of us. You know my son started archery yesterday and he enjoyed it so much, help me to provide him with the equipment he will need as he progresses. 

Guide me as I pray about replacing my vehicle. It is only a matter of time before this becomes an urgent need so I’m praying now…before we get to panic mode. I know You know how this will work out; thank you for giving me reason to not worry, knowing you will handle this perfectly. 

As I pray for the salvation of people around me, give me strength to feed them spiritually. 

Amen