Friday, July 26, 2013

Faithful Friday: Never Complain

As were most of our days in Florida, last Friday morning stretched into the late hours and breakfast turned to brunch.  It was our last full day and, while we wanted to soak up all the day had to offer, we were tired.  In a way, I think, we lingered hoping if nobody moved time would stand still.

By the time we made it to Ft Pickens it was the afternoon and cloudy skies became our backdrop to the breathtaking scenery.

Raindrops spattered on my face and arm, as I was determined to keep the window down and take in the sounds of the sea and the peacefulness that surrounded us.  I was thankful for the 10 mile speed limit so we could leisurely stroll the beach. 

As we turned the corner and Ft. Pickens came into view, Tim and Noah's excitement grew.  Noah was already chattering about exploring the tunnels and seeing the aged cannons.  No sooner than the car came to a rest in the parking lot, he was out and off to see the sights.  Tim wasn't far behind.

With an effortless gait, Noah easily climbed the steps of the ruins,
putting him on one of the highest peaks so he could see the full scope of the landmarks.

An afternoon of exploring, followed by fishing on the pier,
and our last dinner on the beach.
Those were the plans we had...
How quickly life can change.

In an instant the sounds of laughter and excitement turned to concern and cries.
I found my strong boy crumpled on the ground biting back tears, his dad attempting to pick up his full weight without hurting him more. 

Tears soon began to flow, the discomfort too much to hide.  Noah's clinching grip on my hands, another non-verbal cue, told me he was in extreme pain.  Yet from the very beginning, his gentle giant nature came through.  He never complained, never snapped as the throbbing injury became more than he could bear. 

In fact, he was just the opposite.  Noah was concerned about us, about the family having to change plans, fearing he had ruined our vacation within moments.  Immediately he began to apologize, as Tim and I were punching in the nearest hospital into our GPS.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing - Philippians 2:14
Hours at the ER, he again never voiced a complaint.  Waiting at the pharmacy, driving past the sea for our final good-bye as the sun set - instead of the toes in the sand way we'd hoped for, skipping dinner, getting stuck in downtown traffic, trying to detour, never finding a restaurant as we pulled into the house deep into the evening, having to climb a gigantic set of steps to enter the house in crutches, not having a bedroom to retreat to, as his bed was an air mattress in the living room floor. 

Dinner wasn't delivered until 10:30 or so and I know he was a mixture of famished, hurting and exhausted, but he cheerfully ate, thanking us for the burger.  Without hesitation he asked for his mattress, expecting to climb down into the floor because that's just how he is.  It took a lot of urging to get him into our bed, as he didn't want either of us on the couch or the floor.  We ended the night in prayer, thankful his injury wasn't more severe, reminding ourselves of all the blessings we had from the week.

The next morning he was pouty, not because of his pain, but because he couldn't help us pack and load.  He felt helpless and guilty for booting Tina out of her seat in the back.  Needing to stretch his leg and elevate it as much as one could for the 12 hour ride, she was stuffed into the van with the rest of our family. 
Such a long ride, as my muscles longed to stretch and find rest, yet he never commented about his uncomfortable setting. 

From the beginning, he was determined to do things on his own.  We have to catch him moving or predict his needs, or we'll find him juggling crutches and a glass of milk.  Fitted with a boot yesterday, he found novelty in the air pump, instead of complaining of the itchy compression and pain.  I can list so many inconveniences he'll face the next two month - from starting school, navigating the bus and halls, his summer coming to halting end and plans being cancelled or postponed, to the upcoming therapy he's sure to endure as he heals. 
But my boy just smiles and takes each day with grace.  And as he's done so much in life, he teaches this joy-seeking momma lessons again and again.


"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!
Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
- Joshua 1:9

Praising God for the good news of no surgery on Noah's foot! 
Heal quick, sweet boy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mom and Me...and the Sea

Ok, I know I promised not to go on and on about our trip.  Seriously, this is my last post. 
Pinkie Promise. ....I think!

Growing up, we really didn't go on many vacations.  My step-dad worked construction so summer was his prime season.  Many weeks he worked seven days straight from sun up to sun down.  It didn't give much opportunity for travel.  Our summer fun included short day trips, such as to the zoo, or swimming in the river, family cookouts or mudding.

Having such special memories with my kids and our vacations though, made me appreciate this trip with mom even more.  I treasured our time together.  I soaked up the moments she spent with Noah and Tina.  They loved their exclusive Mamaw time.

And I tucked away her smiles at experiencing firsts in Florida.

Her silver hair sparkled in the sun.  The sea was good for her.  Laughter filled the air. 
I could feel her letting go and relaxing, enjoying the warm weather and family time.

She joined me in semi-adventurous eating (never would try oysters!) but she was excited to eat at new restaurants and was always the first to share anything on her plate.  She's so selfless, one of the traits I admire most about her. 

The night the girls gave us manicures, she didn't hesitate in offering her newly purchased sea scrub she'd paid a pretty penny for at Hemingway's.

It was also wonderful to see Mom and her sister, Faye, spending quality time together.  We would catch them hugging or smiling to each other, commenting on the good times, and you could just feel their joy in having the memories of this trip.  And, of course, with two mamaws, we had GOOOOD food at home for many meals.  Biscuits & Gravy.  Fried Potatoes.  Beans & Cornbread.  Chicken & Dumplins.  Yum!

She was even Mamaw to the other kiddos on the trip.  Hayden went through the house looking for her one afternoon and asked us, "Where's that gray haired Mamaw?  Not my Mamaw but the other Mamaw?"

Such a blessing that she came with us on our trip. 

 I think she brought so much to many of us and we'll have extra special memories because of her.

I know I'm so very grateful for the one on one time I had with my Mom,
in such a beautiful setting as the sea. 
Vacation Blessings, indeed!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pensacola...Sun, Sand & Sea

Home from a blessed beach vacation... with only a few bumps along the way.

A few years ago, we began doing "Rose & Thorn" with Noah, as a way to get more than one word answers after asking, "How was your day?"  Each of us would share something good and something not-so-good from the day.  And being the glass half full family we try to be, there were many days with no real thorn to share.

In the same token, and at an attempt not to go on and on about our trip, I'm going to share the
SUN (good), SAND (not-so-good), and SEA (peaceful/best/goosebump) moments from Florida.

Saturday...the long ride down

Sun – our funny book on tape (the only way my hubby will read!) to pass the time

Sand – Eel in the tub, which to me is the same category as a snake.  Noah brought a baby one into the house in a red solo cup to show me.  Eeek!

Sea –#23s, Austin's number.  Oh, how many we saw on our trip.  #23 miles to go, exit #23, vehicles by us with #23.  All little Heaven-sent hello's from our guy.

It was late and we were tired upon arriving so Tina didn't get to see the actual ocean but she did spend time in the bayou behind our house (where the eel was found).  She was so cute, wanting to hug the palm trees, excited to be in Florida for the first time.

Sunday...our first full day

Sun – Tina and the ocean at last.  Her expression at seeing it from a distance, crossing the bridge, jumping in the ocean, tasting the salt, building a turtle in the sand, finding crabs and jellyfish.  So many firsts.  So sweet!

Sand – Angry Beach flash.  Yes, Pensacola, I have arrived.  The big beach, aptly nicknamed "Angry Beach" by our family, sucked me down, knocked me on my behind, and attempted to rip my top away from the girls.  It was not fun for anyone in the vicinity.  And I'm cringing at the thought that someone caught it on tape...soon to be on YouTube or AFV!

Sea – Rainbow!  Such a blessing to see a giant double rainbow over Quietwater beach as our families played in the water all afternoon.  It stayed for what seemed like forever and I couldn't help but feel it was a hug from our boy, sending memories of our last time there.  Thankful for the saltwater to cover up bittersweet tears.

Another cute memory was our spa night, once back at the house.  The girls pampered the mamaws (and me) with salt scrubs, manicures and massages.  Oh, the laughs!

Monday...rainy day fun

Sun – crab escape!  The mini marine zoo that was collected on our deck found their way back to the Bayou overnight.  While the girls were initially disappointed, a quick run to the dock led to them finding many of the little creatures again.  They happily scooped the stinky things back up and onto our wooden prison.

Sand – hot mall shopping.  Mix in my dislike of shopping with humid Florida air and learning that the huge outlet mall was all outdoors.  In the A/C to shop, back out in the heat, over and over again.  At least we did find some good deals!

Sea – Butterfly shell!  Aside from finding my now favorite beach (Johnson), Tina discovered this precious shell that looked just like a butterfly.  What a hug for my heart!, there and everywhere

Sun – Kids rule day.  A morning at the Naval Museum.  Slushies & Sonic.  Beach time.  And a night at the movies.  Whew!  But the kids had such fun.

Sand – Losing Mom & Tina in the museum.  Rule #42 don't leave without the group! 

Sea – Our own private beach.  Johnsons.  Literally half a dozen people other than us.  Resting in beach chairs with my momma.  Peaceful bliss.

Wednesday...just beachy

Sun – New experiences.  Both kids tried Hobie catting and kayaking.  Noah loved the kayak and would've paddled out to sea if we hadn't called him back.  Tina was a pro on the Hobie cat from the start.  Such fun watching them play.

Sand – Shark! Well, actually it wasn't really a low point, as it was pretty cool seeing real sharks swimming below us from the pier.  Kinda scary though seeing the people yards away on the beach and knowing my kiddos were swimming in the same waters!

Sea – Quietwater day.  We spent the whole day at the beach, minus a dolphin tour.  Had a great picnic of cold fried chicken and fish tacos, strolled the boardwalk, and the weather was picture perfect.  Great day!

Thursday...can you say T-I-R-E-D?

Sun – lazy pool day.  After a full day of surf & sun, we didn't want to do anything but eat and rest.  Thankful for the neighborhood pool, which was a cool retreat.  The kids played hot potato and the adults floated, read, sunned and napped.  Ahhh...

Sand – Not one, unless you count just being tired, but that's to be expected after so many days of go, go, go!

Sea –beach memories.  We ended our evening by showering and heading back to Johnson beach for some photos.  Lucky to have several talented photographers in our family and a stranger that snapped a group pic for us.  Precious mementos for years to come!

Friday...Final Goodbye

Sun – Oysters & Gumbo.  I have food rules when on vacation.  Never eat somewhere twice.  Never eat somewhere you have at home.  Avoid fast food.  We broke two of those rules, as kids dominated quick & easy choices on some days, but I was determined to try a few hole in the wall local recommendations.  Our last day we ate at the Oyster Barn and it was yum-o.  I could so go for a big bowl of gumbo right now!

Sand – afternoon in the ER.  After a beautiful drive through Ft. Pickens state park, we stopped to tour Fort Pickens, built over 200 years ago.  Uneven cobblestone and running down tunnels don't mix.  Moments into our tour we found Noah on the ground in severe pain.  Tears from a towering teen let us know this was no simple sprain.  Hours later and in a splint, we made it back to the house exhausted for our final night.  (Praying his MRI tomorrow shows a tiny ligament tear and not one requiring surgery.)  Not the souvenir we wanted to bring back!

Sea –bedtime prayers.  Tired bodies, drained, tear-stained faces. I gently eased myself to the bed where Tim and Noah snuggled.  Sweet boy that he is, he tried to apologize for "ruining our trip" so we ended our night with a family prayer, counting the many blessings from the vacation, not the minor bump from this day.

being silly

my baby hours before he got hurt


spelling "2013"

Friday, July 12, 2013

Faithful Friday: Remembering Florida

We leave tonight for Florida.  Our first trip to the beach since losing Austin. 
And Florida was our last family vacation with him.  Extra prayers appreciated...

I think back to our last family vacation and how many wonderful memories we now have. It was our first trip to Florida as a family, to Pensacola, July 2008. We rented a house with my cousin and her family and spent a week enjoying the sun, sand and sea.

We will again be renting a house with my cousin.  The additions this time my mom and niece Tina.  The obvious absence...our sweet boy.

I initially worried Austin wouldn't enjoy the trip. He was older than all the other children and, being a teenager, I felt he would grow bored or want to do his own thing. However, he was so content and thoroughly enjoyed the vacation.

Austin was my co-pilot for our midnight drive down. Tim and Noah slept in the backseat and Austin helped keep me awake for the long trek. We rocked out to classic 80s tunes, counted Waffle Houses, and just talked. It was wonderful.

We drove straight through and were pushing it to make it to Pensacola's beach for the Blue Angels show. As we hit the heavy traffic, our truck began acting up. On the 3 mile bridge, it nearly stalled several times and was a crazy, hectic way to begin our vacation. We made it across the bridge (changed into our swimsuits in the car!) and pulled into a McDonalds. Austin immediately took charge of Noah and took him inside to cool off and get a snack, while Tim and I surveyed the truck's damage.

Basically, it just overheated from sitting so long in traffic and not moving on the 3 mile bridge, but we were hesitant to stay and risk getting caught in the traffic leaving the BA show. We decided to head on to the vacation house and Austin was quick to let us know he was ok with missing the show. I was so impressed with his easy going attitude. We were hot, tired, and disappointed and he could of easily complained, but he didn't. We drove on the house in Perdido Key and luckily missed the storm that later hit the beach. (Turns out the air show didn't happen until the next day so we didn't lose out on that memory either!)

At the house (and really throughout the vacation), Austin was such a help. He carried luggage, played with the kids, packed supplies up and down the stairs, etc. And he did it without us asking. He made the vacation so pleasant and easy. On our beach days, I worried he wouldn't enjoy himself but it was actually what he requested to do the most. Austin loved the Quietwater Beach and found the love for snorkeling while there. He, Tim, and Noah had such a good time exploring the ocean floor. Austin found tons of sandollars, a sea horse and more, but was most thrilled to find an old cell phone. He knew it didn't work but thought it was too cool that he found it there!

The day we spent at what the kids called "The Angry Beach" he had fun catching jellyfish with my cousin's little girl's butterfly net. ...butterfly (wow) 
He also loved the Blue Angels show (as we all did) and was glad we didn't miss it that first day.

One of my favorite photos of him now was taken on our vacation and is of him sitting in a chair, enjoying the beach. He has a full smile and I am glad I caught that moment of time, a snapshot of happiness. It is a vacation that I will always remember fondly, mostly because it was our last family vacation.

And so, we bravely head out for the beach, without him, but ever in our hearts, on our minds, and I know he will be present in many ways throughout.   Lots of #23s already today.  Praying the peace of the ocean, the beauty of the sea, and God's love surrounds us on the trip.

If I take the wings of the morning and
dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
- Psalm 139:9-10

*italics from original post on Austin's site

Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Birthdays Gone.


I have no place card for this.  Nothing to compare it against, except for Austin's friends that we see now grown, in college, and starting new lives.

Austin would be 19 today. 

Seems unreal on every level.  That we'd have a college-age son now. 
That instead of celebrating, we can only spend the day remembering.
....and longing for what could've been.

He's been gone from this world nearly five years.  Five birthdays gone.

My momma-heart can so easily become broken again this time of year.  I can drown in the what if's and where-he'd-be-todays.  My faith has me clinging to what I know. 

And prayers have me held.  Beautiful friends who bless me with prayers.

As I finish this post, the post I've started and stopped for the past week, on this birthday, I wonder how I'm holding it together.  How I'm not crazy-mad.  Because my heart tells me I should be.  Beloved prayers, peace in knowing, and my faithful Heavenly Father are the only explanations for why I'm not.

For those of you just at the tip of this grief path, there's comfort here.  It does get better, even on a bittersweet difficult day like today.

The pain is always there, lingering, but not the raw, not the ugly pain from the beginning.  It does get easier, but just as the love for your child never ends, missing-them-pain remains.  What's different is that hearing Austin's name now brings a smile, instead of the wellspring of tears that used to come. 

I can now hear look at photos, hear "Austin stories," and recall those beloved memories with fondness and appreciation for the moments we shared. 
And with HOPE, I hold on...
until we meet on that beautiful shore someday.

I wrote this letter to Austin last year, for the milestone 18th birthday. 
So much of it still rings true - If you were here today...

Happy Birthday, sweet boy.  Love you BIG and miss you so.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Faithful Friday: Freedom

The "4th of July" embodies Americana. 

Watermelons and Sparklers.  Families and BBQ.  Fireworks and Patriotic Flags.  Freedom.

In this family, the holiday also means hot potato salad and my momma's birthday. 
And all the other red, white, and blue festivities that go with it.

This 4th in particular has me pondering a lot on freedom.

Tim worked a wreck involving the military most of Wednesday evening.  Due to a vehicle malfunction, a caravan of soldiers found one of their own trapped inside, after rolling from the wreck.  It was serious enough that the parkway was shut down for several hours.  As people grumbled and complained being stalled in traffic, those who fight for us were fighting for their lives.

The soldiers had just left lunch, headed home, ready for a holiday leave.  Time with friends and family.  Time to celebrate.  Risking their lives for our country's freedom, I'm sure none of them guessed how this day would end.  Especially the three young men taken to nearby hospitals.  One is in critical condition on this Independence day.

What's true about this life, this world, even here in the good ole' USA, is that nothing is forever.  Everything changes.  Things aren't guaranteed.  And in this life bad things happen to good people.  Every single day.

But the freedom that God provides is never ending.  The freedom that we can take our broken and be restored.  Every single time.  Blessed as we are in this land of the free, His freedom is given to all.

So on this day after our nation's birthday, I'm celebrating both worlds.  Happy to stand here and now in the home of the brave.  Grateful for the freedom of knowing where my forever home will be.

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.  Psalm 118:5

*Note- I've learned today that the solider mentioned above is paralyzed from injuries sustained in the wreck.  Please hold him and his family in your prayers.

*2015 update:
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