Saturday, December 18, 2010

Twas the Week before Christmas

My intentions of posting more have fallen to the wayside due to "Christmas Craziness"! The weeks have been full of concerts, activities, our Churches Christmas Journey, shopping, baking, decorating, and moments of peaceful happiness watching classic Christmas cartoons on the couch with Elizabeth.

The past weeks have had their ups and downs and one day of full out crying. I was bound and determined to get Christmas Cards out this year and it forced me to go through all the cards from Mike's funeral. Oh, it hurt so much, but I am so grateful too. Eight months ago, I didn't think it would be possible to still be standing, much less "living (going forward)" when Mike went home to Jesus. I had a moment when I thought, "I can't believe I have made it this far. Mike would be so proud of me." But then I realized reading those cards, "I" didn't do it. It was your cards, your emails, your posts, your phone calls, your kindness, your listening ears, your understanding, and CHRIST who kept us going. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. We still have major hurdles in front of us (like Elizabeth's birthday!), so I am asking you to still pray for us and keep us in your hearts. But, thank you Lord Jesus for carrying us with your loving arms or with your wonderful followers all over the world.

JESUS is BETTER than SANTA
Santa lives at the North Pole ~ JESUS is EVERYWHERE!
Santa rides in a sleigh ~ JESUS rides on the wind and walks on water!
Santa comes but once a year ~ JESUS is an ever present help.
Santa fills your stockings with goodies ~ JESUS supplies all your needs.
Santa comes down the chimney uninvited ~ JESUS stands at your door and knocks..and then enters your HEART!
You have to stand in line to see Santa ~ JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.
Santa lets you sit in his lap ~ JESUS lets you rest in His arms!
Santa doesnt' know your name. He says, "Hi little girl or boy. What is your name?"
JESUS knew our name before we were born. Not only does He know our name, but He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He evens knows the numbers of hairs on your head.
Santa has a belly like a bowlful of jelly ~ JESUS has a heart full of Love.
All Santa can offer is Ho, Ho, Ho. ~ JESUS offers health, help and hope.
Santa says "you better not cry" ~ JESUS says "cast all your cares on me for I care for you"
Santa's little helpers make toys ~ JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes, and builds mansions.
Santa may make you chuckle ~ JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.
While Santa puts gifts under your tree ~ JESUS became our gift and died on a tree!
JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!
Merry CHRISTmas!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is this week and I have so much to be thankful for this year, despite losing Mike (or Mike gaining heaven might be a better way of saying it).

I am so thankful that God in His infinite wisdom knitted this marvelous daughter, Elizabeth out of Mike and I. She is a beautiful reminder of life, Mike, and what really matters.

I am thankful for this house that we managed to buy (by God's grace) this time last year.

I am thankful to the USAF and all those we served with over the years who still consider us family.

I am thankful for my family that continues to be near when I need them to be and to back away when I need space to grieve by myself.

I am thankful for the nieces and nephews. I love being near them and being apart of their lives.

I am thankful for my friends - both new and old - who continue to pray for me and support me and listen to me no matter where in the world they live.

I am thankful for my church that allows me to serve Christ in all ways and for a church that strengthens my walk with Christ.

I am thankful for wonderful husband who loved me probably more than I deserved and who lived his life so fully. I am thankful for the incredible memories and the journey that our marriage took.

I am thankful that I got to love Mike to his very last earthly breath.

I am thankful that I found Christ and that I know that someday I will be with Mike in Heaven.

I am thankful .... I am.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Tribute

So this is my tribute to all those serving and all those that have served. I have thought a lot today about the men and women who serve this country no matter what. They leave family, friends, spouses, children in a moments notice and know what it means to serve. Thank you.

Picture of Mike coming home in Spring of 2002. A happy Dad and a happy daughter!

Picture from Mike's funeral. My heart is so full of gratitude to each of you for being there for us and honoring Mike.

Mike is front at Change of Command Ceremony in Fall 2007



Freedom isn't free. It is bought and protected by those willing to go at all costs.
(we miss you Mike!)




Monday, November 8, 2010

8 month marker

The holidays are fast approaching. Every where we step, there are firsts all around. Elizabeth and I are slowly evolving into a team. She helps with typical things like laundry, chores, and cleaning. But now, she is climbing the ladder to replace one of our filters for the air conditioning (one is too high for me!) and helping put up lights outside on the trees. (yes.. we put up some christmas lights this weekend. The weather was great!).

I can't believe Mike has been in Heaven 8 months now and the whole is still turning. Sometimes you get mad that the world still turns, but it does. I have just finished pulling Mike's name off of the last account today. It took a letter from the lawyer, but it is finally put to bed. I am still waiting on the VA to respond to our DIC claim on Elizabeth. But that will happen in VA time. It was an oversight on their part and now we just need to wait in the que to get processed.

I have put going back to school on hold. I feel like I have to apologize for still not working yet. To who I don't know! But I have a lot of baggage that I am working on and I feel I need more time to pull my self out of the trauma that has unfolded since the word "cancer" entered our world.

Elizabeth and I are slowly functioning even though there is a big hole. We laugh, we retreat, we talk about the future, and talk about Mike/Daddy all the time. I really believe we are as normal as you can be in this process or just OK - which is fine. I find that not only has my relationship with Elizabeth evolved since Mike's death, but my relationship with Jesus has evolved as well. When Mike passed, I lost my teacher and someone who really knew how to apply the bible deeply in life. Now, I am on my own, and it really has made me struggle with my beliefs. My relationship with Jesus and life is so much cleared and very black and white. When Mike was sick, Jesus was so tender, so real and so close to the touch. As I have struggled to come to grips with Mike passing, I have wrestled with Jesus; wrestled with myself. If I love Jesus so much, why do I want Mike to come back? I have really wrestled, and in the end, Job speaks so loudly..
where were you when I laid the foundations of this earth? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its' dimensions? Surely you know?
God is God. I am not. AND yet, as much as I questioned, as hard as I have pushed, he has not let go of me. He has not let go of Elizabeth. He is still treating us tenderly and blessing us in this storm. And somehow, 8 months into this new, uncharted, unwanted, unplanned journey, there are times you get the very slight glimpse of hope/light in the tomorrows to come.

I don't know who wrote this song, but I wonder if this song came out of tremedous grief. It speaks better than I do!

Oh no, you never let go
through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, you never let go
in every high and every low.
Oh no, you never let go
Lord you never let go of me!

I can see the light that is coming
for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
but until that day comes
we will live to know You on this earth.

And I will fear no evil
for my God is with me.
And if my God is with me
then whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?

Oh no, you never let go
through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, you never let go
in every high and every low.
Oh no you never let go
Lord, you NEVER let go of ME!

So that is is where we still are.. The Lord is holding on to us and he won't let go. So as it was in the beginning, we are ever in His Hands and Holding on Tightly!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Forced Closet Clean Out

I was forced into cleaning out Mike's clothes yesterday. It is funny because weeks ago I bought boxes, but I just couldn't do it. So the boxes have been sitting in another closet waiting. Yesterday, I got home from church and the rack holding my clothes ripped out from the wall and all my clothes were on the floor. Mike had the top rack and I had the bottom rack - yes I am the short one in the family. After a few tears, I took a deep breath and began the task. It was bigger than it seems, because in order to move the special clothes into the other closet in our room, it meant I had to clean out that one too.

So I laid Mike's clothes on the bed and waited for Elizabeth to get home from the Texas State Fair. She sat on the bed and she said, "I'm not ready to get rid of Daddy's clothes." I asked her why and the only answer she would give me is "because". I pushed her because I wanted her to verbalize the why, and she said, "Don't you think I have lost enough all ready?" (Ouch..) We talked more about others that could use the clothes, etc.. In the end, we boxed up 90% of the clothes, moved the box into the guest room to wait for another day, and left the very special ones hanging in the front bedroom closet.

Now for anyone who knew Mike, his wardrobe of choice was always black t-shirt and jeans. Actually that was his second choice. His first choice would always be the flight suit. We did not boxed up any of those t-shirts, and Elizabeth continues to sleep in her Daddy's t-shirts every night. I doubt that will ever changed.

I wonder about the rack falling down in the closet yesterday. In looking at the construction of it, I am sure more will follow. But why did it fall yesterday instead of when we moved in? Somehow I feel like it was a push to do something that has been in the back of my mind for awhile, but I just couldn't do it. It is really funny sometimes how you walk between just wanting to "rip off the band aid" of grief. You tell yourself if you just put your head down and walk over the hot coals, that it will hurt really bad, but then you won't hurt anymore. But it is not true. Grief is a slow throbbing pain that is constant and has flare ups sometimes. Yesterday was a flare up, but this morning I felt as if a weight had been lifted when I picked out my clothes this morning..... weird.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mike wrote about this day 2 years ago

Mike wrote in the September 9, 2008 blog the following:

I am a small, selfish, ugly man in character. And yet to glorify Jesus he has chosen to send us through this storm. Maybe so everyone will know his power. I will let you in on a secret. God showed me a man I know, rising up from the baptismal waters, smiling because he knows freedom and joy in Jesus. I don't know when or how this will happen, but I know now that it will happen. If this storm is God's will to happen in order to bring more people to a saving faith, then I say bring it on, no matter what the outcome. A small bargain to pay, a privilege that Jesus would use us this way. ~ Sept. 9, 2008

Today was the day that God pre-destined. I saw it and longed for Mike to be there with me watching. I know that he is celebrating awaiting the time when we will all be together with him in Heaven. I am grateful to God that he showed Mike so long ago - kind of like showing Moses the promise land, even though he never got to enter it in his lifetime. We serve such a amazing, gracious, and powerful God.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trying to Adjust and VA insights

Has it really been over a month since I posted? It doesn't seem like it on this end. I have no great philosophical insights into what life is like. Both Elizabeth and I are still in grief therapy as we are both still trying to process grief. It has been over six months now, and I still miss Mike. I am still lost at what the future is supposed to be now without him. I plague God constantly with all kinds of questions... and I praise Him constantly for being a God that doesn't strike me down as I ask the hard ones. At the same time, I spend many a night on my knees thanking God for his intimate care of Elizabeth and I. I personally know other widows that are in completely different boats after their husbands past away. I know how blessed I am that I have time to walked through issues.

Since I lasted posted, we crossed that six month mark. We were blessed to spend that weekend with Dena in Omaha, mostly eating and playing with her IPAD. I do admit that there are still times when I think, " I just need to hold on and Mike will be home soon." A reflection of the many years to TDY's and Deployments. I personally wonder if maybe a military spouse/ child might have more difficulties dealing with loss due to the effects of the military lifestyle.

So at the six (almost 7) month mark, somethings are better, some are the same. I thank God that most of the estate is settled. I have one thing to do at Scot trade, the HAP program payment, and the VA and DIC mess up to deal with. The VA is the most confusing thing sometimes. I don't understand how you can call and talk to different people and get different answers. Truly, I don't know who to believe. In my case, because Mike died of a service-connected condition, both Elizabeth and I qualify for DIC - which is one form that I filled out and put BOTH of our information in accurately. However, I have only been getting paid for me and not Elizabeth. She is entitled to another $240 a month. I have been getting letters (last one Aug) that states they are still working on my claim.

That is the first part I don't understand. Why are they still working on my claim and yet I have been receiving DIC for me? It seems that it is a one entry deal into a system. Wife - check the box. Child - child the box. Enter. Done. But that is not the case for me. So I have called and I have got the answer in August that they are still working on Dependency portion (child). So fast forward a month and I get a letter that states that I have been declined additional compensation and that there will be no change in the DIC awarded. However, this letter relates to a claim that was put in for additional money due Mike while he was still alive. Now, I do not recall putting that paperwork in, but it might have been done with all the paperwork submitted right after Mike passed away. Of course, I picked up the phone and called to try to figure this out. So the one agent told me that there is no claim outstanding for Elizabeth and that I didn't put Elizabeth on the original form that I submitted (false..I have a copy) and that I need to submit a form for Dependency. However, I will not get back pay because it wasn't on the original form (again..false). So I am confused at this point. Elizabeth was born into the military, has always been on everything AF and VA, so even IF I didn't put that on the form why wouldn't she be entitled to back pay? I think people should be given a little grace when it comes to filling out VA forms in the midst of grief!

The more I thought about it, it just didn't settle with me. So I called back the next day and talked to another person that said that it was a different matter and that Dependency is still being considered and to wait until you hear from the VA...hmmmmm. What do you do? I have a form in front of me that the lady told me to fill out for Dependency. I flat out asked the guy, should I call back and check on it and he said wait for a letter. I know the VA takes things in and then places it in order it received, but he couldn't give me a time frame. I would at least like to know it takes 6 months so call back in Dec if you don't hear anything. Actually, as I am typing this, I will call CARE Coalition next week and get their opinion. Maybe they can help me out. (CARE Coalition - a wonderful program for Special Op troops throughout all service to help those who are injured within the Special Op world. Because Mike was under their umbrella when he got cancer, he and now me, is part of it. They were a great held with the HAP program).

Other "grief" things I still notice are the memory lapses. I do things and don't remember doing them. With the help of my friend Jennifer, I am putting together a memory book of the funeral. I noticed a picture of me walking down the steps after Elizabeth and I gave the opening remarks and Pastor Chris was helping me. I don't remember Chris helping me down the steps. I gave my sister-in-law a book to read about a week ago and I don't remember that. Silly stuff mostly, but I find it mind boggling. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

As time goes on I see signs of Elizabeth grieving that are not what I would have thought prior to this happening. She is putting tons of stress on herself over the simplest things. Things matter when they don't matter. She also has times where she shuts the world out.

But on the flip side, we talk about Mike all the time. We laugh about stuff that he did. I ask, "What do you think Daddy would say to this?" There are so many times that Elizabeth does stuff or says stuff just like Mike and I call her on it. Overall we still include him/ his memory in our everyday life. We miss him so much. I need his help with the computer. I need him to make the fan in the bedroom to stop squeaking. I need his height so I can stop getting out the stupid step ladder. But, I know he would be proud of us and how we are figuring it out. I know it.

Much love to everyone!

Friday, August 20, 2010

HAP Program Granted!

Given up on the blog yet? I have gotten a few emails of very loving friends to remind me to post. Things have been busy for Elizabeth and I. Right after Mike's birthday, we decided to take a trip to visit our friend Wendy in Germany. We then convinced her to plan a trip with us to Greece. I think she is still recovering from our visit! We were able to escape the summer heat here, enjoy the beautiful country side in Germany, see my dear friend Dawn, and do back to school shopping in Heidelberg. The trip was surreal. I do love to travel and experience things. It is bittersweet, because Mike would have loved every minute of it. He would have really loved Greece. Now, he would have hated the heat there, but absolutely loved the history, archeology, and the food! Actually, I am still dreaming about the wonderful food especially in Crete. I have never had fresher food in my life.

I have had thought of blogging over the past weeks, but I admit that my emotions are all tangled up and I know by now people are wanting me to post that life is a bed of roses. As I told a friend of mine, sometimes I feel like such a fraud. I am struggling to come to grips with Mike being in heaven every day. I really want him to come home, but I swear I hear him saying I AM home. It is so insane sometimes. As many know, Elizabeth and I are reading through the Bible and I was reading Job. Right after Job loses everything, he is in such turmoil. I was reading that to Elizabeth and flat out bawling. It was if they were my words and I was pleading with God to make sense of everything. Yet, then there are days when I am on my knees thanking God for the blessings in my life. Thanking God that I have loved someone so much and that I had the opportunity to be loved and married to a man like Mike. Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde all the way baby!

My really big news is that our HAP appeal went all the way to Washington DC and by God's grace it was approved. So Mike and I are eligible to re coop some costs on our Florida house. Best of all, I pray that we have paved the way for others in our situation. So many of our military are being hit by cancer. I just know that at some point, there will be a link between cancer and exposures in the line of duty. I do have to tell you that I cry every time someone calls about it. When I found out, I just cried. It is the first time in so long that something has gone right. I just couldn't understand how we didn't qualify. But Mike finally did under the Wounded Warrior clause.

The flip side to that is the VA. I am still waiting on the Burial reimbursement and even though I have started receiving DIC, they are not giving Elizabeth her benefit under that program. I have called and then I got a call that they are still processing and there are others in front of us, which I do understand. What I am confused about is how I started receiving it (for me) and yet my claim is still processing for Elizabeth. You would think that would be a one processing deal.

Other than that, Elizabeth started school this week and I have faxed over my transcripts to the local college to start the process of going back to school in January to earn a teaching certificate.
I will do better at posting...

Please continue to pray for our hearts, the grief, and our future. Please pray for Elizabeth's friend Lindy who lost her dad recently. Please pray for Eric and Earl as they battle Satan's Cancer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Mike...

Elizabeth and I have spent some time with friends and family on a vacation this week. Something went haywire with the blog and I have tried to do a temporary fix. This is one of my favorite pictures of Mike. It was taken by Beetle on a cross country flight from Tucson to New England. Mike found pure joy in the air and it shows in this picture.

We have yet another milestone this week... Mike's birthday. I don't know if it will be as hard as say Father's Day or our Wedding Anniversary. He hated celebrating his birthday. When you asked him what he wanted he would say an airplane. That was it. I wish we would have just taken the plunge and done it. When you asked him how old he was he would say, "27." I asked him once why 27? Seems like as odd age. He told me he always thought he would only live to age 27. There are so many questions now that he has gone home that I would love to sit down and know the answer too like Mike's thought that he would die young.

So I have been wondering if people celebrate their birthdays in Heaven? I float back and forth between the earthly birth celebration or do they celebrate the earthly re-birth day (Salvation Day) or do they celebrate the Heavenly Birthday (day when you walk into heaven and see Jesus?). In my heart of hearts, I believe celebrations exist in heaven. I mean if Jesus will one day say "well done my good and faithful servant" that statement alone indicates celebration right? I ponder stuff like this all the time.

Finally, please continue to pray for Eric Schmidt at Barksdale AFB and his cancer battle. I would love to contact him somehow especially now that from his last posting it seems like they will be retiring him to just give him some advice/lessons learned from our process.
Mike, we miss you so much. Life is so different without you. Happy, Happy Birthday.... I hope the celebration in Heaven is tremendous. Elizabeth and I plan to honor it here with a trip to one of your favorites... Waffle House!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Found: The Exception

I have been mulling over Mike's words since my last post. I came across a file on the computer that he started. He had outlined a book and titled it "The Exception: How Christ cured me of Terminal Cancer". His Prologue was:

The purposes of this book is to glorify Christ, to strengthen the universal church by spreading knowledge of His healing, and to bring more people to a saving knowledge of His great power, mercy and love.

My prayer life is struggling with Mike's book. So many questions. I know that Jesus saved Mike that Christmas in 2008. I know the day it happened. I also know that now, Mike is cured of Terminal Cancer, but it is not the cure that either of us wanted. I am also struggling with what to do with this outline. Does the Lord want me to complete this book or use this outline for something else? I don't think it is an accident I just discovered this file. So I pray...

Over the past week, cancer has once again taken our fellow brother, Buzz Smith, home to be with Jesus. Do you remember the post Mike posted about a year ago? He talked about feeling like he was in a valley walking with fellow cancer patients and snipers were in the hills slowly picking them off one by one. Buzz was the last one in the cancer group Mike was referring too. I am SO ready for the air strike to be called in on cancer. There are so many things I would love to post on that subject... cancer knows no boundaries, it hits all groups, all ages, all ethnicity's, it is increasing (not decreasing).... as so on. Someone somewhere has to step back and think, "what are we missing? why after billions and billions of dollars are we still here?"

I also finished the paperwork on the deed to the house and the cars this week. I felt so sorry for this wonderful lady at the Title Desk yesterday. As I said many times, you never know where and when the emotions will hit, and tears flowed as I was changing the titles on the cars. I just couldn't get over erasing Mike's name from the cars. Legally, you know you have to, but emotionally you don't ever want to. Just seeing his name on paperwork is such a comfort. Technically, they ARE his too. The poor women and to make matters worse her mother has just been diagnosed with cancer and my emotions didn't help her emotions.

I have also discovered some things about this whole "grief process" as well in the past few weeks. Sometimes, tears don't come but an overwhelming exhaustion comes instead. Yesterday, I was extremely tired on the way home from the county office. At Buzz's funeral, I went back to the hotel to sleep because I was very tired all of a sudden. I also find that I am forgetting stuff that I would not normally never forget (like deodorant and toothpaste) or that I can't remember what I need to pack in order to leave. All weird, not Deanna stuff, but in the end a result of this emotion called grief that I am working through.

I am sure I have you all freaked out by now with my post. For those who know me, you wouldn't notice a difference, these are just things that are out of the ordinary for the "Deanna I was" prior to Mike's journey home. This may now be the "Deanna I am", or it maybe the "temporary Deanna". My life has definitely changed. My Savior, Jesus Christ, who strengthens me and upholds me has not. Praise be to Jesus for that, for sure!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Working on a new vase

I am sitting at the computer. It is 12:30 am and I can't sleep. I don't really know why. Elizabeth and I were lucky to spend the last few days with the Grays at McChord AFB in Washington. It was wonderful because the weather was a complete 180 from Texas. I slept with the window open every night and was finally able to kick my cough that I have had for months. It reminded my of those great falls days in South Dakota so long ago. Elizabeth loved it because she was able to connect again with Rachel. Actually, it didn't seem that they have been apart for awhile. They had a great time and Elizabeth got to wander the base with her ID. They went to the pond, the BX for lunch, and the library. Those are freedoms she doesn't have here in McKinney. We also got to go to a block party and just slip back into the AF life for a very brief moment.

Elizabeth was sad to leave and she talked about this is what her life should have been - where she should be right now if it wasn't for cancer. I have to say that there are moments when I experience the same thought - what should have been vs. what is. Then for me, it is always followed up with why Lord? What is the purpose? AND I don't have the answer. I want the answer, but truthfully, I may never get it on this earth.

So, Mike has been in heaven 4 months now. The typical length of a TDY/Deployment. The grief is still so very strong. Only a very few people have really seen how deep my grief goes. I am getting better at doing the day to day things, but it is always there ready.. waiting for the time when I can release it. I have to say, prior to this, I didn't not give grief it's due. Prior to losing Mike, I might use grief and sadness interchangeably. But they are completely different emotions. In my case, grief seems to be like a piece of clay that is being added to the vase (Deanna) on the potter's wheel. It will become part of the original vase and never go away, but just be a different vase/vessel. AND in my case, you have no choice but to weave it into that vase. If you dismiss it or ignore the grief, your pot will crack. You have to incorporate it to strengthen the vessel.

Elizabeth and I are almost done with the New Testament. We will finish Revelations on Thursday. We have been reading about all the bad things that will happen in the end times. But tonight, we got to the part when Jesus comes on His White Horse. We will be reading about the new heaven and new earth and the River of Life. As Elizabeth said, the light at the end of the tunnel. THAT is the thing I know... there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. God promises. God delivers.

Elizabeth is going on her first mission trip this weekend to work with a few church plants and youth groups near Galveston. I am asking for prayer for both her and I. Pray that God moves in her heart boldly and for safety for the entire group of "Trailblazers". One of the things that she had to do was write her testimony that will be made into a pamphlet for her to use as she is working with the churches. I want to leave you with her words. God Bless each of you and I will try to do better at posting.

OK. It is late and now I am tired. I have having issues pasting from Microsoft Word. I will try to get it posted in the next day or so. Sorry!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy (???) Father's Day

There are days that you know are coming and that you just put your head down and push through them. Today, is one of those days. For me, this is the hardest first yet. Why? Because Mike was an incredible Dad. His love for Elizabeth is so deep and strong. Elizabeth and I have been watching old tapes and he is such a great Father, teacher, protector, and man. I am going to be selfish here, because I know Mike is in Heaven with Jesus and is HOME, but it is just not fair. Every little girl needs her Dad and I wish he was here with us.

Elizabeth and I spent some time today at the Cemetery. Elizabeth wanted to buy a remote controlled airplane. We did and went to the cemetery and flew it with the Bell (our dog). We brought our folding chairs and just made ourselves at home. Elizabeth had a blast, and I enjoyed watching her. Tears flowed, just because I know that it was a perfect tribute to the man we love and miss so much. I wish I could say that the hurt doesn't hurt as much, but it still does.

I called to check in on Melissa today and happened to wrangle myself into dinner with friends tonight. It was great and I love talking to Melissa when we can, because we talk about good memories of Mike.

Tomorrow is our anniversary... another day to just put your head down and push through. I thank God every day for our marriage and only wish we could have celebrated many more years than we did.

I quick note to my Dad... Happy Father's Day. You have been an incredible support to Elizabeth and I. We love you very much.

Finally, I have a confession to make... I still haven't gotten around to Thank you notes and I think I know why. It is like putting a period on the end of the sentence. It is the final thing I need to do and I don't know what comes next. Please, please forgive. I will get to them because I have so much I need to say to each of you, but I am still working through the mental block of completing the task.

Happy, Happy Father's Day. Hug your kids and know God has given you a special gift to be a Dad.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Starts fast and furios

You are supposed to slow down in the summer right?? Maybe soon.

I am "chewing" on what to post right now. I am completely frantic over Eric Schmidt. My heart of hearts wants to get on a plane and make things better. I am praying over him and for his wife. My stomach is just in knots knowing the path that is in front of them. I keep thinking, has anyone filed for Disability for him yet? Did you know you can still be on Active Duty and receive disability? My minds just rolls over and over everything we went through, but I would probably over-whelmed them with the details and all they need to worry about is fighting cancer and holding on to Jesus!

I had the joy of going to Youth Camp last weekend. I haven't laughed that much in a very long time. I didn't get enough sleep, but what a retreat! We went to Camp WOW in Oklahoma. It is a great camp with lakes, water extreme events, land extreme events, open sky, trees, and no cell phone reception. We woke up and worshiped. We went to seminars. We had extreme games, free time and then another time of worship. We ended the night with "Late Night" which was the funniest thing ever. They video taped everything and we got to see Gorilla's waking up 7th grade girls, a leaf blower waking up the 6th grade boys, wipes out on the tube behind the jet ski, and so much more. The greatest accomplishments were:
1. 30 kids accepted Christ!!!!!!!!
2. Elizabeth took a major step forward with Christ when she decided to be baptized again. God loves her so much, that He place her with another adult sponsor who lost her Dad to cancer when she was a teenager. Elizabeth spent a lot of time talking with her and she understood everything Elizabeth was saying. Elizabeth decided to go into the water as a symbol. She was stating, "I don't like that Daddy is gone, but I trust YOU, Lord." I cried and cried at the edge of the lake. I am so proud of her and will never forget that moment.
3. In the middle of my prayers on Sunday night, I told God that I was excited for the tomorrow. The day was great and filled with laughter and special time with a few campers. I was so excited to see what the next day held. I stopped praying and cried in my corner of the cabin. When was the last time I was excited about tomorrow? I always pray for "strength for tomorrow" or "one more day" or "that I get up tomorrow" but it has been a long time since I was excited for tomorrow. I am tearing up typing this, because it was a priceless gift.

So as you can tell, I will never forget those 4 days. I am so grateful that I have a Savior who is still intimately involved in this new life that I am living now. I miss Mike every day... almost every moment. But when I look around, I see how He is walking me through this place I don't want to be. Do you know what Elizabeth is doing? I once told Elizabeth how I missed Mike in the little things one day in the car. She asked what I meant by that. I told her that one thing Mike always did was take my change in the change holder and stack it by coin in order. He just did it. I told her I missed glancing down and see my change in order. The other day, I got in the car and my change was in order. She did it for me. What a sweet, sweet daughter Mike and I have.

Other than that, we are full swing into summer. Elizabeth is at Softball camp at University of North Texas over the next three days. We are looking forward to visitors and trips to Seattle, Myrtle Beach, and Germany. I had to push Tucson into the fall!

I am asking for prayer coverage over the weekend for Elizabeth and I. Father's Day is on Sunday and this is the one holiday that is going to be extremely difficult. We have bowed out of the family event, because Elizabeth was quick to point out that she will be the only one there without her Dad. Our wedding anniversary follows soon after. I need to celebrate that I had such an amazing marriage and husband, because I am grateful. I just want more. Actually, Elizabeth does too.

Prayer Needs:
Paperwork to wrap up.... Long story.
Eric and Buzz as they both fight an incredible battle with cancer
Elizabeth and I as we try to figure out what is next

Praise:
People that continue to watch over me
Camp
That God is bigger than any battle

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Please read this post and pass it on to others

Dear friends -

I have so much to post. I have spent the past 4 days with incredible teenagers at our church Youth camp. God moved so strongly to include Elizabeth and I. However, I need to ask you to pray. A dear friend in Florida sent this link to Caring Bridge for Eric Schmidt. He is in the Air Force, a B-52 pilot, and been diagnosed with Stage four Stomach cancer. He is married, in his mid-thirties, and his beautiful wife is 20 weeks pregnant. I have read their short story, as it has only been a few weeks, but it sounds similar to Mike's story. Right now, he is stationed at Barksdale AFB, but has in the past been where we were in Florida. He is also in a lot of pain and having a procedure to help. They didn't say what it was, but based on where the pain it has to be the same procedure that didn't go well for Mike. I am asking you to pray boldly, for complete healing non this earth. A full on Red Sea Miracle.

By HIS stripes we are Healed! Lord, for your glory...

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/schmidt


Deanna

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time flies

I want to start out with first saying thank you to all who serve. You guys (and gals) are my hero's. You put yourself behind the needs of this country. There is no greater call!

Elizabeth and I had an opportunity to go to Longview, Texas this past weekend to celebrate a graduation of a dear friend. I was fun, but sad to see how quickly time flies. The graduate was the first "baby" in our lives. He was born to a very dear friend and we got to hold him, play with him, watch him grow up, and even sometimes take him on our own. He was fascinating to Mike and I. We were not ready for kids, but we had a blast playing with babies that we could give back!

Honestly, I was happy to leave McKinney for the weekend. I just remember what a great Memorial Day we had last year. Mike was strong, gaining weight, his cancer was in remission,... life was filled with more good days and moments than bad. I remember Mike even carried folding chairs to the Memorial Day event at Pecan Grove Cemetery. (It is a historic cemetery that hosts the event every year). I was amazed. We also had a great craw fish boil with my cousins and laughed a lot. Now a short year later, Mike is buried there.

Elizabeth is finishing school this week. I am amazed at how far she has come this school year. She plays the oboe beautifully (compared to last September for sure!), has grown at least 6 inches, is thriving academically, and is completely ready to for summer to start. I was telling her last night on the drive home, what a strong person she is. She has been through so much and yet is still walking forward. We then spent more time talking about Mike dying and how things have changed. She is working through emotions (we both are) and really doesn't like when someone says, "Eventually you will see something good come out of it". She gets really angry when she talks about that comment in particular because as she says, "How can any good come out of Dad dying?" I see her point. I see the other point as well, but I lean more towards Elizabeth's point of view right now.

Time is still ticking forward though and Elizabeth and I are trying to make plans for the summer. We hope to travel, see friends, and stay busy with a side of rest. We are both going to Youth Camp, (yes... I volunteered! ) and are about to start adding a patio on to the back of the house. At Elizabeth's request, we are adding a fire pit so she can make smores whenever she wants. I gave in because there is nothing better than a burnt marshmallow smores on a great summer evening!

Prayer needs:
Please just pray us through this valley of grief. We are doing well, but the ups and downs are hard.
For Buzz and his cancer treatment

Praises:
Angela's birthday at Blue Fish
Men and Women of Armed Services
My precious daughter
Good Memories
Friends and Family
My first "honey do list" visit - thanks Doug for everything.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday Afternoon





On the way home from church, Elizabeth commented that today would be a day she would sit with Daddy and play Wii. I asked her if she wanted to go to see Daddy and she said yes. This was her first visit back since the funeral and my first time to see the headstone. She wanted to decorate as well so we went to Big Lots (Mike's Favorite store) and then spent some time at the cemetery. It was a hard day for both of us that lead to a late night. I wish I could wake up and this all be a dream sometimes...

Monday, May 17, 2010

You can tell it is the end of the school year. Things are getting busier and busier here. I have been meeting with a financial planner and now we are adding in a lawyer to get everything together. I feel way more weight to make sure all i's are dotted so that if something happens to me, everything will be in a nice package and as simple as possible for Elizabeth. As far as the estate (for lack of a better word) goes, I feel like I have everything in a box. I still need to wrap it and put a bow on it, but everything is at least in one area. I have been dwelling a lot on everything and putting some things off. What is it going to be like when everything is done? Really, we have been juggling things for almost 2 years now and part of me doesn't want things to end because that means I really have to face, "Now what?". I am dealing with that in a way, but the paperwork, thank you's, house details, lawyers, etc.... distract from the ultimate, "now what?".

Yet, I know the NOW WHAT is already answered in God's time. That whole faith concept. God has been so faithful this whole journey (yes even though Mike is in Heaven) and I know he hasn't said, "OK, now you are on your own". He doesn't' work that way. Even though Mike, Elizabeth and I walked Mike's cancer journey together, He has a plan for each of us. Mike's was to fight, witness, and go home to Jesus. Mine? I think we are still in the middle of the book. Same with Elizabeth. Days are still up and down.. Nights the same. It is funny some of the things you do or things that stress you out. I noticed today that I killed this beautiful orchid that we got for Mike's service. It is amazing to me the need I have to keep these plants alive. I don't know if I like it or not. Probably should talk about that at my next therapy session :).

I am amazed at how God is still using Mike here on this earth. Today, I had the joy of giving $15,000 worth of Neupogen to a doctor going to Africa on a Medical Mission Trip. He was talking about how he hopes to let me know who gets the shot and how it impacts them. I told him that I have no doubt that God has a plan. I have tried to give the shots away multiple times and every door has been closed. This is the most complicated door and it is open. They have to pack it special with a thermometer and ice at all stops to ensure that it stays the right temperature. You can not even imagine the time, thought, and process it is taking to get these 15 shots over there. I KNOW God has a special plan for those two boxes. AND I don't need to know the whole story. God knows it and I am overjoyed at that.

That is all I need. So if I don't need to know the whole story for these boxes, then I guess I have to say the same for my "now what?". I know God has a special plan for me, I need to take a deep breath, be at peace and watch it unfold (prayerfully!).

Prayer needs:
Please continue to pray for Elizabeth and I. We have good days and tearful days. It is really hard sometimes.
Social Security Administration - that our appeal will go through
HAP - that our appeal will go through
Health - this virus that I picked up in Abilene is hanging on!

Praise:
Talking to Marie
Things are manageable
Softball season
One more day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Rest of the Story

The cool thing about this blog is that you can look back at decisions you made and see where you are today. Remember last Spring when Elizabeth was trying to chose her elective? Mike and I were debating between drama and band and many of you chimed with your thoughts. Elizabeth wanted band and she got the instrument she wanted - the OBOE. Well, it has been a year and she has done a great job. She loves it and has a goal to make Symphony I next year as a 7th grader. She still has her Solo Competition on May 25th, but I thought I would share my first ever FLIP Video with you. It is 5 minutes and two songs.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Blessing in the Lives you travel

Elizabeth sitting in the Pecan Tree that used to be in our backyard before they tore down the house and built new housing. The new houses now have TWO car GARAGES! LUCKY! I guess only special people know the joy of carports :)
Elizabeth's adorable face up close with the BIFF mug and BIFF Patch.

We met the face behind the "Biff Callsign"! Biff and Biff together in one picture!

What an amazing weekend Elizabeth and I had in Abilene. I want to first say a HUGE thank you and a job WELL done to everyone at Dyess AFB. The 25th Anniversary of the B-1 event was incredible. Everything from start to finish was first rate and blessed us beyond words. Actually, this is what Elizabeth told me Saturday night in the hotel in Abilene. She said for the first time she wasn't as sad and felt safe. She asked me if we could just stay at Dyess. She said she felt her Dad so strongly and just wanted to stay. They seem like simple words typed, but as many times as I have held her late at night as she as cried and told me how much she hurts....well, to have her tell me she was having fun and felt somewhat normal and happy made me cry!!
We had the ability to meet so many incredible people from our past. Did I mention that Dena sent Doug down from Omaha to escort Elizabeth and I all weekend? So I had help driving and a "strong tower" when I was weak. I knew we needed to go, but driving on base and going into the 28th BS was full of emotion for me. Plus Doug knew everyone and that helps in a sea of flight suits.
We checked in and that took about 10 hours!! I have never spent as much time in my life socializing as I did over the weekend. It was like a high school reunion only for the past 17 years of my married life. Every time you would turn a corner, you would run into someone. As soon as you finished one conversation, you would see someone else. I loved it! I loved it too because while we talked about Mike and journey we have been on, we also talked memories and it was so empowering and healing. Maybe the whole event, God just planned for Elizabeth and I :).
The first event we went to (after lunch at China Star!) was the Memorial Service. It was to honor our B-1 hero's that have died in 4 plane crashes over the years. I did OK until they got to roll call. They read each guys name and then from a line of guys in the back, someone called "absent". 12 guys, 12 echoing absents and then taps... tears just rolled, not only from me. Then, as they were wrapping up the ceremony, they said something like, " and to all our fellow B-1 airman that have past on, to include most recently Lt Col Mike "Igor" Phillips." After the end of the ceremony, members of the 7th BW presented Elizabeth and I with a memorial brick that will be placed at the Abilene Star at the front gate.
We finally got to the hotel with just enough time to shower and change for the formal event/dinner at the Abilene Civic Center. I relished every moment because I know that most likely it will be my last formal AF event. Elizabeth got to stay with Myagi's kids. I guess she practiced some of her black belt moves on one of the boys. She failed to mention it to me and Pat was harassing her about it the next day. She smiled and said she really had fun. I was mortified, but loved how quickly she was back in the fold. So Doug and I headed down to the Convention Center. We made it in the door, but then got caught in the talking game routine and didn't make it past the foyer. Doug said he was going in and I said it was OK, I would find him when I was done. What a mistake that was! I walked into the ballroom and I was taken aback. I had no idea how many people there would be! We did finally meet up and got seats in the back of the ballroom. We had the opportunity to sit with the Boldenows and this great crew from the B-1 Model Project. They are building a 1/8 scale remote control B-1. It was on display and it is fantastic. They have spent 10 years on it so far. We had great conversation. The evening ended and we picked up Elizabeth at 11:30 pm from Myagi's.
Friday morning, we were at the squadron by 9:00 am so Elizabeth could fly the B-1 simulator. She did really well and was a little too comfortable in the pilot seat. Our instructors were great and patient and Mike is so proud in heaven. I know it. Elizabeth is now wanting to take flight lessons to learn to fly. She wants me to take her to Beetle in Tucson! I think she likes the planes that go fast. We then got our new Military ID's and headed off to the Weapons School. We got an incredible brief on the future of the B-1 and walked down memory lane looking at all the past Weapon School graduate pictures. Lt Col Jeff Aldridge escorted us all around. We also ran into "BIFF". Elizabeth's nickname in our family is Biff. We saw a patch and mug at the schoolhouse bar with the call sign of Biff. I took her picture by it. At the Weapon's School we ran into BIFF. I explained the whole nickname thing and asked if I could take their picture together (a dorky thing a mom would do so she could scrapbook it). He agreed and took out his patch. Then he did something that I will never forget. He GAVE her the patch. Again, a simple kindness that ministered to Elizabeth and I in a very BIG way.
We spent the rest of Friday at a Wine and Cheese social where Elizabeth showed the fruit of her spirit by helping one mom with her precious son Alex. We went over to the pre-air show party in the park and then headed back to the hotel. Elizabeth and Doug then went out geocaching in the dark and I watched a movie and talked on the phone.
Saturday? I had to sleep late. I was exhausted. We then went out to the Air Show. I knew it would be a good day when the first static planes we ran into were A-10's from Davis- Monthan AFB (one Lobo and one Bulldog). I believe that was God again reminding me of his intimate care for me. We walked around and made our way to the Anniversary tent which was front row center for the Air Show. We ate barbecue and I once again had the joy of meeting another fascinating person. Chasity and Mike. We were eating at the table and started talking. Mike has been in the AF for almost 20 years and been with the Thunderbirds, B-2, and B-1. Just being apart of one of those communities is special, but all three? Wow. Then he shared that he was one of the first on scene at the Oklahoma City Bombings helping there. Then he shared he survived Katrina at Kessler AFB and helped out there. FASCINATING life story. He has two humanitarian medals. Throw in 9/11 and he has an Historical story that should be preserved if you ask me. After their incredible testimony (and he is a believer too), we watched the Thunderbirds and headed back to the hotel. We rested for about an hour then met people at Cypress Station for dinner. It was another late night.
Sunday we woke up, checked out, bought AM donuts and headed to FBC Abilene for church. We dropped off Elizabeth at youth and told her she spent years with some of the girls that she doesn't remember, and then headed to Sunday School with food. We then went to church and headed home. By this time, the pace of the weekend and maybe the past weeks had caught up with me, because I was sick. It is viral, but I am down for the count with blisters on my throat, cough, and just exhausted.

The best part of the weekend was that I got to say thank you to people. I was able to tell people that the changed me. They influenced me. I watched how you treat your daughters and learned how I wanted to treat mine. I got to tell Dr Christopher at FBC Abiliene that what was started there in that baptismal was now complete with Mike in heaven. We were baby Christians and they watered us and made us strong enough to move on to be fertilized by other Church's and people. I was able to give small gestures of gratitude's to the guys that helped. I was able to give a hug and say your cards were always perfect. Over and over and over again, I tried to the best of my ability to let people know how much they meant to me, Elizabeth and Mike. One thing the past 18 months has taught me is to leave it all on the table. Don't assume tomorrow. Let people know the blessing they bring to you.
Over and over again, in big and small ways, the men, women, and families of the Air Force and Abilene ministered to us and loved on us all weekend. For the past 3 weeks, our memory verse at church is from the Message Psalm 84:5. It is:

And how blessed are those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel.
I can not think of a better verse to speak over the weekend. I am blessed. Elizabeth is blessed. Mike is blessed. God had an incredible journey for us and he used the Air Force as the road. I have travel roads that I never dreamed of. I have met incredible people who are hero's, true hero's in every sense of the word. I have friends that drop everything to help in every way. I have been blessed to be apart of births, deaths, marriages, holidays, parties, baptisms, retirements, promotions, conversations and rebirths. Life is hard right now. It is. But I love God's tender mercy, love, and grace with Elizabeth and I right now. He knows just how to strengthen me and this time he used Abilene and Dyess AFB to let me be wrapped in His care.
Well, this is a very long posting. Probably my longest. I hope that makes up for the silence. I do have to say that somehow I feel a shift in my life after this weekend. I, like Elizabeth, feel stronger. I pray it is not temporary. But somehow, I don't think it is. A perfect example, I came home to a letter from a collection agency for a medical bill that was billed in Elizabeth's name for Mike's treatment. AND it has already been paid under Mike's name. Did I cry? No. Did I break down with the 2+ hours of phone calls, letters, and faxes? No. Something has changed. Thank you Jesus.
Prayer needs:
Healing for me....I hate being sick.
Sleep
Direction from Jesus about what is next? What does he have for me?
Elizabeth- she is up and down and needs prayer
Praise:
See above!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Press On

So not quite a week ago (Saturday afternoon) I was having one of those really hard moments. Elizabeth wasn't with me and I had been by myself for a little too long. The phone hadn't rung in awhile, hadn't gotten a good piece of mail in awhile, hadn't gotten a good email in awhile and I was struggling. I was driving to the softball field and I was telling God that he needed to be ever near because I could see how depression could easily worm it's way into me. I had a few tears and just told God to watch out for me, this is harder than I expected.

God did an amazing thing - he responded quickly. He loaded my van full of 12 year old girls to go to a movie late that night. A van full of 12 year old girls will bring a smile to anyone's face as they are chatting away. He sent that scholarship letter. I have two lunch invitations. I have heard from friends that I don't hear from too often. I have gotten texts from people out of the blue. I finally had to have another talk with God today and say, "Alright! I really want to feel sorry for myself, but you are pounding your love for me home and I get it."

Last night, Elizabeth and I put down the book Heaven and I picked up our Chronological Bible and continued on where we left off weeks ago. We read from Philippians 3:1 - 4:23 where Paul is taking about how he had everything in the "Jewish religious world" or the perfect pedigree. But he counts it all loss compared to everything he gains with Christ. He says that he is not perfect yet, but he is pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. He says he is pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me. Then he ends encouraging his brothers to stand firm in the Lord. As we all know, I am not a Theologian but I do love Christ and this is what I got from that ... Press On. I mulled over those words as I tossed and turned last night. I spent some time crying on the couch where Mike last was in our house before we went to the hospital. AND God heard me and gave me a visual. Press on means to walk forward when it is hard to take a step. It means put your head down and your shoulder forward and use everything you have to keep from falling back against the force that is trying to keep you from going forward.... like a really nasty South Dakota blizzard or a really hard wind storm. (Like the reporters that are trying to stand in Hurricanes!).

I am really searching for what is supposed to be next. When people asked how I am doing, I either say fine (lie) or lost (truth). Not lost from my Savior or beliefs. Not lost in my roll as a mother. Not lost in the day to day things. BUT lost with the future. We didn't walk through everything to go back to the way things were. I am praying God will make things clear. I know He will. He is ever present. So I will press on and know that as I do God will make is clear the path He has for me (and Elizabeth).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Amazing news!

I just have to post this. I am so proud! I just know Mike is so extremely proud as well.

We arrived home late tonight after seeing a movie with some of the girls from Elizabeth's softball team. I got the mail and we got awesome news...

ELIZABETH WON A $1,000 SCHOLARSHIP from Raytheon's MathMovesU program.

AND Raytheon is awarding her school, Faubion Middle School, a matching $1,000 grant. Can you believe it? 150 Middle Schoolers were chosen out of 2,700 from all over the country and my precious, sweet girl was one of them! We both were jumping up and down in the bathroom and being very nutso together!

She submitted a PowerPoint presentation that answered "How Math puts action into my passion". Her subject was Marine Biology and how math is important in tracking animals. She used mx+b formula and then she also used percentages and proportions for tracking Sea Turtle Hatchlings. Truly, she did this all on her own and the package was submitted back in January. We had really forgotten about it. Thank you Lord Jesus for this joy tonight.

She has the option of using $1,000 for a summer camp that revolves around math or science OR she can use it her first year at college (Mom is leaning toward that option! We will see what she decides).

Now we get the joy of going to school on Monday and showing the Principal the letter. How cool is that?

Jesus... you know what we need when we exactly need it! Thank you!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ups and downs... but ok.

It has been awhile part because I didn't know what to type and part because things started getting a little busy here. I want to first assure everyone that both Elizabeth and I are in grief counseling weekly through our counseling and ministry center at our church. I know I sometimes pour out my heart on the blog and it may look concerning. We are doing ok and we are getting help to make sure we continue to do ok.

But I will tell you this, you can never prepare for the fullness of grief. It is such a shock to the system when you try to get a grasp on the full picture. It hits you when you don't expect it and it is the smallest things. But when you think about it, life is about the smallest of things. It is not about the big trips, the perfect car, etc... it is about the time together and moments that only two people share. The other day I was dropping of the kids for school and it was a particularly quiet trip to school on a Tuesday. The kids pile out and I said, "Have a joyful day!" in my best up beat voice possible. I got a "rolling of the eyes", 2 grunts and silence. I laughed and wanted to tell Mike. He would have laughed too. I miss my "I get you even though no one else does" partner.

There was a pause in the paperwork, but I finally got insurance so I could continue on with the process. I have finally been able to pay all the bills and that is a huge load off my mind. The SBP has started and social security has started for Elizabeth as well. God is so good and I don't take it for granted especially after the struggle the past 18 months. I paid the funeral bill and I am completely in love with Turrentine Jackson and Morrow here in McKinney. Words can not express how awesome they are. I have had a dealing once or twice with a funeral home before and I went in there with my armor up and a body guard (Scott) expecting what happened the last time I dealt with someone passing away. It was a complete 180 and I would never chose anyone else if I have to do this again. I think I would want to know this to have in the back of my mind, so I am going to share this. The funeral cost around $15,000. I am sharing this because I would want to know a ballpark figure for planning purposes for myself or just to keep in the back of my mind if situations were reversed.

I am now getting things together to file the last of the VA paperwork for the funeral expenses and working with a new financial planner. It is funny, because now I need to make sure things are concise, easy, and together in case Jesus calls me home for Elizabeth. It is weird being out here on a limb without Mike as my back up. In the back of your mind, you think if something happens to me, Mike will take care of everything. That is not the case anymore and I need to cross all the t's and dot the i's for her.

Elizabeth and I continue to have good moments, bad moments, restful nights, and bad dreams. Though I can honestly say nothing that is out of normal for what we are walking. We have started reading Heaven by Randy Alcott together at night. I have had it for awhile (since Tucson) but I thought it might help both of us to really understand Heaven and what is there and not just that it is a good place to go.

We are both excited to go to Abilene at the end of the month for the B-1 25th reunion. We want to have fun, see old friends, and do some official AF paperwork/ID's. We are also full swing into softball season and that takes up so much time. But I love it!

Interesting side note here, my wonderful counselor told me to make sure I do something fun every once in awhile like get a pedicure, etc. to remind my brain how to be happy. I really liked that idea. Now I am wondering if I can get a prescription and write off things like a massage, facial, trip to the beach, all in the name of good medicine!

Prayer needs:
Wisdom
Financial wisdom
protection
Please pray for Elizabeth, her heart, her walk, her relationship with Christ

Praise:
Mike's financial planning
God being so near
My church family
My family and dear friends!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Time

Yesterday was an eye opener for me. Mike has been living with Jesus for one month. I had two revelations about that event yesterday. The first one is that time is not keeping correct time. How can it be a month already? It seems like it was just yesterday - literally. I have been running around but if I stopped and close my eyes, it seems like I was just yesterday. I remember every detail, every breath, every tear. Will that fade over time? In that same thought, time hasn't made it easier either. When does that happen? Will that ever happen? I don't mean to post that we have stopped living, we are getting up every day and we are planning future events and we are praying for direction. But it is not easy. AND I still hate forms... mostly because now I am filling out forms for summer camps etc, and under parents I put my name. The spouses employment section I skip. I have checked widowed. (which by the way, in my mind I am still married). I am technically a single mom.... life can turn on a dime that is for sure.

My other thought is that I am no longer counting down but counting up. Mike has been gone a month, which we have done many times before. But you always count down to when they will be back from some TDY, Deployment, etc. I would say it is one month, only 3 more to go. Now I am counting up... Mike has been with Jesus for one month and it may be 40 years before I join him or before Jesus comes back. Life has such a different meaning now. Life means living for Jesus and watching Elizabeth grow up, go to college, get married, etc. Death means living with Jesus and seeing Mike again. But I am praying that God will protect Elizabeth and I and allow me to stay on this earth to watch over her and guide her. I love that little girl (who is not so little anymore!).

Prayer needs:
Protection, wisdom and direction
God is be near and hold us tight
Elizabeth's dreams to be good

Praise:
Wonderful friends and family
Planning for the future
Jesus

Thursday, April 1, 2010

All is well

I know my postings are hit and miss right now. My only explanation is that that describes my life, emotions, and day right now...hit and miss. It is already April 1st and it seems like Mike passed away only a week ago. Part of that has to do with running away to see the Prices' in London, but part of it has to do with how much we are struggling to define our days as well. I talked to Robin today (briefly) on the phone and I told her that I thought the carpet had been pulled out from underneath us when Mike was diagnosed with cancer and everything changed in an instant ... job, health, finances, home, etc. But I was mistaken. That better describes our life now. Day to day, we are ok. But when you start to think next week, next month, next year.... tears just flow. When you are married, you just don't understand how much you dream together, plan a future together, intertwine your life's, who you are, how you react. It is as God design - what you are supposed to do, and here is the kicker... you don't really know you are doing it. It just is. The funny thing is that we have been living day to day for over 18 months now, but I now realize even though we were living day to day, we still talked about the future.

Elizabeth came home with her report card today and it was incredible. She continues to amaze me and make us proud. But again, Mike is not here for me to say, "that is your brain power not mine for sure" or " we are so blessed".

I also found out late yesterday that Elizabeth and I should have been receiving Social Security Benefits from the moment Mike was determined 100% disabled. We should have been receiving an extra $1,000 per month which would have been huge for us (as many of you know that have followed the blog for so long). We were at first told we would be getting retroactive pay of $12,000, but then they said they sent us a letter in Jan 09 and we had 6 months to respond so we forfeited that money. I said I didn't receive the letter, but the SSA said it shows they sent it so we don't qualify. I would have never ignored that letter if I received it. So know I am waiting and asking questions about an appeal process or I may have to get a lawyer. It is so frustrating, because now on top of the HAP appeal that I need to finish and get in the mail, I might have to do another process with Social Security. It should be automatic... at least for the minor child you would think. But I guess the good side is that it gives me something to be angry at...right?

Another thing that is really hard is that Mike is everywhere. His handwriting, his notes, his computer, his clothes, his medicine, his computer.. and he should be. Today, I cleaned out a grocery bag and came across one of his devotionals. I opened it up to a page that had been flagged and this was the devotional (book is called GOD calling by AJ Russell)

Thrill of Protection

Turn out all thoughts of doubt of trouble. Never tolerate them of one second. Bar the windows and doors of your souls against them as you would bar your home against a thief who would steal in and take your treasures.

What greater treasures can you have that Peace and Rest and Joy? And there are all stolen from you by doubt and fear and despair.

Face each day with Love and Laughter. Face the storm.

Joy, Peace, Love. My greatest gifts. Follow Me to find all three. I want you to feel the thrill of protection and safety now. Any soul can feel this in a harbor, but real joy and victory come to those alone who sense these when they ride a storm.

Say, "All is well." Say it not as a vain repetition. Use it as you use a healing balm for cut or wound, until the poison is drawn out; then until the sore is healed; then until the thrill of fresh life floods your being.

All is well.

My dear sweet husband... knowing the journey he was on, I can see why this was flagged. But just as the prophesies have dual meanings that relate to the coming of Christ 2000 + years ago and the coming of Christ again (hopefully) in the very near future, this devotional I feel is sent to me from him. He would always tell me, don't worry. God will take care of it. His precious hands that turned down the page in this devotional are once again telling me.. Don't worry. All is well.

Prayer needs:
For all the paperwork and business of Mike's passing
Sleep, rest... healing

Praise:
Birthday lunch with girls today
To Doug, Dena, Wendy, and Jeff --- chicken spaghetti all to myself!!!!!!
Meals being delivered this week and next
Our precious Elizabeth.. I am so blessed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weeping..

This past week has been a hard week. I haven't posted because I am just struggling. My birthday was this past weekend and I went through the motions but in the end, I didn't want to celebrate it. It is just too soon. There are times when I am so sad that it physically hurts and I don't want to talk about it. My sadness has nothing to do with my faith. I am completely confident of Jesus, of Mike in heaven, and God is so near us. But I am sad.

Interesting enough, last Wednesday at church, Curtis led a discussion from John 11 where Lazarus died and he raised him. But what stuck out to me, was the sadness that surrounded Lazarus's death. In fact there is one sentence in there that keeps coming to me over and over... Jesus wept. I take so much comfort in that. Even the most Holy cried and He knew that he was about to raise Lazarus. He knew Lazarus was safe and He knew the plans for Him, but He loved him so much that he was sad and cried. So as I struggle to move forward and what that looks like, I continue to look to Jesus to wrap me, hold me, and help me. But I know the tears are shed are ok too.

I have gotten about 60% of the paperwork done at this point. Maybe more. I have a meeting with Social Security Administration tomorrow, so hopefully that will be done by the time that meeting is done. I think I am at the point, where all the paperwork is in and now I am waiting for the next step which could take anywhere from 3 days to 30 days, depending on the organization. I am still not sure if I will have to probate Mike's will or not. So that might be another step. Everything is just going to take time. I continue to be impressed with USAA. They have always been a great bank, but I tell you they have been the easiest to work with by far. I continue to be horribly disappointed with First Command Financial Planning. I will be moving everything away from them as soon as possible. I have sent paperwork to the VA and am waiting on a response there and I just got the paperwork off to the AF and waiting the response there.

Prayer needs:
Just pray over me and Elizabeth... this road is full of unexpected valleys and peaks. Pray that we keep walking
Pray for direction for me

Praise:
My sweet daughter and her incredible gift yesterday. She wrote me a note from Mike and it sounded just like him. She also gave me a "Life Box" and filled it full of trinkets and notes like a cup to remind me that my cup overflows with Jesus.
Counseling at church
Cards, notes, emails, everything from Everybody. I hope to start pushing out Thank yous soon.
Meals from friends that are starting up this week. I turned them down last week, thinking it was time for me to kick things in gear. But the paperwork kept me from cooking and we had grilled cheese a lot last week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

All Business today with a side of Tears

Well, I have spent most of my day dealing with the "business" side of death for lack of a better term. I went to school and got all the notes together for the 9 days that Elizabeth has missed over the past two months at school. I went to church to tie up loose ends there and get counseling set up for Elizabeth and I. I went to the funeral home to check in there and pick up the death certificates (yes, I cried when I was proofing them... ). I went to school and had lunch with Elizabeth. I made phone calls and have appointments with Social Security Administration, Edward Jones, and First Command. I have filled out paperwork for the Causality Assistance Office and VA which led to questions that I need to get answered tomorrow. I have gotten signatures, copies of documents, and voided checks. I picked up carpool, ran back to get Elizabeth from Oboe, ran to Office Max for printer cartridges (twice) and tried to help with home work.

I have spent time crying today. I have spent time laughing today. Most importantly, I have spent time being hugged by Elizabeth. God is so good and I am exhausted.

Prayer needs:
Focus on priority tasks
Wisdom and protection as I file and fill out stuff
Sleep
Parental skills

Praise:
For Mike and his provision for us
SBP, insurance, and pre-filled out forms
USAA - I LOVE this bank. They have been incredible!

PS. I want everyone to know how grateful I am for everything. I have a ton of thank you notes to write, but I have to get the paperwork done first. So the notes will be late, but you have blessed Elizabeth and I (and Mike) beyond words

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Home

We are home. It is great to be home and I am excited to sleep in my bed with my pillows. Yet, being home is hard. Mike is everywhere, as he should be, and it is so hard to keep emotions in check. I am also tired and know a good night sleep will do me a world of good. I did go through all the cards tonight that have arrived and they gave me a good cry, a good laugh, good memories, and absolute love. Thank you. Elizabeth and I needed it.

Wendy has done a fabulous job while I have been gone and it is so much easier to come home because she has everything under control. In fact she reminded Elizabeth of an orthodontist appointment on Wednesday that she rescheduled for Elizabeth after Mike passed away. She has organized the mail by to do piles and the only thing I need to do is to pick one pile and just start. I think the thing I dread the most is that we had finally gotten everything done and now I need to start all over. But not today. Today I need to sleep. AND not tomorrow. Tomorrow I need to spend time worshipping. It is two weeks to Easter... the cross. I think this Easter will be different and better. To really spend this next few weeks walking the walk Christ did for our salvation and eternal life in heaven will be a great gift in light of the last few weeks. To really study, to really meditate at the foot of the cross. I'm in!

Prayer needs:
Emotionally healing
Wisdom for decisions
Energy to plug away at the paperwork
Time for myself
Parenting skills
Elizabeth's emotional healing and strength

Praises:
Dear friends and family
The cross
Emails, calls, texts, letters, everything from everybody that is helping me get up each morning
One more day

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Last Night in London

I am sad that our time is done here. We have had so much fun and the weather has been perfect. We have done everything on our must do list and then some including finding geocache's all around the city. I have shopped, eaten pasties, fish and chips, chocolate and had my fill of lemonade. It has been a great diversion. But with every minute that ticks by, my heart gets sad and my mind starts to float to going home. I want to go. BUT I don't want to go home. BUT I have to go home. Tomorrow is the day that I have to turn another page. I need to jump on paperwork, getting Elizabeth back to school, getting counseling together for both of us. Please pray for us as we travel back to the States and back to a life without Mike waiting for us at the airport.

This will also be the first time Elizabeth and I will return home without a secret animal message on Elizabeth's bed. Whenever Elizabeth would go on a trip, Mike would pull out all of her stuff animals (tons!) and create a secret message like a heart or "i luv u" . It always brought a smile.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Video of Mike's Celebration of Life

Some have gotten this link and some have requested it so I am posting in on the blog...



http://www.winterlive.com/baptist/index.php?player=1&videoID=1355&isgues

the password: elizabeth


We are still in London and having a great time. We went to Greenwich, Tower of London, Harrod's, Hamleys, and went to Wicked. Elizabeth is loving the freedom of public transportation and has gotten very good at navigating us around London. (We let her lead us). She has also been geocaching at every site we have been to. That is loads of fun for her and Doug. Last night, we had a wonderful dinner with the attache's from Finland and Australia. A wonderful 3 + hour dinner with incredible conversation.

Today, we are off to the British Museum finally. The weather has been so nice here, we have postponed it everyday to do outside things.



We will post pictures soom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tourist

We are still here and the weather is beautiful for London. Lot's of sun and temps in the low 50's. Yesterday, we changed plans and went to Trafalgar's' Square. We then walked down by the Horses' Guard, Downing Street, by Big Ben and Parliament. We then walked over to the London Eye. Elizabeth, Austin, Doug and Dena took the World's Tallest Ferris Wheel. My fear of heights kept me on the ground with Sherry. It was a beautiful day.

Today we are headed to Greenwich and then Hamley's (famous toy store...Doug's idea not mine!) and then to WICKED tonight here in LONDON (my idea... I have wanted to see this show forever!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Church...

England is great and we have had a good time so far. We met Chaplain Viccellio (Hodge) in Cambridge at the Eagle Eye Pub - a WWII pub that has airplane memoriabila in a back room. We also hooked up with Kathleen and Erin Mulhbauer. In fact, Elizabeth found a 37th Bomb Squadron Patch (one of Mikes squadrons from Ellsworth). We went to an open market and then went geocaching. Fun was had by all until Elizabeth took a wrong turn and assumed that everyone was following her. After a "mom panic", Jeff and Doug and Kathleen ran back and found her by the Mathmatical bridge sitting on a bench. She was at least smart enough to sit and wait for us to find her. Lord help me...

We finally made it home, had a great dinner and went to bed. Today we are off to church and British Muesum... Have to go Sherry is tapping her foot at me!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Angels Abound

It has been a day or two since I have last posted and I wanted to let you know what is going on.... Elizabeth and I are in London! Weeks ago, Doug and Dena Howard offered to take Elizabeth to London to visit Jeff and Sherry Price for Spring Break. Jeff has been stationed here at the Embassy for almost two years, and we knew we wouldn't be able to bring her here before his next assignment. So we prayed about it and decided she should go. We even talked about it again the day before things went downhill for Mike. We both thought she deserved the break and the opportunity to get her first stamp in her passport. Well, when Mike went to be with Jesus, I decided to buy a last minute ticket to run away and escape for a bit. Jeff and Wendy Webber offered to stay behind at the house and collect the "packets" of stuff coming in the mail from every agency under the sun. In fact Wendy is staying for an additional 2 weeks after I get home to help me wade through the paperwork. I am so blessed... how many people have a friend that is willing to move in with you for over two months to help you through what we have been through?


So here we are. We arrived today and surprised Sherry. Oh yeah, we didn't tell her I was coming. We are hoping to have fun, visit friends, laugh, cry, see the sights, and escape.


I wanted to blog a little bit about God's hand all around me right now. The day of the funeral, I got a card in the mail from Myra Cakerice Huff. Some in the B-1 community will remember "two foods" and the day the B-1 went down in Wyoming. Myra sent a card with great words of wisdom about grief and loss that I will treasure forever. The card was perfecting timed.

The night of the funeral, I stayed at Scott and Kathy's very late. I didn't want to go home and I am sure everyone knows why. But I did and Elizabeth didn't even make it to bed. She passed out on the couch. She was so tired. I am so proud of her. But I couldn't sleep, so I emailed and then eventually went to check my phone and responded to texts. I returned a text to Bruce in Washington state and he responded back telling me to go to sleep. I texted back and said that I was trying but that is was hard and that I am letting Jesus rock me for awhile. He responded back with such a sweet text that said, "He is the expert". I thought about that for a minute or two and thought "He is right" just lay down. I did and I went to sleep. It was a simple text, but what I needed. Thank you Bruce.


I woke up that morning at around 6:30 am and I didn't want to get out of bed. Not the I am "too tired" version, the "how do I face the day" version. I wrestled and went back to sleep. Then I got a call from Steve. He was thanking me for allowing him to be apart of Mike's Celebration (go figure that one..He blessed us) and we talked a little bit about Tessa going to heaven and now Mike. Steve said (or I heard) something like you just have to get out of bed. We laughed about the Marine/Nacho Libre/Fighter Pilot words he said and he hung up because he was headed back to Robin. That call got me out of bed.

I spent the day trying to pull everything together to get on a plane to Omaha with Elizabeth. We flew to Omaha and spent the night. I managed to pack in 4 hours, and make the plane. Then Elizabeth and I spent the night at Doug and Dena's in Omaha. Yet again, I was able to go to sleep for at least a bit because of Doug's and Dena's care for us.

I then had to fly the first leg of the trip by myself and then Doug, Dena and Elizabeth would meet me 2 hours later in Chicago. I didn't want to be by myself. I didn't want time to think about everything. I didn't want to be alone. But I had no choice and got on the plane. It was a great seat - bulk head window. A guy sat down beside me and he put an interesting book in the magazine holder about Napoleon. It looked interesting. Most of the flight I kept to myself, but then I finally asked if I could glance through his book. He said sure. I was actually interesting (except the flanking attack stuff ) and I kept it a little longer than I thought. I then looked at him and noticed the short hair cut and I asked, "Military?" "yes" he replied. "Air Force?" "Yes." "Offutt?" "No - Rhode Island." Then I said congratulations on school. He then said something like Air Force too? And I said yes and it went from there. I only got his first name, but Christopher was yet another Air Force angel sent to me to guard and lift me. The conversation came around and by the end of the flight he knew about Mike and he was a believer. I was so close to tears at the beginning of the flight and by the end was ok yet again. So thank you Christopher.

So, then we boarded a very long flight to London, got through customs, took the Paddington Express, ate a "pasty", got to Jeff and Sherry's, took a nap, took a shower, and woke up for another day - even though I don't know what day it is technically. We also had the joy of walking the neighborhood, afternoon tea, and hopefully a pub tonight. Thank you Lord Jesus for friends, strangers and the angels that are all around us.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I am so Blessed!

It is so late and I am so tired, but I just can't go to bed until I say thank you. Today was amazing. Is that wrong to say? Everything was perfect and I literally hear Mike saying good job. I am so overwhelmed by the out pouring of everyone. I sat there talking to the wonderful men from Dyess AFB and I felt so protected. They had a stance in front of me that if anyone messes with me, they will send a B-1 over McKinney to take care of business. How did the world did I get so blessed. Most people just have family (which I have) that protect them, but I an Air Force of men willing to step in the whole that Mike left when he went to be with Jesus on Friday. I also saw Godly men today that are going to do the same. I will never forget today. I will never forget Swede handing us that Flag. I am so honored and overwhelmed. Words are failing me. Thank you.

Prayer request:
To learn how to walk forward
For paperwork
For healing for Elizabeth
For strength on this journey of grief

Praise:
Jesus hasn't left us
A new day
Friends families ... everything that has unfolded over the past days... I will blog more later about the incredible grace and mercy

Monday, March 8, 2010

Deanna has asked us to post additional information concerning the funeral service for tomorrow as well as Elizabeth's education trust fund.

To view the celebration of Mike's life, please click on the link below. You may wish to give yourself a few extra moments prior to the start just in case there are any technical difficulties:

http://fbcmckinney.com . Click and then on the right sidebar click



Finally, if you feel lead to donate to Elizabeth's trust fund you may do so directly to Edward Jones. Your check should be made payable to: Edward Jones, FBO: Elizabeth Phillips and sent to the following address:

Edward Jones
FBO: Elizabeth Phillips
P.O. Box 851
Allen TX 75013

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Details

We are slowly pulling all the details together, but here is the information about memorial gifts. This is Mike's wishes. Flowers tend to fade, but gifts to these organizations really speak to Mike's heart and will have an incredible impact for Jesus, who Mike served fervently. Scott will establish the Trust Fund for Elizabeth on Monday. We will post details about that.

Here are the other organizations:


JAARS ( Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). This organization provides technical support and services to Wycliffe Bible translators and SIL international, for Bible Translation around the world. You can donate online at www.JAARS.org or send to JAARS, Inc PO BOX 248 Waxhaw, NC 28173. This organization was very near and dear to Mike. It was his dream to retire from the Air Force and fly missionaries, supplies, and needs for Jesus.

Feed The Children. Again, you can donate online at www.feedthechildren.org. Most people don't know, but Mike has a passion and love for children and making sure they are fed. He loved to donate to food banks around the US and especially to the Tennessee, West Virginia area, where his family roots are.

Please know that we are working hard on finalizing all details and making calls. Thank you to everyone that is helping us put Mike's Celebration together.

I am off to bed. Thank you, thank you, thank you...