Disappointments

Have you ever been disappointed? You’ve wanted something for so long and finally, you get it, only it’s not exactly what you expected. However, later on, it becomes crystal clear that the exact thing you wanted wasn’t what you needed and that thing you got was exactly the perfect thing.

“I want a dog”. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times. “But Daddy, please.”

“Amy, I am not going to get a dog until you get older. I am not raising two babies at once.”

Oh, don’t feel bad for her. She had an ample share of cats. In fact, all of her journal entries in First through Third grades either included a story about one of her cats or her friend, Hannah, and sometimes both. I’m not exaggerating. I read those darn things about two years ago and laughed until I cried.

Finally, Terry told her that when we got a house with a bigger yard she could have her dog. And let me tell you, she didn’t forget.

As soon as we moved to our house with over an acre of property, the begging kicked into overdrive. She was determined to wear him down.

She didn’t and refused to relent because he had a plan. Not really, but let’s just pretend he did.

Christmas was drawing near and Amy started chirping again about a dog.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Amy wanted a big dog. A German Shepherd was her preference but any big dog would do. When she was little and would petition for a dog she would often say, “I want a big dog like Clifford the big red dog!”

Well, it just so happened that Alex, Amy and I ended up at the local pet store in Hendersonville a few days prior to Christmas. We saw and held several breeds of dogs and I took pictures and sent them to Terry.

My favorite was the Bichon. I was particularly fond of this breed because not only were they cute little white balls of puff, resembling cotton, with coal-black noses and big round black eyes but the best part was they were hyper-allergenic and don’t shed! But I also knew Terry would make the final decision. Trust me when I say I pleaded my case to the max for this dog.

I’ve written about how Sammy was chosen. Read Here

Anyway, so Terry picked him out and gave him his name. We took him home on the evening of December 24, 2008. We somehow managed, with the help of Mom, Ned, Ryan and Matthew to keep the dog quiet until Amy and Mom got into bed.

Amy’s room was directly over Ryan and Matthew’s room. They were responsible for his care and keeping him as quiet as they possibly could. The only snafu was locking him in his crate. He whined incessantly until they took him out. Apparently, his cries were loud enough for Amy to hear because she kept tapping my Mom and saying, “Mawmaw, do you hear that? I hear a dog. Don’t you hear it? I’m getting a dog for Christmas!”

Mom said Amy continued to try her best to pry it out of her. Mom had to turn over and pretend to be asleep. I really don’t know how she did it without laughing at Amy’s persistence. This is my very relentless child who doesn’t give in or up easily.

Finally, Amy drifted off to sleep. However, I don’t think Ryan got any sleep and Matthew had very little. Sammy kept them awake.

Christmas morning came. Terry had decided that Sammy would be the last gift of the day. So, we kept him in his crate in the basement and I think the boys put a towel over the crate to dissolve some of the noise.

Finally, after the last present was unwrapped, Terry snuck downstairs and got the puppy. Amy was in the living room and Terry put him down on the other side of the wall and let him walk around.

“See, Mawmaw, I knew I heard a puppy last night. I told you I was getting a puppy.” She picked him up and loved on him a bit but then her disappointment surfaced, “He’s cute but I wanted a German Shepherd!”

Sammy just wasn’t what she expected. She was disappointed. Fortunately, her disappointment didn’t overshadow Christmas Day.

For years, she would mention not getting a big dog and then one day, not too long ago, she said, “You know, I’ve realized that Sammy has been the perfect choice for me and our family.”

Now, let me go back to the original question: have you ever been disappointed? I want to take it a bit further. Have you ever been disappointed because God hasn’t given you what you asked for? Maybe He didn’t come through when you expected but He did come through. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion when you thought and knew you had earned it but eventually, the promotion came. Maybe he didn’t give you the job you wanted but He provided a job. Maybe He didn’t heal your loved one on earth but gave them the ultimate healing in Heaven. I don’t know what has disappointed you. I know there have been many times in my life I’ve been disappointed.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that disappointments are part of life. Life is not a whimsical merry go round and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire. Life is hard and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair and sometimes it doesn’t feel good. But can I tell you what I’ve learned? Just because He doesn’t answer in the time and the way we think He should does not mean that He is not good. On the contrary, only a good, loving and wise father gives his children what is best for them. In the same way that Terry knew Sammy would be the best fit for the family.

Matthew 7:11. “If you, then, though, you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Childhood Wasn’t All Bad

In spite of the difficult circumstances, there were times that I could be completely carefree. These were the times when I could shut off the voices and drown out the reality of what was going on. These were some of the most spectacular days of my childhood. The times I wasn’t going through the motions of pretense but I was actually enjoying being a child and being me.

Some of my best childhood memories are times spent with my dear friend, Theresa and her sisters, Missy and Tina.

We lived within walking distance of their house. We became the best of friends. She was the only one in my kindergarten class that didn’t join in making fun of me when I got glass and the dreadful eye patch. She was always sweet and kind. Many days were spent with her and her sisters and Kristi, my sister, climbing trees. Playing in the creek and catching salamanders. Racing. Playing kickball. Catching lightning bugs. We spent a lot of time outside.

The hardest part of being that carefree child was the reality I faced whenever I would come home. My circumstances hadn’t changed. I’d just been able to forgo them for awhile and forget their existence. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face. When I was little, I didn’t want reality. I wanted to live in a world of pretense. In that world, my heart didn’t hurt. In that world, my dad wasn’t dying and life was good.

The thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is that it’s still ok to be imaginative. It’s ok to be completely carefree. However, reality must be faced and you’re heart is going to hurt. You don’t have to allow the circumstances of your reality to overwhelm and overcome you. You can face any uncertainty with Jesus.

Here’s what I know. All of us are going to through something. Maybe you, like me, lost the innocence of your childhood. Your set of circumstances may vary vastly from mine. Maybe life has taken you to places you never thought you would be. Maybe you’re there because of poor choices. Maybe you’re there because of circumstances beyond your control. God wants to use this thing, whatever it is, to bring “beauty from ashes”. (Isaiah 61:3)

Remember as Charles Swindoll says, “We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…..I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Things that catch us off guard

Continue hanging out with me and we’re likely to discover all kinds of interesting maladies. What if I told you that you could go to sleep and wake up half-blind in one eye with no symptoms as a prerequisite? Trust me. I didn’t know about this condition either, until December 18.

Around 8:00 am the morning of December 18, Terry came groggily into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, sat down and said, “I have something in my eye”. After a few minutes of blinking and rubbing, he asked me to look in his eye.

“There’s nothing there”. I told him.

For the remainder of the day, he tried using eye drops, checking in the mirror and trying to blink it out…..nothing.

The next day, the same thing.

On Thursday, he was still complaining, only now he’s telling me, “It feels swollen and I’m only seeing out of the top half of my right eye.” Immediately, I insisted he call Asheville Eye Associates. I know the quality of professionals they have and I don’t trust my eyes to just anyone and felt he should do the same. He didn’t delay. He scheduled an appointment for December 28.

Having discovered the importance, when there’s a potentially serious health issue, I went with him. After about 2 1/2 hours the diagnosis was given. Ischemic optic neuropathy. Essentially what happens is the optic nerve swells and doesn’t allow blood flow to pass properly to the eye. It’s a condition that is more common in people over 50. At first, there was concern of infection and a potential culprit related to a heart condition. However, after blood tests and and echocardiogram, infection and heart problems were ruled out. This was very encouraging to us.

He was scheduled to return in late January; however, there was no improvement and we knew that he would be referred to the Neurological Opthamalogist, Dr. Wiggins. Instead of going through another process only to to be sent to another doctor, Terry opted to schedule with Dr. Wiggins, who is also my doctor. His appointment was scheduled for February 19, with the understanding if any major changes, he would need to call immediately. Fortunately for Terry he had no changes for the worse.

On Monday, we went for his visit, Dr. Wiggins confirmed the diagnosis. He was encouraged because he felt Terry had a very slight improvement in his vision since December. With ION it can take 3-4 for the swelling of the optic nerve to diminish. At that point there is no guarantee that his vision will be restored. It’s possible, not likely. The other issue associated with ION is that there is a 25% chance the same thing will happen to the other eye. The only preventive at this point is keeping his cholesterol, which is hereditary problem he’s had for years, down and also to take an aspirin daily to help improve blood flow.

Fortunately the eye issue has not caused major problems. It has not inhibited him at all. The only thing is he just has to exercise caution on his right side. However, it took us by surprise and was scary because until we got the second opinion, we weren’t certain exactly what to expect.

Interestingly, as I was thinking about this eye disease, I was reminded of how things catch us off guard. We are unprepared for the changes life throws at us. There’s no preparation time, the wind is knocked out of your sails. Times when you’re hardly able to breathe.

The disciples had that same experience.

Look at the following verses from Matthew 8:23-27

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Don’t miss the first part, Jesus got in the boat and the disciples followed him. Jesus didn’t follow them. They followed Him. Then the storm came….unexpectedly, suddenly, no warning and the waves sweeping in the boat. Just like when life catches us off guard. The waves keep pounding. There seems to be no end. And like the disciples, we feel helpless and afraid. Jesus is sleeping. Our cries, our prayers of desperation feel as if they’re bouncing off the walls. Going unheard. Yet, He is completely aware and completely in control. Maybe we, like the disciples, need to recognize our deep need for him to come in a calm the storm or calm us. Because the reality is, sometimes he doesn’t calm the storm, he calms the child in order to walk through the storm.

Alex’s friend Derek: A life that made a difference!

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. ”

“Ok. Glad to know you’re safe” I replied.

He said, “I think the accident just happened and if I had not stopped by the house to change clothes, I might have been part of it.”

He was headed out to dinner with friends and had been at work. Not wanting to wear his work clothes, had stopped by the house for a quick change.

I called Amy to make sure she wasn’t involved. Fortunately, she was no where near Kanuga Road. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home.

I called Terry to tell him a bad accident had happened and traffic was diverted. As soon as I got out of the car, at our house, I heard MAMA whirling above. At that moment, I said to Terry, “Dude, this is not good. I hear MAMA! We need to pray for the people involved!

Everyone arrived home safely and the next morning, I woke up with the accident on my mind. There was a feeling of uneasiness about it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I drank my coffee and finished my Bible Study. Then I began to research about the accident. Here’s what I found Wreck on Kanuga. As I read and listened to the accident report. I began to well-up with tears. The teenager, Derek, wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had left work and was heading to get gas before going home.

I didn’t know this family or the young man, or so I thought. I just knew my heart was in shambles for this family.

I remember telling Terry when he got up how heavy my heat was for the Miller family. I told him I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through.

I went to get ready and suddenly, while blow drying my hair, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Derek is Alex’s friend from work. Derek is the one Alex eats out with all the time. Derek is the young man I met one night while I was out having dinner with a friend and Alex and his friends were eating there too.

By the time I was finished getting ready, Alex was up and knew that his friend had been killed the night before.

Talk about a somber moment. He said, “Mom, I was most likely the last person to talk to Derek! He finished his shift, a little before me and asked if I wanted to go out and eat. I told him I already had plans for that evening but we could go out after all the next day because we were both scheduled to work.”

Alex was heartbroken. Devastated. He knew that God had spared him because of his couple of delays. He was shocked and dismayed. Shaken badly.

There was nothing that I could do or say to take away the deep pain my child’s heart was feeling. Now, not only was my heart breaking for the family, my heart hurt deeply for my son.

Over the next few days, I observed as Alex processed his grief. He didn’t sit around and wallow in his grief. He went to the Millers. He spent hours with Derrick’s Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. “family. He grieved with them.

As the time approached for the memorial service, Alex told me that he felt compelled to speak on Derricks behalf. So, he had taken the liberty of calling Derricks brother, Colby, and mentioning it to him. The family was elated because they had been praying that one of Derek’s friends would speak.

We watched as Alex prepared his testimony about Derek We listened as he read us what he was going to say. Although we didn’t know the family, personally, we went to the service to support our boy.

As he concluded his Eulogy, I will never forget what he said about his friend. “The thing that I am going to miss most about Derek is seeing Jesus live in him!”

It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, remember the impact you can have on another’s life. This young man was 17 years old and he had an impact on his friends and others. They noted and saw the difference that Jesus made in him.

It’s not about a degree or pedigree. It’s about the difference that Jesus makes when He’s invited to come into our lives. It’s not about impacting the world. It’s about impacting those that God puts in your path. He can use you, just like he used Derek in Alex’s life.

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself  Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you.  I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old.  I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in  They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s.  They went to sleep right away.  Terry and I went to bed.  He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in.  We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw.  Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed.  Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors.  He came to the door and turned the knob.  It was locked.  He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder.  Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed.  I was crying too.  It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle.  It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was.  It needed to happen.  We just weren’t ready, at first.  It was traumatic for all of us.  Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us.  He just knew what was best.  I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread.  We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28.  It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know?  They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree.  Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened.  It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass.  Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree.  The thud.  The crash.  The breaking of glass.  I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys.  Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass.  At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me.  Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry.  We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones.  I didn’t want to be consoled.  I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate.  We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out.  We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate.  If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything.  It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.

Disappoints will come

And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:5-8

At some point in our lives we all face disappointment. There's no escaping and no way around it. It's going to happen. It's not even a question of if. It's a matter of when.

A few years before the disappointment of losing my father to melanoma, I had a life altering blow.

This blow happened by way of a cute little character, "The Pillsbury Doughboy". (Pictured above).

I loved the commercials. A talking, little white doughboy that would giggle when when touched in the belly.

My mom found out that you could order them and so she did. She kept telling me that I would have my very own Doughboy. Anticipation, coupled with lofty ideas of the fun I would have with my very own doughboy, were immediately shut down the moment he arrived.

I ripped into the box. Fully expecting this little guy to talk or at least giggle at the push of his belly. (I was only about 4). He did nothing. Not only did he do nothing, he was hard and plastic.

I'm not sure how long I cried over my disappointment but clearly I haven't failed to forget. I remember the devastation. Felling deflated. Unprepared. Utterly disappointed.

That's what disappointment does. It leaves us feeling depressed, confused and sometimes overwhelmed. We struggle to find the answer to why. Why now? Why me? Why, oh why?

Luckily, my disappointment didn't last long, at least not my first recollection of letdown.

The thing I've learned, is that often disappointments come as a result of our expectations. You see, I had these lofty expectations because of the commercials with the cute, lovable doughboy.

Isn't that what we do with people? We place undue and lofty expectations on people, especially those closest to us. Our spouse. Our children. Our parents. Our closest friends. And when they fail to meet our expectation, we get disappointed. We feel letdown. Angry. Hurt.

And then the worst of the worst happens, we get disappointed with God. He fails to answer our prayers or so we think. A loved one dies. A marriage falls apart. A child goes astray. Infertility. Abuse. Financial ruin. The list goes on and on. Again those feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment consume our thoughts and our minds.

Having spent a good portion of my younger years and even into my early adulthood being utterly and overwhelmingly shattered by lofty and unrealistic expectations, I am fully aware and attune to these feelings. And I would be lying if I told you that, from time to time, they still creep in.

What do I do when I'm feeling disappointed and letdown? The first thing I do is look to see where I was placing my expectation. People are going to let you down every time. You simply cannot put your full expectation in them. No matter how good they are, we are all human. We are going to mess up.

Secondly,, I take every ounce of frustration and tell it to God. Sometimes, I even wrote it out. That includes when I am feeling like my unanswered prayers are bouncing off the walls or when he says, "no". When I do this, I am reminded of his great promises to me!

You know what happens when I am reminded that He loves and adores me? Or that He will be with me wherever I go? Or that this life is only a temporary dwelling and He is preparing a place for me? I am thankful. I am grateful. I am humbled. I become overwhelmed with joy and peace. Disappointments and trials are gonna come. It is what is. It's how we respond that will change everything, even us. He is our hope.