Saturday, March 29, 2008

My heart is breaking...

My heart is breaking...

If this blog is worth anything, then I can't share only the wonderful moments, can I? I also have to share those moments when hope is hard to find... when I must trust God and believe that hope is there somewhere, simply because God is a God of hope.

My husband's grandpa has been given, at most, six months to live. He may be my husband's grandfather, but he's mine, too... the last one I have. I've known my husband's family since I was thirteen, and I think I met Grandpa when I was eighteen. So he's been part of my life for a long time.

It's supposed to be easier to go through things like this when you have a large network of loving family members. But the thing is, that's 30-40 times more hearts that are hurting. Truthfully, I can hardly feel my own pain... it's overwhelmed by knowing the greater pain of Grandma, Mom (my MIL is the only mother I have now) my husband and his brothers, his sister (who is my best friend), sixteen children who dearly love their great grandfather, and at least a dozen more family.

I lost my last grandfather to heart problems six years ago and my mother to cancer 2½ years ago. So this prognosis brings back some not-so-ancient memories. I know all too well what this dearly beloved family of mine will be facing in the weeks and months ahead. I know the questions that they're asking... the impossibility of imagining how life without Grandpa would be.

So I opened up my journal again this morning, to ask God how I should pray. Of course, I can pray for his healing, but it's not that simple. Grandpa is one of the very few in the family who has not accepted the gift of salvation. He knows all it, but he's always wanted to wait until later. He's beat milder forms of cancer a number of times. He's survived heart problems and been through open heart surgery. And still he waits, while the rest of us continue to pray.

And therein lies the paradox. I know that God is a God of healing. But He is a God of mercy and salvation first. He doesn't want Grandpa to die without accepting salvation any more than I do. What if this prognosis is the only thing that will convince Grandpa that he can't wait any longer? What if God heals him, and Grandpa continues to wait until death takes him suddenly in the night? What if this prognosis is, in reality, the answer to our prayers... God, in His mercy, choosing a death that will give Grandpa ample time to realize that he can wait no longer? Most people would rather slip peacefully away one night... just fall asleep and wake up in Heaven. But what if you haven't yet chosen Heaven for your destiny? All of a sudden, that peaceful death isn't quite so peaceful. As much as we don't want to lose Grandpa, we know we will someday, and we want to make sure that we're going to see him in heaven.

Does this mean that I've accepted this prognosis? That I don't have any faith for him to be healed? Not at all. I have simply acknowledged that a higher and more important issue is at stake, and that only God can be trusted to know the best way for those issues to be handled.

God has already extended Grandpa's life and given him another chance time after time again. The most recent was this past Monday night. He went in the hospital for a diagnosis, threw up some sort of drink for a test when the nurse wasn't there, breathed it in, and was in a coma and on total life support before anyone knew what had happened. All week long, we've been holding our breaths, praying that he will pull out of the coma, and quadrupling our prayers for his salvation. Every day there's been a slight improvement, and he's now looking at people in the room, obeying occasional requests, and helping the breathing machine. Hope was surging.

Then we got this news of the cancer diagnosis last night, and hope was suddenly tangled up with painful questions. Memories of what I faced and the ways my faith was challenged when Mom was fighting cancer flooded back through me. I watched with a bleeding heart as my husband started facing the same questions that I found myself asking. I thought of my best friend and knew that she, also, was now facing them.

Questioning can be healthy, but it can get dangerous if the devil's lies and deceptions are accepted as answers. No matter what happens... whether Grandpa regains full use of his body tonight and is miraculously healed of the cancer as well, or whether he dies tomorrow... whether the doctor has made a mistake and he's fine, or whether the doctor is right, yet Grandpa fights and hangs on for years... no matter what, this will affect every person in the family in one way or another, and a lot of it will have to do with the questions they ask and the answers they receive.

And that is where I can pray. I'm sure I'll pray for plenty of other things, but He gave me a prayer that I might never have thought of on my own... prayers that will be needed as so many who are dear to me face the questions that this trial will bring. I can pray against the lies and deceptions that damage people's faith and relationship, and I can pray the truth in everyone's hearts and minds. I can pray that as those questions are asked, Truth is revealed. Truth that sets the asker free... that my loved ones will grow through this, and not be harmed.

I suppose that's where the hope lies. That even though my heart is breaking, God is still here for each one of us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

God's goodness is amazing...

Well, we're somewhat settled in our new house, and God is proving Himself faithful to us over and over again in so many ways. I haven't written during this last month of moving and unpacking, but only because there seems so much to share, and no way to start. I'm sure it'll make it all out eventually, but for the time being, I'd like to share a little something that happened about a week and a half ago.

As anyone who's ever moved knows, (and I think that means everyone,) moving entails boxes, boxes, and more boxes... and then frustration when you can't find things in those boxes! Well, this series of moves hasn't been any different. Sure, I tried to stay organized, labeling boxes and keeping a notebook of important things and which box they're in, etc. And of course, I packed boxes in order from least-needed, to most-needed, so supposedly I could get to the things I'd need first, without having to sift through the things I could do without.

The problem with this, is that this means that the things you use most often don't get packed until last minute, when you're so stressed out and distracted that you're lucky to be able to find the marker, let alone label the box correctly.

So, I've found myself in the position of knowing exactly where all of the things that I don't need are, while going weeks without being able to find things that I used every day before we moved! (Case in point, my kid's plastic drinking cups, and our iron.)

Before I continue with my little story, however, I need to take a little detour and mention another complication of moving.

Taxes.

Yes, we found ourself needing to think about tax filing, amid three changes of address and hundreds of boxes. (Yep, I forgot to think about taxes when I was packing boxes last fall.) So this means I had to deal with figuring out which address every 1099 and W-2 was being mailed to, and would it be forwarded, and where in the world did I put last year's tax return?

That last question is where my story begins.

I've done our taxes using TurboTax for the last seven years or so, and used TurboTaxOnline for the last three. Each year I e-file, and when it's accepted, I print the thing off, AND I save a PDF copy of it to my computer and a CD, along with every single digital file that had to do with the tax return. Well, by the beginning of 2006, I'd gone totally digital, meaning that every bank statement, every credit card statement, our checkbook, and everything else was saved on my computer as a PDF. I loved it, as it's soooo much easier to keep digital paperwork organized than real paperwork! So last year's tax file was quite small. Just the printed out back-up of our 1040, the W-2 and the few 1099's that were mailed, a small envelope of receipts, and a CD that held everything else.

I blithely started this year's tax return, and breezed through it until I came to the "Did you sell a house last year?" I answered yes, and came to a screeching halt. For various self-employed purposes that I won't go into, I needed to reference our tax returns for the last six years that we'd owned the house. Uh... where are those, again? I sighed and put off doing our taxes for a week. I put it off for another week. Finally I tackled it and was relieved to have found the tax returns with relative ease.

Except 2006's wasn't in there.

I searched through every folder, thinking that maybe, because it was so small, I'd stuck it in another year's folder.

Nope.

So I thought, no big deal. Sure I'll have to find it eventually, but I'll just boot up the computer (currently sitting on the floor of an unfinished basement) and pull up the digital files. I went down there, and the kids already had it started up through their login. Well, I've got the thing set up so I can still access all of my files from their side, so I clicked away and located my tax file from 2006. I double clicked on it, Adobe Acrobat opened up, and I got a little pop-up saying, "This file cannot be opened."

Uh-oh.

I tried again, just in case I had double-clicked wrong. Is that possible?

Same message.

Okay. Well, surely it had gotten backed up on one of the many backup CD's I'd made since March of last year. I took a deep breath and started digging through more boxes. I located six or seven backup CD's. Nothing.

Now I was starting to get frantic.

Then I had the idea that maybe TurboTax Online had saved a copy in my account. I logged back in and searched around, but I couldn't find anything. So I searched the help files, and sure enough, it says that it DOES save last year's return. It took me half an hour to find the link (talk about poor interface planning) and, relieved, I clicked on it.

"You have no 2006 tax file on record. Either you used a different login last year, or you did not file last year."

I started panicking again. This login is several years old! I KNOW I filed our taxes last year! Hubby would NEVER have let me forget to file for his tax refund! I searched and searched, and started to think that last year might have been a dream. No printed tax file, and no saved tax file, except one that wouldn't open. What if the one that wouldn't open wasn't finished?

I began looking for proof that I really had filed a return last year. Well, if we filed, then it should be easy to find the refund deposit in our savings account statement, right? So I went back to the computer to pull up our bank statements for March 2007.

"This file cannot be opened."

I tried another file, and another. NONE of 2006's files could be opened!

I thought about the fact that I'd encrypted them, just in case a hacker got onto my computer. Maybe that's why they won't open. Maybe if I un-encrypt them first!

They stubbornly stayed encrypted.

At this point I'm about ready to agree with my husband that computers just might, after all, be evil. I also have to leave the house and get some library books returned before they are overdue.

So I left the house, and my mind is in turmoil the whole way there and the whole way back. But finally I realized that I wasn't trusting God at all. I surrendered, turned the whole thing over to Him, and prayed, "Lord, I need that tax return, and I can't find it. You know why those files won't open. You know where that copy I printed off is. Forgive me for freaking out like this. I surrender it all to you."

I took a deep breath and peace flooded over me. Then this thought 'occurred' to me, less than a second later. Maybe the encrypted files wouldn't open because you weren't logged in on your side.

Uh... Lord, was that You?

I pulled into the garage, rushed downstairs to the computer, and waited less-than-patiently while the computer logged off of the kid's side and logged in to my side, ran it's virus-update, started up the firewall, started up Google Talk, and everything else the thing is set to do. I opened up Windows Explorer, went to those self-same files, and double-clicked.

They opened.

I sighed with relief, thanked God profusely, and made dinner. And after dinner, I went to get some paper out of a folder somewhere and found the printed off copies.

Do you ever shake your head at yourself and wonder when you'll ever learn?

Later that night, I was telling my husband all this (attempting to vindicate computers in his eyes) and, in order to avoid an argument, I changed the subject. I asked him how often he thought God is just waiting for us to quit freaking out and surrender the situation to Him. I don't remember which of us mentioned my iron that I'd been searching for since we moved in, but I agreed and said that I supposed I should ask God where my iron was.

I paused for a moment, and the words came out of my mouth, "Maybe it's in the box with my serger."

Need I say that that's where I found it when I got home?


Sometimes it amazes me how patient God is. He's shown me numerous times through my life that He's always there for me, yet so often I still totally forget Him. I get all worked up about a situation and either forget or refuse to turn it over to Him and trust Him. If He were me, He'd be tempted to teach me a lesson and say, "I've told you to come to me numerous times, and you refuse to do it. You can do it on your own this time, and maybe next time you'll remember!" But no, He didn't. In both cases, He didn't even wait a full minute to tell me how to open my tax files, and to tell me where my iron was. Granted, I still haven't found the plastic cups, but since I've got three that didn't make it into the missing box, my glasses are still safe. I just have more room in my cupboards! (Which really isn't a bad thing, after all.)

God's goodness is amazing...
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