Memorial Day & What It Means To Me

I realize this isn’t exactly a news flash for most people, but …

Today is Memorial Day.

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It’s a day for being off work, flying the flag, celebrating the official start of summer with a BBQ or a day on the water (whether it’s a lake or enjoying the first swim of the season). And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending Memorial Day having fun.

But, it’s also about pausing to reflect upon the price it costs to living in the land of the free. It’s a day for our nation to remember those who have served and the price they paid because …

Service to nation is never free.

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Today is Memorial Day.

Nineteen years ago, on another Memorial Day, we buried my maternal grandfather.

He was a great man of godly character. My grandfather loved his Lord, his family, his friends and his nation. He was proud to be an American and truly embraced the freedoms we have here.

When my grandfather passed away early in Memorial Weekend, it seemed sort of fitting to bury him on Memorial Day. He had a plain wooden coffin that was draped in an American flag.

At the end of the service, some men from the local VFW came forward to fold the flag and present it to my grandmother, as is the tradition to honor our nation’s veterans.  But what should have been a beautiful and simple ceremony to conclude the service quickly turned into a Keystone Cops sort of fiasco.

Three elderly gentlemen, who were also veterans themselves, stepped forward to solemnly remove the flag, They started the process of folding up the stars and stripes into a neat triangle, however,  as they came close to finishing the men realized that they had folded the flag all wrong.  Carefully, the men walked backwards and unfolded the flag.

The entire process started over … only as they reached the end of the flag, they again realized it had not been folded correctly. Once more they unfolded the flag and attempted to fold it again. I’m not sure exactly how many times these men folded, unfolded and refolded the flag, or even if they ever got it folded correctly.  All I know was at some point during the ordeal I realized I was shaking with silent laughter. I was afraid to look at anyone in the eyes for fear that the dam would break and loud shrieks of laughing would burst forth.

Fortunately, I didn’t embarrass myself and eventually my grandmother was handed the folded flag in honor of my grandfather’s service.Afterwards, my entire family agreed that my grandfather would have gotten immense amusement out of the flag-folding episode at his funeral.  The memory of my grandfather’s patriotism and the hilarity of the VFW attempting to fold the flag in his honor continues to be a Memorial Day memory I cherish year after year.

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My grandfather, V. E. “Red” McGee, in his sailor’s uniform during World War II.

Today is Memorial  Day.

For seven years, I was the spouse of a soldier. My ex-husband and I moved four times during those seven years. I gave birth to one baby on the west coast (my California Beach Boy) and another on the east coast (my Sweet Georgia Peach).  Additionally, we spent time calling Virginia and Texas home.

I’m grateful for all that those seven years of service gave me and taught me. From sea to shining sea, I got to spend time exploring our beautiful nation. Living in military housing afforded me the opportunity to meet a wide-variety of people from all walks of life. Their stories have stuck with me. Their friendships have blessed me. Today, as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I am amazed at how many of my nearly 1000 social media friends came from those seven years of military life. I wouldn’t trade that time and those experiences for the world!

And yet, there was a price to pay.  While I’d never blame military service completely on the failure of my first marriage, I do believe that frequent deployments and the stress of separation played a major part in the death of that relationship.

Unfortunately, the high stakes cost isn’t over yet.  Over a decade later, my children, who will always suffer to some extent as they deal with the effects of growing up in a broken family, still pay the price on a daily basis. They don’t have the pleasure of regular visits with their father, Currently, their dad is temporarily deployed to South Korea. With the volatile world climate, my kids worry about their dad.

Protecting their hearts gets harder and harder as they grow older.

Service to nation is not free.

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Today is Memorial Day.

It’s always been an honor to say that my dad was a veteran.

My dad joined the army shortly after he and my mother were married. I recall him telling me that he knew he would soon be drafted, so rather than wait for the letter to arrive in the mail, he went to the recruiters himself. By doing so, my dad was able to finish college before leaving for basic training.

I used to love to listen to my dad’s tales about the Army. One of my favorites was how he used too tell about how once he was put in charge of an entire barracks of soldiers. He was responsible for the condition of the barracks (neatness and cleanliness) as well as knowing the whereabouts of all the soldiers assigned to that barracks. He had to report any that were not in by curfew and each morning at formation account for everyone.

Dad would always elaborate on how the other barracks were in such a disarray, with soldiers always out past curfew or not up in time to stand in formation. He would go into great detail about how the other barracks were full of fighting, drunken soldiers.

But not his barracks. Dad would proudly say that his group of soldiers were always on time. Their beds were made properly, uniforms sharply pressed,  the floors were mopped and the bathrooms kept sparkling clean. He said not one soldier ever missed a curfew and each morning they were all standing outside, perfectly in formation with their boots shining in the morning sun. In fact, for three or four months in a row, my dad received the award for the best barracks, earning the right to eat a private lunch with the Lt. Col., and honor that still thrilled my dad years later.

Of course, it wasn’t until after my father thought he had duly impressed us all with his amazing leadership abilities that he would let you in on the secret to his success.  You see,  the barracks under his leadership was entirely made up of a group of Mormons. (Later, during my years as a military spouse, I began to understand just exactly how patriotic and honorable Mormons as a whole are.)

My dad was so proud of his military service. One Christmas, my siblings and I gathered all my dad’s military patches and medals, and put them into a special display case. I wish I could say it was my idea. It wasn’t. It is my brother who deserves the credit.  I’m just grateful he included my sister and I, allowing us to share a part in giving the gift to my dad.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had more pleasure in watching someone open a gift than I had that Christmas when my dad opened up the display case with all of his military regalia. I thought my dad’s smile was going to burst the seams on his face!  For as long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

Yet as proud as my dad was …

Service to nation isn’t free.

Dad receiving a commendation in Vietnam
Dad receiving a medal and commendation in Vietnam

Today is Memorial Day.

My dad was once a soldier who served his nation during a time of conflict and war.  Though he returned home, my father long remembered the names of those he knew who gave their lives in protection of our nation’s freedoms.

When I was in high school, a touring replica of the Vietnam Wall memorial came to our area. My dad insisted we go view it. I could tell it was a solemn event for him, far more than a simple wall or just a group of names. He knew each one represented a real man who never came home. He understood the price these soldiers had paid.

My father didn’t die in Vietnam. Rather the war took nearly 45 years to kill him. 

You see, during his one year in Vietnam, my dad was exposed to Agent Orange. If you look up the effects of Agent Orange exposition, the list is long.  Everything from cancer and other debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

My dad experienced the last three, experiencing his first heart attack in his mid-40’s. I think he had 3 more over the next 20 years. The heart attacks were not due to blockages. My dad never had a stint put in place or a by-pass surgery to reroute blood flow. Rather his heart attacks were caused by an overall weakened heart muscle that was damaged from Agent Orange.  In the last year or two of his life, my dad’s heart functioned at just barely over 20% of full pumping capacity, yet he continued to wake up each day and live a full life.

Several years ago, my father began to receive a full veteran’s disability from the U. S. government as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. While he was open and honest about the fact that he had suffered from effects of the exposure and was receiving compensation, my dad never once complained to me (or to anyone else that I am aware of) about those resulting consequences. Instead, he was proud of his military service, and counted it as one of the better things he did in his life.

I am proud of him too.

About two years ago, I learned about the Vietnam Veterans Program, which honors soldiers who returned from Vietnam but later died as a result of their service. Men who suffered from PTSD and committed suicide, those who died from Agent Orange related diseases are all eligible to be honored.

After a long paper chase to fill out the application, I am delighted to report that my dad was accepted. He will be honored at a special service near the Vietnam Wall on Father’s Day weekend. I am excited to be attending this ceremony with my mom, my sister and her family, as well as my dad’s two sisters. It’s going to be a special time of remembering and honoring my father.

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Today is Memorial Day.

I am remembering that while there are those who paid the ultimate price for my freedoms, each and every one of our military men and women who spent time serving our nation has sacrificed something because …

Service to nation is never free.

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”     ~John 15:13

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A Golden Anniversary

December 20, 1968

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Fifty years ago today, my parents were married.

My mother carried a red poinsettia.  

During that era, all brides carried a bouquet of white flowers.  My mother wanted to have a white poinsettia, and had one ordered to be flown in from some far away location. On the morning of the wedding, the florist contacted my grandmother to say the white poinsettia had not come in and she wondered if  a bouquet of white carnations be okay.

No. My mother insisted it would not be okay. To begin with, she didn’t like carnations. And secondly, she wanted a Christmas wedding. Therefore, she would carry her Christmas poinsettia … and if there wasn’t a white one to be had, then a red one must do instead.

When my grandmother relayed the message, the florist got extremely distressed. She fretted and fumed and retorted that it was not appropriate for a bride to carry any color but white. It would, she said, be sacrilegious for a bride to carry a red flower against a white dress.  Yet, no amount of pleading could change my mother’s mind. So on this cold December night, the bride wore white and carried red flowers because as naturally sweet as my mother is, she can also be surprisingly stubborn at times, and on her wedding day she put her foot down over the issue of the bridal bouquet.

Speaking of feet …

My mother wore pink slippers beneath her white wedding gown.

My grandmother was quite the seamstress. She insisted upon saving money by sewing her daughter’s wedding gown. One weekend, my mother put on the wedding dress for another fitting, and my grandmother mentioned that it was past time to pick out her wedding shoes so the hem could be sewn at the right length.

My mother, who was wearing a pair of pink ballet-style bedroom slippers, said wistfully, “These are so comfortable! I wish I could find something similar to wear on my wedding day.”

My grandmother laughed and said, “Well, the dress is floor-length. I guess no one will see what’s on your feet. If you like these slippers, then wear them.”

And that’s exactly what my mother did.

In her pink slippers with a red poinsettia in her hand, my beautiful mother walked down the aisle on her father’s arm to O’ Come All Ye Faithful. Half an hour later, maybe less, she walked out on my father’s arm to Joy to the World. In between, the organist softly played Christmas carols in the background. It was, according to my grandmother, a beautiful Christmas wedding.

As a child, I used to look at the photos in my mother’s wedding album and wish I could have been there that precious night.  

I would stare for hours at the pictures of my aunts and uncles, all dressed up and looking like much younger versions of themselves. It was neat to see photos of both sets of my grandparents standing next to each other, obviously delighted in the marriage of their oldest children. And of course, I marveled at how my dad’s father looked more like my daddy than the grandfather I loved. And I hardly recognized the happy wedding couple, who were destined to become my parents.

Yet, there they were … pledging their love and their lives to each other forever. But I didn’t need the photos to prove it. I witness them loving, serving and caring for each other, day in and day out.

They loved each other well. And because of their commitment to God and to each other, I was blessed with grow up in a happy, loving home.

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So tonight, this post is written with much love for my mother (who is still the sweetest, most stubborn lady I know) … and with such precious memories of my dad (who adored my mother until the day he died and is still missed by us all).

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate. ~Mark 10:9

 

Celebration Time

Today is February 2nd, and I’m celebrating.

Perhaps you are wondering why Groundhog Day has me so excited. Actually, it’s something more important than Groundhog Day … though Groundhog Day has always been a sort of oddly fun holiday to mark. Would he see his shadow? Will there be six more weeks of winter or is spring on the way? Every Feb. 2nd, I take a walk outside to see if there are shadows on the ground, but the groundhog and his prediction are not what has me in a celebratory mood.

I’m celebrating for a much more personal reason.

Today marks five years since my husband Jon received his mechanical heart valve. Five years of listening to the steady ticking at night as I fall asleep. Five years since he nearly died from a raging heart infection, but God miraculously allowed him to live. Five years of being grateful my marriage didn’t end just as it was beginning.

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My husband Jon one day after his second open-heart surgery … originally taken on Feb. 3, 2011 at his insistence and posted today with his blessing.

Many of my readers know the story well … prayed for Jon’s healing, walked alongside us through that awful time, kept our children, sent cards, shared our need with prayer warriors across the nation. We were grateful for you then; we are grateful for you still.

Some of you might not be familiar with this tale of sickness and health. Here are a couple of links in case you want to read our story:

Cats: A True Story About How My Favorite Animal Nearly Killed the Man I Love

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I love February 2nd! Today, I am looking back in time, remembering vividly how God intervened in a desperate situation.

There is not better reason to celebrate.

I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.

~Psalm 77:11-12

 

 

A Trio of New Year’s Eves

New Year’s Eve 2008.

It wasn’t the first time I had ever had a fore-telling conversation with God, but it certainly was one of the most memorable.

 

I’ll never forget it. I was alone. My three kids gone to be with their father. I had been to visit friends in VA and had returned home earlier that day to a quiet, still house. Only the cat was there to greet me … and he seemed mostly perturbed that I interrupted his nap.

I felt bone-cold in the chilly house as I waited for the heater to make my house warm. But mostly, I just felt lonely.

It was my second New Year’s Eve as a single mother. The year before I was still shell-shocked from the events that had rocked my world. I barely noticed an old year passed away and a new one started.

Now, as I scrummaged through the cabinets looking for something quick and easy to fix for my dinner, I thought about how I was ending the year in a better place than I started it. Initially, 2008 found me a broken woman, but now after months of personal counseling and learning to live life again as a single mom, I felt more confident … not in myself so much, but in the Lord and in His promises to use all things for my good.

As I ate my supper, and counted down the hours left in 2008, I sensed that 2009 would be the beginning of something new. I realized I had new goals for the coming year. New hopes and dreams for my life.

And in those quiet hours, I came to a realization. I didn’t want to be single forever.

In the days after my first husband left me, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to love another man. But now, in these quiet moments, I realized what I really wanted was a person to share my life with … and I wondered if that would ever happen.

As it happens so often in situations like this, I started to talk internally to God about my thoughts and ideas and wishes. Not so much a typical prayer as much a chatter in my head. Jumbled thoughts poured out in a rapid, random fashion, some sort of strange cross between monologue and unwritten journal entry.

As I rambled to God about my future, whether or not it would include another marriage, I felt a strange peace wash over me. And then it came … as a small whisper, so soft I wasn’t even sure if I heard what I thought I heard.

You will marry again, Paige … and it will be a New Year’s Eve wedding.

I shook my head in a sort of disbelief. To begin with, New Year’s Eve was not really a holiday I had ever enjoyed. Fear of the future had been a personal, life-long struggle for me, and though since my divorce I had been focused on learning to overcome that fear, I still couldn’t imagine wanting to celebrate a wedding on a holiday all about celebrating the unknown year ahead.

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I saw how New Year’s Eve was the perfect day to marry. After all, it’s a day focused on endings and beginnings. A marriage is the end of a period of singleness and the beginning of a new life together as husband and wife.

It was then I knew I wouldn’t be single forever.

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New Year’s Eve, 2009

 

I had met Jon in April. We started dating in October. Here we were at the holiday season, and we still hadn’t even held hands or shared our first kiss.  Despite the slow pace at which our relationship progressed, I already knew this was the man God had chosen.

When Jon learned  I didn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve, he was appalled. “No one should be alone on New Year’s Eve!

Well, my kids are off visiting their dad. I haven’t been invited to anyone else’s home. My church isn’t doing an activity that night. I’ll probably just watch a few movies or maybe work on a sewing project.

The next morning, Jon called me back.  “I’ve been talking to my girls, and we’d like to invite you to join us today. We aren’t going to do anything special. We’ll just hang around the house. But the girls would love to have you come visit … well, that is, as long as we promise to keep them included. Megan is very concerned about that.

How about if I bring a few activities for us to do with them … some crafts, perhaps?

And so, it was agreed. I made the long two hour drive to Jon’s house to spend, bringing along with me a big box of craft supplies. The girls and I crafted the afternoon away, while Jon dozed on his sofa and watched a little football. I made a couple of snacks for us to enjoy. Quiet, laid-back and completely natural.

Later that evening, we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. As Jon paid for our meal, the waitress made a comment about his beautiful family. Not quite knowing how to respond, both of us smiled and wished her a happy new year.

But I already knew. This was the man I was going to marry.

Driving along the dark roads back to my house, I watched the flickering of fireworks light the sky … and wondered how many more New Year’s Eves there would be until Jon and I were married.

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New Year’s Eve, 2010

Jon asked me to marry him in October. I said yes.

But Jon was deathly ill. Even as we planned for our wedding ceremony, honeymoon and marriage, I watched the man I love slowly grow sicker and sicker. As a dear friend told me, “Paige, I’m afraid you’ll either have a New Year’s Eve wedding or funeral.

The diagnosis came on December 22nd. A severe heart infection nearly took his life. But thankfully, God allowed him to live. Two days before our wedding, Jon came home from the hospital, a PICC line still in his arm.

The next 48 hours, we raced to get everything ready for the wedding we weren’t sure would ever happen. Somehow, the reception room at the church was decorated, a friend made us a beautiful red velvet cake, and one by one the details fell into place.

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December 31, 2010

December 31st was sticky and humid.

Jon was weak from his ongoing healthy issues. Rumor had it he slept on the sofa in the pastor’s office until time for the ceremony.

Guests started to arrive.

And then … the music started and our beautiful girls made their way down the aisle.

I felt no nerves. Only the most amazing sense of joy that I have ever known.

We said our vows, and our guests laughed with us as we pledged to love in sickness and in health.

The pastor asked those in the audience to come surround us and offer up prayers on our behalf. My dad, an uncle, a family friend … each of them offered up a prayer and my soul swelled with indescribable peace.

As we walked out of the sanctuary, somehow an unplanned receiving line formed so that Jon and I were hugged and blessed over and over as our guests walked to the small reception.

And that night, as we drove to our New Orleans honeymoon, fireworks lit the night sky … and I thanked the good Lord for a trio of New Year’s Eves that had brought me to a new life He had planned for me before I ever took my first breath.

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New Year’s Eve … a time to celebrate what is ending and what is yet to be. Every year I’m grateful to God for what He has done in my past and what He has planned for my future. No more fear because (as cliche’ as it might be), I know I may not know exactly what my future holds, but I certainly know the One who does know and who holds my future.

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…”  ~ 1 Chronicles 16:11-12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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You can read more about our wedding story and Jon’s illness at the following link:

The Wedding that Almost Didn’t Happen

 

 

Rainbows and Marriage

June 26, 2007 is a day I will never forget.

It marked the beginning of the end for my first marriage. I discovered in the wee hours of the morning, long before light ever touched the ground, that the man I had vowed to love for the rest of my days said that he no longer loved me.

As morning dawned, I covered my head with a pillow and tried to close my eyes to the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t successful. That ache stayed with me for many months, as the situation continued to deteriorate until finally in mid-October my husband asked me for a divorce.

In those months, as I battled the waves of nausea that were ever present, I wished I knew how to turn back the clock of time. All I wanted was to find a way to keep this from happening. But everything was out of my control.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2009 is a day I will never forget.

A large manila envelop was waiting in my mailbox, containing the final divorce papers. Two years to the day after my world turned upside down with that initial confession, my marriage was officially over.

But I didn’t feel relief or happiness, holding those papers in my hands. Instead, I realized the old familiar ache had returned, along with feelings of failure over the brokenness of my marriage.

“June 26th … how appropriate,” I thought. “Bookends on a chapter of my life. A chapter I wish I could delete.”  Of course, I couldn’t make it go away.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2015 is a day I’m sure I will never forget.

The Supreme Court of America redefined marriage for our nation.

Many are rejoicing. But I’ve got that same gnawing ache, a pain in the pit of my stomach that won’t go away. Our nation has the audacity to redefine something that they never originally defined in the first place, and the course of history has forever been changed.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not hate homosexuals. I’ve never picketed; never will. Not once have I ever knowingly insulted or shunned anyone due to sexual orientation. I know and love friends who are gay, and as well as my many straight friends who are among those celebrating today’s ruling. And nothing that happened today will change that for me. I will love them just as I always have.

I’m not a theologian. I’m not a debater. I’m just a Jesus girl, who loves God with all of my heart. I don’t know much, but this one thing I stand on … God’s thoughts and ways are not like mine. His are infinitely holier and I must bow in submission to what I don’t understand.

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  ~Isaiah 55:7-9

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Eight years ago today, my marriage unraveled. Six years ago, I found myself single. I knew what God’s word said about marriage. His design was for a man and a woman to be joined together for a lifetime. There was no pride in my divorce. I wanted to hide from God, to turn my head in shame.

But God met me in those dark places and whispered, “Come to me.”

Perhaps that is why I have always loved the old hymn Just As I Am … the words are a pictures of that coming to Jesus. It’s as if I in those lyrics I can hear the Father saying, “Come with your sins and failings and shortcomings. Come with all the dirty rags you have to offer. And I will take you in my arms.

So I came to Him … on my knees, dragging behind me the baggage of my broken marriage, accepting my guilt in that situation. I handed over the filthy rags of my life … the hurt, angry feelings along with the sneaky, lying, gluttonous girl who was more selfish than not.

I brought myself to kneel before Him, not so He would exalt me in my sinful state. Not so He would condone my poor behaviors. Not so He would put His stamp of approval on my secret sins. But rather so that He would change me.

God beckons humans to Himself because we are created in His image and it is His desire to teach us how to be more like Him. I know full-well I will never reach perfection this side of heaven. My mistakes and shortcomings will haunt me all of my days on this earth. But oh, how during this mortal life I pray that I will become more Christ-like, in attitude and in behavior.

While God loves me just as I am, His purpose has never been to make me happy on earth. Rather, He wants to make me holy, just as He is holy. His heart is to complete a good work in me. A work that He began before there was time. A work that He will finish in Heaven, where I will stand perfected before Him as I worship face-to-face.

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Today, humans took something God created and attempted to redefine it.

Though many will disagree with me (some even vehemently), I cannot personally delight or rejoice today. To take pride in today’s ruling would be to exalt man’s sinful state above God’s holiness.

No matter what the Supreme Court said today, God says homosexuality is wrong. In light of that, my feelings on the subject don’t really matter.

Yet, there is nothing I can do to change today’s decision.

Nothing except give it to God … and pray for my nation, my state, my community, my friends and family, and especially myself.

May we all return to God.

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So tell the people: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Return to Me”–this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts– “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Hosts. ~Zechariah 1:3

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  My blog is not open for debate.

I will certainly respect your right to have an opinion that differs from my own, but I expect that same respect from you as well. Any comments that are disrespectful of me, my writing or the homosexual community in any way will be deleted. It is possible to disagree and still be kind. Thanks and God Bless!

The King-Sized Bed of My Dreams

When Jon and I got married 4 1/2 years ago, we each brought with us a queen-sized bed.

Jon’s mattress was the newer of the two, as well as a pillow-top variety. It felt so soft and cushiony, sort of like sleeping on a cloud. I loved that bed, or at least I thought I did. Perhaps I loved it so much because of the bed I brought with me into our marriage.

My mattress set was old, and I never liked it from the start. It was a cheap mattress, much firmer and harder than I liked. But it was free. My parents had given it to me when I went through the divorce. I was grateful for it, and while I occasionally dreamt of buying something softer, I slept on it for three years. Once, I bought myself a cushiony mattress topper, which helped quite a bit, especially as I didn’t have the money to buy a brand-new mattress set.

However, I had one thing Jon didn’t have … a headboard and footboard. I loved my country-style bed stand, having picked it out as a gift to myself. I had several other matching pieces that went along with my bed, including a mirror-topped dresser and a bedside table. Oh, how I loved that everything matched. Even if I didn’t love the mattress, I adored the look of my bedroom with it’s coordinated furniture.

It didn’t take long for us to both agree that his mattress was the one we would use, adding my headboard and footboard to it to give our bedroom a brand-new look. It felt like the perfect compromise.

However a week later, Jon and I decided we had made a grievous error in judgement. You see, Jon’s mattress may have been newer and softer, but it also had a rather large “dent” in the mattress. At night, we found that had to cling to the sides of the mattress all night long in order to not find ourselves stuffed like sardines in the middle of the sagging bed. Fighting for much-needed personal space is not a good way to start a marriage.

“Why didn’t you ever turn or flip your mattress, Jon?” I asked him, probably with too much of a whiny tone in my voice.

“I just didn’t think about it,” he replied. “Sometimes a nagging wife can be a blessing.” He grinned sheepishly at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Seeing I wasn’t going to stay mad at him, Jon continued, “The good news is that we still have your mattress. It might be old, but that thing is hard as a board without a hint of sagging. We definitely won’t find ourselves rolling to the middle on it.”

Soon enough, we were sleeping on my old, hard mattress. As it turned out, Jon loved it. He claimed his back aches all but disappeared, a problem that had plagued him throughout his adulthood. But I hated it.  I had tasted what could have been. Now, going back felt painful. Oh, how I longed for a softer bed!

A couple of months ago, my much-loved bed frame broke. Jon tried, but it couldn’t be repaired. We needed a new bed frame for our mattress. So on the next Saturday morning, Jon and I went shopping … for bed frames. As much as I hoped, it was not part of our plan to buy a new mattress.

Yet shopping for beds is a lot like shopping for cars. When you find a deal on the car you want, you better pounce … it might not be there the next time you go car shopping. That’s sort of what happened on that Saturday morning.

As soon as Jon and I walked into the store, I had a feeling there were deals to be had. We had shopped this same store several months earlier when we had purchased new beds for our boys. At that time, the store had been stocked, wall-to-wall. But now, the inventory was low. One of two things was happening: this store was going out of business or they were reducing inventory before paying taxes. Either way, I knew we could get a bargain.

And we did! Jon and I got a sweet deal on a top-quality king-sized mattress set, a headboard and footboard, as well as free delivery and no taxes. It was a bargain we couldn’t pass up, and fortunately we could afford it.

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Our new bed is amazing … soft enough to please me and yet firm enough so as not to cause Jon backaches. Even though the bed frame no longer exactly matches the mirror-topped dresser, it doesn’t completely clash either. So many reasons to love this big new bed!

Last night, as I crawled into bed, I realized none of those reasons I listed are my favorite part about my new king-sized bed.

With Jon out-of-town on an overnight business trip, I crawled up into that big comfy bed all by myself, and felt the impact of the emptiness. What an incredibly lonely feeling! I wasn’t scared, and yet how very hard it was to fall asleep. Even with the dog cuddled up beside me, I felt tiny in our huge bed, swallowed up by the expanse of the space.

In that moment, I was reminded that the best thing about our new bed was the same thing I loved about the old, hard mattress. It’s the person I share it with every single night.

It’s been a little over four years since I took vows to love Jon in sickness and in health, in good times and bad time, for richer or poorer … and perhaps I should have added “whether we sleep on saggy mattresses or luxurious beds” to my promise.

I really do love that man, no matter what sort of bed we share.

But please, please, Lord Jesus… don’t test me on this one! 

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If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. ~Proverbs 3:24

eX: Thoughts on Broken Marriages and Dreams

Being someone’s ex-wife was never one of my goals in life. I don’t suppose it is ever anyone’s plan to get married and then divorced, but it definitely wasn’t even on my radar.

Marriage, I knew, was a holy sacrament. It was meant to be a life-long commitment between a loving husband and wife. This was God’s way and to enter into marriage with any other idea in mind was wrong. My parents and grandparents shared their hearts on this subject with me often and I listened to them, fully anticipating that whenever I married it would be for life.

And yet, fourteen years after I said “I do” for the first time, my marriage crumbled apart before my very eyes. Looking back, the reasons aren’t as important as the lessons I learned from the experience.

Today,  I would like to share a post I originally wrote almost five years ago, about a month before I became engaged to Jon and found myself preparing to once again to enter into a marriage relationship. I realized then, just as I do today, that God is never for divorce and yet He took my broken and failed attempt and turned it into something beautiful.

I am forever grateful.

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Seventeen Years Ago Tomorrow

~written Friday, September 3, 2010

Just a little over an hour ago, the date on the calendar beckoned to me and for the first time in a long, long while I remembered the significance of tomorrow. I scribbled numbers on paper and quickly worked out the math to figure out how many years had passed because I no longer remembered. Seventeen. I didn’t realize it had been that long ago now.

Seventeen years ago tomorrow, also on a Saturday, I was a bride.

It’s all packed away in a box now … the scrapbook filled with photos, some dried flowers from my bouquet, the white dress, a napkin embossed with two names and a date, cards and letters that span the fourteen years of life shared together now held together by a rubberband. I’m saving those things, not because I need that connection to my past, but because my children need it. Someday they will want to see it and touch it and remember that it wasn’t always broken. They will want to know of the beginning of the story, just as they know the ending.

Just last week, the oldest one asked, “Momma … do you miss Daddy?”

How can that question possibly be answered? There is a flood of history there that I cannot, I will not explain to my child … certainly not now. Too much for his small soul to bear. Too much for him to carry right now … maybe ever. Children are meant to love their parents, not to harbor uncertainties about actions that played out into events difficult for even mature adults to understand.

Besides, the memories of that life have become faded. It’s become harder to recall. And the fact remains that I do not miss their father anymore.

What I miss are snapshots of time, snippets of happiness and laughter that are emblazoned upon my mind.

What I miss is not having achieved what I wanted, for myself and for my children and for my children’s children. The legacy of togetherness. The celebration of something golden in the distant future with my children and my grandchildren all around.

What I miss are the possibilities, the hope of what it could have been.

No one plans to fail, but failing to plan often leads to failure. Life somehow happens and our best intentions are swept away. I never thought the ending would turn out as it did, and sometimes the regrets are so strong that I fear I cannot stand against the rushing tide.

I’ve learned in the past four years that when the waves of pain and regret hit hard, to simply pause and thank God for His mercy in my life, for forgiveness He so graciously spreads all over me, for second chances to try again. And the longer I stand in acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and mercy, neither of which I deserve, the stronger I become, the easier it is to stand tall, the less overwhelming the pain becomes.

In the beginning of the end, someone I love very much told me that soon it wouldn’t consume my thoughts every hour of the day. She said that there would come a night when I would crawl into bed, realizing that the brokenness of my marriage had not been my main thought that day. She said that eventually I would realize that I hadn’t even thought of it at all for several days or weeks in a row. I could only nod my head in response, so deep in my grief that I could not begin to imagine that would ever be true for me.

I realized just over an hour ago that day has arrived, tiptoeing in without any fanfare, so quietly that I never even noticed. The end has been completed and the next chapter of my life is being written, with new hopes and new dreams for a very different future than one I had previously imagined.

And yet, even as I embrace my present life and anticipate my future, my past can never truly be erased. There are certainly many regrets, but I do not regret the life I’ve lived.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have three children.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have friends all over the United States.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have fourteen years worth of life experiences to my credit.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I am who I am today, a better woman in the end for having walked that road.

And I am grateful for seventeen years ago tomorrow and what that has meant to me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. ~Proverbs 31:25

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BaptistGirlConfession
This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Unanswered: A Prayer

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

~Garth Brooks

I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.

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For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.

During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either.  Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.

And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.

You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?

All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”

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Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.

A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”

“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”

Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for.  Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.

That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.

Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.

I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”

Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael,  who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India  … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.

As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.

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There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.

So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:

1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.

2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.

3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.

4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.

5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.

6.  Sin.  It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)

It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14

How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Tufflers: A Tale of Kindergarten Love

I’ve been a mother for right at fifteen years now, and while this might be an early conclusion, I’ve pretty much decided that five is the best age ever.

Five year olds are big enough to sleep all night, brush their own teeth, and put on their own shoes (for the most part). They generally eat without making enormous messes, and don’t have to be watched every second, like one has to do with a toddler. Five year olds are developed enough to have some skills to be helpers around the house.Their innate desire to please is still intact. They aren’t typically grumpy, obstinate, or prone to mood swings. Big enough to enjoy a variety of activities and yet still small enough to be pleased by a simple trip to the park, a a lollipop at the grocery store, or a sticker at the doctor’s office.

But mostly, I love five year olds because they are so incredibly funny. Truly, these are some of the world’s finest comedians. You never know what they will say or do. Is it any wonder that Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby both had hit shows solely based on conversations with young children (many of whom were five years old).  In fact, I think that is the best part about having a five year old in the house … the conversations. I could listen to a five year old talk all day long!

Julia ... on her 5th birthday
Julia … on her 5th birthday

Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite conversations that I ever had with one of my children. The discussion took place one spring evening as my children and I enjoyed a walk. The boys had raced ahead on their bikes, while Julia skipped along next to me, chatting away. By the end of the conversation, I had a new word in my vocabulary and a funny story to share for years to come.

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Julia: Momma, you know what I’m thinking about right now?

Me: No … what’s on your mind, sweetie?

Julia: I’m thinking about getting married. I love weddings. The wedding girl wears a big pretty dress and everyone says, “Ohhhh” when the wedding boy kisses the wedding girl. It’s so romantic.

Me: Romantic? That’s a big word! I didn’t know you knew the word romantic, Julia.

Julia: You’d probably be surprised at what I know.

Me: Yes, I probably would. I hope you know that there is a lot more to know about getting married than just the word romantic.

Julia: Yep. I know. And you know what else? I already know who I’m going to marry when I finally get grown up.

Me: Who is that?

Julia: Jonathan.

Me: Jonathan? I don’t think I know any boys your age named Jonathan.

Julia: Oh, he’s not in my class. He’s in Ms. Valentine’s kindergarten. And you know what?  He’s real romantic. I like him a lot.

Me: Why do you like him so much?

Julia: Well, he’s cute. I love his spiky hair cause it sticks up everywhere. He wears real nice shirts … oh, and he smells nice because his mom makes him take a bath every night.  And, (she lowered her voice a little), he is a tuffler.

Me: A tuffler? What on earth is a tuffler?

Julia (sounding incredulous): You don’t know what a tuffler is?! A tuffler is a boy who is real tough. If anyone is bad to me at school and does something I don’t like, then he tuffles them up! And that takes care of that.

Me (stifling a giggle): Oh, yes … a tuffler. I see. Ahem. Well, I do hope he isn’t hurting people and getting in trouble for fighting at school.  

Julia (pausing with one hand on her hip in mock aggravation): Now, Momma, if you don’t stop laughing, I am going to call Jonathan right this minute and then he will come tuffle you, too!  (She took a little breath, before continuing.) Oh, I almost forgot one important part. Jonathan is a superhero. But I am the only one who knows about it because his mother won’t let him wear his costume to school. None of the other kids know he has superpowers … just me. If I ever get to go to his house, he is going to show me all of his superpowers. But I told him that I still believe him even if I don’t get to see.

Me: Well, that’s interesting, Julia … I’m really glad you like Jonathan so much. But right now I think you shouldn’t focus on Jonathan. Getting married to anyone is a long, long way off. You should be friends with all the kids at school … okay?

Julia (gasping in shock): Momma! I’m not marrying him tomorrow! When Jonathan asked me, I just told him that I’d marry him after I’m all grown up. He knows he has to wait a LONG time. But he already gave me a ring, so it is for real.

Me: He gave you a ring? Hmmm. Well, I’d like to see this ring. Where is it?

Julia: You can’t see it. I lost it. But he told me he was going to get me another one. This time it will be a pink ring because that’s my favorite color.  Momma, do you know why I like pink? I like pink because…

Julia with her beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Amanda McGuffee. The tuffler conversation happened during the spring of her kindergarten year at school.
Julia with her beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Amanda McGuffee. The tuffler conversation happened during the spring of her kindergarten year at school.

And with that, my little chatter-box took the conversation in a totally new direction.

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The story of Julia and the tuffler is one of my favorites to tell. She’s nearly 12 so I’ve been sharing it for more than half of her life! Thankfully, she doesn’t mind me sharing it with others because I never get tired of telling the story as it never fails to make me giggle with delight.

But more than just a funny story, the word tuffler reminds me of a truth about God.

So often I feel beat up and bullied by this hard old world. I get defeated and wonder how much more I can take. In fact, this past week has actually had me feeling a lot like that.

And yet, God is my tuffler. He is right here with me, protecting me. And I can trust Him to keep me safe from all the bullies of the world.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.   ~2 Thessalonians 3:3

Cats: A True Story About How My Favorite Animal Nearly Killed the Man I Love

cat-179611_1280

I have always been partial to cats.

It’s true. I have loved many dogs, starting with a St. Bernard mix named Dandy and continuing right on to my family’s current furry pals, Gracie and Jackson. I’ve even loved a few other species of pets, such as a blue narcissitic parakeet and my sister’s guinea pig.

But I have to admit that hands-down, cats are my favorite.

Perhaps it goes back to before my second birthday. I was just shy of two years old when my baby brother was born. Around that same time, I was given a tiny black kitten, which I named “Kitty-Baby.”  She used to love to sleep in the backend of my dad’s old pickup truck. One morning, he accidentally took her along for the ride, and when he stopped she got out.  When my mother broke the news to me, she said it was unlikely we would never see the old cat again. I cried and cried over my old pal. Imagine my delight when one afternoon about six months later Kitty-Baby reappeared, a forlorn and bedraggled mess, nothing but skin and bones.

There were other cats I loved as well. A calico named Pom-Pom who delivered a little of kittens one Easter Sunday morning. We discovered them during our Egg Hunt when my younger sister Brooke excitedly announced, “Look! The Easter Bunny left us kittens!” as the picked up one and put it in her basket.

There was a gray tabby cat we called Jezzie. I wrote about a crazy, memorable night-time experience with Jezzie during last year’s A-to-Z challenge.

When I was very young and first married, my husband and I each had our own cats (his was Fluff and mine was Nina). Together we had a dog named Gloria. It wasn’t long before Gloria adopted herself a completely orange, long-haired female cat with stunning orange eyes. I named her Punkin, but that cat was convinced she belonged to the dog whom she always preferred over me.

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When I first met Jon, he and his girls shared their home with two cats: Sly and India. I also had two cats: Punkin (who by this time was quite ancient in cat years) and Domino (a black and white cat who often faked injuries as a way of getting attention).

I figured we were a perfect match based on the fact that we both loved cats. (Well, there were other reasons as well … but for the purposes of this blog post, I will focus on the cats.)

Little did I know …

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Just after I met Jon, he went through open-heart surgery to have a leaky mitral valve repaired. The surgery was consider to be a great success for his mitral valve no longer leaked at all.

It was not long after his surgery that Jon and I started dating. And one of the things I quickly noticed is that Jon’s health seemed to be somewhat compromised. He was always cold, and his weight continued to drop even though he claimed he was attempting to diet. Jon had a pale color and complained frequently of being tired.

Whenever I would try to talk to Jon about it, he would brush away my concerns. “I’m fine,” he would say. “My doctor says my heart looks great. I’m sure it just takes a while to recover from such an invasive surgery.”

But by the following summer, even Jon had to admit that something was seriously wrong. Unfortunately, his doctor couldn’t seem to find anything wrong. Jon was referred to specialist after specialist, and went through a myriad of medical tests. Nothing could be found wrong.

After several months of doctors and testing and declining health, Jon’s doctor asked him to go back to his cardiologist to make sure there wasn’t a problem with his heart. “Nothing else seems to be the culprit.”

However, Jon’s cardiologist insisted his heart was fine. Jon sat in his office and said, “I’m sure something is wrong with me. I’ve been to all sorts of specialists and had medical tests done to look for every imaginable disease. Nothing shows up. I’m concerned this could be related to my heart. Is there any chance I might have a heart infection?”

“Mr. Hamilton,” said the cardiologist, “you don’t want to have a heart infection.” And with that, he sent my husband on his way.

“Jon, I think it’s time for a second opinion,” I said. “You have every symptom of a heart infection, from night sweats and chills to extreme fatigue. You even have Osler’s nodes on the tips of your fingers. I’m worried that if someone doesn’t find the problem soon, you are going to die!”

“Paige, I don’t think I’m going to die, ” Jon said reassuringly. “However, I will get a second opinion.”

Fortunately, Jon knew a nurse who worked for another cardiologist in town. She got him a quick appointment. This new cardiologist saw a list of Jon’s symptoms and immediately booked him to have a TEE (trans-esophageal echo-cardiogram) on his heart, which is the only way to be 100% certain of a heart infection.

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Tomorrow I am going to write more about how close to death my soon-to-be husband actually was, but for now I am just going to say that the TEE done by the new cardiologist showed an enormous heart infection raging in Jon’s heart. It had been growing slowly on his mitral valve for over 16 months.

Tests were done to determine the source of the infection. Much to the surprise of each and every doctor involved with Jon’s case, the bacteria which caused Jon’s infection was Bartonella, which sounds like an Italian pasta but is actually the Cat Scratch Fever virus. (Who knew that Cat Scratch Fever was more than just a song?) Furthermore, Jon’s case was the ONLY documented case in North America of the cat scratch fever virus infecting a heart.

I always knew Jon was a pretty special guy, but it turns out,

He is literally one man in a million!

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So how did Jon get the cat scratch fever virus in his heart? 

No one knows really, but probably it was either already in his blood stream at the time of the first surgery, or shortly after the surgery he got it in his blood stream. He could have gotten it from changing cat litter or from a tiny scratch by one of his cats.

Either way, shortly after Jon’s hospitalization, all four of our cats went to new homes.

Sometimes I miss having a cat in the house, but most of the time I’m happy enough to cuddle up with a dogs and my husband (who I love many times more than I ever loved any cat).

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Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. ~Matthew 9:35

Please join me tomorrow as I write further about Jon’s nearly fatal heart-infection and how God miraculously healed him.

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.