Saturday, December 25, 2010

From Our Home To Yours

     Do you ever wonder if the words that come out of your mouth will ever be remembered or have the ability to impact someone’s life?  In a conversation with a friend this summer, she described her family vacation to me as just hanging out and “taking care of each other.”  For whatever reason, those words have played over and over again in my brain as I’ve envisioned them at their cabin by the lake.  It has conjured up heartwarming images of a family enjoying each others’ company, complete with fun activities and meaningful conversations, all while happily serving each other through just the mundane tasks of life.  That may be easy when you’re surrounded with people you love and who you genuinely enjoy serving, but on the flip side, there are those times when we’re called to care for someone who may not seem so deserving or lovable, and our time, attention, and even our checkbook may be negatively affected.  Whenever a new set of circumstances comes my way, those words seem to be the backdrop against which I start processing the situation, and as I think about how to take care of someone, it has challenged me to be a little more compassionate and empathetic than usual.  Our family has certainly learned some things about taking care of each other this year, and we’ve certainly been blessed by many of you as we’ve come to some very interesting junctures throughout 2010.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you who prayed for us, hugged us, offered words of encouragement, cried with us, performed some act of service, celebrated with us, or even gave of your resources.  We have felt loved and cherished, and our prayer is that you know how loved you are as well!  We love hearing from you and consider it an honor to walk this journey of life with you!
     The first quarter of our year started off with a quiet but special 25-year anniversary for Harris and me.  The kids gave us tickets to a Mannheim Steamroller concert for Christmas, and we just had a nice family dinner together on the actual day.  Heath had moved back home after studying at Moody Bible Institute for a year and a half and after being in Pella the year prior to that.  Haley was in a busy season of preparing for her trip to Africa, Kelsey got her driver’s permit and braces, and Keaton continued working on his musical skills.  Haley enjoyed a chorus trip to Disneyworld over spring break, and Heath’s birthday wish for a getaway to California for a few days to visit family and friends came true.  He also started dating a very special young lady by the name of Jenny.  She blends into our family beautifully, and she’s been such a tremendous companion for Heath.  Our company, Primerica, went public on the New York Stock Exchange on April 1, and much excitement has been in the air for all the changes that is bringing into our lives.  It’s such a blessing to be affiliated with a company that is growing and strong, and we look forward to expanding our office in 2011.  It was a long, cold, snowy winter, but overall, we enjoyed lots of quality family time together, which we dearly love. 
     Our first trip to the ER for the year came in April when Haley had her first ruptured ovarian cyst.  She had another cyst experience just a couple weeks before she was to leave for Africa, but thankfully she was able to recuperate in time for her missions trip.  She spent her first month ministering in South Africa and was then in Zambia for the second month where she slept in a tent with very primitive conditions just outside an orphanage.  God miraculously provided for her every need and kept her safe the whole time she was there.  What a life-changing experience!  The day after she left, we welcomed Charlene, a foreign exchange student from France, into our home for the next month.  She charmed her way into our hearts with her French accent, endearing smile and laugh, and sweet personality, and we could easily adopt her as one of our very own.  Kelsey, Keaton, and I especially had a blast exposing her to as much U.S. culture as we could offer her in Iowa.  While we were in Pella with her over the 4th of July, Harris and Heath were four-wheeling in the mountains of Tennessee with a bunch of Primerica friends.  Charlene left just before our 18th annual De Boef campout, but we did get to share one of our weekend camping trips with her.  Keaton and Kelsey each had a week of church camp thrown into the summer as well as three weeks of driver’s education scheduled in for Kelsey.  Harris enjoyed a fun tractor ride weekend with his family while Keaton slipped away to Chicago for a few days to visit his friend Nathan.
     Before long, summer was over, and it was time for the kids to head back to school.  Heath took advantage of a fantastic scholarship program and started commuting to Ashford University in Clinton.  He’s finally come to grips with majoring in accounting and minoring in finance.  It’s been a long season of twists and turns for him, but he’s loving his classes and finished strong with a 4.0.  Haley will finish her high school career on December 22, and she has been counting down the days for a couple months already.  She plans to continue working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the YMCA and will add in a few extra hours at Fareway, but she is mostly looking forward to some down time to process all that God has been doing in her life before she heads off to Ashford in the fall for free as well.  God has truly blessed us!  Haley was a swim team captain this fall, and she helped convince Kelsey to pursue swimming in high school as a freshman, so we had a great time with both girls on the same team.  Kelsey had to set dance aside for the season, but now she’s back to dance lessons and continues to play the violin in orchestra and sing in the school chorus.  She still loves anything to do with art and photography and longs for the opportunity to visit France.  Our 15 years’ worth of elementary school functions are ending with Keaton being a 5th grader this year.  He’s already been playing the piano and cello, but this year he added the tenor saxophone to the mix.  He’s discovered a love for football whether it’s on the playground with his friends or with Heath playing X-Box.  All four kids’ personalities are so vastly different, and it makes for a very interesting household full of fun, arguments, emotions, and late-night talks.  It has been such a tremendous joy to have them all under one roof for the past year. 
     Ever since last Thanksgiving, we witnessed Harris’s dad’s health continually get worse, and Harris was able to spend more time than usual with him this past year either on the farm in Pella or in the truck going to tractor sales in Missouri.  To say it’s added to the normal stresses of life for Harris would be a huge understatement, so we finally decided to book the Alaskan cruise we had wanted to take for our anniversary.  We were first able to spend a couple days in Seattle with some friends, but then just 24 hours into the cruise, we got the call on September 8 that his dad had lost his three-year battle with prostate cancer, so we ended up flying home ASAP.  We are so thankful for all the treasured family memories we have with him and for the fact that he is painfree in Heaven.  Two weeks later we got the call from Harris’s mom that her mom had passed away after 10 years of being in the Alzheimer unit.  On September 22 our normally healthy 20-year-old had his first-ever seizure, which dealt him the heavy blow of no driving and no operating heavy machinery for six months, which stripped him of the farmhand position he had excitedly just started.  After a battery of tests were done, we were told on September 29 that there is a 1cm tumor on his left occipital lobe right inside his brain.  We don’t know if the tumor has anything to do with the seizure activity, but we were relieved to find out last week that the tumor has not grown, and therefore, it may likely just be some kind of benign abnormality that’s been there since birth.  Only time will tell, and the current plan is to have another MRI in a year.  We finished out what we labeled our “September to Remember” with an outpatient surgery for me on September 30, and we were just thankful for no cancer to be detected and for the successful results. 
     We were feeling pretty good about Heath’s results last week Tuesday, but then on Thursday night he had another grand mal seizure.  He had gone with Harris to some annuity training in the other Primerica office, and all of a sudden, he started slipping off his chair.  Someone was right there to grab his head before hitting the floor, and Harris was immediately there to keep the situation calm for everyone in the room.  God planted a couple of nurses in the room, the paramedics were called, and prayers were being said all around the room.  The scariest part was after he was done seizing, it was announced that he was not breathing, and he was turning all shades of blue and gray, but praise be to God, Heath’s breathing resumed, and after a trip to the ER in the ambulance, he is alive and well today!  His shoulder is still sore, but his medication has been increased, and we are even more focused now on keeping stress to a minimum and maintaining consistent eating and sleeping routines, which can help in preventing seizures. 
     The images of that night will probably continue to haunt Harris and the others who were in the room for a while, but in due time I hope they will be able to see what I see in my mind.  I see a loving father hovered over his son, calm on the outside but crying out on the inside, pleading for him to come back to him.  I see a room full of angels crying out to God on our son’s behalf.  I see a miracle being witnessed by those who share our faith and, more importantly, by those who may just wonder who this God is that we believe in.  I see a God who chose to give us the gift of His Son, Jesus, who also walked on this earth and endured painful suffering, and I see a God whose ultimate way of taking care of us, even when we’re undeserving or unlovable, was by giving us the gift of salvation from our sins and the hope of living with Him in Heaven someday.  My prayer is that you too will be able to reflect on the joy and hope that Jesus is able to bring into your life not only in this Christmas season but in all of 2011.  Merry Christmas to all of you!

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