We ran away on Thursday. We loaded our jeep (not the cool kind of jeep you may be thinking about, but a conservative, grown up Jeep Grand Cherokee). with water, snacks, pillows and our blankies (yes we are grandparents who have blankies!) and our suitcase. We drove exactly 54.8 miles and found our hiding place. We have spent three days doing nothing. We have slept in, sat on the balcony of our 9th floor condo and watched the silly people on the beach trying to act like it wasn’t cold or windy. We’ve watched t.v., napped, made chicken and rice while just talking about our family and where we are in life right now. We ventured out with no plan, just here and there, browsing shops and even finding a few Christmas gift goodies for the family. Then we walked on the beach, the wind whipping around us, and the cold sand getting between my toes. Tonight we went on a date to Big Mike’s, don’t you just love that name. It conjures up a vision of a big, football player sized guy, with a ball cap and an apron, grilling utensils in hand and a huge smile. I highly recommend it to everyone if you are in the Orange Beach area. We ate yummy food and watched the last quarter of the Alabama/Ole Miss game. We are currently sitting on the couch (I’m tapping away on my laptop) and we are watching a movie.
We needed a “run away” getaway. Life has been testing us. I’m not sure if I passed or not. So many situations causing stress, trying to make decisions, adjustments, compromises and transitions. We’ve come out on the other side a little wiser, a little stretched, a bit exhausted. But the last three days have been good medicine. I feel I can return to real life, put on my big girl panties and deal with whatever life has next for us. We know we are blessed beyond measure. God has been so good to us. I feel He is doing something in our lives, and I hope now that we’ve cleared our heads and rested we can see clearly what He wants to do in our lives in and through us.
It’s the little things in life, isn’t it. Those baby steps forward to realizing a dream. Friday we took one of those baby steps. I was out spending some time with my oldest daughter. We decided to take a walk-about in our favorite…Whitehouse Antiques (I’ve been watching a series called “800 Words” about an Australian writer living in New Zealand. Hence the Aussie phrase walk-about….I like it.). For those of you who are in the dark about this sweet little place, let me enlighten you. It is a conglomerate of booths inside a rather unobtrusive, green building with the simple words Whitehouse on the outside. This simple treasure filled happy place abounds with the most amazing farmhouse, antique, creative items that will leave you breathless…….that may be a bit excessively descriptive, but I do find I feel a little lightheaded with all the possibilities that are packed into every booth. Anyway, I have gotten sidetracked about the baby step we took on Friday. I strolled through the aisles, trying not to fall too deep in the pit of my “wants” when I saw them. Two perfectly matched, oversized nightstands painted the same color as my king size bed….also purchased from this glory land of repurposed treasures. My hand went to my throat,I had finally found what I have spent months, no, years really, trying to find. I quickly took a picture, held my breath as I sent it with a text to my sweet husband. I’m not gonna lie, I prayed. They were just the right price (at least I thought they were). But I knew, he would have to agree and I knew that might be my dilemma. It’s all in the timing, people. It’s all about the stars and the planets being aligned perfectly. That may seem a little dramatic, but I know the common answer I might get and I didn’t want to hear that today. I waited for his response. I start to feel a little warm as I anticipated his answer. Suddenly my phone rang. It was him. This couldn’t be good. I answered, bracing myself for his answer of “We should wait.” A little history here. We’ve been married for close to 33 years. And in those 33 years I have heard this statement so many times, that I have often found myself being rather sarcastic by telling him “we should wait” when he is talking about buying something like food or shaving cream. I know, I’m not proud of it. But this day was different. It was a monumental day. I heard him saying “Yes! Those look great, go ahead and get them before someone else does.” All I could say was “Really?” Then of course, that was quickly followed by “Okay! Bye!” And I hung up before he could change his mind. I walked quickly to the front of Whitehouse and bought those nightstands…..I was literally breathless! We were taking a long awaited baby step to my dream. My dream of decorating my room like one of those Pinterest pictures…..or as my Mom used to say “Like a magazine.” We picked up the nightstands on Saturday morning and brought them home. I was almost giddy. He was so enthusiastic. I quickly moved the small chest on my side of the bed that I bought for $40.00 about 15 years ago at a roadside junk store, then went to his side of the bed and moved, now brace yourself, the old Singer sewing machine cabinet that was turned around backwards and had been serving as his nightstand for the last 15 or so years. I won’t even go into what we used before that. We slid the new (to us) nightstands into place and stood back to admire our baby step. Then I heard my big guy say “I’ve never had a real nightstand before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like nightstand before the sewing machine cabinet” I laughed….but then realized, I don’t think I have ever had one either. We have been married for nearly 33 years and have never “decorated” our room before. We’ve bought new bedding and we bought a new bed and dresser about 24 years ago, graduating from his old dresser and my parents old bed. We had put it off year after year because we were busy raising our baby girls and there were other necessities needed. Besides, no one ever saw our room anyway. But now. Here we are with a new (to us) king size bed frame….painted off-white….a king size mattress we bought 4 years ago and now we have matching nightstands…also painted off-white. We are very excited. Why, because it’s the little things….it’s the baby steps toward our dreams that make life fun. It’s finding re-purposed treasures in places you’ve been a hundred times. It’s realizing that the wait is worth it. It’s knowing that my big guy is in there right now, sleeping soundly with his new nightstand right beside him. It’s me realizing that sometimes “we should wait” for the right time.
I have never really put a lot of thought into the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” and that may be because I heard Hillary Clinton say it once and I some how associate that phrase with her. But in the Christian community, in the church family, it does take the village to raise our children to be people who understand what God did for them, then to teach them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to live a life that honors God. That church family of precious believers are the family that pours truth into their lives. The family that cheers them on, encourages them and often comes to their rescue.
This weekend I saw this village of believers come to rescue the wedding day of my youngest daughter. My girl had been dreaming of this day at this perfect outdoor venue for well over a year. Our area of Alabama is known for unpredictable weather. It is said, if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change. Saturday morning, just as forecasted, was rainy. Not torrential, downpour rain. But steady rain. I stood inside the house of the Historic Malbis Nursery watching the puddles form outside, trying to devise a Plan B. I could not fathom how we would get over 150 guests, the food and the ceremony inside the building. We decided to wait it out and be flexible with some of the decorations. Thankfully I had brought a stack of towels “just in case”. We delayed putting linens and centerpieces on tables. And we prayed. Yes. We asked God to make the rain stop for a wedding. It seemed shameless and selfish to ask such a thing when people in other parts of the world were praying for food! But we prayed. We asked our friends to pray. We asked social media to pray. My husband and I went back to the hotel to get ready while our baby girl was in the bridal suite getting hair and make-up done. We got a phone call right before we were leaving to return to the venue. We were needed for a “first look” picture asap. As we rode back to the venue we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to shine. We just smiled. God in his sovereignty had chosen to answer our prayer. As soon as we arrived we were wisked away to see our baby girl for the first time. We were in awe at the young woman standing before us. No longer a little girl. No longer our baby. But a beautiful young woman ready to marry the love of her life.
When we stepped inside the venue there was a beehive of activity. Friends were everywhere blowing rain off the outside brick flooring, drying chairs, wiping down tables. Linens were being put on tables and centerpieces arranged. The caterer was busy organizing the banquet of food. The one desire of my girl was to have chiffon draped at the ceremony site with a beautiful wooden cross draped in eucalyptus. With the rain it didn’t seem an option because of the continued light dripping of rain off the greenery that covered the venue. One of our friends told me to send him the picture of what she wanted and he would make it happen. Within a short time I looked out and two wonderful men had intricately draped the chiffon exactly like the picture I had sent them. I grabbed my daughter as she was headed back to the bridal suite and showed her the ceremony area. Big tears welled up in her eyes as she smiled. She was so happy.
The events of the day progressed. People kept coming. Chairs were pulled from the reception area to accommodate the number of guests. First the pastor, groom and groomsmen. Then the bridesmaids along with my grandson wearing a sign “Uncle Zach, here comes your bride?”
Then the moment came, my sweet big guy escorting his last daughter down the aisle. My memory raced back to a year ago as he escorted our second daughter down the aisle for her November wedding. He had only been out of the hospital for a week from his last week long chemo treatment. He was weak, bloated and hairless from five months of treatment, but he was there, walking her proudly down the aisle. Here we were a year later and he looked amazing. New suit, bowtie, goatee and a huge smile. He proudly held her arm in his.
The ceremony began and then finished with our girl and her young man washing each other’s feet as their first act of love toward each other as they served each other just as our Savior did for His disciples in the last days before His return to heaven. It was sweet, it was moving, it was precious.
The reception followed with lots of dancing, hugs and laughter. They were surrounded by people who had poured into their lives. People who love them and have watched them in their walk with Jesus. People who willingly came and made this day perfect for them.
They departed in a flurry of confetti, bubbles and silly string. All appropriate for these to kids who fell in love in their church youth group, then dated for two more years before becoming engaged. Then they went to their hotel, quickly changed clothes and went off to bowl with a group of friends until almost midnight. I have to laugh at this last part. It just speaks volumes about the relationship and personalities of these two kids. Because in reality they are still kids at heart. Two twenty year olds stepping into adulthood, filled with love and excitement for what the future has for them. They have a wonderful support group around them. A village. A church family. They love Jesus and desire to live for Him. So here’s to a new life for Molly and Zach Johnson. I have a feeling God has big plans for these two!
As a postscript….I received a text from my baby girl later that night, while they were hanging with friends and bowling. It said “thank you for making my dream come true today, it was perfect.”
So we’ve reached another hurdle to jump in this cancer journey. Radiation. It started with a doctor appointment on December 13th. We heard many new medical terms and explanations of radiation procedures. We were again in information overload, but, we left confident that this would be the final kick in the butt of this cancer that has been an uninvited visitor in our lives for the past nine months. It took the programmers, physicist, doctor and who knows who else a month to configure and calculate the big radiation machine (I’m assuming it is a big machine at this point but have not seen it). All this for 22 prescribed visits of 15 minutes of a laser type of radiation to be precisely shot into my big guys body, carefully dodging his kidney, aorta, pancreas and spine while basically frying the shrunken mass. Literally from entering the room to walking out of the building only takes 15 minutes! I am praying they clearly have that mass in their sight before they pull the trigger. I am sitting in the car right now waiting, looking at Springhill Hospital and thinking about how much time we have spent at this facility over the past months and feeling thankful that God created people who have the knowledge necessary to treat people who have been shocked by the word “cancer”. God is so good. I am not oblivious to the countless sweet people who are still struggling for answers and successful treatment. I am thankful He has walked every step with us and blanketed us in peace and the security He is with us. I am thankful that Lynn’s treatment seems to be working. I will never take our time together for granted, and will continually thank Him for letting me grow old with my big guy.
We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.
Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.
“Let us go to Dothan…” I read those five words again. Confirmation! I was twenty-eight and God was about to change the course of my life. During my quiet time that day, I had prayed for a confirmation of whether to take the job listed on our company’s job boards. When I read those five words, I knew God was telling me to take the job in Dothan, Alabama.
I interviewed over the phone with the Vice President and she hired me on the spot. Now I had to tell my family and friends that I was moving! This would be difficult, because I knew very little aboutDothanand I didn’t know one person in this small town! How could I make everyone understand that I had heard God clearly and regardless of how insane it seemed, I knew I had to make the move.
While my friends and family were skeptical, they supported me because they loved me. There were moments when I doubted the decision myself to move, but God was going before me working out the details. My grandparents lived in a small town forty-five minutes outside ofDothanand I decided to put most of my things in storage and live with them until I found a place to live in town.
The night before I left, many of my friends from church got together and had a surprise going away party for me. I could no longer hold back the tears and for a moment I thought of backing out of the move. But one of my dear friends put her arm around my shoulders and made a speech about my courage to follow what God was telling me to do, despite the uncertainty. I realized God was confirming that I was making the right choice and that He had a plan.
I drove alone to my new home, praying the entire three and half hours. I listened to worship music in an effort to dispel my anxiety. The first night was comforting and familiar as I spent time with my grandparents. They cooked a special meal and talked about times they had set out to follow God and the blessings that followed. I slept well, confident that I had heard God and was on the right path.
After one month of working at my new job and finding a church to attend, I met an elderly lady who lived alone. She was looking for someone to rent her spare bedroom and through a series of events I found myself sleeping in the home of someone I barely knew, in a town I knew very little about, asking God if I was still on the right track.
I wish I could say that I never wavered in my calling, but after three months and a severe case of homesickness, I decided to quit my job and head back home. I talked at length to my boss, and after praying together, she allowed me to give a month notice. I was relieved. Perhaps God had only wanted my obedience on this journey. I had learned to rest in Him through my isolation during the past few months and had focused on His Word and my quiet times with Him.
During those few months I made friends with a couple who were involved in the Student Ministry in the church I was attending. They had asked me over and over if they could introduce me to a friend of theirs who was single. At twenty-eight, I had experienced my share of blind dates and I was done with awkward and uncomfortable dates with men I knew nothing about. I politely refused their requests. But, their persistency wore me down and I finally agreed to a casual get together at their house. I firmly added stipulations to the meeting. If I changed my mind at the last minute, they would make excuses and not be angry with me and if I felt uncomfortable, I could leave at any time. They agreed and the time was set. I was thirty minutes late and the guys had left to pick up pizza when I arrived. This gave me time to relax a little and chat awhile. That evening went well as we ate pizza, played pool and watched a movie. My new friends were true to their word and invited several other singles to make the evening comfortable and relaxing. The friend they were set on introducing me to didn’t say much the entire evening and I assumed he was not impressed. I wasn’t upset, because I enjoyed the entire evening of fellowship and I knew I would be going home soon.
Two days later I received a call at work from the guy my friends had introduced to me. I was surprised by the call, but agreed to lunch. That lunch was followed by a long phone conversation that same evening, dessert the next evening and a date on Friday night. From that first date we were inseparable. It didn’t take long for us to realize we were in love.
I continued to move forward with my plans to move back home and my new love understood and agreed to drive on weekends to see me. We prayed about our relationship and asked God to show us what He wanted for us. Within a month of our first date, he proposed, I accepted and we were engaged!
I moved back home and began making wedding plans. My friends and family again were a little skeptical about my decision to marry someone I had known such a short time, but chose to support me. Five months later we married and this year we celebrate twenty years of marriage.
Many times God calls us to do something that isn’t comfortable or convenient. Sometimes His plan seems to make no sense. But when we choose obedience in the face of uncertainty, we can experience blessings that will be with us for a lifetime. I have no doubt that God ordained for me to move to Dothan some twenty odd years ago, even for a brief four months. He worked out the details every step along the way. I am thankful everyday that He is involved in every aspect of our lives, including getting us in the right place at the right time to meet Mr. Right!