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Jan 30, 2010

Stand Therefore

(Edited to add: Please know that I don't really have any answers. I used to think I did. All I have is THE ANSWER ~ Jesus. I'm just sharing my experiences and my thoughts.)
Last month. Those two words are thick in my mouth. Last month we still had our boy with us. We were exhausted in spirit, mind and body. The battle was fierce. At times my husband and I had no words between us. We saw in the eyes of the other pain, confusion, fear and love. And in those moments there was nothing to say. Sometimes my husband could only whisper to me, "I know."

Between us, we tried to encourage ourselves with scripture, the knowledge that God had already done so much, the Body of Christ fighting with us, and the flickers of hope that treatment would work. We hoped. We prayed. We cried.

Twice I remember asking my husband, "What do we do now?" What do we do?"
Both times his reply, "We stand."

And I, the Bible teacher, the speaker, the intercessor, the one who desired to go deep, asked, "How?"

"How do we do that?"

What does that look like?"

See, I know the scripture. I've quoted it. I've taught on it.

"... and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore..." (Ephesians 6:13,14 ~ KJV).

But in the fire of suffering, I needed to know how do I really stand.
After all, I had been standing...at the bedside, in the waiting rooms, across from surgeons, oncologists, and hospice representatives.

I had stood in church with arms straight up. Our boy with us, hoping, expecting, believing that "today was the day for his miracle."

I had stood in front of a mirror which reflected a worn, weary, desperate woman I barely recognized as me.

I had stood while on a phone crying hot tears with friends and family.

But where I NEVER wanted to stand was where we stood December 19, 2009. In a church with my boy's lifeless, shell lying in a box. His newest skateboard, the one he never got to ride, propped next to him.

So I have stood.

And having done all, I still stand.


Andrew jumped into this picture with us right before it was taken (12/08).
He wanted to stand with us and he did.
He stood. And...he stands.

(I'm not done but I have to stop. I'll be coming back because I have some thoughts on standing. And Ephesians 6 has so much more than the 8 words I wrote above.)

Jan 29, 2010

HOPEFUL FAMILY

~~~~~~~~~~Andrew, we miss you, sweet boy.~~~~~~~~~
This picture was taken by my sister-in-law at the dinner our church prepared following the service for our Andrew on 12/19/09.

Hard to see a "family" picture when one of your children is missing.

Missing.

I can't tell you how life is forever changed. Some of you know firsthand because your "family" pictures feel incomplete, too.

Missing.

I can tell you that my heart beats with hope. Hope because one day our family will be complete again.

Complete.

No one missing...


Jan 25, 2010

Toe "Jam", Ted, On Golden Streets

Last week, I got to "borrow" this little girly who just had her first birthday. She belongs to our friends. She liked "playing" my piano better with her feet than with her hands. My husband said to call this picture "Toe Jam." Good one, babe! Sometimes you are really quick. I'm glad I "let you catch" me all those years ago.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I am tempted to call today a "very bad, no good, horrible day." It had some bad moments. But thank God for friends who continue to let me cry on their shoulders. Thank God for friends who keep checking on me by phone, text and email. Thank God for friends who fix our dinner.


My husband started his new job today. My daughter was at work and my son went to a friend's house from school. So I had a few hours with only Ted for company. And he napped a lot. Someone asked me, in a comment or email, how Ted (the dog) is doing with Andrew not here.
Andrew posed Ted for this picture. He told me this is what Ted does when no one is at home.

Andrew posed Ted for this one, too. When we were in Gainesville at Shands Hospital, Andrew asked for pictures of Ted.


It will be 3 years in April that Ted has been with us. He was Andrew's birthday present when he turned 10. No one else in the family wanted a pekingese. No one but Andrew and me. My husband was out of the country and he did not want a small dog. Neither one of the other kids wanted a pekingese either because they "look funny with their smooshy faces."


When my husband agreed by phone that we could get the peke pup, Andrew and I agreed that we would take care of the puppy and no one else would have to do anything. He would be "our" dog.


My parents brought Ted from Georgia and Andrew and I walked his new puppy that day. In reality, Andrew and I walked while he held Ted in his hands. We had been thinking about names as soon as his dad gave the go ahead on getting the puppy. While puppy walking I said, "He looks like a little teddy bear." Immediately Andrew said, "That's his name. Teddy Bear." Teddy Bear became Ted. E. Bear. Then Teddy. Then Mr. Ted. Then Teddy Boo. Then Tuppy Wear which became Puppy Wear. But mostly, he's just "Ted."



When Andrew got tired of the "medical stuff" and the "medical people," he would look at me and say one word. "Ted." Only he always pronounced it like "TayId." Like the southern way of making 2 syllables out of a one syllable word.


So this is the thing. While Ted is Andrew's dog, Ted bonded with my husband the most. Even though Andrew LOVED Ted, it was disappointing to him that Ted didn't love him like he wanted him too. Still, even a picture of Ted made Andrew happy.


But now I see it is good. Because if I had to watch Ted looking around the house for Andrew and moping, it would just be really hard. And it's already hard enough. And that is only one reason I asked God to give Andrew a puppy in heaven. And I really hope He has.


Ted & Reese


Andrew loves Reese, too. He walked Reese several times a week. Reese is Ted's girlfriend. When Andrew needed a wheelchair, his dad would push Andrew and walk Reese. Andrew would "walk" Ted.


The wheelchair is in the garage.


Andrew is walking streets of gold.


He is WALKING! Not holding onto a wall and lifting his foot with his hip muscle.


HE IS WALKING. And I can't wait to walk with him again.


I can't help but wonder if Andrew is walking with Jesus, a puppy trailing at their feet.


"And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known." (Charles A. Miles, 1913)

This one just makes me smile.

Thank you, again, for your kindness, encouragement and prayers. It means so much to me.

Jan 23, 2010

My Favorite Artist and Other People I Love

"Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right" Proverbs 20:11.
I have been going through Andrew's schoolwork. Bittersweet. Except for one week in August 2008, I home schooled him from kindergarten on. Looking through his Bible notebook, I found this scripture from Proverbs that Andrew had written. He had a daily assignment of reading a devotion from The One Year Book of Did You Know Devotions for Kids (365 days of trivia, memory verses and fun devotions). Either he would choose or I would choose a scripture that he would copy. He had one scripture each week to memorize.

Finding his artwork from when he was a little boy is so sweet to me. He often drew the two of us, and more likely than not, there was a lemon tree in the picture. Lemons are my favorite fruit. If you look closely, you will see that we have containers with lemons.
I love that we are holding hands. And I love that he spelled his name "ANEW." And I love that he tested out his colors on the right side. See the lines on the bottom right?
The second picture is done with markers and we are holding hands again. In the clouds, he has spelled his name. He left out the "e" at first and had to add it to the "r" cloud!
Well...Andrew is made "ANEW" and he is above the clouds. He is. He is in our future. He is in our eternity.
Those who trust in the Lord shall all be made "ANEW."
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Revelation 22:20.

My son, Avery, wants to be an astronaut. He is serious, he tells me. A couple of years ago my husband bought the boys a telescope for Christmas. Avery said everytime he looks at the stars through the telescope he wants to travel there. This picture is from his homecoming '09.
His plans for today (Saturday) are to go to a "friend's" house and make cupcakes. Avery, you are going to bake? You go hungry before you will even fix your own sandwich! Your "friend" is really pretty, by the way.

Dad ties the tie. Dan is a wonderful husband and such a great dad. He takes good care of us. He starts a new job this week. Yesterday (Friday) he had outpatient surgery to remove the screws from his knee. It was hard for both of us to see all of the stuff at the surgical center. Of course, it brought painful memories of Andrew's hospital stays.
My lovely daughter, Audra, is a journalism student. She doesn't really wear glasses, or hats very often. She bikes and is training for a triathlon. She has a new beau.

I love Andrew!!! Always a Family of 5.

Jan 21, 2010

When Songs Give Place To Sighing

Earlier this week I got a phone call from my cousin, Joy. She and I have one of those relationships that runs deep. Very deep. I remember writing her a letter when I was in the second grade. My dad was pastoring a church in PA and it was my first experience with real snow and 3 foot icicles. (There wasn't snow like that where we were from.) Joy lived in the South, the Deep South. She still does.
Because my dad was a “church planter,” we lived all over the map. Joy was a constant in my life. She still is.

When she called me the other day, she reminded of the song I have sung many times,
“His Eye Is On The Sparrow” (written by Mrs. Civilla D. Martin in 1905). The version I sing combines parts of the second and third verses. Joy’s church sang the full version last Sunday.

She shared this line (unfamiliar to me) from the third verse, “When songs give place to sighing…”
Joy said when she saw that phrase she thought of me. She has never had a child pass from earth to Heaven, although the shadow of death came close to her first born a few years ago. She and her family have seen more than their portion of hardship. To protect her privacy, I will not be more specific.

Last Sunday Joy united with me in grief when she sang, “When songs give place to sighing…” because she has experienced the sound of her own sighing in a sorrowful place.


The Psalmist, David, writes, “I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me” Psalm 38:8-10.


Every night I sleep with Andrew’s fleece robe in my arms, holding the sleeve in my hand. Every morning, I kiss my son’s picture and I tell him, “Good Morning, Son. I miss you and I will see you soon. Very soon, I hope.” When that day comes my sighing will turn to singing. The refrain from

“Oh, I Want To See Him,” comes to mind this morning.
“Oh I want to see HIM, Look upon His face, there to sing forever of His saving grace. On the streets of Glory, let me lift my voice. Cares all past. Home at last. EVER TO REJOICE” (written by R.H. Cornelius in 1916).



Thank you for praying for my family...my son Avery (15) and my daughter, Audra (20). Thank you for praying for my husband and me. I am having a hard time with the images of Andrew in the last 24 hours of his life. They are very painful. I would ask that you pray specifically that I would not recall those sights. It breaks my broken heart all over again.

Jan 18, 2010

Edited/Question to Myself...

Edited to Add: I so appreciate the thoughtfulness which with you offer comforting words to me as you read what I write in my pain and loss. To Rebecca S. ~ I think you have recognized something you relate to in me. Perhaps it is because I am also a pastor's daughter and know very well the "ministry life." It is an unfamiliar place to be in...needing ministry from others. Somehow when Andrew was here and even a couple of weeks after he went to heaven, I had finally gotten to the place where I knew I had to rely on the Body of Christ to meet my needs. For that is most often how God meets our needs...through the hands, words and even checkbooks of His people.
For some reason, now I feel that I should be able to "pull it together" enough to at least act like I am "myself" again. To smile at people, even though the gravity of grief keeps my face in a perpetual grimace. To hold a "normal" conversation as though Andrew were just up the street skateboarding with his friends. To freely lift my hands in praise although my joyful emotions are "strait-jacketed." So I just want to thank you, for coming here to check on me, and to patiently read what I pour out. Just like many of you, writing helps me process my life.

And so...I write. I write with Andrew's pictures leaning against the monitor and with his paintings propped to the side of my desk. And in between writing and "doing life" in this house, I wander through the rooms and I see Andrew everywhere. And I ask God to let me really see Andrew in my dreams at night. And I ask God to let me see HIM and HIS purpose again in my life and in my family's life until we are all reunited on the "upside."
My love & gratitude,
Melanie


~~~~~~~ (photo by Linda Charlene)~~~~~~~~


Question to myself:


Can I learn something from me? I was revisiting my speaking topics a few days ago listed here.


And I wondered, "Can I learn from me?" I developed these speaking topics in preparation of applying to a speaker team. I carefully pulled from subject matter that I had previously taught to women's groups, Life Groups and Wednesday night Bible classes. I reworked, reviewed, researched and wrote.


Just when I was getting everything ready to submit to the speaker organization, 2009 hit! And I do mean hit.


My husband had a traumatic ski accident on Jan. 1, 2009, requring 10 days of hospitalization in CO, skin grafts, hyperbaric treatments and Percoset. I was teaching part time, homeschooling my precious Andrew and all the other things a wife and mother does AND MORE.


Then my husband's pay was cut in half. Then my husband and most of his coworkers were laid off.


THEN ANDREW WAS DIAGNOSED WITH BRAIN CANCER. (I HATE CANCER.)


And now our sweet boy is in Heaven and who knows when we'll see him again. Soon, I hope.


And so back to my question. "Can I learn something from me?"

I still want to be whole-ly His.


And I want to be diligent in keeping my heart.

I am especially concerned about being a resilient woman in the midst of missing Andrew.


So maybe the teacher can teach herself. I know one thing. I will not let the Enemy keep me down. I grieve and I mourn but I know Jesus is here in the middle of my storm. He never left. I have His promise on that. Every morning, reality hits before my feet hit the ground and every morning the reality of Andrew not being here hurts.



I emailed a friend today to tell her about a speaking opportunity I have (with Alisa) in NC in August. I told her this:



I just don’t feel like I have anything to say, except “You need Jesus.”


“Life is sometimes really hard.”


“And in conclusion, you need Jesus.”

I don’t think that would take longer than 10 seconds to say.




I told Jesus a couple of days ago, "If you give me something to say, I will say it. Otherwise I have nothing."

Jan 14, 2010

Strength In The Strain ~ originally posted before the diagnosis

~~~~Andrew Christopher Dorsey ~ summer '09 pushing us on the beach swing~~~~

I just re-read what I posted for 8/11...only about 2 1/2 weeks before Andrew was diagnosed with brain cancer. Oh my. If I had only known what was just around the corner. And just because I need to say it often everyday: I love Andrew. I miss Andrew. I can't wait to see Andrew again. Praise God he is in our future!

Aug 11, 2009

Life Lines ~ Strength In The Strain
The past 10 months have been challenging for our family.


Job loss. Job find. Traumatic accident. Drastic paycut blamed on the economy. Waiting. Schooling issues. More waiting.


So many of you could post your own list of challenges that you have been facing as well. But in the current of uncertainty I have to remember what I truly believe: Challenges are opportunities for growth.


I like this quote by John Maxwell: Change is inevitable; growth is optional. In the midst of our challenges, will we look to see how the strain will ultimately be of benefit? Are we on the lookout for new buds of growth?


I've spent my early mornings reading from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. This excerpt from August 2nd has had a profound effect on me. Chambers writes, "God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength."


When I read that quote, I consider the other activity I have been doing daily. A few months ago, I began working out using The 30 Day Shred dvd. In 3 different circuits of the workout I do resistance moves. Sometimes the resistance is my body weight and other moves incorporate 5 lb weights. I can see muscles! I have more tone. I am stronger.
In the strain of resistance I have developed strength. It is not an invisible, intangible strength. With the increase in strength there is a noticeable ease of stooping and rising, in carrying loads and in my level of endurance.



Psalm 29:11 tells us, "The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace."


I consider that God allows certain trials, certain challenges, into our lives as a means of strengthening us. Perhaps the strength we acheive in the strain comes from resisting the temptation to simply quit. To give up on pushing through the pressure of the weight is to give up on what is sure to be the result ~ growth.


As I push my body up from the floor in the strain of push-ups, and as I follow the trainer's instructions for pressing the 5 lb weights, the goal is not to go about my day doing push-ups nor is it to carry around 10 extra pounds. No, the goal is to strengthen me to do real life. James 1:2-4 instructs us thusly, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."


You see, the purpose of my workouts is not so I can do push-ups and lift weights. The purpose of my workouts is so that I am made stronger and healthier for life beyond my workouts. When James writes that we may be perfect and complete, perfect carries the idea of being fully developed or mature. Complete underscores the thought of fullness and wholeness.


To count it all joy is not a giddy, emotional reaction rather it is a deliberate appraisal to see the strain from God's perspective.


The strain, the trial, the challenge results in the strength.


"The strain is the strength."


Edited 1/14/09 ~ Currently trying to regain my strength...thankful for your prayers.

Jan 11, 2010

Books I Am Reading and Words to God

Andrew & Audra 12/08
Andrew & Avery 12/08

The Bible
by the Holy Spirit

Psalm 13 has ministered to me today. It ends this way: "I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."



Heaven Is So Real
by Choo Thomas

The One Year Book of Hope
by Nancy Guthrie



Smith Wigglesworth Devotional
by Smith Wigglesworth



My Utmost for His Highest
by Oswald Chambers

Heaven
by Randy Alcorn



Words I have said to God: ('may not be theologically sound, I know.)

"You know how I feel to lose the physical presence of a son. Yours left Heaven's throne so that my son might be able to go to you."

"You understand what it's like to see your son suffer. I do, too."

"Today, I trust You with Andrew in Heaven. And I trust You with my other children here on Earth."

"Do you still answer the prayers of a mother for her son who is already in Heaven? If so, will You give Andrew his very own puppy today to follow him around?"

"You are a better parent to Andrew than I could ever be. You are the perfect Father."

"I'm glad Andrew has a big brother in Heaven ~ Jesus!"

"Please help his brother and sister here on Earth. They suffer loss."
"Please help, us."

more words later...

Jan 7, 2010

Even Though...

My Children ~ Christmas 2008

Though my heart is broken because Andrew is no longer in our presence, I still believe it is God's will to heal. He is a good God and I do not doubt that His thoughts and plans for us are good.



Though we did not get our heart's desire...100% recovery HERE ON EARTH, my faith in my God is not shaken.



Though sometimes my husband has to remind me to breathe and I force a smile on my face for the sake of others, down deep I have joy that Andrew is cancer free forever!



Though there are moments when my mind tricks me and I think that Andrew is just playing outside, God lovingly whispers to me Andrew is playing "upside."



Though my mother's heart longs to go to heaven NOW - this very moment, the same heart also understands my family still needs me here.



Though everywhere I look in our home, I ache when I see "Andrew" in the things he did, touched, wore...I am grateful that he was here in our family for 12 1/2 years. Now he is in our future!



Though I feel lost and undone, I trust God will gently lead me in His perfect timing and I plan to follow, knowing His path is the only One that leads to Life on the "upside."



"...though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me..."

Jan 5, 2010

A Little More...

Our Family ~ 12/08
(click on pic to enlarge Andrew's sweet smile.)

I want to share a little more with you about Andrew's service on 12/19/09. Our daughter, Andrew's sister Audra, began the worship service as she played her guitar and sang "Healer," the song many of you have heard Kari Jobe sing.

The praise and worship team from our church sang 3 worship songs, one of which I requested, There Is A River. This song has special significance to our family. During Andrew's life saving surgery on 9/11, we sang this song as we awaited the outcome of his surgery. And often in the hospital Andrew would ask me to sing to him. I always sang There Is A River as I rubbed his feet. My pastor's wife who is my friend sang on the team. I had asked her to organize that aspect for me. (At bottom of post is a url to There Is A River.)

Our pastor, our friend, spoke so eloquently about Andrew's life. Our pastor and his wife were with us in the worst of times over these past few months. The day of Andrew's preliminary diagnosis I called them and from that moment on they were with us every step of the journey. They spent hours with us in hospitals, visited our home and prayed and loved on us in an extraordinary way. They came to know Andrew and love him in a way that no one else other than our family could have loved him. They are true shepherds in every sense of the word. We thank God for their ministry and their friendship to our family.

Andrew's former Wednesday night boy's leader (another close friend of ours) reminisced about Andrew and how during game time he and our other son, Avery, were some of the fastest white boys to play Capture the Flag.

My sweet friend, Alisa from Carolina Panache, beautifully read "The Gift" written and sent to me from dear Lisa Smith of Glad Chatter. Alisa and her family drove from NC to be with us. Alisa organized the photo display for the viewing and service. Her gift of beauty blessed me.

Another special long-time friend, LaDon who with her husband flew in from MD, spoke so sweetly and blessed me with her loving words.

Long time friends from college days (Lee University) flew in. Loving family members drove long distances. Audra's school and work friends came. Avery's school friends and faculty attended. Precious neighbors and friends were there and our loving church family surrounded us with love, hugs and tears.
By my side sat my mother and my father. My father, a pastor and the one who dedicated Andrew to the Lord, spoke at the gravesite. My brother, a professional saxophonist, played at the service as well as "Jesus Loves Me" at the gravesite. My husband's brother (an army vet) presented a special tribute regarding Andrew's desire to serve in the military.

Following is a portion of the obituary I wrote for our son:

Andrew’s passions were skateboarding and graffiti art. His life long ambition was to enlist in the United States Army when he turned eighteen. From an early age, he had a keen interest in the military and expressed his desire to be a sniper in the Army.
Andrew never met a dog he didn’t like and often walked the neighbor’s dogs as a “job.” He most often spent his money on skateboards at Double Barrel Surf & Skate where he became good friends with the owner Skip. Until the time he would be old enough to enlist in the Army, his wish was to work for Skip.
Today marks 3 weeks since Andrew left our earthly home to join Jesus in Heaven.
I have other thoughts to share with you. Maybe tomorrow...
Catherine Mullins worships with "There Is A River."