So Close . . . yet, So Far!

Have you ever run a marathon?  I have.  Two.  As most of you know, the second one didn’t end up too well for me.

My first marathon was in Detroit in 2006.  Oh my, was it hard!  It was thirty degrees with winds over forty miles/hour.  I remember getting to mile 13 and watching all the half marathoners rejoice.  I really remember thinking that they were the smart ones!  I had another 13 to go!  Do you have ANY idea how depressing that is?

So, in mind I would get to a mile marker (which aren’t really marked but you have studied the course and have an idea in your mind . . .) and I would think, “Ten down, sixteen to go!”  Now, on a normal day running ten miles is quite an accomplishment – but in a marathon . . . it is just discouraging because SO much lies ahead of you. 

For me, the turning point of hope came at about mile 18 to 20 . . . at that point you KNOW you have logged more miles than are yet to come . . . and you literally just will your feet to keep moving.  For me, personally, it was much more a battle of my mind than my body.  You MUST overcome.  You must will yourself to keep moving . . . keep running . . . keep marching toward the finish line. 

At no point in this process can you SEE the finish . . . but you trust it is there.  You keep holding on to the fact that you will cross it . . . and rejoice . . . at some point!

Have you ever heard of ‘bonking?’  Funny word, huh?  Bonking is when you are mid-run and your body absolutely shuts down.  Many distance runners experience it.  You can train and train . . . but sometimes your body has a mind of its own. 

Most runners bonk between miles 18 and 26.  I have one friend who was a mile from the finish line and had to be rescued by an ambulance.  Miles 18 to 26 . . . Hmmmm . . . you are close enough to know the finish is coming . . . yet . . . still SO far!  You have already run more miles than some people EVER run in a lifetime . . . but you still have a good 3, 6, or 8 miles to go.  Keeping your mind engaged at that point is so very difficult.  You think you can do it but your body is so tired and the finish looks SO very far away!

My friends!  Today we are at that point with our journey with cancer.  Many of you know of my sweet Mary Juengel.  Her mama, Marni, is my best friend in the whole wide world and for the past two-plus years we have been navigating the horrible world of chemo, radiation, and cancer. 

Today, this precious baby and her family need our prayers.  PLEASE . . . will you pray?  Mar is so close to being done – but right now the finish line looks so very far away. 

She is weary.  She is tired.  She is scared.  Her body hurts so SO badly from the chemo it was inundated with this past Monday . . . that two more miles look like an entire marathon lies before her. 

My friends . . . will you please cover this baby girl with your prayers.  With pain, comes fear.  Fear of cancer’s vicious return.  Fear of another round with a beast too overwhelming to even consider. 

This past Monday was Mary’s VERY last intrathecal chemo – that means that they put the chemo right into her spine.  It was our last on a VERY long road that started in October of 2011.  She has had . . . well, I have lost count there were so many . . . at LEAST 30 of these terrible procedures!  Monday was the last!  You would think we could rejoice . . . but the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to destroy this baby girl’s hope!

Her body is in pain.  Deep, horrible, frightening pain.  Will you please pray?  Please pray for healing.  Please pray protection over every system and function in her little body from the horrible side effects of the chemo.  Please pray that she will have peace and that fear will be FAR from her mind.  Please pray that even though her little body is inundated with HIGH amounts of steroids right now, that her emotions will stay steady.  Please pray for her mama, her daddy, and her siblings.  Sometimes you are too weary to pray . . . so let’s pray for them!

My friends . . . we are in the home stretch . . . but the finish line is still MILES away!  We cannot bonk!  It isn’t an option!  Please . . . PLEASE pray this baby girl through! 

Defining Moments

In the brief days that I was remarried and living out on the farm, I had six kids.  Three mine and three his.  The youngest of them all was just three.  I would load them all in my car and head off to school in the mornings and we would pray on our way.  I remember praying day after day that we would glorify God throughout the day.  Then it hit me . . . a three-year-old has NO idea what ‘glorify God’ means.  Ha!  I wondered if even the fourteen-year-old really got it.  So it set me to thinking . . . how could I put it that they could all understand? 

What I came up with was to pray . . . “Father, may the way we live our lives today make You look good.”  A kid-friendly definition.  It challenges me daily.  Sometimes I wonder if we get so accustomed to the ‘words’ of our faith . . . those we throw around daily . . . ‘trust,’ ‘faith,’ ‘grace,’ ‘glorify,’ . . . .that we stop considering what they really mean?

The other night my little guy, Micah, was really struggling.  He has had a migraine now for four months!  Straight!  We have modified his diet, modified his school day, began new meds . . . you name it we are trying it.  So we were chatting and I began to tell him that we need to keep trusting.  And then it hit me – a 13 year-old doesn’t have a clue what ‘trust’ means. 

Some of the best advice I received after Chad died was when Noah seemed to be completely melting down about six months after his daddy died.  A school administrator pulled me aside and said, “Sarah, I respect the way you are walking this out in your faith.  But, I want you to remember that the concepts of faith are very abstract . . . adults even struggle to walk out their ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ when tragedy strikes.  Your kids need solid, concrete coping tools.”  She then pointed me in the direction of a counselor who, yes – was a Christian, but who specialized in grief and was able to give my kids solid coping skills apart from all the words of our faith that we so freely toss around to each other when tough times hit.  You know . . . trust, faith, rest, peace, etc . . .

So, here I am . . . praying with my little guy that God will help him trust . . . and it hit me.  What is trust?  What is it in a way that will make sense to Micah?  And so I prayed . . . “Father, may Micah have peace . . . knowing that You have all of this in Your hands . . . knowing that You will take care of him.” 

That is what ‘trust’ really is, isn’t it?  Trust is knowing that we can have peace because we believe and we know that God is big enough to handle our lives and all of the situations of them. 

Today . . . my prayer for you, my friend . . . is that you will know God’s peace.  Not because the word of God promises it in Philippians 4:6-7 . . . but because you believe deep within you that God can handle your life!  May that define each moment of your today! 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?

  • Psalm 56:3-4

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Philippians 4:6-7

Welcome 2014!!!!

Welcome back to normal life, everyone!  Well, sort-of . . . we thought today would be back to normal, but if you live almost anywhere in the mid-west your kids may still be home from school today, as mine are.  I LOVE snow . . . and in Midland, MI we are having LOTS of it!  I know I am in the minority – but I am loving it!

I bet some of you have wondered where in the world I went!  After our big concert push last spring, I seriously did drop off the face of my ministry.  It was a time of re-grouping and working to follow the next step of God’s calling in my life – my master’s degree. 

After MUCH prayer and seeking the Lord as to my future as leader of my family, I really felt the call to be a hospital chaplain.  As I researched how to accomplish that calling – I found that the best way to position myself to fulfill that role in any capacity was to get my Masters of Divinity – or MDiv.  So, my summer was spent researching and trying to figure out how in the world to do that.  I began work at Moody Theological Seminary this fall and absolutely loved it!  I took 7 credit hours and holy moly – was it hard!  Please keep in mind – I have a bachelor’s degree AND I am an author and lyricist – I’m a ‘word’ person.  I CANNOT tell you how many words I looked up in the dictionary this fall.  Words that I had NEVER seen!  Oh my! 

I spent HOURS at the library and hours at home.  In fact – I rarely saw family or friends.  The level of learning was very high and challenging.  I did finish with all A’s . . . but wow!  By mid-December Abbi looked at me and almost cried.  She missed me and said that ALL I did was study and write papers.  True!

Many of my friends who have sent children off to college suggested that maybe I should take this next semester off, as it is Abbi’s final semester of high school and then she is off to college.  I would have had to take even more credits than my first semester – plus, Abbi is doing several ‘official’ college visits, swimming at Nationals in Florida in March, and graduating . . . all of which will take my time . . .

The other thing I haven’t told you is that the MDiv is a 96 hour program!  That is almost triple what an MBA (Masters of Business) is.  TRIPLE!  So, after completing my first semester and with light of all that is taking place next semester I have decided to step back and re-evaluate.  I am researching other program options and other degrees that might allow me to minister in the same way but that might not require such a big commitment.  I am a single mama and do not want to totally miss these precious years with my kids.

There is another bend in the road right now too.  There is a wonderful blessing brewing in my life in the form of a very sweet, kind, and wonderful man.  His name is Bryan and we are truly enjoying getting to know one another.  My privacy has become very important to me over the years.  The more you are in the public eye, the less privacy you have and in my book – the more precious it becomes.  So, though I will be very careful what I share, you will hear more about him, and us, in the future.  As I learn to trust God with this part of my heart, I realize that this is still a part of my grief journey and I do believe this part of the journey will minister.  But for now, just let me say that I am so grateful to God for this gift which totally caught me off guard and has put a smile in my heart in a place I thought might never smile again! 

So, these next few months will be ones of just sitting back and seeking the Lord.  I love that place in my life.  I just need His direction and His guidance.  I guess it is a ‘wait and see’ time in my life. 

How about you?  Sometimes the ‘wait and see’ times are tough?  Sometimes it takes a whole lot of trust to just sit back for a while.  I am realizing, these days, that I have areas of my life where trust is really tough.  I will share about that soon. 

In the meantime – please know that no matter where you are at as you enter this New Year – there is nowhere as peaceful or lovely as snuggled right in the arms of our sweet Lord.  Nuzzle yourself right there and together, my friends, we will learn to walk out our trust . . . or lack of! 

I have spent a lot of time in prayer and worship lately.  The Scripture that keeps resounding in my head is Ephesians 3:20.  I am claiming it as my verse for 2014.  I believe that there is a huge part of this verse that stretches me.  This is where my trust lacks . . . so I am going to claim it and work hard to trust it . . .

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . . .

Do you trust God to do immeasurably more than what you ask or imagine?  I’m working on it.  Maybe we can work on it together!  Blessings my friends.  See you soon – I promise!

April 5th, 2008

(Almost six months after Chad passed away)

It is hard to believe that six months ago Chad and I were asleep in a hotel in Chicago.  What must he think?  Is there any way that he could have imagined that his Earthly life would end two short days later? 

Tonight I am in a resort in Marathon, Florida.  Whoever could have imagined?  I wish, SO, that I could share all this with Chad.  I miss him, my heart just breaks!  Still . . .

I do my first concert in six months tomorrow.  Oh, God, please sing and speak for me!  I lay my entire ministry down before You!  It is not mine.  Please give me Your message!  Please show me what You will have for me to say.  Oh, Father, I never want this to be about me . . . but always about You!  I lay down all my pride.  I love and worship You.  May You get all the glory!

Chad – I still just cannot believe you are gone!  I miss you!

April 1st, 2008

(Almost six months after Chad passed away)

Well, we have been in Florida for three days now – it is wonderful.  Please bless Dave and Carol for their generosity.  I must say, the grief is easier here – away from the day in and day out of the heart ache.  It is a little break from the ache that follows me everywhere.  Please prepare us for going home. 

I had another interview with the Midland Daily News today.  Please bless Angela as she writes this story.  Guide what she says – may You be glorified, Lord!

Chad Michael!  I love and miss you!  Today, I went to Starbucks (imagine that!) and ordered a large mocha.  The girl accidentally charged me for a medium and since she had already wrung it up she just left it that way.  I handed her a $5 bill and boom – my change popped up right before my eyes . . . $1.11!  Thank you, babe, for saying ‘hi.’  (Rob and Kathy’s rental car license plate was 111 too, btw.)

When will my heart stop breaking for you?  For your smell, smile, and touch?  I miss you.  Please keep giving me signs. 

March 29th, 2008

Hi Friends!  So . . . . A week ago now I told you that the journal entries would be coming fast a furious.  Then I spent hours typing out a weeks worth of journals AND pre-programming them to publish.  That means that I can set the day and time for them to publish before the day and time arrive.  A very handy feature, I think.  Until late last night! 

Late last night I went to check on all those posts and realized that NONE of them had posted!  Ug!  So . . . I'll just have to post them the good, old-fashioned way until I can get my tech crew to figure this out.  Now . . . on to the first of the fast and furious journals . . .

March 29th, 2008

(Almost six months after Chad passed away)

Well, we are on the plane on the way to Florida.  It hurts to be doing all of this without my honey . . . Oh God, please show me Chad.  Maybe, right now, that meant to ‘show us your glory.’  It has been a while since I last journaled.  The past few weeks have been very painful – yet, I begin to see a bud of life within me from time to time.  Father, please bless our time in Florida.  Please protect us.  May we truly rest and have fun.  The next couple months are full with ministry – O God, I am desperate for Your vision and message – I feel the weight of having to speak and sing . . . please speak to and show me what YOUR message is right now.

The kids are really beginning to mourn – please give me the wisdom to shepherd them through this.

Now, Father, I must talk with You about the bud of new life . . . I said to Hillary – “How can I weep for one man while thinking and hoping about another?”  Lord, Last Sunday a man came to me and hugged me at church.  I can still feel his hand on my waist.  I looked and felt so pretty that day.  We had a short conversation and something just seemed ‘different’ between us.  It felt really nice.  Oh Lord, could he possibly be interested in me?  His arms feel so nice.  Please let us become friends.

Later . . .

Well, we are all settled in our condo now.  It is late and the kids have gone to bed.  I sit alone on the balcony, listening to the ocean.  I can’t help but think of Chad – remembering last year when we were in Florida.  As the kids romped in the ocean earlier I wondered where Chad is?  Can he see us?  Is he watching?  I still can’t believe he is gone.  I do feel like reality has begun to set in, and that I am beginning to adjust to the loneliness.  It really does help, I must admit, to think a bit about another man.  I am almost . . . no, I AM, embarrassed to admit.  The slight hope that I could have happiness again feels so good.  My heart aches for my babies . . . there is truth in the fact that I can and probably will find new love . . . but they never get another daddy.  Oh, God, please watch over and protect their tender hearts.  Please heal all of our breaking hearts.  And, Lord, please bring me a man who will love them like their daddy did  . . . someone who can and will love and serve not only me – but them, as well.

And finally . . . I got ‘hit on’ today . . . by a very good looking man.  I am SO not accustomed to this.  He has a

Wedding ring on, and gave me his business card – truly what a creep!  Please be with his poor wife – and please lead him to You, Lord.  Father, please protect me in this ‘hook up’ world.  I am hoping that You have a wonderful, spirit-filled, Christ-like man for me. 

I pray that this week will be blessed.  Please tell Chad I love and miss him!

The Day I Hate!

Father’s Day 2013

There will NEVER be a day, this side of Heaven, that I will think Chad passing away was a good idea.  It doesn’t matter how many lives I touch, how many hearts are encouraged through our story, or how much God is glorified.  Yes, those are all the ways that God brings Romans 8:28 to fruition in our lives, and I am grateful for those, but the reality of today is just too painful.  Perhaps I should be more selfless . . . perhaps the glory of God should simply override a mama’s heart.  Forgive me, Lord, if the honesty of my humanity is just too real. 

But, the reality of today is that this mama’s heart weeps . . . on Father’s Day . . . for her three babies who never got to say good-bye, who never again get to say hello, and who on days like this just try to ignore the emotions that rise from deep within.   

Forever our years are indelibly marked by three days.  Three days each year that are wound up in the man Chad Schieber was to us.  His birthday, the day he died, and this day . . . the one where we honor our fathers . . . and yet ours is in Heaven. 

Someone suggested to me, recently, that it might be time to make Father’s Day a happy day.  No. 

362 days of the year we strive to make happy.  We put our pain down deep and make the most of our new normal.  362 days of the year we smile, we laugh, we dream, we live. 

But for 72 hours in each year we are brought face to face with the reality that we ARE living a new normal.  One which we never asked for and one which we never could have imagined.  72 hours each year we cannot ignore the pain which lives deep within.  72 hours each year we come face to face with a pain we have learned to manage and overcome the other 8,688 hours of the year. 

So please forgive me, if for a measly 72 hours each year I honestly say . . . this is a day I hate!

Good Monday Morning to you!!!!!

Well, the school year here in Midland, MI is FINALLY almost over. I must admit that with an abnormally rainy and cool spring combined with the latest ‘final day of school’ I can remember in a long time . . . it truly has felt like summer would never get here. Alas! Two more days of school and let the fun begin!

All three kids will be swimming this summer. Abbi, of course, is my Olympic bound swimmer. Well, not yet! She is working her tail off to get her times down a few seconds so that she can try out for the swim team at the college she is considering. Noah has decided he would like to try swimming again and possibly go out for swim at Midland High next year. And Micah? Well, he and I have been in negotiations. Micah has really bad back and neck issues – apparently his bones have grown faster than his muscles can keep up with and he is in constant pain. So, his therapist and I have negotiated that he will swim 3 days/week. That way I get my money’s worth and he gets good exercise that will help with his back issues.

My older two are going to Atlanta on a mission trip in July, Micah is attending several camps, Abbi is going to see her beloved One Direction and in August I am taking all three kids to see Phillip Phillips (American Idol winner) and John Mayer! Praise God for lawn seating (ie . . . cheap!!!!) Oh! And . . . Abbi has her first ‘real’ job as a lifeguard and helping teach little ones how to swim! She is very excited and is considering a career as a swim coach. Not sure what degree you get for that . . . but it is great to see her passion come to life!

I am really looking forward to this time with my kids. I do believe that when you have faced the things in life that we have faced, that you really treasure and value time. Time is such a gift. Time TOGETHER is such a gift. I truly thank God for the time I have with my babies.

I am going to be coming fast and furious with my journal entries. I would love to get all caught up, date-wise. I have hesitated because . . . well, I guess sometimes I just wonder if anyone cares. And, I also struggle with the depth of the despair I feel in the writings.

One of the things I need you all to know before I get too far in is that there was an additional evil lurking in my life in the months I am about to post from my journal – one that none of us knew about. It was an evil that made my ‘coping’ so much harder and one that took me completely by surprise. It was my health. What we did not know was that the stress of Chad’s death had begun to take its toll on my health but we could not see it.

The journals I am about to post are from March, April, and beginning into May and at some point in May I found out that I was severely anemic and had almost NO iron in my blood. The roll of iron in your blood is to carry oxygen to all the organs and systems of your body. I was functioning, or trying to, on almost half the blood supply I should have been AND on very little oxygen. Think about that! Oxygen is vital to our bodies functioning well . . . our organs, our brain, our heart, our lungs . . . our emotions!

I was bleeding internally and would fight this fight for several years until I finally had surgery to correct it. It has taken my physical body YEARS to heal from the toll that the emotional strain of losing Chad took on it. And one thing that will be evidenced for the rest of my life is the GRAY hair on my head! It will cost me a LOT of money to cover that for the rest of my life! Ug! Thanks Chad!

So, as we deal with the strains of grief head-on over the next few weeks . . . please know that lying beneath the emotional pain of what you read was an evil much larger than that which was seen and one that made coping almost impossible.

Blessings to you all!

Happy Memorial Day, My Love!

Well, My Love!

It sure has been a while since I wrote you. 

Today was Memorial Day.  It is the day we honor those who died while serving.  It also seems that it is the day we all go to the cemetery and fix up the graves and ‘remember.’ 

You did not die serving, my love.  But you served, and, you died. 

Noah had to march in the parade this morning.  It occurs to me that each time a parade rolls around I have the best intentions of going but never do.  The kids don’t want to go either.  Parades were always intimately woven with you . . . because you were always somewhere guarding an intersection or sitting in a car or even driving the patrol car in the parade.  We went to the parades to be with you. 

Now I figure why put ourselves through something that just points out your absence?

Then we spent the day at a party.  You knew most of the people there, my love.  They were our friends.  It was so much fun, Chad Michael.  We ate great food and played whiffle ball and sat for hours and chatted.  You would have loved it.

Sara Damude cried during the prayer.  She misses you so much . . . still.  She wonders if she will ever stop missing you and I told her I don’t think so.

I found myself, at one point, just sitting in the large circle listening . . . and watching . . . and missing.  There they all were . . . couple after couple . . . laughing and smiling and chatting. 

And there I sit . . . alone. 

It’s funny . . . the ‘alone’ part doesn’t bother me anymore.  It used to. 

Today what bothers me is that we don’t get to share any of this with you.  I wish I could shake the people who dread the sharing . . . because they just don’t get how precious it is.  They have gotten lost in pain, unforgiveness, and bitterness and have forgotten how beautiful it is to share. 

I will never take for granted the sharing!

I wish you could watch Abbi sit and chat with her boyfriend.  I wish you could see the excitement in her eyes as she talks about swimming.  I wish you could watch Noah ‘chat’ his way through the crowd I wish YOU could play games with him not all these other dads who, bless their hearts, step in to fill your enormous gap.  I wish you could play ladder ball with Micah and that he could watch YOU to know how to stand tall and look a man in the eyes and shake his hand firmly . . . NOT learn it from his mama. 

I know, I know . . . I can hear the world hollering at me that you DO see all that.  Well, it sure isn’t the same! 

There is just such an enormous hole.  It has been five and a half years and I guess what I am figuring out is that the hole will always be there.  Oh!  It doesn’t cause the hopelessness or the instant eruption of tears that it did five years ago.  But, babe?  As I sat there today I just couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that you are gone. 

And at how much I miss you.

                                I miss sharing . . . with you!

So, in the words of my beloved ~

Now, always, and forever . . .

I love you

March 16th, 2008

(My journal from five months after Chad passed away)

It is Sunday morning.  I skipped church to come sit at the cemetery.  Oh God – I want to give up!  How can I bear this pain?  It feels as though it will suffocate me.  Why, oh God, why must I visit my husband at a grave? 

I do not feel that I can go to church in such a wreck.  Joel is watching me – and perhaps I would get ‘called in.’ What a shame.  It truly breaks my heart that I must feel that way.  Shouldn’t the church be the place I should be when I hurt so badly?

I’m tired.  Just deep inside, tired.  Alone.  I’d like to cancel everything.  How God?  How can I run my ministry – I can barely feed my children.  God – this one is Yours.  I can’t do it!  You are going to have to send someone to help.

I keep expecting the pain to lessen – but sometimes I wonder if it is worse – as the reality of doing new things without him sets in.  Oh God, what shall I do?  I know my help comes from You . . . so, please . . . where is it?  My house and life feel as if they are falling down around me.  Why am I sitting in a graveyard?  Oh, my aching soul!!!!

Perhaps I just need to ‘buck it up.’  If so, I repent.

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