Monday, February 23, 2015

I am Free!

Today I attended one of the most powerful and beautiful funeral services ever.  It was for my twenty two year old cousin, Cody.  His Mom, Donna, and my Dad are cousins.  He had cerebral palsy and the picture below is one that was taken when he was younger with his service dog.  For all of his life he was bound to a wheelchair and totally dependent upon others for his care.  He was gorgeous and had tons of personality. 

I will never forget when Cody was born during my Junior year of high school.  His birth was my first experience with someone having special needs in the family.  Little did I know that I too would be a special needs Momma one day. 
Today during the funeral service my heart could hardly contain my emotions.  My heart breaks for his Momma, Father, sister and the awesome supportive family he had around him.  They will miss him so much.  No parent should ever have to bury their child. 
 Then my heart was so full of love for our Lord who reminds us in John 9:1-3 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?  Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 
As a special needs Momma, this scripture grips my heart and blesses me because Cody and my David are here simply for God's glory.  They are not flukes, they are not "mess ups" they are made perfectly and beautifully by our Creator to bring Glory to the one who made them.  My cup runneth over thinking that God uses these special children to display His work. 
It was so obvious that Cody had touched many, many people.  His own pastor shared how Cody how taught him so much.  The pastor also spoke how God used the example of the family's devoted caretaking of Cody as an example of the selfless love of Christ.  Donna faithfully took Cody to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night despite the hard work it took to get him there.  She is an inspiration to us all that church needs to be a priority.  If Donna, Cody, and his faithful service dog, Buck could get to church every time the church doors open we all certainly can. 

The music for the service was beautiful.  All of the songs were gorgeous but the service  closed with this song I am Free.  At the service it was a more mellow, acoustic version of this song, but I had to share for the lyrics.  What a beautiful and wonderful thought that because of Jesus, someone that was bound to a wheelchair for 22 years is now free!  For those of us in Christ we have the hope that we will all be free from the ailments and burdens of this life in Heaven with Jesus.  There was not a dry eye in the church when the service was closed with this gorgeous song. 

Through you the blind will see
Through you the mute will sing
Through you the dead will rise
Through you all hearts will praise
Through you the darkness flees
Through you my heart screams
Yes, I am free
I am Free to Run
I am free to Dance
I am free to live for You
I am Free!!!

Thank you God for using Cody to teach us all so many life lessons and using that gorgeous, spunky boy as a way to reveal your Glory!  Run Free Cody! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snowmagedon and NBA time!

This past week has felt a little surreal. We have not had much cold or snow this winter, so I think that mother Nature felt the need to play a little catchup.  We have had many inches of snow over the last week with cold temperatures. We did not go to school at all last week and we are out again tomorrow.

The kids were excited to try out the new sleds that Santa brought them for Christmas.  I was proud that Kyle and his buddy Tanner shoveled snow for neighbors for two days!  It is nice to see kids working hard. 

This sweetie LOVED sledding!  The sled couldn't go fast enough for her.  She is the family daredevil. 

David is always the first one inside for the hot chocolate and popcorn.  I think not wearing his glasses bothers him but then when he wears them they fog up?! 

They did work very hard to build a cute olaf snowman.  While they played I worked very hard cleaning out two big closets that needed decluttering.  Last year during Lent I did the 40 day challenge where I cleaned out 40 bags of stuff out of our house to either donate, sell, or trash.  During our snow days I got 8 bags out already!!  Woot woot! 

We had cabin fever during our week inside together, but we really try to make the best of it and have fun.  Here is our snow day selfie! 

This past weekend we were blessed with tickets to the Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City
Thunder NBA game!!!  We headed to Charlotte Friday night to avoid another round of snow and ice and we had such fun.  Hope chose to spend time with GG and Pops instead of heading to another basketball game.  

Dave loves OKC Thunder and of course his favorite player is Kevin Durant.  He had on his KD shoes, and his KD jersey and typical of our family it was announced an hour and a half before the game that KD was hurt and would not play.  This happened to us with LeBron over New Years in Atlanta so we are kind of used to this:) This is our "oh my we are going to see the Thunder selfie!!"

Our seats were amazing and we saw a great game.  Kyle was cheering for the Hornets and David was cheering for the Thunder.  We ran into some good friends in Charlotte and had ice cream with them prior to the game. 

In Atlanta Lebron came out and waved and went back to the locker room.  I had to give KD credit- he at least sat on the bench with his teammates and cheered them on. He is wearing the black shirt and jeans. 

When you sit so close to the court you can get an appreciation for how tall these NBA dudes really are.  Here is Cody Zeller shooting a free throw. 

This guy had a great time-watching NBA and  eating a hot dog with his daddy:)

Kyle likes Russell Westbrook and he was excited that he came so near us to throw the ball in.  He had an awesome game!  

We are in Radford tonight to attend the funeral of Cody, my cousin.  He was 22 years old and had Cerebal Palsy.  He passed away this week and we attended his visitation this afternoon at the funeral home.  The crowd to pay their respects to this young man and his amazing Mom, sister, and extended family who took such amazing care of him was huge.  Here is a picture of Cody when he was younger with his first service dog.  His current service dog, Buck, attended the visitation today and laid next to Cody's casket.  It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Tomorrow will be his funeral service.  As a special needs mom myself it is breaking my heart that he passed.  Thankfully because of Jesus Cody is now home in heaven:)   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentines Week!

It has been a busy but fun week around our household. 

This past week David and I both had a consult at the orthodontist.  Just what every woman who is approaching her fortieth birthday wants is a mouth full of braces!  Uggh!  David still needs to lose a few baby teeth and have a dental CT because possibly he has a third set of teeth hiding above his permanent teeth?!  Odd, but life with David is never boring.  Blessedly invisalign may be a choice for me:) 

We have an eager little reader around our house.  She has had a wonderful kindergarten year and reading has clicked for her and she wants to read everything in sight.  It is precious for sure but check out her squint without her cute hello kitty glasses.

I have the best job on the planet.  Not only do I get to teach children about Jesus and to get them ready for kindergarten, but we have such wonderful and generous parents.  One of our sweet three year old boys walked in with roses for all three of us teachers.  These children are such a joy and make us smile and laugh every day.  Valentines day rocks at preschool!!

Hope and Sydney still take ballet every Thursday at Mrs. Lisa's.  Parents do not watch every lesson but I could not resist taking this precious picture of our tap dancers learning their dance for the Chatauqua festival this year.  Hope and Sydney both adore ballet and tap.   

Another great place to be on Valentines day is kindergarten! This little love bug had a great time and check out the adorable frog to hold all of their valentines. 

Here is me with my valentine Saturday night at the hospital gala! Now that everyone is safe the story is quite funny, but Saturday night I was a nervous wreck waiting on my valentine to join me at the gala. 

Saturday evening Kyle's AAU team played late afternoon/early evening in Wytheville.  We had already committed to going to the gala and I had bought a new dress for the occasion.  We were excited to sit at a table with some new and old friends and we had my parents ready to babysit.  Well, the games ran late of course, and this freak snow storm (that was not really forecasted)  hit our area.  I came home from the basketball game early to get ready and Mike was going to finish coaching (he loves those boys and would never leave them without a coach) and we would meet at the gala.

I got ready for the gala and my parents were here ready to babysit.  My Dad volunteered to drive me to the gala so I could ride home with Mike.  We joked that it had been years (really even a decade or two) since my dad drove me to a formal event!  But I got to the event and had a good time while I waited on my date.  Mike kept texting me that he was on his way but roads were bad and he was going slow (thank goodness for audio text).

Kyle was also on his way home with a dear friend, Sarah.  I don't like it when my loves are out on snowy interstates, but we were keeping up with texting.  Kyle texted that he had gotten home (bless you Sarah) and Mike texted that he was stuck.  He had tried to take a short cut to the country club and had gotten stuck.  A local tow truck tried to help him but they had to leave Mike stranded to go help an ambulance with a critical patient.  Blessedly God sent Mike one of the school system custodians who "happened" to drive by and he helped him get out of the ditch!!  Then a local policeman who coached with Mike last year "happened" to come by and gave my valentine a ride to the gala!!!!  He smelled a little like gasoline when he got there and I had to fix his hair a little but my valentine arrived safely and that is all that matters.  He even was able to get a plate of the yummy food! 

Once all of my loves were safe and sound we tried to enjoy the evening.  Mike was on the phone most of the gala because we had several school buses out on the road with kids on them.  Decisions had to be made for the safety of all involved and it required him to be on the phone.  His job truly is never one you can walk away from. 

Overall we had a wonderful time at the gorgeous gala!  Some awesome folks worked incredibly hard to make it a special and glamorous night for all of us to enjoy.  The food was wonderful, the company was awesome, and the entertainment was great!  The hospital Health Trust puts on this gala every year and raises lots of much needed money that will be spent locally here for our community.  This year the focus of the health trust is youth wellness programs, so it was a wonderful night of fun knowing you were supporting programs that would benefit our children here in Smyth County.  When the hospital CEO was talking about Challenger baseball and other local programs that will benefit I had a happy tear roll down my cheek.  It is awesome to live in such a wonderful place where our children truly are a priority. 

The snow storm of the year has officially started.  We are all out of school for the day today waiting on the biggest storm of the year.  My kids are excited for a day at home and ready for some big time snow for sledding fun.  I am ready to finish up my latest library book and catchup on some Netflix episodes.  Stay safe everyone and enjoy the down time!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Catchup Post

I have truly been a blogging slacker. Life has been busy and certainly full of awesome highs and some challenges. Here are some pictures that sum up the last week of our lives.

This picture of our hoops player makes me smile. 
A few quarters into the game he looks like this!  Ha!  He is loving upward basketball season!
These two truly are best friends. 
Kyle's middle school basketball season came to an end this past week.  He has loved every moment of playing hoops with this great group of guys.  We cannot retire the smelly basketball shoes yet, because we still have a few AAU tournaments ahead of us. 
Friday evening this little love and I had a girls night of making Valentines for her friends.  She is really into the Veggie Tales right now and so she picked Veggie Tale valentines for her friends.  It hit me that she no longer needed me to help her, sniff sniff!
Saturday we spent the day with GG and Pops catching some VT basketball action and yummy spaghetti!  Family time is precious for sure. 
This afternoon we had our Down Syndrome Valentine party and we laugh so hard and had such fun.  We are blessed with a great group of folks and we get together to eat, catch up and cheer our kids on.  This is David with Marley.  He announced on the way to the party that he was looking for a Valentine and he certainly had several cuties to choose from!  David sang I am and Jesus Loves Me during the party today! 
This might be the FUNNIEST thing ever!!  After David sang for us, Angie decided to sing Katy Perry.  The problem is that she had her headphones on so she was the only one that could hear the music.  During her solo she grabbed david to slow dance as she kept on singing.  Check out David's face!  After the dance he announced that "that was awkward!"  We are such blessed mommas to have kiddos that bless us with love and laughter.  Angie is one of the most hilarious people I have ever met. 
J Mellinger came to the party and did balloon animals for the kids which was super cool!  We really had a great time of fellowship and laughter. 
In other news, support and encouragement for our Challenger baseball has come in praise be to God!  Our local hospital's health trust board blessed us with a large check and then the local Civitan blessed us with a donation that will be matched by the Health Trust. Then a wonderful group of caring pediatricians blessed us with another donation!  Challenger baseball is really  going to happen here this spring for special needs kids!  I can hardly contain my excitement. 
This afternoon I attended Kyle's youth group mission trip meeting and after prayer and discussion it was determined that the group will be headed to Pine Ridge South Dakota to minister on the indian reservation.  Kyle and I have done some research on this area and we were astounded to learn that in terms of the unemployment rate, alcoholism rate, poverty level, and suicide rate it is equivalent to a third world country.  Either Mike or myself will be going with Kyle on his first ever mission trip.  I am so thankful for this opportunity for Kyle to go learn and to be the hands and feet of Christ.  Youth group has been such a blessing in his life! 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Life Lessons from Basketball

This week has been full of basketball-David's upward practice and game, Kyle's middle school team, and Kyle's AAU team had a tournament yesterday.

About five years ago Mike and another guy started a county-wide AAU team. We have made lots of memories together watching our boys grow from tiny grade schoolers until now being on the verge of becoming men.

We have driven in snowstorms to get to tournaments, we have left before dawn because we were scheduled the play the dreaded 8 a.m. game, hosted tournaments and worked our elbows off to keep these ever-growing boys in new uniforms and to keep the parents from dipping in their own pockets.

Sometimes we have questioned why we would spend HOURS in the gym watching our boys play hoops. Unless God performs a height miracle our boys will probably not be the next Lebron James. Yesterday ; however, during one play of one game I had an epiphany of why we have encouraged our son to play basketball or really any team sport.

Yesterday we were in our second game of the day. We had already been beaten by a great team full of some pretty cool boys we have played against for years. In this second game it was tight with the lead going back and forth. With a few seconds left we were down by two and our team was driving. A three point shot would have ended the game with our team winning, and a simple bucket would have tied to have put us in OT.

One of the guys shot the ball with less than seven seconds left and it barely missed the hoop. Another teammate rebounded and threw it back up and yet again it missed. A third teammate tried again with less than one second on the clock and it bounced out again. Finally with the buzzer going off, Kyle tipped it in. We went into OT and we came out of the game winners!

After the game when Kyle came up to me I proclaimed to him "that is why we never ever give up!" Sports teach us so many life lessons and yesterday it just hit me that some may think we are crazy for traveling all over to play whatever sport is in season, but we value the life skills that come from playing and working on a team.

As we watch our players blossom into young men, I so appreciate the crucial life lessons of persistence-even if you miss the hoop, keep rebounding and throwing it back up. Never give up. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Kyle is not the leading scorer on our team who often makes those ESPN worthy baskets, but that play yesterday reminded me that everyone contributes on a team. Everyone is important. I so pray that my children understand that in life everyone can contribute something.

Yesterday was also a reminder to never give up on your teammates. Every position is crucial in basketball-the rebounders, the shooters, the passers, those on the bench ready to jump in and play, and the coaches. Yesterday watching this one play out of the thousands that they have played, it hit me that we have made some awesome memories together, and that I am thankful that my son is learning the lessons that sports can teach us. Right before our eyes these players have grown from being allowed to step a giant step forward for their foul shots, to now having facial hair and playing (and smelling!) like grown men.

I know we will miss these days of spending saturdays in every gym in southwest VA and east Tennessee, but tonight after a full week of basketball I am thankful that my son has learned persistence, teamwork and character from the game of basketball. I pray that God will use these life lessons to use my son for His glory. Because truly in the game of life, the only thing that really matters is that you are playing on God's team because he is the ultimate Coach!