Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm still here

I am still here. I've actually started a couple of posts that I decided against posting. I just can't seem to write about anything lately.

So...I will revert to the old standby that MLC wants me to use. Bullet points about whatever comes into mind.

Here goes:
  • Nick is finished with band camp, and I am so glad. It has been a long couple of weeks.
  • School starts in 8 days. I'm happy, but sad. I am not ready for the busy-ness that school starting will bring.
  • I have decided to go back to substitute teaching this year. I thought I didn't want to do that anymore, but I realized that decision was made out of grief. I fully understand the reasoning behind not making major decisions during the first year. I definitely was not thinking clearly. I need to give myself a chance to love it or hate it without being influenced by the constant stress of care giving or grieving.
  • I am still grieving. Moving through the one year anniversary does not make the grieving magically disappear. The wonderful group of counselors I have been working with all warned me that the one year mark would not bring with it some kind of dramatic change in my grief. Yesterday showed me that. For the first time in MONTHS, I had to pull off the road so that I could have a good cry. The grief just ambushed me out of no where. I let it wash over me and found my way out. I did need to treat myself with a measure of grace and kindness for the rest of the day yesterday, but it's all okay. It's just the way it goes with grief. Sometimes you're up, and sometimes you're down.
  • When school starts, Kacie will be in the 5th grade. It will be my family's last year at the elementary school. We have been a part of this school since 1999, when Nick started kindergarten there. It's hard to believe that my kids have gotten that old. Nick is a sophomore in high school. Kacie is in her last year at elementary school. Nick is learning to drive. Kacie doesn't think that ALL boys have cooties anymore. I am beginning to see pieces of the young man that Nick is quickly becoming and the young woman that Kacie is just beginning to become.
  • Both kids remind me so much of Keith. Nick looks more like Keith with every passing day. A great many of his mannerisms are like Keith's as well. Kacie has always looked like Keith and acted like me. I am beginning to see glimpses of the kind and generous heart that her dad possessed.
  • I still don't have any results from Nick's biopsies. I am very frustrated. I reached my limit of patience 6 days ago. No one has got the answers and can't seem to find them. So, I am trying very hard to keep from calling them each and everyday. I am trying to wait patiently. I am trying not to worry about why they aren't calling me. I am trying not to catastrophize all of the what ifs that are circling in my mind CONSTANTLY.
  • This last week before school starts is a busy one. I have a few appointments this week for myself. Kacie has an appointment to have two baby teeth pulled. Both kids need haircuts. I have got to carve out time to buy Nick new shoes and both kids school supplies. Then Thursday is the next Birmingham visit. Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it.

I guess that's it for now. I needed to unload more than I realized. I will have to let MLC know that his advice and strategies have worked once again.

As always, I am trying to remain...

In His Grip!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thinking before acting

I have been thinking a lot during these past few days about the effect of sin on my testimony. I have been tempted so many times by Satan (who hasn't though?), but I don't know that I've really paid much attention to how giving into Satan would affect my testimony. I don't know that I have ever really given much thought at all to my testimony, except that it is a work in progress.

My thoughts have opened up more questions than answers for me. I know that actions do have an effect on the testimony of a Christian. We have seen it too many times in the media where well known Christians have fallen prey to sins of the flesh. Were they truly forgiven among the public and especially the Christian population? They should be forgiven for we are all sinners. Jesus said in John 8:7, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." I can not be the one to cast a stone at another, because I am a sinner. That is the thought that I believe should be in the forefront of our minds and hearts as we look at the Christians around us.

Once tainted, can the testimony ever be redeemed? If we look around with true honesty, I believe that we will see that God has redeemed many testimonies, even when the sin seems too great for redemption to take place. I believe that God uses our sins to even further our testimonies, but only if we turn away from sin and allow God the room to work.

I know that none of us is perfect, but do we expect those among us who have a strong testimony to continue to live without sin? (I will say that I fully believe that each Christian's testimony is equally as strong as an others. It's up to the person to fully embrace that and share it with others.) Is that expectation what causes Christians to look at the testimony as tainted and then we continue to live in the flesh and hold that against them?

I know that it is very difficult for me to think about how my actions will affect my testimony. There are times that I don't want to think about my testimony. I don't want it to be important to me for the next however long it is. I want to give into the sins of the flesh instead of constantly fighting. I know that sometimes falling prey to sins of the flesh seems the easiest way to go instead choosing the more difficult road that is the life that God wants us to live.

Thinking before acting isn't something that comes easily, at least it didn't to me as I was growing up. It still doesn't come easily at times even as an adult. It doesn't come easily to my children. Teaching our children to think before acting is a major challenge in growing them up. I think that same line of thinking can apply to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He is trying so hard to grow us up. He is trying so hard to teach us to think before acting. He only wants the best for us. He does give us room to make mistakes though. He doesn't turn us away. He loves us unconditionally.

Why is it then that we continue on the path of fleshly desires without thinking before acting? Why is it that sins of the flesh have such a strong hold over us at times? Why is it that we choose the sin-filled path when we KNOW it is wrong?

I don't expect answers. A lot of my questions are simply answered by the statement that we live in a sinned filled world. We are human. We are not perfect. If we accept the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ, then we are sinners saved by grace and covered by the blood of Jesus.

The tricky part for me is that I don't need to let the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus cause me not to think about the effect my actions will have on my testimony. It is very easy to justify falling prey to sin. "It's okay for me to _____. I know I will be forgiven, because I am a sinner saved by grace." In my opinion, that is a treacherous way of thinking. That way of thinking surely has the power to allow Satan room to mess with my testimony. I think that I should hold my testimony near and dear to my heart. My testimony should be something precious to behold and to be shared. I don't need to create drama or sin in my life in order to add to my testimony. Trying to live "in" this sin-filled world without being "of" this world is certainly challenging enough. That alone will add to my testimony without my deliberate interference.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Taking a deep breath

Before I jump into what I am writing about, I want to let you know that Nick is doing very well. He seems to be feeling good. There aren't any side effects from the procedure so far. He has a very small incision, probably less than half an inch. There are no stitches and it is covered only by a band aid. I am hoping that he continues to recover so quickly and without problems. Band camp begins Monday. I really think that he will be ready for it.

Ok, now onto my post.

I am taking a deep breath today both physically and emotionally. The passing of the first anniversary of Keith's death didn't bring with it some huge emotional shift. I had been warned by my many lovely counselors (I have 2 that are specifically grief and the 1 that I've been going to for years) that a shift of that sort likely would not happen. I do wish that it had happened. I am so tired of feeling so much pain, heartache, and sadness. It seems that I have been feeling these emotions for so long.

I also didn't have much time between heavy emotional events. Four days after the one year anniversary of Keith's death was what would have been our 18th wedding anniversary. I know that I have already posted some about what I was feeling as the day came about. Right now is the first chance I have had to think about how Sunday and the last few days have affected me.

I had a VERY difficult time Sunday. The sadness and grief were more intense than even on the anniversary of Keith's death. The depression flared up. I truly had to force myself to get out of bed. Sunday was perhaps the worst day I have had with the depression in a very long time. I really did not do much on Sunday except cry, grieve, and remember. I did take some time to remember that young couple that was so full of life and excited for the future.

I was encouraged to do something to honor my marriage to Keith. There have been lots of good suggestions on observing birthdays, mother's day, and father's day. There just aren't any good suggestions on observing a wedding anniversary when the spouse has died. My guess is that it is such a personal and intimate day that only the left behind spouse can determine how to honor that special day. In between my crying episodes, I took out my wedding pictures and looked through them with the kids. They really enjoyed looking at the pictures. I don't think the kids had ever seen the pictures before. There were several good pictures of my dad who passed away 13 years ago. That was very intriguing for Kacie since she never knew her "Papaw". Of course, everyone in the pictures is nearly 20 years younger. The kids reactions to seeing Aunt Kim and Uncle Todd in their teen years was fun. Of course seeing me almost 20 years younger was fun for them too. "That's you Mom?!" There weren't comments like that about Keith since his looks didn't change that much through the years, except when cancer took it's toll.

After spending some time looking at the photos and crying some more, I remembered the video of our wedding. I can say that I truly hungered to hear Keith's voice again. I hungered to see him alive and well again. I didn't realize that I had this hunger until I began watching the video. I watched it with the kids. They enjoyed watching how everything in their lives began. I cried and grieved a lot during the video.

Oh how I loved that man! Oh how he loved me! Marrying him was one of the best days of my life. I couldn't see it on Sunday, but I see now how much good it did me to watch the video and look at the pictures. Even in the midst of the depression, some healing was able to find it's way in.

I moved from the tough day full of lots of grief, depression, and sadness straight into having to prepare for the trip to Birmingham for Nick's surgery. No rest for the weary right?! I did the hospital packing and the hotel packing. I had to fight off a huge amount of grief and sadness. I really did not want to do this Birmingham trip without Keith. I did not want to send our son into surgery without Keith by my side. I had to though, and I did.

I made it through telling my son that I loved him as I left him in there care of the medical staff. I made it through the time of waiting. I am so thankful that God had mercy on me and the wait time was not very long at all. I prayed for God to be with Nick and hold him close. I prayed for God to be right there with me so that I would not feel so alone without Keith. I was not alone. Keith's parents, one of his sisters, my mom, and Kacie were all there with me. I still felt very alone without Keith there.

Today is really the first chance I have had for any emotions from Tuesday to surface. I am going to have to tread carefully for the next few days. I am worn out and weary. I am taking several deep breaths. I am focusing on the fact that I was able to get through the first anniversary of Keith's death, the first wedding anniversary that I truly felt (Last year I was still in shock), and Nick's first surgery since Keith's death. That is a lot for anyone to go through in just a matter of days. I survived.

I've made it through all of the firsts for a while. I am now fully into the second year after Keith's death. While I may not be full of happiness, I know that I am capable of feeling it. I may not be able to be with my husband, but I have lots of wonderful memories that I can draw on to help me through the difficult times. I know that I can handle anything as long as I keep my eyes focused on God. He will not let me go through this life without Him, unless I choose not to allow Him.

I know that I don't even want to think about living my life a day without God by my side.

As always, I am trying to remain...

In His Grip!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Update on Nick 7/13/10

I can not get this to send out as an email. I am hoping that many of you that get my emails will check this for the full update from today.

I will get this email sent out as soon as I can figure out what is preventing me from sending emails. It may not get sent until we return home.

Thanks for your patience.

Nick's surgery went as well as any procedure could have possibly gone. When I met with the doctor prior to the procedure, he told me that he fully expected the procedure to take at least an hour but probably longer. He said that it would take at least 45 minutes just to get the set up done. That includes doing everything to prepare for the procedure, as well as sedating Nick, doing the CT scan to find a route to the mass, and marking the pathway. The actual procedure probably would only take about 15 minutes depending on how many tissue samples the doctor was able to obtain at one time.

In only 45 minutes, the doctor was speaking to me in the waiting room. I was completely in shock. Honestly, my first thought was that something had gone wrong. Nope. He was there to tell me that the procedure was finished, and Nick did very well. The doctor was able to find a very clear pathway to the mass and he was able to obtain some good pieces of tissue for pathology. Nick did not need general anesthesia. He only had to be sedated.

Nick spent an hour or so in the recovery room before he was moved to observation. He stayed in observation until he was discharged around 3:00 this afternoon.

Nick has had very little pain or discomfort. He literally only has a band aid over the site. No stitches, but he has to keep it clean and dry. Nick has to take it easy tonight and tomorrow. We also need to be watchful for any signs of infection or bleeding.

Early tomorrow morning (Wednesday, June 14), we will be in the oncology clinic at Children's Hospital for a checkup and IVIG. Tomorrow is the day that Nick is scheduled to receive the mega dose of IVIG. I don’t know if anything has changed, but please be in prayer that tomorrow will be a good day medically for Nick too. My hope is that we will be able to return home once tomorrow's visit complete.

Thank you so much for covering us so completely in prayer. God has answered so many prayers today. I think we did very well considering that this was another very big first for us. It was a tough day for me emotionally doing this without Keith, but I made it through the day.

I don't know how long it will take for us to get any answers back. Hopefully, the oncologist can give some more definite information on that tomorrow.

Thank you again for your prayers, words of encouragement, thoughts, and support.

As always, we strive to remain...

In His Grip,

Kristy Baxley

Sunday, July 11, 2010

18 Years

By the time I finish writing this, the day will have become July 11, 2010. It will be my 18th wedding anniversary. While technically it is not the first anniversary since Keith's death, it is the first one that I can say I have truly felt. I did not feel anything last year, other than the shock and numbness that comes in the immediate days that follow the death of a spouse. In case you're counting, yes, Keith's funeral was the day before our 17th wedding anniversary last year. He died four days before our anniversary.

How am I tonight? In all honesty...I am weary and worn down. The depression is acting up a little bit. I wish I could skip tomorrow. I already feel a tremendous amount of sadness and grief and the day isn't even here yet. I miss my husband with an intensity I didn't think still existed within me after so many months.

All day long today, wonderful (yet bittersweet) memories have found their way into my thoughts in the quiet times. I don't need to look at the pictures or watch the video, because I have them all in my mind. Remembering things about the day we became Mr and Mrs Baxley that I haven't thought of in years. Remembering the fluttering of my heart as my dad led me down the aisle. Remembering that special grin on Keith's face as he took my hand. Remembering the way his hands shook as he placed the ring on my finger. Remembering, remembering, remembering.

Memories are all I have left to see me through now. It's difficult knowing that Keith won't be giving me flowers tomorrow. Knowing that when the anniversaries are recognized at church in the morning, ours won't be one of them. Knowing that I won't give him a small gift that comes straight from my heart.

It's very difficult to accept that the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, is no longer on this earth to share this very special day with me. This day that is ours.

It is another day that I am counting down the hours until it is over. It is another day, among several recent days, that my heart wound is bleeding. It is another day that it feels like this wound might be the one that never ceases to bleed. The wound that will never heal. It is another day that I truly have to depend on God to see me through it, because I simply can not. It's just too hard.

I am definitely remaining in His grip today.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The first day of the second year

I did it. The kids did it. We made it through the first year without Keith, loving husband and father. I don't ever have to do this past year again. I am relieved that this year of so many firsts is behind me.

Today has not brought with it some kind of miracle healing of my sadness and grief. It has brought on a sense of relief. I made it. There have been many, many days during the past year that I honestly did not know how I was going to make it from one minute to the next, much less an hour, a day, or a week. I had to learn a lot about myself and my God during my journey in order to make it from one moment to the next.

I made it through the first year and I don't ever have to do that again. I don't ever want to do that again. It has been the most difficult and challenging time of my entire life. Yes, that includes Nick's cancer journey and Keith's cancer journey. That includes the death of my dad and three of my grandparents. That includes every time in my life that I thought was too hard to make it through. I know now exactly what I am capable of accomplishing.

Even when life gets tough and rough, which it often does, I KNOW that I can endure it. What's my secret? Leaning on the everlasting arms of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My relationship with Almighty God has grown and changed so much during the past year. I have come to accept that growth would not have happened if God's plan for Keith's life were different. That was very tough to accept. The day my heart accepted this was a day that I spent in deep grief, sadness, and almost despair. I thought my heart would surely break into a million pieces. I fought the feelings with every ounce of my being. I did not want to accept that Keith's death happened because it was God's plan for his life. It was God's plan for my life and the lives of my children. Even now, just sharing about it, the feelings are still very deep and my heart wants to reject it. The truth is there and I had to be willing to accept it. I have accepted Keith's death as God's will for all of our lives. A very tough pill to swallow.

I do not believe or think of myself as some kind of super Christian. I am far from it. I am simply a sinner saved by grace and covered by the blood of Christ. I remember Keith as a quiet warrior. He was not a super Christian either. He was someone who shared his life and his walk with anyone who was interested in hearing it. He was not someone who was famous or outspoken. He was not someone who sought out the limelight. Keith was someone who walked the walk of a person with a deep faith and love of his Lord and Savior. He tried to share God's love in whatever way he could. Sometimes it was giving money. Sometimes it was just sharing his struggles with cancer with fellow cancer patients. Sometimes it was just by getting out of bed when mind and body desperately wanted to stay in bed. Keith was a quiet warrior who fought the good fight and accepted his heavenly reward with the grace that was simply who he was. He taught me that I need to take these attributes that were Keith and let them become a part of me and pass them along to our children.

I still miss the love of my life. My kids miss their dad. We still love him tremendously. We will always love him and miss him. Next week when Nick is in surgery, I will feel Keith's absence more than ever. It will be another first without him by my side. I will have my Heavenly Father right there with me the whole time.

I am so blessed by the life that God has given me, even with all of the tough times. I am blessed because God allowed me the honor of being married to a quiet warrior that loved me and our children. The only thing he loved more than us was his Lord and Savior. What a legacy Keith has left behind!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's July

Today begins July. In three days, it will be the anniversary of the last holiday Keith was alive for. In four days, I will send my son to church camp for the first time in his entire life. In six days, it will be the one year mark of Keith's death. In ten days, I will mark my second wedding anniversary without my husband by my side (except the first one was the day after his funeral and I was too numb to really feel anything). In twelve days, my son will be back in the hospital for another procedure. Certainly not his first, but it will be the first one without Keith.


The next two weeks are going to be tough. Today was tough. Tonight the kids and I were invited to share Nick's cancer journey with our friends at the Christian Cancer Support Group that we regularly attended before Keith's death. The kids and I haven't attended since we all began our grief therapy/support. It was bittersweet to be there tonight. In ways, it seemed like we had stepped into the way of life we lived for so many years: treatments, scans, appointments, more treatments, more scans, more appointments. Walking into the CCI building tonight was disconcerting for me. It occurred to me that last year, Keith and I were in CCI on this day hearing the devastating results of the CT scans. I could hear the words being said all over again. I could vividly remember feeling such heartbreak. I half way think if I listened hard enough I would have been able to hear my sobs as the news was delivered.

That certainly wasn't the point of us being there tonight though. I think this happening is God's way of allowing me some closure. As difficult as it was for me to be in that building tonight, surrounded by the echoes of the past, it provided me with an opportunity to give some closure to that part of our lives. I also was able to see Keith's oncologist and speak briefly with him. That was good for me too. He was a major part in Keith's fight against the cancer. If the doctor hadn't been willing to stand and fight with us, I'm not sure how things would have turned out. He never gave up on Keith. He encouraged us. He prayed for us. God granted him the knowledge to be able to give the kids and I time with Keith. That is one of the best gifts that came from Keith's fight with cancer. We got the gift of time.

The kids and I shared about Nick's journey with cancer. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I shouldn't be surprised by that, because I prayed for God to see us through it and give us the words to say. I also asked a few close friends to cover us in prayer during that particular time. I was blessed by sharing our journey with our wonderful friends tonight. When it was all said and done, it felt like going home.

Being among such a strong group of Christians who have continually prayed for us, supported us, and loved us for so many years was truly uplifting. While memories of times past assaulted me, I was so filled with love and compassion for the fighters in that room that the memories didn't hurt so much.

I was blessed tonight. I am honored that we were asked to come and share Nick's story. I believe that tonight did not happen by accident. I likely would not have gone back there under any other circumstances. It is wonderful to be able to see God's hands at work.

I am sad tonight. I miss Keith with a little more intensity tonight. I realize that it stems from being where I was tonight. I can say that I would gladly do it all over again. Out of the pain and sadness tonight, there will be more healing. I know that God is at work.

I know that we are...

In His Grip!