Wednesday, August 19, 2015

widow stuff

I am a widow.
Just as I am a female and a mother. I am a widow.
You wouldn't believe how many forms have a box to check for WIDOW.
Its like a punch in the gut when I see that word and check that box.

I am sure I could leave it blank and nobody would ever care....I mean WHY do they even ask? Unless they plan to give me a discount and a cookie, then it is IRRELEVANT man!

I just returned from my first family vacation since April 6th. A family vacation. 
It basically felt like a lot of days out of town where I had to wake up every morning and check a widow box and then continue to check it every hour on the hour and sometimes every couple minutes just for laughs.

I mean...I am exaggerating obviously (its what I do), but I was definitely constantly reminded of the giant Justin sized hole in our trip.
I didn't even try to take a family picture. It honestly didn't occur to me until after the fact.

We had a lot of fun. We laughed a lot and made new exciting memories. We did things we have never done before...like surfing! We ate too much, got lots of sun and made the best of our time.
The boys talked about Justin constantly. Much more than they do on regular days at home. That was both very sweet and comforting and very hard and sad.

I want to talk about him all the time too. I want to tell him everything. Show him everything. Experience everything with him. He was the most fun guy I have ever known. But, I don't have the carefree heart of a child. I don't bounce back quite as easily as they do. Their resilience is so beautiful.

We passed the 4 month mark. Life is feeling different every day. The reality that nothing will ever be the same is pretty much set it...and not just with me, but with the boys as well. We will still have good days, great memories and moments ahead...but they will all be very different than what they would have been if JMac was here. I am so grateful that his large personality left a mark on each of us so we can forever have pieces of him (especially through brax). There are many parts of me that feel the sting of it JUST happening. It feels like 4 minutes ago. And then sometimes it feels like it has been an eternity. I had been slowly grieving the loss of my husband for a long long time.

Hear me say this, JMac was a top notch husband and father until his last breath. Literally, he gave it his all...which was quite a bit for a man that was dying. He wasn't perfect and I certainly wasn't either, but I am quite sure he died with very few, if any, regrets.

I have begun to "awaken" from the fog. I feel more clear headed...I am no longer numb. The shock is gone, the reality is set in and while I surely don't see a light at the end of the tunnel...I do now recognize that we did not all die alongside Justin.

I still don't leave the house much. I avoid HEB at all costs. I want to stick to surrounding myself with "safe" people. But, things are continuing to awaken. I am speaking to God in thankfulness again and not strictly in desperation. I am seeing sovereignty in things that I was positive couldn't have a light upon them. I am getting in a routine and getting a grip ya'll, because...Jesus.

I will end with this: a couple weeks after JMac died I text a fellow widower and said "I DO NOT SEE A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL" - his response "STOP LOOKING"
I am not going to lie...I wanted to jump through the phone and punch him in the face. I NEED A LIGHT! How can I know what to look forward to if I can't see the dang light!?
But, here is what I have recently realized.
I can't see that freaking light....because I don't know what it looks like. I can't recognize it, because I have never seen it before. It shines before me, but it is strange and unknown to me...so I can't see it.
I will see it and know it and feel it when the time is right. Until then, I will follow His word which is a light to my feet to navigate me through this path (psalm 119:105)...I can only see my feet right now. They are dragging along, I don't know where they are going, my shoes are on the wrong feet...but they are moving. And they are being moved in accordance to his word.

xoxo

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

quickie on blessings

I love reading about old Jewish customs and traditions. Mostly because it gives me a glimpse of what Jesus and his buddies were really up to, but it also helps me understand scripture in a different way. We are three months out from Justin's exit from this earth. 93 days without him... it feels like 1 million. In the old city of Jerusalem there is a Wailing Wall (its construction dates back to around 19 BC) which was/is considered one of the holiest places for Jews to turn for blessings and prayer. I have spent time studying the word blessing plenty over the years because I personally think it is the most misused word in the entire english language, or in the Christian-ese language anyhow. Bless means to give thanks or to kneel. Kneel down in praise and give thanks to the LORD. So the blessing before a meal is intended to thank the Lord for the food before you...not to ask God to thank it for you. Make sense? It's ok if it doesn't, just bear with me.
So, when I first heard about this Wailing Wall I thought hmmm that would be nice. A designated place to just go LET IT ALL OUT. Just roll up, do the deed and be on with your day. And just as I was convinced this one stop shop would just really be convenient and how dare I not live in Jerusalem to walk more closely in the footsteps of my savior...BAM. Holy Spirit.
That guy can mess up a pity party like its nobodies business. He reminded me in that moment of mourning my beloved Wailing Wall that when the temple veil was torn I no longer needed a VIP pass to my king. He is present always. And no matter my circumstance I am to praise (BLESS) him always. Whether I am curled up in a ball longing for my husband...the father of my three children to be with us, if even for a moment, or I am catching a glimpse of joy in our circumstances and seeing and feeling His mercy and grace...BOTH are an opportunity to bless my Lord.
And in those times when I am way too immature and mad and flustered to muster up the words...I put on this song and it does it for me. And I can lay there and pout and let the Spirit intercede for me.

Bless the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul 
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, oh my soul 
I'll worship your Holy name 

How generous is He? He didn't give me a wall...He gave me so much more. I am living hour by hour right now. Nothing feels normal and everything feels empty. But, the more time I invest in finding things to thank Him for...the more GOOD I find. His ways are so great and so majestic and so so much bigger than my silly little brain. Bless you Lord for rescuing me. Every. Single. Day. 

• This link leads to what has been my most read post in 2015...I love looking back and seeing pieces of the story coming together. I wrote this just 5 days before Justin passed. My God is relentless! http://keepingupwiththemcelhannons.blogspot.com/2015/04/is-death-scary.html

Monday, June 1, 2015

Planting Daddy

Justin was sick for 4 years. Every piece of those 1,460 days HE FOUGHT. He fought so hard. We went from what felt like the ends of the earth to make sure he was getting his best chance to defeat these diseases. I had ups and downs, highs and lows, moments of the greatest faith and moments of full fledged basket case. Justin never wavered. Never. 

During the time that Justin was sick we made moments available to talk about the what ifs. We had healthy dialogue about specific wishes for his funeral, just in case one day I had to plan it. He didn't love talking about it, because his mind saw only LIFE. But, he humored me because he knew I would want to honor him in the very best way could that moment arise. I mean....I had also forced him to talk about our 25th wedding anniversary party, our kids graduation parties and our 50th birthdays. So,  it wasn't like an out of the ordinary thing for me to ask questions about a life event that may not have come for another 80 years. 
I am so very glad that we shared those conversations. I second guessed NOT ONE SINGLE thing in the planning process of Justin's Celebration of Life. He was honored from beginning to end in the most incredible ways and I felt such peace in how it all turned out. 
I am not a big funeral fan. I mean, who is?? But, I for real don't go to them. I planned and went to my moms, I went to my best friends dads and then there was Justin's. I can barely remember if there were maybe a couple others throughout my life. If I have any tiny excuse to miss a funeral...I am using it. 
Every single person I know deals with death/loss/grief/funerals differently. 
For me...the moment I sang into Justin's ear a sweet worship song, held his hand tight, told him how much I loved him and kissed him on the lips as he slipped away from this earth...he was gone. The body that I slept next to for the past 10 years and the body that I had held tightly for that last 24 hours IMMEDIATELY became just a shell. Just a remnant of a person who was now healed. For me, it finished right there. I quietly got up and left the room...it was finished. For me, that was the last time I wanted to see his earthly body. I wanted to only picture him exclusively walking with Christ, in a perfect body....too precious and beautiful to even try and fully imagine. 
Justin had made me promise that I would not plop his remains on the fireplace to sit around and be an awkward conversation piece. He didn't want to be buried and I didn't want to just dump him out somewhere. (side note...all of these are wonderful and fabulous options. how boring if we all did the same thing?) Anyways, I did some research and come across the Bios Urn. The Bios Urn is a biodegradable urn that you plant in the ground along with the seeds to a tree....essentially a memorial tree, but with the ashes included. I don't have like a super green thumb...so to be safe I purchased two. One to be planted here at our new home and one to be planted at the Frio House. 
I tried to make the planting of one of the seeds a "thing" - I thought it would be so beautiful to plant this seed with our closest friends. We would pray over this place and this seed and we would honor JMac one more time. 
But then, the Boerne monsoon arrived. I cancelled the planting twice due to crazy weather. It was a hard decision to make because I so badly wanted to share this moment with our people, but I am so grateful....because that sweet little maple seed would have been washed right away. 
Today...on a whim I decided to grab the boys and plant that sweet baby maple seed. Just the four of us sat together, we talked about the "dust" as we poured half of it into the one of the Bios Urns. We talked about sweet memories of daddy while we filled the pot with dirt. We prayed over the seed and we prayed over daddy's life. We thanked God repeatedly for allowing us to have Justin...even if we felt the time was cut way way too short. We took turns praying and sharing and then we made a nice little schedule for watering it...because you better believe that adorable, precious, way sweet moment broke out into a full on brother war regarding who would water the tree when. Because, well we are just real people. 
We planted the tree in a pot and when we feel like it is strong enough we will transfer it into the ground. Please pray for our sweet little seed. We would love to watch that seed grow into the most gorgeous maple tree there ever was. And if not...well there is a back up seed in the pantry. 









Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Big Day

It is so hard to gather my thoughts and sit down to write. Even in my private journal....there are just too many thoughts! Too many significant things that have happened. Too many humongous feelings that seem impossible to sort out.
There are millions of things I want to share. Specific encounters with the holy spirit. The definition of community and how I have been carried through the last 6 weeks by the most servant hearted and loving people. I want to talk about my fears and anxieties in being around large groups of people...how in just the span of a day I went from the most extroverted extrovert around to the complete other side of the spectrum. And I will get to all those things. I want to share this journey. I want to heal through writing and sharing and even though there are 34895798473948 blogs to read these days...I pray that just one person who needs encouragement, is in the depths of despair, someone who has lost significantly will stumble upon this. There is so much grief, healing, fears to conquer, feelings to feel and so on and so forth. There is hope ahead. It has been promised, ya'll. So, for today I am going to share the story of Justin's Celebration of life. I am ready to process through that day here.

The days leading up to the funeral were blurry. So much had to be done, decisions made, money spent, endless tasks both big and little. A small group of girls sat at my kitchen table around the clock for DAYS handling detail after detail. The boys were taken shopping for suits, dresses were ordered for me to try on at home so I didn't have to leave the house, lots of starbucks flowed, the program and slideshow were designed beautifully, groceries were delivered, my boys were loved on, my bills and other chaotic financial tasks were handled, furniture for the new house was ordered, a filing system was created....I don't even know half of what these girls accomplished. They handled my entire life while I sat in my bed in a daze barely emerging to the kitchen once a day to "help" - {I am not sharing these names because I am selfish and I don't want to share my people with anyone. They are MINE, so back off. }

I hope to be able to show each of them this great love and offer myself fully and selflessly to them in a time where they need to be loved and taken care of. I most def pray the circumstances are NOT the same, but I feel like it is honestly an unreturnable favor. A gift too large to find words for a thank you note. So, keep your people close ya'll. Make sure your closest friends KNOW that they are your closest friends. Tell them. Right now.

Justin died on Monday afternoon and the service was planned for Friday at our home church, FBC Boerne. I thought Friday would take FOREVER to arrive, but I blinked...and it was time. Katie picked me up early...mostly so I could hide. I just knew that I wanted to keep it together for the service. I wanted to hear every word spoken about the greatest man I ever knew. Which meant...no eye contact could be made with pretty much ANYONE. Eye contact = me losing it. I was not ready to look into the eyes of others that loved him and see their loss too. It was just hard enough to look my boys in the eye. To see their hurt, confusion, naivety, and loss. That was about all I could take until the service was over. Our beautiful friend Laura sang songs that Justin told her himself were special to him accompanied by her dad, Phil - who also happened to be a special mentor in Justin's life. Our Pastor gave the most REAL testimony of his very special friendship with Justin. It was truth mixed with reality...and it was profound. Three very very special guys, Justin, Dru and Joseph poured their hearts into well thought out tributes to their very dear friend. They each shared very different stories, anecdotes and characteristics of Justin. But, the theme of his life was evident in all that was shared. Justin was passionate, compassionate, giving, hard working, fun, intentional, ambitious, spontaneous, loved the Lord and his family and was just flat out ONE OF A KIND. It was a beautiful service. It truly was a celebration of who he was and the painted a detailed portrait of the legacy he has left behind. And very most importantly...the Gospel was shared.

A sweet friend took these incredible pictures to help us all remember what a true celebration this day was. Justin was loved by many. 

Our boys are loved so well by those really great guys that Justin surrounded himself with. 




The pallbearers (which I chose to refer to as "JMacs Attendants") and the special guys that escorted our sons - honorary pallbearers (which I chose to call "Little Mac Attendants") each left the ceremony wearing JMac approved sunglasses. 



Every detail was gorgeous. 
Not only are my friends amazing...but they are creative and talented as well. 

These are the boutonnieres each Attendant wore. 


A table was set up to collect memories for each of the boys about their dad. 


Another table with pictures and random favorites of Justin's (like a hunting vest, a favorite hat, an apple tv remote etc. lol) 







So many people sent gorgeous flower arrangement, donated to Vault: Fostering Community in his name & donated money into the gofundme account and Jefferson Bank account for the boys. 
They will be so grateful in years to come to see that others poured into their college funds. 


I cannot finish this post without giving GREAT thanks to the Ebensberger-Fisher Funeral Home. I have planned only one other funeral and dealt with only one other great loss in my life (my mom) and I can tell you that my experience with this funeral home was daylight in the darkness to my last experience. They were so....kind. Loving. Respectful and Professional. They made me feel like a priority and they really heard and made happen the things that were important to me about this process. I never in my life WANTED to be recommending a funeral home...and I never thought I would say the process was an actual pleasure. But, read it here today folks. Dusty and JoLynn are the bees knees.

Friday, April 24, 2015

18 days

Friday night after the funeral I didn’t want to go home. Our home was covered in things that reminded me of death and I just wanted to escape that…just for a night. I kept getting all these text reminders that God was with me. He was near to me in my broken place. And all I could do was lay on the floor and cry….I didn’t want God near to me at that time. I wanted Justin near to me. I wanted to feel loved and comforted by my husband. I wanted to feel whole because Justin was next to me.

It has been 18 days since Justin went to be with Jesus. 18 very very very long days. I thought the days in middle school watching the clock tick by during tests felt like long days….how na├»ve. These days feel like eternity. 18 days of waking up and forcing myself out of bed. 18 days of being a single parent. 18 days of being a widow.

Widow. A 30 year old, mom of three boys, WIDOW. Say that out loud without a lump forming in your throat. I dare you. It is disgusting. I hate that word. I have seen it in writing and next to my name and it infuriates me. I AM MARRIED.

But, here is the thing. Justin’s life on earth has ended. I feel like mine has ended. But, I have these three incredible boys who have so much life left. I know I have lots of life left…but I am not ready to go there yet. But, these boys. Gah. They lost their superhero. They lost the strongest man they ever knew. They lost their movie watching partner. They lost their daddy. We are 4 very different people grieving in 4 very  different ways. The mourning doesn’t look the same, but it hurts just as deeply all around.

Right now we are creeping out of the shock phase. The numbness is wearing off and…let me tell you, I would prefer to feel numb. We are holding each other and falling asleep crying at night. We are joyfully reminiscent, but painfully hurting. God has been RELENTLESS in showing up in the dark with his LIGHT. Absolutely relentless. This is where we are:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5

We are in such a very dark place. I am lost. I am hurting. I can’t possibility in the good that He will bring from this.

Because we are in the darkness, but his light overcomes that darkness. We don’t have to understand or comprehend. It is just so.


The glimpses of joy we find through pictures, decorating our new home, kinder field trips, friends, beautiful and thoughtful gifts, crawfish and dogs…are BIGGER than the darkness. Even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

I am sharing daily glimpses of his light via social media, but I plan to sit and gather my thoughts here weekly. THANK YOU so much to everyone who has loved on us. THANK YOU for donating to the boys account at Jefferson Bank and on Go Fund Me. THANK YOU for dinners, laundry, laughs and quality time. THANK YOU for registering for the ONE LESS RACE (www.onelessrace.com) and for your support of Vault: Fostering Community. THANK YOU for honoring Justin.


Next week will be the Celebration of Life recap. Spoiler alert: It was freaking incredible.

Monday, April 13, 2015

one week

So, I have had a lot of time to pray in the past 172 hours. Actually, praying is all I really can do well right now. 172 hours ago I kissed the love of my life for the very last time. After that kiss, he let go of his life here on earth and jumped straight into the arms of Jesus. No doubt he made a GRAND entrance. If I sit very still...I can hear the rejoicing and see his body whole, healed and perfect.
But, if I sit still and quiet for too long...that beautiful noise leaves me and I am left with only the the sound of my tears hitting my blankets and sobs so deep I can barely recognize that they are coming from me.
Through some of my prayer time I have felt affirmation in doing this. And by that I mean...writing through this experience. Processing some (not all, because that may be scary) of my grief and navigation through this awful time. I feel 100% sure that some of it will make sense, some of it won't, lots of it will be sad, all of it will honor my husband and every bit of it will be healing.
There are 4 people that live in the Mac Shack now....and we are all dealing with the loss of Justin very differently.
If you are new to this journey then I encourage you to read these few posts that will really give you a broad recap of this 4 year story. Read a couple of posts from late May/early June of 2011. Opportunity from November 2012, Surrender from March 2013, Dancing with Justin and Needing God more than Ever from Jan 2014 and my latest post which is copied below. (Uh, sorry I am not smart enough to tag the links to those....I am doing my best to just sit up straight in my bed right now.)
I am not a professional writer and I never intend to be. I don't proofread my posts. No time for that...I never have and I am not going to start now that I have a larger following...so if typos upset you then this is not the place for you. But, if truth is your thing...then welcome.
You can also surely jump in without catching up on the previous posts.

Justin did not initially love my blog, but it grew on him and it became something he was very proud of. I have intentions of updating it, making it less amateur looking...but I can't remember if I have washed my hair since the day of the funeral so I should slow my roll on those ambitions.

You can visit Justin's obit here: http://www.ebensberger-fisher.com/Obituary-Of-Justin-Allen-McElhannon/1587

There are millions of ways to love on us from now until who knows when. I can't wait to share how we have experienced community like nobodies biz. Right now, there is a close knit group handling everything. Literally. Everything. If you feel called to love on the boys financially there has been an account set up at Jefferson Bank in Boerne or you can make a contribution here: http://www.gofundme.com/r83njc


I don't know what the coming posts will look like, but I do know God will honor my obedience in this journey and He will continue to show his face through my time in writing...He has never failed to reveal great things to me through this silly blog.



I wrote this following post with Justins prompting 5 days before his death.

When someone becomes pregnant, they have about 9 months to prepare for the birth of the baby. Sometimes that feels like eternity and sometimes that feels like just NOT long enough! Preparing for a life is a really big deal! Families that adopt often wait for months or even years preparing for their future child. There is paperwork to fill out, appointments to go to, names to choose, books to read, rooms to decorate, classes to attend and so on. Preparing for birth or the placement of a child is a very exciting time! There are showers and parties and registries and so much preparation! 

The preparation for death, however is not nearly that exciting. There is an element of excitement, no doubt, because HELLO...Jesus. The after party of this life is far better than the hotel lobby...it's technically what we have been waiting for since the moment we were born. To be reunited with our Creator. To feel no more pain...to be whole...to sit at His feet. Gah. I take it back. It is more exciting. It is just too much for the human brain to comprehend. And he created it that way. Our mighty God made heaven a place that our earthly brains just can't even fathom. 

There aren't death showers or death scrapbooks. I mean maybe some people do that...but not anyone I know. There surely are ways to prepare for death. There are plenty of pamphlets and articles and opinions on how to do so with dignity, with finished business and closure. 

And then there is this majestic and truth filled book called the Bible. And wow does it  prepare us for death, dare I say FAR more than it prepares us for birth. HE is the resurrection and the LIFE. What a miracle birth is....but through HIM we experience LIFE. Through death we approach God who breathed life into us in the first place. Our true citizenship remains in heaven. This earth is a sweet place for us to experience His grace, mercy and gifts...but what lies ahead is far more of a gift than any moment of pleasure we may experience here. 

Why am I talking about all this? Because, after four. FOUR. FOUR. Years of watching my husband FIGHT. Persevere. Defy all odds. Shock doctors. LIVE. Four years of traveling to the country's best doctors, trying chemo, new medications, finding (in our own sweet little town nonetheless) a doctor that would manage and fight for Justins life like it was his very own, beginning the frightening stage of hospice...it has really been a LOT. 

We have lost friends, welcomed friends, felt lost, felt hurt, felt found and embraced and redeemed. We have seen God remove things that needed to go and fill those gaps with beauty only He is capable of. We have seen LIFE in a way that I wouldn't have asked for...because it has been HARD. But, don't you dare ask me to trade it for anything. 

We have entered a new season. Honestly, we entered this new season last January when Justin's prognosis became far beyond any doctors imagination. He became one of those rare cases that was just a big fat question mark to doctors. 

Justin has never once been a question mark to his creator. Justin was placed on this earth for a very specific reason. He has lived a life that many wouldn't envy. He has suffered more than others would desire. But, let me just tell you...JMacs life has SCREAMED the presence of Jesus to me and my three boys like its nobodies business. He is leaving behind a legacy for those three young men that can't be replicated. He has lived a unique and passionate life. He has failed, lost, succeeded and seen the beauty of the holy spirit in a way that I for one just flat out yearn to experience. 

Justin has entered what is referred to as the active dying phase. This is hospice lingo for...time is running out. Justin has accepted this phase. Has he thrown in the towel? Has he allowed satan to win? Has he lost faith? NOPE. And if you feel that he alone has the power to declare something over God's will for Him...then I challenge you to show up on my doorstep and have that conversation with me. I will have my bible opened and I will show you that God begs us to fear HIM...NOT DEATH. 

I take my Bible very seriously. I recognize the parts that are to be taken literally and the parts that are not. I sure don't have a degree in theology..but I have seen death without Christ. I have seen miracles right before my eyes. I have watched my own son be brought from death to life in the midst of significant spiritual warfare. I have seen the most firm believers suffer and wait and hurt. I have seen non believers experience Christ's very real presence. I have seen God's truth in REAL LIFE. 

We have entered a new season. We have been here for awhile, but it has been hard to swallow and admit. Justin has accepted his phase of dying. He isn't defeated by satans lies, y'all. He is comforted by the TRUTH that our God wrote for him. For all of us. 

This new season is a time for extreme intention. It is a time for closure and a time to respect the firm belief we have in Christ's sovereign plan and for privacy in the Mac Shack. 

Justin could have another year on this earth or he could have a mere 2 weeks. That is NOT up to us. What IS up to us is that we can honor every moment that God provides Him. Salvation is not something satan can take from him. He knows what awaits him...and we hate the hurt we will feel with him gone, but man are we embracing the wholeness of what lies ahead for our most favorite guy. 

If you are looking a way to love on our family or encourage us here are some ideas...
- Speak truth. 
- Allow Justin to experience closure and be comforted in the fact that in a blink of an eye his family will be by his side in the majestic kingdom. 
- Email things you would like him to hear or remember to mistymac2@yahoo.com and I will be very sure that he reads it. 
- Respect this very precious time that our family needs to be "hunkered down" 
- Realize that TALKING about death DOES NOT make it happen. We know our words are powerful, but our God is MORE powerful than anything we posses. Text or email your encouragement to him. 
- Make him laugh. 
- Have grace for us. There are tons of articles and blogs and packets to "help" us navigate this season...but we prefer to allow the holy spirit to lead. That means listening to Him at the last second, planning less and living in the flesh as little as possible. 
- Don't pretend you would know how to navigate this if you aren't in our shoes. Please. 
- Pray for us. 

We love every person who has kept up with the macs. It has been an honor to watch the followers of this blog grow from 15 to over 25,000 in just a few short years. You guys are Team Mac and we just couldn't walk this walk without y'all....because somedays when I am too weary to pray or too afraid to cry or too tired to face the facts...YOU stand in the gap. Because our Father really knew what He was doing when He created us and our instinct for community in His name. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Is death scary?

When someone becomes pregnant, they have about 9 months to prepare for the birth of the baby. Sometimes that feels like eternity and sometimes that feels like just NOT long enough! Preparing for a life is a really big deal! Families that adopt often wait for months or even years preparing for their future child. There is paperwork to fill out, appointments to go to, names to choose, books to read, rooms to decorate, classes to attend and so on. Preparing for birth or the placement of a child is a very exciting time! There are showers and parties and registries and so much preparation! 

The preparation for death, however is not nearly that exciting. There is an element of excitement, no doubt, because HELLO...Jesus. The after party of this life is far better than the hotel lobby...it's technically what we have been waiting for since the moment we were born. To be reunited with our Creator. To feel no more pain...to be whole...to sit at His feet. Gah. I take it back. It is more exciting. It is just too much for the human brain to comprehend. And he created it that way. Our mighty God made heaven a place that our earthly brains just can't even fathom. 

There aren't death showers or death scrapbooks. I mean maybe some people do that...but not anyone I know. There surely are ways to prepare for death. There are plenty of pamphlets and articles and opinions on how to do so with dignity, with finished business and closure. 

And then there is this majestic and truth filled book called the Bible. And wow does it  prepare us for death, dare I say FAR more than it prepares us for birth. HE is the resurrection and the LIFE. What a miracle birth is....but through HIM we experience LIFE. Through death we approach God who breathed life into us in the first place. Our true citizenship remains in heaven. This earth is a sweet place for us to experience His grace, mercy and gifts...but what lies ahead is far more of a gift than any moment of pleasure we may experience here. 

Why am I talking about all this? Because, after four. FOUR. FOUR. Years of watching my husband FIGHT. Persevere. Defy all odds. Shock doctors. LIVE. Four years of traveling to the country's best doctors, trying chemo, new medications, finding (in our own sweet little town nonetheless) a doctor that would manage and fight for Justins life like it was his very own, beginning the frightening stage of hospice...it has really been a LOT. 

We have lost friends, welcomed friends, felt lost, felt hurt, felt found and embraced and redeemed. We have seen God remove things that needed to go and fill those gaps with beauty only He is capable of. We have seen LIFE in a way that I wouldn't have asked for...because it has been HARD. But, don't you dare ask me to trade it for anything. 

We have entered a new season. Honestly, we entered this new season last January when Justin's prognosis became far beyond any doctors imagination. He became one of those rare cases that was just a big fat question mark to doctors. 

Justin has never once been a question mark to his creator. Justin was placed on this earth for a very specific reason. He has lived a life that many wouldn't envy. He has suffered more than others would desire. But, let me just tell you...JMacs life has SCREAMED the presence of Jesus to me and my three boys like its nobodies business. He is leaving behind a legacy for those three young men that can't be replicated. He has lived a unique and passionate life. He has failed, lost, succeeded and seen the beauty of the holy spirit in a way that I for one just flat out yearn to experience. 

Justin has entered what is referred to as the active dying phase. This is hospice lingo for...time is running out. Justin has accepted this phase. Has he thrown in the towel? Has he allowed satan to win? Has he lost faith? NOPE. And if you feel that he alone has the power to declare something over God's will for Him...then I challenge you to show up on my doorstep and have that conversation with me. I will have my bible opened and I will show you that God begs us to fear HIM...NOT DEATH. 

I take my Bible very seriously. I recognize the parts that are to be taken literally and the parts that are not. I sure don't have a degree in theology..but I have seen death without Christ. I have seen miracles right before my eyes. I have watched my own son be brought from death to life in the midst of significant spiritual warfare. I have seen the most firm believers suffer and wait and hurt. I have seen non believers experience Christ's very real presence. I have seen God's truth in REAL LIFE. 

We have entered a new season. We have been here for awhile, but it has been hard to swallow and admit. Justin has accepted his phase of dying. He isn't defeated by satans lies, y'all. He is comforted by the TRUTH that our God wrote for him. For all of us. 

This new season is a time for extreme intention. It is a time for closure and a time to respect the firm belief we have in Christ's sovereign plan and for privacy in the Mac Shack. 

Justin could have another year on this earth or he could have a mere 2 weeks. That is NOT up to us. What IS up to us is that we can honor every moment that God provides Him. Salvation is not something satan can take from him. He knows what awaits him...and we hate the hurt we will feel with him gone, but man are we embracing the wholeness of what lies ahead for our most favorite guy. 

If you are looking a way to love on our family or encourage us here are some ideas...
- Speak truth. 
- Allow Justin to experience closure and be comforted in the fact that in a blink of an eye his family will be by his side in the majestic kingdom. 
- Email things you would like him to hear or remember to mistymac2@yahoo.com and I will be very sure that he reads it. 
- Respect this very precious time that our family needs to be "hunkered down" 
- Realize that TALKING about death DOES NOT make it happen. We know our words are powerful, but our God is MORE powerful than anything we posses. Text or email your encouragement to him. 
- Make him laugh. 
- Have grace for us. There are tons of articles and blogs and packets to "help" us navigate this season...but we prefer to allow the holy spirit to lead. That means listening to Him at the last second, planning less and living in the flesh as little as possible. 
- Don't pretend you would know how to navigate this if you aren't in our shoes. Please. 
- Pray for us. 

We love every person who has kept up with the macs. It has been an honor to watch the followers of this blog grow from 15 to over 25,000 in just a few short years. You guys are Team Mac and we just couldn't walk this walk without y'all....because somedays when I am too weary to pray or too afraid to cry or too tired to face the facts...YOU stand in the gap. Because our Father really knew what He was doing when He created us and our instinct for community in His name. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

roots

Over the past 6 months I have been trying to be better in tune with my emotional health. I learned through acupuncture how different people's bodies will manifest stress...especially when it is suppressed. I learned through counseling that being sad is OK. I learned what happens when you don't eat for several days. I learned about shingles. And I have also learned that no amount of study, research or focus will prepare your body, mind and heart for grief, loss and mourning.


I found this picture and I have saved it in my phone. It was something that I could look at on a hard day or moment and check over to the left column and just realize that I am in the "right place"... This whole left side of the slope has just become my life, and that is frustrating. I wanted to accept that I am in a tough spot, but these words just didn't seem right. Denial is quite different than faith. I have had faith in knowing an earthly healing could happen any day at any moment. Some days I have had more faith than others, but thankfully my God isn't concerned with my simple ways. Somedays I am angry at everyone who does not have a sick spouse. Somedays I am angry at my sick spouse for being sick. Somedays I am mad at ME for being mad at him for something so far out of his control! Somedays I feel very alone...but I don't want to be around anyone. Somedays I want to be around people and feel normal, but the hovering cloud of reality is just too thick for me to see through. Somedays I am actually in a great mood. Somedays I feel very in control and organized and somedays I can't find anything, get anywhere or accomplish anything. 
Thankfully, His majesty is far greater than my mood swings. 

This picture began to make me feel really frustrated and crazy and helpless. I have the most incredible community, but I recognized that I needed specific empathy from someone in a situation comparable to mine. Where are all the 30 year old women with little kids and a hubby on hospice?!?! Stop hiding and come have coffee with me! 

So, I joined a Well Spouse caregivers group. It is basically just a facebook group where people gather to vent, share, get advice and share experiences. The first few days were really helpful. I scrolled through pages and pages and pages of Well Spouses introducing themselves and spouting off the various diseases and stages of illness of their loved ones. It was oddly comforting. There are 700 members and everyone has a story. The posts vary big time. Some people are there to rant and vent about how inconvenienced they are. Some are there to share the dreams that were crushed due to having a sick spouse. Some people are there to encourage or share articles or funny pictures. But, everyone there is bummed out that their spouse is sick. Whether they are happy about it or not (and some people are very evidently NOT) these people have chosen to stick it out and take care of the person they exchanged vows with. 

I have learned through this group that it is very typical to have gone through the grief process of losing your spouse BEFORE your spouse is gone, because many ill spouses are no longer who they once were. There is guilt associated with this and that is hard. Because, it is not something that any of us asked for. And I very clearly recall saying "in sickness and in health" - which is convicting and at the same time very stabilizing. It is comforting to know that on the most important day of my marriage (our wedding day), God planted roots in my heart. The vulnerable moment of standing up in front of everyone in a white dress and making promises to the man you love most...those roots that He planted were significant and meaningful beyond my wildest imagination. Those roots are sturdy and deep and planted with truth and love. The worldy yuck, grief, sadness, hurt, pain, loss, disease, and helplessness...well they just don't stand a chance. Because NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ (romans 8:39). 

The caregiver experts say that grief doesn't wait for death... and even worse, anticipatory grief can spiral you into a constant state of panic and fear and leave you in a state of emergency for an indefinite amount of time. 

I don't know about you, but that doesn't leave me with much room for HOPE. 

There isn't a Facebook group or caretaker with a similar story that is going to make me feel better. There isn't a blog or article that is going to make sense out of all this. After all of this time in trying to fix myself, understand myself, prepare myself and do a good job at this wife and mom thing....I am right back where I started. On my knees begging Jesus to fill me up, reminding myself that I can NOT do ANY of this. It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for (ephesians 1:11). I am living for HIM, and right here is exactly where I want to be. Unfortunately, I just forget that a lot and need big fat reminders. Grateful for His very constant yet unexpected reminders. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

What if it doesn't get better?

What if it doesn't get better?

Ever.

What if my husband is only awake about 5 hours a week for another 35 years?

What if he continues to suffer? And I continue to lose steam in the fight to stay strong and positive and provide endless care, mercy and grace? And the boys start to quietly tip toe back to our room to check on daddy less and less? And I continue to feel less and less like a wife each day and more and more like just a caregiver?

What if this temporary life starts to feel like eternity?

What if I start to have thoughts that leave me filled to the brim with guilt?

What if it doesn't get better?!

I typically steer clear from writing when I am hurting so deeply. I wait until God shows me the rainbow. I wait until my head feels more clear and my heart feels more full. I wait until I can reflect on the hard spot and how graciously God lovingly pulled me out of that place and back into the light of eternal perspective.

I have been tapping my foot with my arms crossed for weeks and that dang rainbow hasn't showed up. And I realized just a few moments ago that I don't have to "see" it to know it's there. Because...it's there. That rainbow is hope and hope doesn't take a vacation.

I am allowed to feel alone. I am allowed to feel like it is unfair. I am allowed to really really really want my old husband back. I am allowed to hurt for my kids. I am allowed to feel so very broken.

And then I am allowed to take some deep breaths, get on my knees, close my eyes tightly and PRAISE him in this darkness. He is more than enough for me. I will not lose heart.

I will not lose heart. I will wake up tomorrow and bask in his majesty. He is waiting for me. And when I lose sight again of the glory that lies ahead...He will again wait for me. 10,000 times He will wait for me.

And it will get better.

Because, I know for a FACT that this is not our eternity.

In His word...Hope awaits. So, I better get my butt in the word.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014

Top 20 of 2014

This year has been crazy. I haven't blogged much at all. Justin said this year has been the worst...and because I love a good challenge, I went ahead and chose to prove him wrong.

Here is my top 20 of 2015...no particular order, because I had to scroll through instagram to remember what even happened this year. I got lazy on some of the pictures...but Justin admitted this year wasn't so bad = Winner.

1. VAULT - It has been so fun to sit back and watch God put this ministry together. Plus getting to know baby Jules and all the other sweet kids that have been placed in this community.
  





2. Disciple Now - Having the senior boys here was a blast. I couldn't tell you who had more fun...Justin or Brody, Bryce and Brax.


3. FaceTime with Josiah - The Fickeys got to visit Josiah in the Congo and they called us! It was a flat out gift to see that baby boy with his mama and papa!


4. Brody graduated preschool - he was such a ham on the stage.


5. Brody also started kinder which has been pretty wonderful. And Bryce in 3rd grade...ugh get out!


6. Still Water - I was blessed to be a part of this organization! A successful fundraising dinner, super saturday, creating champ camp, two weeks of camp and wow...lots of great memories and very special friendships made!





























































7. The Quit Trippin Fool shirts - no explanation needed!






















8. I got to go to New York with my bff for my 30th birthday!




















9. Bryce was awarded the Principals Award for PE!


10. TRUDY!



11. I witnessed a miracle.





















12. Beach Trip with the Harpers


13. Our last Christmas Program at FBC - this is so bittersweet.



14. Clays for Cara - honoring a dear friend and once again seeing our community rally for us.






















15. Camp Eagle



16. Going fake sky diving for Katie's 35th!




















17. Another trip to New York for Hillsong! - this one was a bit bittersweet too, but New York is good no matter what!


18. Spending Christmas at my Dads house!
 

19. This.


20. Justin. One more day with Justin.