Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Prayer 101

I’ve been praying a lot lately, well, for me what I would quantify as a lot. I haven’t been the best prayer warrior over the past few years. I try to make sure that when someone asks for or needs prayer that I stop right then and pray: prayers for my sick father, a friend’s child who may be floundering, words of encouragement that are needed. I’ve sort of avoided those prayers for myself for fear God will actually put me in a situation for which I’m praying. Let me clarify: I don’t pray for patience or absence of anger. I just don’t think I’m strong enough. Lately, though, I have been praying for humility and have actually, in my heart, resolved myself to the situations that may come in which jealousy or envy can creep in. I don’t like the person I am when jealousy rears its ugly head. I think that the hardest part of prayer is realizing that God will place you in positions to test and build that for which you pray. As I’m writing this, I realize that to avoid praying for that which will be a struggle is to actually tell God that I don’t believe He is strong enough. Wow. I have got to learn to let go.  

This is where I can confuse myself…..do I want to be a better person so that I will be happy? Or is it because others need me to be a better person for them?  Am I really praying with the thought of others or, well, am I really praying that others see me as a good person and therefore my prayer is self-serving? I want to make a difference, but is it because I truly want to make a difference, or is it so that others will see me as making a difference?   See? Confused you, didn’t I? I know that I am definitely not writing this so that everyone will think I am some deep, philosophical believer. The past three years have been marked with a lot of lows and not too many highs in the belief department.  I have failed in my beliefs way more times that I have succeeded. I guess what I need to do is pray for the spirit in which prayer is intended. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Zambia Ministry update

The first pictures is of the supplies that the students and staff at Coston Elementary collected in four days. The second is a video Shelby posted of the community in Zambia that she is helping.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ode to Mrs. Brookshire

It is time - time to clean up Lizzie's room. I started on Friday, and it really doesn't look like I've made much headway. I've gone through every drawer at least twice deciding what to keep and what to donate. I have 3 boxes of memorabilia: items that I remembered, items I had forgotten, and items that I never knew about. I found tons of cards which I will share at some point, and I now have a total of 46 t-shirts that will be made into a quilt. There are t-shirts from Panther Pride and t-shirts from UT. Some shirts were just favorite ones that Lizzie loved to wear. One is a signed team jersey from that really cute soccer player that visited Lizzie in the hospital. Of course there is a Just Beat It and a Be the Change team Lizzie shirt. And there are two Girls of Grace shirts which makes, well, either the following more special or the shirts more special. I found a flashdrive on my third pass through a small desk, and, of course, had to take a peek. Several people have commented on the impact Lizzie made on their lives. The following shows the impact Laura Brookshire made on Lizzie's life. Thank you, Laura, for being such an inspiration and helping mold Lizzie into the wonderful young woman that she was.

Ode to Mrs. Brookshire 

              I remember that as I child I admired every actress on the Disney Channel.  To a twelve-year-old girl, it seemed as if Hilary Duff, Raven Symone, and Christy Romano had everything a girl dreamed of at that age: fame, fortune, beauty, and boys. I worshipped every one of those girls almost to the point of obsession. In fact, while I was in third grade, an unsuspecting teacher asked me if I were Lizzie McGuire because I knew every fact possible about the popular television show.  As I lost my naiveté, I also lost my innocent childhood idols.  I no longer admired the child stars of Disney; I almost felt lost until I met Mrs. Brookshire.

            After moving to Lufkin, I was amazed to see the irony of my new hometown.  Lufkin, a small town with churches on every corner, located in the center of the Bible Belt, boasts the highest teen pregnancy rate in Texas. More and more girls arrived to school with noticeable baby bumps, and even though I knew it was impossible, I began to doubt that pregnancy was not contagious. While everyone laughed off the comments joking that pregnancy was in the water, I stopped drinking from the tap. As an impressionable young girl in a new town, I began to question if my morals were keeping me from fitting in.  My longing to be part of the “in crowd” caused conflicts between my head and my heart, and I was constantly questioning whether my principles were worth preserving.  Mrs. Brookshire answered my question when she became my Girls of Grace teacher, an organization whose goal is to inspire girls to see themselves through God’s eyes.

            Mrs. Brookshire sees the best in me; she sees the best in her girls.  Teaching a class of teenage girls to be confident in ourselves and not to give in to the poor morals of our generation is not an easy task, but she accepts the challenge each year.  She constantly uplifts me by reminding me of all of the small achievements I have made: not succumbing to the pressures of my generation, standing up for those who cannot, and leaving my group of friends to befriend a lonely peer. Her confidence in me helped me to have confidence in myself.

            High school has been a big struggle for me.  Being surrounded by people with negative attitudes, which unlike pregnancy is actually contagious, has a habit of affecting my  everyday choices. Knowing that there is Mrs. Brookshire, who supports me and loves me no matter how many mistakes I make, has made my high school career so much easier.  Her never-ending positive encouragements have made me happier with myself and my abilities, ultimately making me feel more in control of my life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Live Like Lizzie

I have come full circle. Shelby's testimony was like God tapping me on the shoulder and saying "This is why, Dianne. Right here. This is why".  So where do I go from here? My first step is to support Shelby and the mission work she is doing. Lizzie always wanted to go do mission work. It was her dream and goal. I honestly believe that Shelby is fulfilling that dream. So...... I am calling on all who can to help Shelby. She is currently in Zambia and is working at a school that has 500 students and only about 6 teachers. They need supplies: books (k-5th grade), paper, pencils, etc. If you would like to contribute anything - a pack of paper, pencils, erasers, books, crayons, pencil sharpeners - anything, please let me know or simply mail to me at my address below. I will get all to Shelby's mom. Or if you would simply like to donate to help with the shipping costs, let me know. The Team Lizzie account is still active at Bancorp South in Lufkin. I will know whatever is deposited from this date forward is for shipping costs or supplies for the kids. You can also write Zambia Kids shipping or Zambia Kids supplies in the memo line. The following is Shelby's FB post:

This week, I've realized just how vital a good education is to breaking the cycle of poverty. I am working in a 1st and 2nd grade classroom with one teacher and over 80 students. The students are unable to receive the specialized attention they need for their age and the resources for them to excel are unavailable. In this week, I have realized even more how passionate I am about education and I know without a doubt that I am called to be a teacher to students in impoverished... communities.
With this said, I have met a 9 year old girl named Jennifer this week. Jennifer is in my class and has asked me to teach her to read and write. Last semester, I took a class on early literacy development and I am excited to put what I learned into practice. I am needing to buy some supplies such as books, paper, and writing utensils for her and I would appreciate if you would pray that this would be financially achievable for me. I would also appreciate if you would pray that teaching her would be a smooth process for both of us. I am kind of nervous about actually putting into practice what I have learned as a teacher, but I know that I have been called to this task and the Lord will equip me.
I'm really excited for this opportunity and for what the Lord is revealing to me about my future and the gifts that He has given me! I cannot wait to update you all on Jennifer and the progress she is making. I need all the prayer I can get!

This feeling is so odd. I feel like I have just had 6 espresso shots along with a RedBull. I am on fire to help this school. I feel like Lizzie has a hand in this somehow. I'm also scared. I've never tried to spear-head anything like this. Pray that I ask in the right way. Pray that my passion reaches people who can and will help. Pray that someone who is knowledgeable about charity and donations contacts me and offers help or guidance.

My address is:
2202 Holly St
Lufkin, TX 75901

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Be the Change: a Testimony from Shelby Havard

(Reprinted with permission from Shelby)
My name is Shelby Havard,  and I was a friend of Lizzie's in middle and high school. I just wanted you to know how much your daughter impacted my life. The semester before her death, I was diagnosed with depression and spent a lot of my time drinking and smoking. I was throwing my life away, and God really used Lizzie to open my eyes. Lizzie exuded joy. She made an effort to live life to the fullest, and she trusted God through it all. Soon after Lizzie died, I decided to turn my life around and I applied for a 9 month mission trip to Guatemala, Thailand, and Zambia. I'm currently in Thailand right now, and I am so thankful for how far God has brought me since this time last year. I just wanted you to know how much of an impact your daughter made on the people around her. She inspired me to make the most of my life and to follow God, and now I am able to love and serve people all because she allowed God to use her. Your daughter was an incredible young woman and she was very, very loved.
Attached is a picture of me hugging a monkey in Thailand on my mission trip! She inspired me to come here, and it's on her bucket list, so this one is for her.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 15

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them,” said the writer Isak Dinesen. When loss is a story, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no pressure to move on. There is no shame in intensity or duration. Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.
- from Getting Grief Right by Patrick O'Malley

So many thoughts and feelings are running rampant through my mind. How do I get them all out in a way that truly conveys the mark this day has made on my life? The "if onlys" trample through my mind like petulant children: demanding that I pay attention to them: stomping their little feet and tugging on the hems of my clothes: Demanding that I stop whatever daily function in which I am engaged and focus totally on them.  A feeling of failure has haunted me for a year - so much so that some days I want to talk about my failure in the hopes of excising them and other days I just want to crawl into a deep, dark space and hide my shame.
I failed Elizabeth.
The days between Christmas 2013 and Jan. 15 a year ago fluctuate between clear, concise memories and blurred lines.  I begin to write, to tell her story and later think "oh, I forgot about....." I am desperate to record every single event, emotion, and thought. I feel as if I am grasping blindly about for some sort of stronghold or rope to cling to. Life did continue after Lizzie died. We all went back to work or school. We celebrated holidays and birthdays. We gathered with friends and family. Through it all, for me, there has been a glaring absence in every corner of my life. I know that my demeanor and personality are less... energized? infectious? happy? I feel it in my bones. I see it on my face.
Lizzie came home from The Joseph House at Christmas. I returned to work after the first of the year, and Lizzie stayed with my parents. You see, (and this is just an example of Lizzie's spirit) Lizzie decided she wanted me to have new flooring. She and my parents snuck around for months researching colors, styles, and materials. The day I returned to school (failure #1) the flooring was installed. All the living room furniture was stacked in the breakfast area. It was literally an obstacle course. Lizzie wasn't quite ready to return to Joseph House so she stayed with my parents. She liked it there. My sister works for my father, and the office is at my parents' house. People were always coming and going. And pretty much Lizzie got what Lizzie wanted. I guess we fell into a routine of sorts. It was the Saturday before the 15th.  My father's birthday is on the 11th, so  the plan was the family was going out to eat to celebrate. I go to my parents' home to hang out with my child. Lizzie wasn't feeling very well so she headed off to bed. So there I am. Sitting with my mom. Watching TV. My mother at one point says, "Well, I guess I need to tell you that Lizzie has planned a surprise party for you at Applebee's."  Dinner with my family was a ruse. Well, partly. The plan was that the family would go to Applebee's, but once there Lizzie and Alex would stay with the party and me. My friends were waiting for me at the restaurant. However, Lizzie was not well enough to go. What do I do? Part of me said "Stay with your daughter". Part of me said "Go. Lizzie will be upset if you don't." So I went (failure #2).  Probably around 10 or so, Mom calls me and says Lizzie wanted me. So I left and went back to my parents for a little while. I should have stayed all night. (failure #3) The next day Ricky cooked one of Lizzie's favorite meals to take to my parents. It took a little longer than expected. My dad called saying Lizzie wanted to talk to me. I don't know why, but she couldn't hear me. I kept telling her that as soon as the meal was ready, we'd be right over. I can still hear her say "Granddaddy, I can't hear her." The last thing I remember saying to my child was "Lizzie, let me talk to Granddaddy." (failure #4). I should have told her that I loved her.  I should have immediately hung up the phone and raced over there. (failure #5). We finally get there and she's asleep. We eat. I had been coughing for a couple of months. Never had time to go to the doctor (another failure) and not only was the cough causing pain, but simply breathing was excruciating. Ricky took me go to the ER. I had pleurisy brought on by bronchitis and on its way to pneumonia. Each cough felt like someone was stabbing me in my lung. The following day, Monday, I had taken off from school to take care of Lizzie. I get there to find out that the hospice nurse had been called during the night. A small bag of fluids was attached to Lizzie. To me fluids were the liquids of life. Several times before those bags of fluids would restore Lizzie to a point where she could participate. I call Amber at Hospice in the Pines. At first I was angry. Why was the bag so small? I remember Amber saying, "Dianne, what's going on? What is Lizzie doing?" I just start bawling on the phone saying "She's not doing anything!" Amber immediately comes. She takes three steps into the room, calls in-patient and tells them to make room. Lizzie is coming.

Amber knew.

I'm thinking that everything is going to be ok now. Each time Lizzie has been admitted to in-patient hospice she's bounced back. Those people there are miracle workers. Lizzie will be admitted and in a couple of days she'll be running the hallways again. I can see it now. I was delusional. I can't explain it, but I was operating with the idea that my child was not truly dying. Somehow, some way Lizzie would continue to stay with me.
The ambulance comes. We all head over to in-patient. At some point I run home to grab a bag for the stay - pull my shoulder muscle in the process. (Remember, my brain is operating on the belief that Lizzie will pull through.)So now I yelp when I cough and groan when I move my right shoulder.
Then reality hits. How many times had we been at this point? This point where doctors were telling us that this was it? This point where we were told that Lizzie was right there at death's doorstep? And each of those times Lizzie rallied to prove them wrong. But this was not like the other times. Lizzie was settled into what they jokingly called "Lizzie's room." (I'm tellin' ya - Lizzie was Queen Bee there). I'm outside of Lizzie's room, and Amber tells me that Lizzie will not pull out of this. That this time is it. I call my daughter Alex and tell her to come home.  Amber calls their dad. I couldn't do it. I thought he might have questions that I wouldn't know the answer to. I also thought he might grasp the reality of what was happening if Amber called instead of me.  People came by - can't remember who all. It seemed like a steady stream. Everything is now a blur. Looking back and it seems as if it happened so fast instead of the approximately 40 hours. I wouldn't leave Lizzie's side except to go to the restroom. Visitors would tell me to walk outside with them for just a minute or two. No,  I wasn't going to leave her.  At one point I climb into the bed and cradle her in my arms. My mom stayed with us the entire time. Each of us on either side of the bed. Each of us holding her hand. Once I was bouncing Lizzie's hand in mine when I felt a little twitch from her hand. My heart jumped and my eyes flew to her face. Was she responding? Did I annoy her enough that she was going to tell me to stop?
Tuesday came and went. People came and went. Finally it was just Lizzie, Mom, and myself. I'm sure we dozed off and on throughout the night. But at some point we both scoot our chairs closer to the bed and each reach for Lizzie's hand. It's absolutely quiet in the room. The only sound is that of Lizzie breathing.  Without knowing the other was doing the same thing, we would count the seconds between Lizzie's exhales and the following inhale. We can tell the breaths are coming farther and farther apart. Lizzie exhales. We begin counting until the inhale. Seconds tick by. Exhale, inhale. Exhale, inhale. Exhale...... we look at each other. I ask my mom if she heard a breath. Mom shakes her head and pushes the call button. The nurse comes in and listens - faint heartbeat - then no more.

2:47 AM

"Bring her back! I want her back!"
I thought I was prepared. Two and a half years of watching my child waste away. Hurting for her. Feeling helpless. Supporting her decisions but wanting that miracle to appear. I thought I was ready. I wasn't. In that moment I felt .....
despair        anguish     pain     gut-wrenching yearning     heartache  
the feeling that someone just ripped my insides totally out and there was nothing left but a shell
the feeling that my heart stopped beating
the feeling that my lungs are no longer filled with air 

Today is my birthday. People have asked how I am going to celebrate it. I don't want to. Each year I turn older will mark one more year that I no longer have Elizabeth. "Dianne, you and Lizzie now share a birthday: yours on Earth and hers in Heaven." Yes, we do. I understand that. Lizzie was never afraid of dying. Lizzie told me once that she knew when she was first diagnosed that she would not survive the cancer. She had asked God for a testimony and this was it. The knowledge that she would be going to Heaven gave her the strength she needed to face and deal with the disease. The knowledge that she would one day be with God gave her the grace to live her remaining life with excitement and eagerness. It gave her a zest to face every day with wonder.  My faith is not as strong. There are nights I look up at the sky and wonder at God's creation. Others I look up and wonder if God is there. I live with the regret that my last words to Lizzie were not I love you. Did she know? Did she know that she was not alone? Could she feel her hands being held by her mom and grandmother? Did she know I was beside her at the funeral home until it was time for her to go?
There was a lady at the Joseph House that Lizzie loved to visit. I will call her Ms. G. Outside of Ms. G's window are several hummingbird feeders. In the spring and summer there would be numerous hummingbirds hanging around outside of the window - flitting, eating, sitting. The ladies at The Joseph House told me that on the day Lizzie died, one little hummingbird sat for awhile on the shepherd's crook right outside of Ms. G's window.....in January. They are convinced that the bird was Lizzie coming to check in on Ms. G: coming to let Ms. G know that she was ok.
My daughter Chrissii told me about how my grandson Sawyer would giggle in his sleep when he was only a couple of months old. Someone told her that when babies do that it means that an angel is playing with him. We like to think that Lizzie is keeping an eye on him.
Me?  I beg that one night Lizzie visits with me in my dreams. I want to say those three words that I so regret not saying to her as I hung up the phone.
I love you.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Christmas Season

I wasn't going to put up a tree this year. My heart wasn't in it. I wasn't going to put out lights. My heart wasn't in it.  The "Christmas Spirit" seemed to be residing somewhere else. I used to "go all out" at Christmas. Lights outside and in. Christmas decorations in every corner. I even tried the Elf on the Shelf shenanigans when the girls were both in high school. "Really, Mom?" was the response.  Travis and I have been divorced for several years, and in that time the girls have been away at Christmas many times. I  thought...... hoped that my mind would make me believe that this year was like many in the past. But my heart knows different. I was walking around outside one day thinking of my lack of spirit - thinking of Lizzie and how I miss her - feeling generally pitiful. Then I began thinking of another child born, on Christmas, who died. I began thinking that Christmas is not a time to feel sad or depressed for those we have lost, but happy for the One we have found. Christmas is a time to remember the One who lived his life and died for all of us to be able to live our lives and one day live again with Him. So, I bought a new fake tree (allergies), new decorations, and put up a Christmas tree. I  decorated the outside with lights.
Did I go "all out" as in the past? No. Part of the reason is that I just don't want to have to put it all away when the time comes. (residual bah humbug?).......However, the totes are still sitting in my living room It may happen between now and tomorrow. Who knows?
I miss Lizzie so very much. Christmas celebrations will be different from now on, but the reason for the celebration is the same as it has been for thousands of years. Yes, we will mourn the loss of our loved ones. But we must remember  the One who was born on Christmas. The One who died so that we may one day live in Heaven.

I think I need more lights!