Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hope.

Our time in Florida has come to an end.

Even though at day 3 or 4 I was already dreading this day, it does not come as I expected.  I am not sad. I am not filled with dread.

I've thought today about how I could someday write about these 2 weeks here. And I felt a lump in my throat immediately.  You know those moments in your life that could never be told as they really were...? The emotion something that could never be verbally explained...? The birth of your child? The death of someone you loved? Sure pictures and memories attempt to tell the story but it never really gives the full picture.

This trip.  The fact that I start to cry when I think about this trip...tells you more than my words ever could.  Someday...I'll try.  I'll try to paint the full story.  This was our healing trip. But...not our two weeks to be healed. No...no. No...definitely not.

This was the first big step in our healing.  And oh...only Heaven knows what has happened on this trip.  The gift to my soul in these last two weeks is something I could never fully articulate.  Ever.

The gifts have been so many.  So very many.  I've not even shared the half of them.  The fact that a friend of a friend works at Disney World and blessed our socks off with helping us with tickets.  Or the friend that contacted me not knowing anything that we are going through saying God laid it clearly on their hearts to give us a certain amount of money.  The many many many notes I've received from people that know me so very little...with words they will someday know God gave them to send to me. Or the friend that heard we are coming back through their way and graciously invited us to stay and get to know them better. And of course...the gift of this condo for 2 full weeks.  Fully gifted.

Through it all we have been humbled...grateful...and most of all in awe.  Both of us have said that over and over.  We are simply in awe of how God has shown us we are right in the palm of His hand. And in this storm? We needed that reminder. And will need it.

For me as I look back on these two weeks of bliss...I see so much.  Sunshine every single day. Lots of little brown faces and yawns at the end of every day.  The quiet, consistent crash of one wave after another right off our deck.  All of it...what I walk away with most...is hope.

I came here with very little.  Very, very little hope.

I was a mess.  Many questions. So very few answers.  Honestly...I came with a decision. A decision to still have faith. A decision to believe.  A decision to not doubt.  A decision.

But I'm leaving with hope.  I've seen it.  I've seen what I could never have even wished for.  I've seen the look in a child's eye filled with wonder and joy. I've seen laughter come alive that's been missing . I've seen life...totally renewed.  And like a warm Gulf wave over a shattered soul...it's given me hope.

I remember when my sister, Joanne, graduated just a year ahead of me. She chose this quote for her year book photo.  "Never deprive someone of hope...it may be all they have." I have never seen her year book since 1997 and I have never ever forgotten that quote beside her graduation picture.

I have thought of it so many times in these recent months.  As my hope waned and I felt the lifelessness take over...I knew I needed it breathed back in to me.

Could I ever fully express what has happened here? Not the physical...not the fun and the memories. No...I'm talking about something that has happened inside of me and I'm sure you can see it on the outside.

This is one of my favorite verses.  It puts things in perspective.  I know the here and now isn't what my story is all about.  I know there's a greater picture being painted and I love how this verse reminds me of that.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We don't lose heart.  Oh...I have.  I have.  Those nights when I collapsed on the floor sobbing saying over and over and over "I can't! I can't! I can't do this!!! I can do anything but this!!"  I love this verse.

I know right now this is all so very vague.  I want you to know why I made the decision to blog now. In the thick of it.  I'm a realist.  To the core.  Tell me all the worse case scenario stuff and let me prepare for the worst.  It's how my brain works.  And for me...when I'm going through something like I am right now...I want to read someone's story when they were right there. Right there, in the eye of the storm.  Not after they made it through. Our tone changes then. Doesn't it? Hearing my children talk about the scary rides at Disney a week later...? So different than when they were on it! Screaming and clutching my arm for dear life.  Now? "It wasn't THAT bad..." "I mean...I'd do it again..." and I smile.  Not quite.  That's not quite the real story.  And they may do it again! But tell us how it was IN the moment. That's me.  And so when this storm hit I knew I was faced with a decision. I couldn't tell you the specifics...but I could choose to stay silent and tell about it after (if...) we survived it.  How there were so many gifts that offset the pain. How my faith was still rock solid (forgetting that it was shaken to the core and I questioned every thing I knew to be true...) That's when I knew.  I decided to tell the story...in real time. Though I can't share the details now...someday when they are known...you can look back and see this story 'in the raw'.

Hope.  Tonight as we pack the van to leave early in the morning...my heart is filled with hope.  There IS a future.  There IS a path that can be filled with joy here. There IS something bigger happening that I can't see. God CAN use this story for good.  I came so very empty. Frail. Weak. Full of questions. I'm leaving still frail. Still weak. But knowing there is hope.  I have seen it.  And it has changed me.

For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11(NIV).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Courage.

We were at Disney's Magic Kingdom last week and I had finally convinced Tirzah and Zion to go with me on the 'log ride'.  I remember from our Wish trip 3 years ago that there were some surprises on the ride.

Well we made it on.  Zion was looking awfully nervous.  Tirzah was starting to regret it.

But just before we got on, we had counted in 1-1000's as people would go over the 40 foot plunge. We determined it was just a bit over 2 full seconds. That's it.  A great ride...with 2 seconds of terror.  We could do that.

What I forgot about was the first drop...in the dark.  So I already had kids clinging to me from behind...from the start of the ride.  The funny part about this all is that I...their mama...am not brave on rides. I don't do crazy roller coasters and I'm really not brave.

Yet in this moment...I'm the bravest one.  Funny how parenthood does that!

So we had finally come to the part in the ride...where the log climbed and climbed.  I turned around to see Azahria holding on tightly. Zion looking terrified and secretly begging for a way of escape.  Tirzah's eyes already closed. Zihao and Azlan were on either side of me.  I had time to catch most of their eyes and say one last time "2 seconds of courage, you guys, we can do this!".  I tried to keep my eyes open and I even tried to scream. Something happens at about the 20 ft mark where you literally...physcially...cannot.  You can't breathe. You cannot see.  And you just fall.  When we landed I looked back to see Zion let out a scream he had been unable to release...and then he started to sob.  Tirzah shook her head at me and said "never ever ever again".  I'm laughing more at the fact that I, Janice Walker, am consoling anyone since I'm the biggest wimp ever.  Azlan said he was fine til half way when he was sure we were dying. Azahria was a little pale.  Zihao said it was pretty scary.  And Zion is still sobbing.  Tirzah's head is still shaking.

I kept trying to get in there that we did it.  We did it. We didn't like it...but we did it. And to keep it in perspective it wasn't a scary ride, it was a very scary 2 seconds.

And yes...this thought is so powerful.  There was a Toby Mac quote on fb recently that said "was it a bad day? Or was it a bad 5 minutes that you let control your day?" (something to that effect).

We see what we look for.  I believe that with all my heart.

Right now? Our family is looking for gifts.  And we are seeing them. In abundance.  And in the grand scheme of our life...the big big picture...this trial is not our whole life. At the moment it feels like it. No question. But ... it's not.

What I have seen this week is so beautiful it's hard for me to express it here.  I've seen a little girl come alive.  Literally find her wings and fly.  Not even start to fly...no...she's flying.  And that...that was the purpose for this trip.  Our healing trip.

Courage.  There are many ways to describe it. One of my favorites is "being terrified and doing it anyway".  It's kind of like my "I can do hard things".  I think what resonates with people with that line is that we are acknowledging it's hard!  That's not a sign of weakness. No...that's just stating the facts. I'm a realist.  It's hard!! But it's the next part that the courage comes into play.  I CAN DO IT!  So it's hard. So what.  We got that out on the table. It's hard. Harder than I'd ever choose.  Harder than I wanted life to be.  Harder that I was prepared for.  Ok.  What next? No quitting. No throwing in the towel.  No burying myself under a mountain of blankets and curling into a fetal position until someone assures me that it's easy.  No.  No.  It's terrifying. It's hard. But let's do it.

Shortly after our world fell part early summer...I remember thinking very vividly that the tendency would be to just survive through this storm. And honestly..even that would take divine intervention. But I didn't want that to happen.  I didn't want our children to look back on those dark, horrific days as the darkest days in our lives.  I became fiercely intentional.

Fiercely.

I didn't sleep a wink that first night. I sobbed ALL night.  At 7am I had a feast on the table and we went for a picnic that afternoon. The middle of a work day.  The next day we went out for a family movie...something we never do.  The next day we went to a friends house and had lunch in their back yard. The next day we played a 2plus hour game of Monopoly in the middle of the afternoon.  And every single day...there was something we did as a family...to own that day.  When I could barely breathe.  And I mean that.  My chest hurts as I type just reliving those moments. That doesn't make me stronger. I assure you.  I'm so very weak. So very frail.

It's that childhood stubborness finally being channelled the right direction.  I will not quit. I will not roll over. I will let these days be destroyed on my watch. I am TERRIFIED.  But I will do it anyway.

One of the children recently said this past summer was the very best summer they can ever remember.  And I got goosebumps.  It was the worst months of my entire life.  No question.  I'm not a sugar coater.  They knew what was going on.  They came in to our room many times to see me sobbing and hitting my pillow.  They knew.  But they also saw determination and courage to be intentional.

When we absolutely didn't feel like it. When every part of us wanted to give up.

As we are sitting at the bottom of the log ride...Zion finally stops crying long enough to give me his attention.  I held his hand and told him to focus on the fact that he did it.  He did it. He had the 2 seconds of courage. He did it.  And to not sit there reliving the terror of that drop.

His face changed.  It was like I had just pulled him out of that place...into this place.  A place of defeat and regret to a place of victory.

As we got off the ride...I smiled.  Not because of the ride. But because I know one of the greatest battles is the battle of the mind.  And little does Zion know that i'm in the same fight. Every moment of the day.  In many areas of my life.  Do I sit reliving the horror and feel the weight of the terror and all the regret that comes with it...or do I look back and go "Ahhhh. God...we made it.  This far. We made it here. We are alive." Do I feel the victory or sit in the regret? And we are by no means in a place of where this is all behind us.

We were walking towards Dean and the other kids when Zion looked at me and said "ok I'm glad you named me Zion Courage, I need that".

Yes.  That is his name.  He's not the one that naturally has it. He's the one that needs the reminder that he can choose.

Courage.



Thursday, September 15, 2016

The trip of a lifetime.

Several weeks ago, a friend contacted me and said we were on her heart and she wanted to offer us a week in Florida in their condo if we could make it there. I called her. I told her our story. Our storm. We both sobbed together on the phone. She then said "it's yours for the month of September if you can get there."


In that moment I knew.  I knew we must go.

We are self employed. We can work from anywhere. We homeschool our children.  And we...? We are in the storm of all storms.  And we needed a brief escape.

Ever since the storm first revealed itself early summer...I kept waking with images of Florida in my head. It was so strange.  When this friend offered this trip...I knew this would be deeply emotional for me.

So on September 2nd, we hit the road.  What an amazing adventure it has been.  47 hours each way driving.  Some nights we camped. Many nights amazing friends insisted we stay with them. We are not a small family...and their generosity was clearly over the top.  What a gift this trip has been.  Every step of the way.  To hanging with our friends in Boise, ID.  To camping in an incredible state park in CO with a  breathtaking view (and hair raising drive to get to it).  To meeting with my close friend in CO and receiving an amazing gift that still leaves us shocked.  To hanging with my amazing friend and business partner in Kansas, and bunking with another friend and business partner in Tennessee.  The next night we arrived in Louisana and hung out with more amazing friends. As we were ready to hit the road to camp, they insisted we stay overnight. What an amazing night and they were so so kind.  The final day we drove through Pensacola, FL where we bought our van. We went to the dealership and they repaired our window (oh...a sheet of plywood went flying off a truck we were passing in MO and shattered Zion's passenger window! It was rather terrifying!) temporarily and prayed with us. Dean mentioned we are going through the storm right now and the man said we must share our story.  He talked about how generation after generation have hidden the stuff, swept it under the carpet and that freedom comes from sharing.  Just another voice in this journey saying the same loud and clear message.

As we drove to the beach, the car ahead of us paid our toll.  You know ... it was a dollar or two. I don't remember. But who pays for someone else's toll?  It was yet another gift. Another whisper from Heaven saying "I'm here. I've got you. I've got your story."

We drove to the beach and got out to see sunset. It took my breath away.  Not the sunset...but the fact that we were there. The dream God put in my heart was now a reality. In the roughest season of our lives.  I kept blinking the tears away as Izrael chased the birds and the other kids stared out at the ocean.  This gift would never be lost on me.  And yes...it was from amazing people. But it was also from God Himself.

Because of our choice to stop and hang out in Pensacola, we had to drive all night to our condo. It was tough. We sang, we talked, we ate, we counted deer on the side of the road, Dean poured water on his head...and we lived.

How can each day literally be a perfect day...?

How can each day remind you of the gift so tangibly...?  The real gift.  The gift of His love.  The gift that nothing above or below can separate us from it.  Not this fire or any fire.

We have seen incredible gifts every single day.  I'm so glad that months ago, at the beginning of this journey, a stranger told me to look for the gifts. She said "if you don't, you will miss them..." and she was so right.  There are days that the pain is so overwhelming that you can't see the next step. No matter how bright and clear the day...it looks dark and gloomy and you can feel the storms looming.

Nazara bouncing in the waves of the ocean for hours on end. Saying "Mommy...I love it here". Izrael seeing a bird and getting much closer than anyone could imagine as she beams from ear to ear.  Zihao learning to surf.  The older kids building sand castles, surfing with Daddy and coming in like little brown bears at the end of the day.

Random dates on the board walk. Really awesome food. Amazing views. And with the love of my life.

It all feels like a dream. And the fact that we have one more full week here...? Bliss.  Pure bliss.

We did Magic Kingdom last week and it was simply amazing. I'm not a huge Disney buff but I'll never deny the magic there. There's something special there.  Where we all become transported to our youth.  Rides. Heat. Food. All of it.  We spent 13 hours there...savoring every moment and using every penny spent...well.

We could only do one Disney day so this was the day we chose. But on the way driving down...a friend blew our socks off and surprised us with the gift of another day!  The kids have not stopped talking about it and they still can't believe it. So Monday we do Animal Kingdom and we are so excited.

We are trying to mix beach days with adventure days. Tomorrow we go to Kennedy Space Center and the boys are really looking forward to that.  Tuesday, Daddy, Zion, Azlan and Azahria go deep sea fishing for 5 hours and they can't wait.

But the real gift...? Is being whisked away from the storm. It's never left our minds. Especially mine. In fact, I woke this morning feeling sicker than usual as I felt this dread come over me about returning home.  I don't want to go home.  And yes, I know how sad that is with our brand new home.  It's not lack of gratefulness...not one bit.  It's the presence of horrific memories that I don't want to face. Again.  I just don't want to go back.

Dean came over  beside me and rubbed my back.  He reminded me of all God is doing and will continue to do. He reminded me that we have a business trip as soon as we get home and that my parents will be with us for several weeks.  That there will be beauty there.

And so today, I make yet another Janice-decision  to not let my emotions win.  Decision trumps emotion. That's been my motto.  And it's so very hard to live out.

Choose to live this week. Not next.  Not yet.  This week we still have amazing memories to make.  We were swimming in the ocean and I looked at Azlan and said "why don't we collect shells to help us remember this trip?" He didn't hesitate. "Mommy...I don't need shells to remember. I will never ever forget this trip."

The things I have learned in the 'valley of the shadow of death' (that's no exaggeration)...

1.  Look for the gifts.  They are there. But if you don't look...you will miss them.
2. When you go through the fire of all fires, your faith will be tested all the way to the core.  And in the end, it may come down to a choice.  Choosing to believe.  Choosing to have faith. Choosing to stand on God's promises even when nothing makes sense right now.
3. Your tribe is vital.  Don't isolate yourself.  I know...I know. We get married, we grow up and we get busy. And our friendships all fall by the way side. I can tell you first hand there are many days when my tribe of amazing friends saved me. Kept me breathing. Kept me moving.  There is no question. I cannot tell you enough how important good, solid friendships are in the storm.  Yes, I know this comes with vulnerability. We have all been hurt. I'm no exception.  I'm just glad I trusted again.  Because these friends? They are my tribe and God used them daily in this journey.
4. God redeems. It's what He does.  He's not responsible for the evil. That's not him. He steps in and takes that mess of a story and redeems it. And it leaves us all baffled how He makes something much more beautiful than before out of the disaster. It doesn't even make sense. It's just what He does.  Let God use your story. All of it.  Not just the parts you are proud of. Not the parts you want to share. The other parts.  The parts you want to hide.  The ones that bring up old emotions and pain.  Those ones.  You are not the only one.  It feels that way, but you aren't.  What has amazed me in this journey...is how when we share our story and someone lights up and says "not all of the details but that happened to me...and I've kept it quiet for years because of shame.  If you tell your story, you will help me heal. You will help me find freedom. Please share this story..."  Ok. Woah.
Sharing your mountain top experiences rarely inspires someone.  It's when you share how you survived the valley. The valley...sometimes quite literally...of the shadow of death.  That's what brings hope. That's what gives life. That's what inspires.  Of course it comes with risk. Of course there are people that will do whatever you fear.  Don't focus on them.  Focus on the ones you can help. And yes, YOUR story...can free others.  Let God redeem. Let God free people through the transparency of your story.  It's something only He can do...yet we limit Him but hiding it.
I've said from the beginning we will share.  We just cannot yet.  Truly, cannot.  Once we can, we will.  And it's not pretty.  You will wonder how we lived.  And we will be able to tell you that God gave each next breath.  And the friends He places in our life offered us lifelines just when we needed them.

And the gifts. Oh the gifts. From paid tolls, to another day at Disney, to people we barely know refusing to let us camp in the heat and humidity and insisting we move in the for the night, to friends from  WA buying us pizza for dinner in FL as they go through their own battle with cancer, to 30,000 less people showing up at Disney than normal giving us a lot better day, to Make A Wish donors extending their offer of free entrance 3 years after expiration giving us experiences we simply could not afford, to a box showing up at our condo door with Disney autograph and photo albums for each of our children to make their experience even more magical, to Nazara patting me on the back as I cried reliving the pain whispering in my ear "Mommy...I keep you safe" to the gift of a new life. When we never could have planned it. Now...? Here...? Yes.  Here.  When many days it's what kept me eating. Kept me breathing.  He makes no mistakes.  This baby's name will be very significant of the time in our life he/she was given to us.

Today as our life is put on pause yet again, for another day of sand castles, surfing waves in the ocean, late ice cream walks and laughs for hours without interruption...we are reminded of His gifts.  How could something so beautiful come out of something so dark? How can we have a trip we will never ever ever ever forget in the darkest time of our lives?

This is just the beginning of God's redemption of our story.  Which was never really ours to begin with.  His story.

It's all His.


























Thursday, September 1, 2016

The darker the storm...the brighter the rainbow.

We have not kept it a secret that we have been in the fight of our lives.  It has been the storm of all storms.  Left us broken hearted, in deep pain and grief.

In the middle of the darkest of dark paths...we found out we are expecting a baby.  Instantly, I saw the gift for what it was.

Hope.  New life.  A future.

Several months ago one of my close friends was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. We were all heartbroken and on our knees. One of my first prayers was that her husband would buy the house they changed their mind on just a few weeks before. When she called me to tell me he bought the house, on his own, and told her once the deal was done...I was ecstatic.  I knew that would be a message to her loud and clear..."you have a future and I'm investing in it!" and it was.

This pregnancy...right now...is that gift.  No we couldn't have planned the timing.  Yes the darkness is almost tangible.  But this sudden unexpected gift now? It was a "your family has a future and hope" moment.

So much hope. So much joy. So much life was just breathed into our hurting family.

Ever since I found out...I have heard over and over and over in my head "the darker the storm...the brighter the rainbow."  Yes.  The storm has been horrific.  Darker than dark.  Pain deeper than I knew I could survive.  Hearts loosely stitched together.  Dark.   But...oh the rainbow.  A rainbow is always beautiful.  Always.  But have you ever seen one while the storm clouds still hung low? While the sky is still raging? The heavens almost seem angry? And right there...in the middle of it all...the stark contrast of the beauty of the rainbow.  That.

With a strong heartbeat over 175 at 10 weeks, and a mama sick around the clock...this little one is due late March.  Thank you for sharing our joy.



Sunday, July 24, 2016

We are alive. :)

Sorry I've been so silent.

I've received plenty of messages of concern and want you all to know...we are indeed alive.

Two weeks ago, our mountain caught on fire and that provided some real excitement for some special boys :) While we didn't have huge concern that our home was at risk, this was a massive wildfire and we were evacuated and were told our home was "indefensible" by the firemen. So...yes. It was a real concern.

We were back in the house that night and continued to watch the fire burn out our window (a very safe distance from us at that point).  We heard that some boys caused the fire and were fined a HUGE fine.  Yikes!!

So we went from this:



To this:



But our house survived.  And yes...with the tremendous amount of hard things we've been going through...losing our house on top of it would have been a pretty big deal.  Thankful.

Someone just blessed our socks off, out of the blue, offering us a condo on the beach in Florida for a MONTH totally free!! So, the Walker crew will be driving to Florida in September (yes well over 40 hours each way) and taking the entire month of September (including driving time) to go on this amazing adventure!  So thankful for the freedom our life gives us, both of us working from home that allows us to pick up and leave for a month.
We are counting down the days and cannot wait.  Nazara cannot believe she can actually meet Minnie Mouse and Izrael is so excited to see a princess castle!  Days of beach time and really...? Healing.  There are no words for this gift.  We are so very grateful.  As many of you know, the ocean is healing for me.

We've never needed it more.

Thank you for praying for us. And please...continue.  God has shown up in ways that has left our mouths open.  This has been a very, very dark journey but someone made us promise we would look for the gifts along the way.  And oh...the gifts.

So many gifts.

Including this amazing Florida adventure.

And friends that have rallied around us.  And each of you. Who have prayed for us when you didn't even know why.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Someday, I'll share our story.

I will.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Christ Alone.

I have loved this song. I have always said to Dean ... this song just hits me right...there.

But loving a song and then being right there...right in the thick of the storm...and hearing the song...woah.

That's a whole new level.

This morning is the first time I have listened to it ... here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC1bEpSf5ek

Thank you for praying for us. Thank you.

Through the storm...You are Lord.  Lord of all.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How...? Where...?

It's a very real question.  Where does your help come from? When you are in over your head...cannot breathe...simply cannot do THIS.  Then what...? What next?

I think I've been there until now.  Now I realize I haven't been in that position...until now.  Now I know.  I know what it's like to be in physical pain from emotional heartbreak.  Now I know what it is to cry out to Heaven begging to hear a reply.  To be so tired of fighting ... yes, fighting, to find strength for the next breath.

I know.

More than I ever wished to know.

And then this morning I read this.



It's like air being forced into my lungs.  This is where my help comes from.  This.

Someday you will have many questions how we survived. And this is the answer. Right here.

Thank you for praying for us friends.