Thursday, December 24, 2015

I was recently taken to task by a real-life friend. In a nutshell, I realized I was not keeping my friends adequately updated on the events in my life. I very much identify with her personality, that of a person who doesn't ask so many questions and feels that if someone wants you to know something they will tell need to go digging. People like us are often left guessing though, confused and wondering how we missed so much. 

While I don't feel that every person on the street needs to know the details of my life, I could have done better. When my ex and I separated last March, I was not about to let anything play out publicly. I suppose I did too good of a job. 

That's right, I said ex. I am divorced now. No, I won't be discussing any details related to that. I want to apologize to the people who looked to us as a model family. Often the image doesn't mesh with reality. 

Also, I'm in a new relationship, which is something I could not have predicted. He is handsome and handy and the whole thing looks very promising. Those of you who might scold me, saying its way too soon, could you just be happy for us? Or if not, perhaps buzz off?

In 24 hours I'll be leaving to move 12 hours away from here. I am struggling, and failing to some extent, to wrap things up here. Packing and purging while caring for many children has taken its toll on me. This level of stress reminds me of scary times in the hospital with Ralph. It seems I'll have a truly fresh start considering some of the precious things I've had to let go, or leave behind. It's just stuff, right?

I never imagined that I would be a single mother to many children, some with significant challenges. I did not choose this path, but it's a been a year full of drastic changes and exciting opportunities. I don't know what my life will look like in 2016 but more changes are in store! I'm ready to welcome the new year with open arms. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

All is not lost...

In the midst of the storm, when the waves are coming so fast, it's often impossible to see very far. Can you be sure that this won't last forever, when the pain and loss just won't let up?

Well meaning friends try to throw you a lifeline, something to grasp, but sometimes the "you are going to make it" and the "you'll be stronger when this is over" gets lost in the waves, too. You can't believe what they are saying, much less take hold of it.

The waves begin to slow down. You have time to catch your breath before the next one hits. It gets easier to meet the next one...or you have become stronger...either way. You look around and take stock.

Yes, you have lost a lot.

But, not everything. And it's even shocking how much has survived. You see blessing and provision in it all. It becomes harder to feel sorry for yourself.

And look! The flood waters and waves have washed up some precious treasure you might have never discovered but for this very storm. You are ready to pick up the pieces, old and new, and live again.

Last week I found that my lilacs were attempting to bloom. In the middle of sweltering 100+ degree temperatures, and despite sunburned and shriveled leaves, my brave flowering shrub was doing it's very best to produce something beautiful.

Lilacs put on their very best show in the mild days of spring, filling the air with a sweet aroma. To bloom once more in the harshest of conditions shows strength of character. May I come through the storm with the strength of character to bloom like my sweet lilacs. 

Can you find the strength to pick up the pieces and bloom, too?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Season

It's been a season of loss at Ralphcrew. I've seen suffering at home and around the world but always felt very insulated against it. Not anymore.

Still, we can still count our blessings, because it's not like we've been tortured for our faith. We haven't watched a child die. We all have our stories of pain and loss...and so many of you have suffered and lost much more than we have, but loss is loss. When it happens to you it's personal, and it's painful, no matter the degree.

What do we do with our pain? This is what matters. This is what will define us.

Will we build protective walls around our hearts so no one can ever hurt us again? Will we go on the offensive, seeking to hurt and destroy those who have wronged us? Both? God forbid. We only hurt ourselves and possibly innocent bystanders!

Ideally, we will follow the example Jesus set. We forgive, over and over again. We forgive those who know not what they do. We accept the suffering without fighting back. We are not surprised when it comes, we know to expect it on this side of heaven.

When we know better, we do better. We press on.

Maybe we find that one loss has created room for something different. Maybe God shows up and brings dry bones to life! Maybe we find beauty in exchange for ashes.

I find myself longing for the day when we can look back and all of this makes perfect sense. Until then, Ralphcrew will keep on keeping on!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Is is well...

As I woke this morning, and began to thank God for giving me the gift of another day, this song came into my heart:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

This song was written by Horatio Spafford, who had just lost his four daughters in a ship wreck. What faith in the midst of crushing tragedy! Later this morning we will honor the lives of Wayne and Celeste Shelton. Their family and friends are living through a similar tragedy as the author of the song. Pray for their comfort and their faith to be strengthened through this trial. 

Memorial gifts can be given HERE:


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The 4th will never be the same...

The 4th of July has always been a BIG deal for our family. We typically blow up way too many fireworks and eat too many burgers and dogs. Not only are we the patriotic type, but my brother-in-love was born that day. In 1992, our son was born that day, too! As this firecracker baby of ours was growing up, I would fib to him and say all the fireworks were just for him!!

The night that our Richard Wayne was born, James slipped out to celebrate and shoot fireworks with his best friend and our best man, Wayne. Yes, we did name our son in honor of my husband's childhood BFF. Wayne was as close as, possibly even closer than a brother to him since they were very small boys. They were equally at home in the other's house. Brother from another mother, that is how they might have described each other. 

Over the years we moved all over the country and back, Wayne served our country overseas and at home in the National Guard, babies were born, and the messy stuff of life happened to us all. Through all the challenges and all the changes, James and Wayne remained close. It is a testimony to their character and loyalty that they stayed so close for 40-ish years. A friendship like theirs is a rare and precious gift.

This year, the 4th of July was changed forever. I was still groggy when I got the call that morning. I couldn't quite follow what I was hearing on the line. Something happened...Wayne and his wife, Celeste...accident..."slow down," I begged. "Was Wayne hurt?"

He was dead. Celeste also. Oh Lord, no...
Wayne and Celeste Shelton

They had just celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary the week before. This couldn't be happening. I could not bear to break the news to Richard...much less on his birthday. 

Left to right: Wayne, Richard and James

Wayne and Celeste had collided with a disabled vehicle that was blocking the highway. They got out of their vehicle to inspect the damage when a tractor trailor rig came along and plowed into the vehicles and into our friends. They both died at the scene.

It's tragedy enough when one parent dies, but both at the same time? Wayne and Celeste left behind four partially dependent young adults to take care of all of the arrangements. Can you imagine the kind of heartbreaking and grown up decisions they are being forced to make without their parents there to guide them?

While their parents affairs are being settled, these four kids are responsible for paying all the bills, the rent, upfront expenses of the funeral arrangements as well as finding new places to live...all while grieving for their parents. It's hard to wrap my mind around this tragedy. It's unthinkable.

There is a memorial fund set up in honor of Wayne and Celeste. Funds raised will be used to cover the expenses related to the funeral costs and settling of affairs. Any remaining funds will be split four ways between the kids, Heather, David, Chelsey and Madison.

Can you spare a gift to bless these kids? To honor their parents? Even $5 would help. I'd love to see their expenses covered and have enough left over to get a good start on their new normal, forever changed lives. There is a memorial fund set up HERE or you can click on the link below. I would be so grateful if you would pray for this heartbroken family, and help to ease the burden they must bear. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My CHAMP camper

 Ralph has become a big boy!

We are in Washington, D.C. for his second week of CHAMP camp, an intensive speech camp for kids with apraxia. We get 3 1/2 hours of individual and group therapy over the course of two weeks. I am really hopeful for breakthroughs in articulation. Ralph has SO much to say. I need the world to understand him. 

We are working in ways to incorporate movement into therapy this week and I am really impressed with the results so far! Parent education is a large part of the program as well. 

I am grateful for this opportunity to travel with Ralph to get intensive therapy. In addition to the therapy for Ralph and the education for me, we have met some great new friends! To trade ideas and information with other parents is priceless. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


My Ralph.

He is 8 today. I cannot believe it.

He was born on a beautiful Sunday. I remember so many little details about this blessed day. It was a true gift from God.

Our family enjoyed a meaningful worship service that morning. Pretty sure we sang Everlasting God, which would become very meaningful for me a few days later. After church I was feeling like maybe I was going into labor, so my sweet husband fed the children while I rested in my room. It was a golden day, the sun was shining and my bedroom windows were open to the breeze.

As I labored gently, there is no other way to describe this labor, I could hear the children playing outside our home. Our home. Life was perfect in the new home we had built and moved into only a few months earlier. I couldn't have been happier or more content at any other moment in my life. The sunset made our bedroom glow.

My darling husband called the midwife. We had everything ready to go for another home birth...but I requested that she not come too soon this time. I labor more comfortably and confidently when I am unobserved and quite secluded. I sang worship songs along with my favorite radio station and wandered from the bed to a warm bath and back again. It seems like a dream now.

I can't say enough about my brave and wonderful husband, who was able to track my progress with coaching from the midwife over the phone. (I mean, really? The things that man has done for me...) Anyway, she arrived to the house about dark and things got serious very quickly. She found old meconium in the amniotic fluid upon breaking my water and I powered that little baby out in no time...this was an emergency.

I remember quite clearly how darling my little Ralph was, from the very first moment I saw him. So cute. It just struck me. And I remember the midwife saying, "I think your baby may have Down Syndrome." But I didn't just didn't matter. His lungs were full of gunk and he couldn't breathe. I just wanted him to be OK...DS or not.

We called 911. Firefighters, policemen, and paramedics showed up. So many people. The ambulance driver missed a turn to get on the highway. The doctor at the hospital was so rude. I refused to be admitted so they made me walk all the way to the NICU to see Ralph. Our lives fell apart that wonderful night that turned into a nightmare.

I am so truly thankful for the peaceful labor and the wonderful memories of the day Ralph was born. God must have know that I would need to hang on to this wonderful memory to face the hard days ahead...days when I was sure he would not make it through.

Now Ralph is healthy, and strong and so very big! The peaceful, beautiful memories and the dark, difficult ones remind me that God is always in control, and I have SO very much to be thankful for, even in seasons of difficulty and sorrow.

Thank you, Ralph! You have taught me so much in the past eight years. Happy birthday, you handsome boy!!