Six

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Six

Six sets of 12 months.

Six Christmas trees without his voice singing “Silent Night”

Six football seasons no Colonel in seat 1.

Six Father’s Days no money spent at Hallmark.

Six Surfside summers without that Tilley hat following the flow of the waves.

Six years to make sure you can still remember that precious voice, the warmth and safety of the hugs.

Six anniversaries of wedding bells with only half here to celebrate.

HOWEVER….

Six sets of 12 months

Six candles on the goldendoodle’s birthday cake.

Six amazing nieces and nephews with constant hugs and laughs.

Six years I still remember his precious voice, the warmth and safety of the hugs.

Six years closer to hearing “There she is!”

Six years to be proud of the other half – so brave and full of faith.

Six years to finally see the brother smile and laugh and love again.

God….

You are so good to me.

I do not hate cancer.

I do not blame.

You see the whole parade.

Do your work, God.

Complete your sovereign plan.

No matter the tears here or pain that comes with these yucky life changes.

Keep working, God.

Keep showing us that we are not worthy…and that only You are.

I continue to surrender little ol me for your great big world plan.

You are so good.

6 sets of  12 months to serve You and love You more.

6 sets of 12 months closer to the finish line.

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Five

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I had to laugh out loud when I realized that the last blog post I created was one year ago today. One year seems so short when presented in word form. Just think about it. ONE. YEAR. Sounds quick and short and painless. But, rarely is that true. I guess it is all about perspective on a year. A year that you are anticipating your marriage to the love of your love does not feel like the same year that you are watching your loved one slip away to terminal illness. But, it is the same number of days, same number of hours, minutes, and seconds.

I have been hit with this overwhelming recognition of how fast time is going of late. My friend’s sweet kids that I watched being born (well, not literally) are in middle school and embarking on high school and college. They are talking about big dreams and it seems I was just buying a baby shower present for them.

I am starting my 21st year in my career this week. I still have to tell myself that I am not the new girl anymore. I am daily reminded of this when our amazing new faculty and staff frequently say “Ma’am” to me or call me Ms. Fabian. When did I transition into that?

I look at technology. Things that were “revolutionary” just a while ago are things we laugh out now. I remember my fifth year of my career when my principal gave me her desk top computer – one of my own – in my office. I thought I had won the lottery. It was huge but, I had my own computer. Now, we all buzz around the building with our own little portable things than enable us to communicate with each other and the world in a flash. Where did all those disks go?

As I was leaving the house to go to 9R this week I walked past a mirror and had to stop for a double take. I looked closer at my shirt. Where did all of those little holes come from? I had the fleeting thought that there was a rat or some nightmare of a critter munching on my clothes. I pondered it a minute and then it hit me. I purchased that Clemson shirt in the Spring of 1995. That shirt is over 20 years old. (maybe that could explain the holes or was it just bad quality? 🙂

TIME. Sometimes it flies. Sometimes it drags on and on.

Five years. Five years since I heard his voice. Five years since I felt his bear hug. Five years since I heard the sweet sound of “There she is!” or “How’s my girl?” Five years since there was a gift under the tree “To: Mary Anne  Love, Daddy”  Five summers we haven’t analyzed the Clemson football team together in preparation for the fall. Five summers he hasn’t been on a trip with us.

Then comes the realization of all of the things that are a normal part of my life today that he never knew. He never got to meet Dollie Mae and snuggle with her. They would have been quite the dynamic duo.  He hasn’t met the tribe or the leader of the tribe – the group of people that I love so much my heart could just burst. He hasn’t had the opportunity to be in awe of the tribe leader’s strength and bravery and faith and determination. He hasn’t gotten to love the tribe for their smiles and manners and hugs and intelligence and joy. He didn’t get to know Mom as Birdie or me as Mary Aunt. He hasn’t been able to see Deshaun Watson play at Death Valley or gotten to eat at a Cheesecake Factory in the state of South Carolina.

(On the flip side – he didn’t have to face the fact that Mom painted the dining room table white or have to determine who to vote for in 2016)

“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. ” James 4:14

Just a mist. All of these things are just a mist.  As wonderful has some of them are and as awful as some life situations are –  just a small tiny dot on the entire map of eternity. Lovely thought to be reminded that I will have the most time to spend with my Daddy yet. Eternity. No time. No stop. No end. No tears. No pain. Earth is not our home. The best is yet to come.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

IMG_5809This notebook contains a copy of every Colonel Chronicles that I wrote during Dad’s journey. It contains a print out of every email, card, word of encouragement that I received during the  hard and painful Summer of 2011. I read through it tonight. I stared at the cover. The picture on the front still warms my heart. My heavenly Father holds me as time is hard.

“For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.” Psalm 90:4

So, I am sure I will not miss him any less on August 11 of 2018, or 2025, or 2030. But, I am sure that no matter the year, the time will be getting closer to meet Jesus face to face. This is true for us all.

(If you are reading my blog for the first time and are curious to hear our family’s  journey through my Dad’s illness go back and check out all of The Colonel Chronicles (tab above) They are in chronological order and tell our story. And as always, if you want to know more about my faith and my Heavenly Father and the love and peace that comes from a relationship with Him, I would love nothing more than to tell you what I know.)

 

Four

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Today is the four year anniversary of my daddy losing his battle with pancreatic cancer and entering his eternal home. It happened fast and his illness came out of left field. It still doesn’t seem real and I frequently find myself wondering if this is still just a bad dream. There remains a void at all family and life events. It just hits a spot that I didn’t know existed in my bank of feelings.

Today was the official kick off of the 2015-2016 school year! Ironically, my afternoon found me in extensive grief therapy training. It seemed a little funny to be fighting back the tears while learning how to counsel children who are grieving. One of the points that the trainer made is that it is important to “commemorate” the death of someone special. I wanted to raise my hand and say “I already have that planned for today!” We saw training videos from Sesame Street and I literally willed the tears not to flow as this puppet with blue feathery hair shared how she felt about the death of her father.

So, after the training I took a special field trip. I put on my Dad’s military appreciation game day t-shirt, I gathered my tailgate chair, I got a big cup of ice, and a can of diet coke that says “Share a coke with Dad’. I drove to our Clemson tailgate parking spot and I sat there. I looked at a book that my brother made, reminisced about how many times I sat there with my Dad- laughing, sweating, anticipating, eating, celebrating (or not!), reviewing plays, talking stats, making plans, chatting about life, hugging, chewing ice and drinking diet cokes. I read and reread a love letter that my mom wrote to me and my brother today.  It felt good. Not another car on that street. I looked like a lone tailgater. But, it felt good. IMG_2455 IMG_2453 I don’t think he was there. I don’t really even think he looked down on me. (He is too busy worshipping Jesus!)  It was for me. Just a quiet time to focus on my awesome memories of this amazing man. I thanked God that I had the privilege of calling The Colonel my Daddy. I praised God for carrying my family through this journey as He promised He would. I read the words that I blogged four years ago today…
“God carried my Daddy through the final chapters of his life. I do believe that Dad gave all of his effort to beat this disease but, it was not part of God’s plan. I do still believe in miracles even though God did not choose to heal The Colonel. I have no less faith in my God. I am not mad at Him. I do not doubt Him. If anything, I love Him more. I trust Him more. I yearn to please Him more.” 

Tomorrow will start the 5th year of life without The Colonel. His legacy lives on…and it will. I continue have extreme faith in God and trust His sovereign plan. He is so faithful.

Here is a quote from my training today… “Grief never ends; But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.”

As hard as grief is – it is worth it to have known that kind of love.

(If you are reading my blog for the first time and are curious to hear our family’s  journey through my Dad’s illness go back and check out all of The Colonel Chronicles (tab above) They are in chronological order and tell our story. And as always, if you want to know more about my faith and my Heavenly Father and the love and peace that comes from a relationship with Him, I would love nothing more than to tell you what I know.)

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Stars and Stripes

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Tonight, I sit down to write. Most of you who know me well know that I find writing therapeutic. But, I confess that I let the busy days and noisy life keep me from sitting in the quiet to simply…write.

It is the eve of Veteran’s Day – a day to honor all the people who have served in the Armed Forces. I am a sucker for red, white, and blue. I love to look at old glory flying in the wind. I get agitated when rowdy football fans don’t stand still for the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. My goose bumps even stand at allegiance to a patriotic anthem with the cadence of the fife and drum. Just thinking about the riderless horse with boots facing backwards automatically puts a lump in my throat. When a fighter jet flies over my head through the fluffy clouds…time stops for me. And I will go out of my way to talk to someone in uniform in an airport or restaurant.

They are the stars – the men and women that have sacrificed, fought, and protected since the inception of the Armed Forces. You have heard their stories. The bravery. The courage. The pain. The honor. The legacy.

Today I hung hundreds of red, white, and blue card stock stars on a blank wall. Stars that little hands cut out. Stars that were decorated with glitter, gel pens, and simple pencil etchings. Stars that bear the names of brothers, sisters, Papas, neighbors, uncles, and friends. With every piece of tape that was torn a child would stop and say “Did you see mine?” “That is my Papa’s name!” “I see my aunt’s name. She is in the Marines!” And my personal favorite…”I am going to be a soldier in the Army when I grow up!” I know the story of some of these stars. I know that some of these stars represent  men and women who are no longer living. They are missed and admired every day. Not just on Veteran’s Day.

If you looked in the sky tonight you would see stars that are being gazed at by a lonely bride. She is staring at those stars as her husband and father of her children fight and sacrifice for us. That sacrifice is for us to safely lay our heads on our pillows to rest from our “stressful” days. I don’t hear machine gunfire while I sleep. I don’t have soldiers beating down my door. I am protected.

A lonely mother dressed in camouflage stare at those same stars half way across the world tonight. She missed her daughter’s big softball game and tomorrow is her son’s birthday.  She will say “Happy Birthday” through modern technology but, will not be able to hug him. She longs for her husband’s embrace and comfort as she rests her head on the barrel of her machine gun. She will keep watch tonight under those same stars.

My Daddy’s uniform had insignia that included stars and stripes. I can still hear the Velcro peel as he would arrange it in perfect fashion on his flight suit. And yes, it did involve a ruler at times. They couldn’t be crooked or in the wrong spot. When he had it in the right spot he would let me help. I would get the medal pin backs to hand him while he held the pin in the perfect place. The star, the stripe, the bar – all representative of military accomplishment, devotion, leadership, determination, and success.

My Daddy’s coffin was draped with stars and stripes. I can recollect how beautiful the stars and the stripes were even as my heart was breaking. All the insignia was in the perfect place – actually put there by his hands prior to his death. And we didn’t even know it. His dress hat was displayed to the left of the coffin. So perfect.

Stars and Stripes….Stars that God has named every single one!

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” Psalm 147:4-5

 He understands all of the “hardness” and “pain” of life.  Oh and … the stripes? No one knows stripes like Jesus. Deep, painful, bleeding stripes. Stripes that were caused by evil and hatred. Oh, He knows stripes.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

 Yes, you read that right. The punishment that brought us peace was on Jesus, and by His wounds we are healed.

Every stripe, every drop of blood, every tear of flesh  WAS. FOR. YOU.

It was for your peace.

It was for your living.

It was for your protection.

It was for your healing.

Oh how life gets overwhelming! So much change and pain and fear and uncertainty and heaviness. Satan would love nothing more than for us to focus on that and let it overtake our point of view.  But, we must fight! We must focus and fight!

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message)

The war has been won. Cry out to Him wherever you are. He is right there waiting.

Go look at the night sky. See that twinkle? God named that one as well.

So…tomorrow is red, white, and blue day. A day to thank the men and women for things we can’t even comprehend. The day that the masking tape will peel off the walls and cardstock stars will fall to the ground. Kids will color flags and veterans will cry at a wall of stone… a wall full of names. Honorable men and women will face another long day of living with PTSD. Valiant men and women will have hours of physical therapy to learn to walk again, this time with a leg made of plastic. Courageous soldiers will try to find a hot meal at a soup kitchen before they go back to sleep under the overpass on a thin piece of cardboard. Let’s not forget to say “Thank you.”

“God, it is my prayer that you be glorified through every bit of pain and agony. Let’s don’t waste it. All glory and honor to You…the maker of the stars. Amen.”

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Kenya 2014

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Good morning from Nairobi, Kenya! Our team safely arrived on Thursday as planned. There were absolutely no problems with our travel! God has been so faithful to answer your prayers thus far!

We have had been ministering in various sites so far. We went to the school at Kibara Slum on Friday and taught Bible lessons to the children there. This slum has approximately 1 million people that live there and is the largest here. It was definitely an eye opening experience for us all! We rejoiced with the kids as we handed out treats, read stories from the Bible, sang songs, did crafts, and played together! We did many of these same activities on Saturday at a 3 hour kids camp at Emmanuel Worship Centre. This is the church of our dear friend here in Nairobi and what a joy it was to be in that church so much this weekend! We even sat in the chairs that so many of our friends, family, and Mount church members donated money for! The smiles in the children’s faces have absolutely stolen our hearts. They love Kim’s sweet and gentle spirit, Suzanne’s silliness (and bubble blower), Amy’s gift of song and joy, and my hugs. We are growing accustomed to hearing little voices whisper “mazungu!” As people with much lighter skin enter the room. Neighborhood children walking by will frequently do a “double take” as they peak to see what is happening!

When we arrived our area of Nairobi had a blackout and we were without a electricity and internet for a couple of days. We are so happy to have those luxuries back (mostly the hot water!) but, are constantly reminded that they are just as that… Luxuries. Oh what we “mazungu” people take for granted every day! We will tell each other something that we are missing from home and continually remind each other that we aren’t supposed to be comfortable. In all actuality we are way more comfortable than we should be every day.

Our host family is absolutely amazing! We look forward to telling you more about her and their ministry in Nairobi soon. Brenda provides our breakfast, our beds to rest at night, a beautiful place to call home away from home, and for no extra charge she gives us hugs each night and tells us she loves us! Oh how God will reward and bless her for her kindness!!!! This was truly a new friendship orchestrated by our Almighty Father. All glory to Him!

Our Sunday of worship was amazing! We taught more Bible stories to the children, sang songs (that $3.99 kids praise download has been the best money we have spent :), and ate a few more sweets. The church service was beautiful and we heard a powerful message from Pastor Roberts. What a man of God he is! We are so blessed to spend so much time learning from him everyday. Our long rides around the city are learning sessions for us as he shares his wisdom with us everywhere he goes. The church graciously prepared out lunch yesterday. Wow! What an amazing gift! We loved every bite and wished we could bring you some leftovers! We had chicken, beef, two kind a of rice, cabbage/carrots, and chapadi bread (similar to a tortilla) We sat at the guest table with the ministers and Suzanne shared with them all of the ways we could add to the chapadi. For example she explained we might put butter, cinnamon and sugar on them or add cheese. Oral was quick to tell her that she would ruin it!

We had an afternoon session with sweet,sweet women who are our sisters! We talked about prayer and heard moving and tearful testimonies from Suzanne and Amy. God moved in our meeting and we have new friends for life.

Thank you all for your prayers and messages for home! We read every one of them. We are up and getting ready to go visit a school and do more visiting with the darling children! I will try to post again tonight!

Much love and many hugs from Kenya! The red dirt is definitely in our souls and we can’t wait to tell you about it.

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No Less

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I can remember what I was wearing and still feel the fatigue from rushing home from Ukraine. I remember who was standing where and recall the streams of sunlight coming through the windows. I can remember some of the thoughts and questions rushing through my mind.  I am still in awe that God granted me the gift of being by my Daddy’s side as he entered the gates of Heaven 2 years ago today. Faster that the human brain can calculate he shed his earthly “shell” like a Sunday suit and appeared in the presence of Jesus!

There hasn’t been a day in the past 730 days that I haven’t had a thought of The Colonel. A lot of them are funny – celebrating or mourning a  football score or team news, discovering a restaurant serves caffeine free diet coke, looking for him swimming in the ocean,  tasting a new chocolate dessert, or watching the new Lone Ranger movie (Mark it down that I literally had Kleenex out crying in the Lone Ranger – good grief!).  Then there are the serious ones – wanting to ask his advice about a dilemma, planning and making our first international vacation without him, celebrating Christmas, attending big family gatherings, exploring new cities, and wanting to tell him some good news (or some bad).

He was such a major part of our lives that there really isn’t a day that he isn’t missed for one reason or another. You can frequently here these words in conversations in our family… “Dad would have loved that!” We still consider his feelings, his likes and dislikes, his wishes and his opinions (well, on some things – and then on others, we just kind of “forget” what he would have advised 🙂 Mom had always wanted to paint Nina and Papa’s dining room table white. Dad wouldn’t hear of it. I will let you speculate as to what color the dining room table is right now in Columbia. (We were convinced that if that didn’t bring him back from the dead then he was certainly not coming back.)

Oh why do I ramble on about these same old memories about my amazing Dad? Because I have a very important message for YOU! Maybe you knew my Daddy and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you knew him as friend, uncle, colleague, brother in law, Big Tom, father in law,  Colonel Sunshine, Dr. Fabian, neighbor, classmate, etc. or maybe you have never met him. His quick illness and death continue to show me every day that God is as faithful as His word proclaims!

Psalm 86:15 says “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

No matter what you battle – fear, an addiction, a bad relationship, financial struggle, physical pain, anxiety, anger, grief, pride, loss of a job, death of a child, sickness, confusion, doubt, strongholds, terminal illness, etc. etc. etc. – God wants you to turn to Him. Just talk to Him. Cry out to Him. He will hear you. He will answer. God is faithful and good. I never imagined that we would face the diagnosis, decline, and death of my father in 4 months of his 64th year on earth. But, we did. We didn’t do it alone. We still miss him beyond terribly. But, God is faithful and good.

One of my favorite songs right now is Even If (by Kutlass) – check it out on youtube. Powerful words that ring so true :

“Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart and dreams are still undone…

You are God

You are good

Forever Faithful One!”

“You’re still the Great and Mightly One; We trust you always; You’re working all things for our good; We’ll sing your praise!”

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The earthly healing of my Daddy’s body did not come as we had prayed and hoped. Oh but, sweet friend, the heavenly healing of his body did happen – just as the Bible promises! I rejoice in this promise and I can tell you that  I believe more than ever that when it feels like life is falling apart that I can cry out to God – “You are God, You are good, and You are the Forever Faithful One!”

Today I miss my Daddy NO LESS but, I promise you that I love my God NO LESS either!

* Many thanks to my family and friends who have been used by God to carry us over the past two years. And I want to take this opportunity again to tell my amazing mother and awesome brother that I am so PROUD of each of you and I know Dad would be proud of your strength, faith, and determination every day!

** Also – if you have any questions about salvation or this faith that I write about – please comment or email me at maryannefabian@bellsouth.net. I would love nothing more than to talk to you about this firm foundation and solid truth.

A Secure Hold

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Today is a “birthday” of sorts. One year ago today one email began the documentation of life changing events. Today marks the one year anniversary of a diagnosis that would leave the Fabian family changed forever as well as the first posting of  “Colonel Chronicles”.

365 days really does sound like a long time but, in some ways, it literally feels like last week. Then at other times if feels like an eternity.

I ended the first edition of Colonel Chronicles on May 4, 2011  with the following words:

But at the end of the day…
* Our God is still good.
* Our God loves my Dad more than I do. (hard to believe…but very true)
* Our God promises to never forsake us.
* I believe that God can and will be glorified through this no matter what.
* There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fear.
* I have the best friends in the world.
* I can and will continue to pray for a miracle.
I like to reflect. I like to ponder. I like to think. I like to learn. What good would a life lesson be if I it simply turned into an anniversary and memories?
But at the end of this year….
* Our God is still good.
* Our God loves my Dad more than I do. (not as hard to believe as it was a year ago.)
* God has been glorified through this in too many ways to type. I believe He will continue to use this for His glory.
* There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fear. You can read about it in Revelation 21:4
* I have the best friends in the world.
* God gave us many miracles and continues to do so.
Not profound. Not highly intellectual. Just from the heart and full of truth.
My Dad’s devotion book says this today…
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…”Hebrews 6:19
“Jesus is the constant connection between you and the Father – always representing you to Him, and helping you to understand what He is doing. He is the perfect minister to your soul because He provides unbroken communication between you and the Creator.  Jesus never waivers – even when everything around you is sinking. Therefore, take this hope as an anchor for your soul today. Jesus has a secure hold on you. And because of Him, you have smooth sailing with God.”
Dear God, thank you that you are my sure anchor and that I don’t have to drown in my circumstances. I praise you. Amen.