If you told me my husband Phil would be unemployed for 3-1/2 years, that we would be in foreclosure over two years fighting to keep our home while loosing our shirts, I would have said, “LORD, take me NOW”. So much water has rushed under our bridge. In 2007 Phil lost his job; he started a business and we lost that after the 2008 elections. My mother lost her battle to over come a broken hip in 2008. After the funeral in Atlanta we returned to FL to have her memorial here. The night before we almost lost our youngest daughter Victoria when her campus was destroyed by a tornado that buried her in a building. Phil continued to struggle to find full time work, I work full time to keep us afloat and we still are fighting to keep our home. We have had good times, a daughter graduated, a wedding, a granddaughter born overseas, a grandson born in MT. Working full time has taken a toll on my health. I have fought Lupus occurrences over the past 25 years. All the stress and a virus pulled me out of remission after 10 years without problems. Even my precious cat Nicholas died. There seems to have been no area of our lives untouched by difficulties and tragedy. Sometimes you do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. The song says the darkest hour is just before dawn, but the night shows no sign of ending. You fall in despair, but, my Lord is still there.
Jesus will never let you fall further than your knees. (And as my friend Corinne says, “sometimes you might have to smack your nose”). It has been said, “I know the road is just beginning and will have turns and hills but, you can see the road behind you and know that He has been faithful and that will carry you on your journey.” Stand on the promises, lean on Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 (HCSB)
“For I know the plans I have for you” —this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
It has been almost three years since Phil’s company was bought out and his level of management positions eliminated. Phil started his own consulting firm but with the economic conditions it has been 18 months since he started looking for full time work. God has a plan. We know this. God has answers, the Word has answers. All these things we know. As humans we get impatient, fearful, anxious and a myriad of other emotions. I would be lying if I said we have faced every day with a smile on our face and hope in our hearts. It is a struggle. It is a battle. It is character building and Christian faith building at its most intensity. God knows we may lose our home, He knows our deepest fears, burdens and needs. He knows we are human and we have days it is more than we can handle. The scripture says nothing touches us but what goes through His hands. The scriptures also tell us that He will not allow anything to touch us that would cause us to lose our faith. Many interpret the scripture “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13), to mean He will not give us more than we can handle. That is not what it says. We have no idea what we can handle but, nothing that comes our way will destroy a Christian’s faith. We have our ups and downs as we focus on ourselves or our circumstances, but God is faithful. He loves us and is in control. He is still on the throne and He has already won the victory. We just have to claim what is already ours and live day by day focused on Him.
Today I received an eye opener … witnessed something that would touch the heart of the deepest skeptic in America. I have not seen anything like it since the after shocks of 911.
I live near Tampa, a major metropolis. Today Tampa stopped everything to honor Army SPC. David A Croft, Jr, a fallen soldier. Most did not know him, he was not a general or a famous person. He graduated with Victoria in 2005 and I’d had him in class. At 22 years of age he gave us his all, his life.
From MacDill Air force Base to Plant City along Hwy 60 traffic stopped, people got out of cars and came out of businesses. I think it is over 20 miles, through downtown Tampa, the highest congested business area; and through Brandon and Valrico where Hwy 60 is as wide as six lanes in portions. They came out of Starbucks, Chic-Fil-A, the Payless and I-Hop. People drove from their homes and the fire department and sheriffs handed out flags. Comrades and veterans rode on motorcycles in their camouflage and Veterans insignia. Americans, young and elderly, black, white, oriental, Hispanic … they all came out. Silent tears steamed down some faces, flags waved and salutes were offered. A ladder truck from our fire station (and I’m sure others along the way) held a large American flag for the processional to pass under.
Was it an inconvenience? How much did it cost? Did people have the time? Today not one word did I hear of complaint, as well it should be. I saw Americans as they should be, showing respect and honor. I was proud of David and proud of my fellow Americans for the honor they bestowed on him for his sacrifice. Today I had hope for America.
I’ve attached some links if you would like to see some pictures.
A year ago today I was preparing for Mom’s memorial service here in FL. Returning from Atlanta and her funeral just a few days before, I was still reeling from all the events surrounding her death and funeral. Victoria had gone back to Union University in TN after flying to Atlanta to sing in Mom’s service. You can read more in an earlier note I have written in my NOTES, The Phone: For Better, For Worse.
THE PHONE RANG. One of those calls that changes your life, and it brought news that changed Victoria’s and 1200 students lives that night. Pray for them as they go through a day of remembrance. All 1200 students are now whole. The last one returned to campus and active. The soccer player finished therapy and was back last fall. The golf players legs were ultimately saved, he’s learned to walk and is playing golf. God worked miracles. For me this image will always be blazed in my memory: The fact that God allowed Victoria to crawl out of here in the pitch dark of night, alive and unhurt is a testimony to His listening to my daily Mother’s prayers when I pray a hedge of protection around my girls. If you want to see more miracles, just look at the pictures on her website and know that all 1200 students were found and dug out within four hours alive. http://www.myaims.info/id26.html Some were under 15-20 feet of concrete rubble.
If you think of it, just say a prayer as they have their day of remembrance. Most have completed the full course the path of post traumatic syndrome takes you. Some may not have. Victoria has we are pretty sure. Although she is still not a fan of tornado sirens and loud winds. Thanks.
Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 7:55am
On December 30, 2007 a friend stood by me and said, “Renee’, 2008 is going to be better”. I looked at her and smiled and told her I hoped she was right. 2007 had been so very hard dealing with my mom’s broken hip and her in rehab; her wound care; the day she almost fell again and I caught her only to injure my spine and be down for 3 months; Phil’s company was bought out and he lost his job … so many hard events, even my cat of 13 years and my daughter Victoria’s Sheltie that she had since she was 8 died … I stood there and thought it could not be anything but better.
19 days into the new year and mom suddenly took a turn for the worse and in three agonizing days with her she slipped into Heaven. I had just left her bedside to go home for a few hours and was walking in the door when THE PHONE RANG. I was told to come back quickly. They said she died shortly after I left the room but, they wanted to give me time to drive home so I would not be driving when they called. I cannot even tell you what it was like trying to handle an inter-state funeral. The day before the funeral we were driving in to Atlanta from FL and THE PHONE RANG. It was the funeral home calling telling me mom’s body had not even arrived due to a medical examiners hold up. Seems because she entered the facility with a broken hip and never left, the ’cause of death’ was broken hip which throws up an automatic red flag and investigation into everything and everyone. I was practically screaming at them over the phone “she was not abused”. They said they knew, it was just procedure. I told them I had people in Atlanta that had come from all over and a funeral in less than 24 hours. It was a total nightmare. All of you that have been through the lost of a parent know how hard it is to deal with everything. My Rebekah and granddaughter Audrey were in the air back home to Cyprus when mom died and she wanted to come right back and couldn’t. Since my brother Bobby’s death in the plane crash I have a hard time while anyone of my loved ones is in the air. Our youngest, Victoria, had just gone back to school and had to fly (another one in the air) in from TN to sing at her grandmother’s funeral. Obviously God is trying to teach me total trust. God helped me get through it all and I returned home to FL to arrange a memorial service here for Mom’s friends.
The night before the memorial THE PHONE RANG. I didn’t recognize the phone number but the area code was from Victoria’s college town. It was one of those calls that will be forever blazed in your memory. It was Victoria, she had borrowed a phone, she had lost everything, her campus had been struck by two crossing F4 tornadoes and a building had collapsed on her. She was covered in glass, debris, electrical wires but, she and 7 others had made it into a small hallway about 3’x8′. She was out and being moved because doplar indicated another tornado was coming. She was sobbing so hard I could not understand her very well, she wanted me to pray, she wanted to say she was sorry for arguing with her dad and me earlier in the day over the summer job she wanted to take, she said all she could think of was she was dying and the last thing she had done was argue with us. She had to go, they were in more danger, she would call when she was safe. Hours went by and no phone calls (notice it NEVER rings when you want it to). I tried to watch the news, the pictures were horrible. (pictures: http://www.myaims.info/id26.html ) My mind imagined the worse case scenarios. It was a long night. I kept calling and found someone who had seen her. She was moved several times. They were seeing to 1200 students that lived in those 16 dorms. In the wee hours of the morning THE PHONE RANG finally and she told me she was alive and had been checked out several times and thought she was ok. She had seen her roommates and they were all alive … the news kept coming and after hours of digging all 1200 students were out, alive, several were critical but, Victoria was spared. Our Associate pastor called me a few hours later at 7am. He was at the airport and was going to our girls. His daughter and Victoria, friends since the end of 8th grade, are roommates. He told me to worry about mom’s service and he would keep me updated on Victoria. THE PHONE RANG all morning with friends wanting to know if that was Victoria’s school, relatives in horror and sobbing trying to ask if she was alive. At noon THE PHONE RANG. Dr. Dowdy had found both girls and had taken them to Wal-Mart to get necessities. He let me talk to Victoria. She had been checked three times and had no physical injuries. Victoria is one of those people who smiles and keeps everything to herself. I wouldn’t believe them or her until I could see her for myself.
Victoria was in shock and would go through Post Traumatic Syndrome. Nightmares, flashbacks, memory lapses, focusing, concentration were a big battle. She had to decide to drop a class, delaying her graduation. Billy Graham ministries sent in a whole team of counselors to live there throughout the semester to help the kids. Victoria would not go. She felt guilty as she looked at others who lost more or were severely injured and thought she had no reason to complain. She just kept smiling and saying everything was ok. Over the next four months she would relate to me little by little the horrors. In seconds the building had fallen in and then they were calling out names. There was a girl in her lap, she didn’t move, she didn’t respond. Victoria thought she was dead. She shook her and screamed her name. The girl was in shock but ok. Guys were outside in minutes and were calling names, crying, waiting to hear their girlfriends or fiancé respond. She said it was heartbreaking. As they got out it was pitch dark. Rubble was everywhere. Flashlights shown on her friends faces revealed them covered in blood from glass in their heads. They moved them to another building that was still standing. An EMT said, “wow we’re going to have hundreds of bodies, we need to do a head count and see who’s missing”. Victoria looked at him and said, “you know people have died?”. He realized he had thought out loud and tried to back track. No, he did not know that any were dead. Victoria forced herself into R.A. mode and they tried to start checking on everyone. She noticed a trail of blood and followed it to a rest room where she found one of her fellow R.A.’s walking on two badly cut up feet in shock, not even knowing she was injured. Victoria did not sleep for four days, she could not close her eyes. Sudden movement, wind, rain and loud noises sent her into panic (and would do so for a full six months). She just kept smiling and saying everything was ok. I sat in FL and waited.
You know it’s no coincidence how God allows you to become totally helpless to do something so you can only rely on Him in prayer and wait for Him to work through those He has placed at the scene. I can’t tell you how awesome He was to have gotten Dr. Dowdy there so fast, someone I knew so well and would trust my life to as well as my daughter’s. His daughter’s car, a P.T. Cruiser, had cruised 150 yards through the top of trees. Victoria had not been able to park in her normal area earlier in the day and grumbled all the long walk to her dorm. The car that had taken the space was totaled. Victoria’s little Focus was just dirty. Finally, four days later on Saturday morning at 4:30am Dr. Dowdy pulled in the drive with Victoria. We hugged, we cried and we laid down to try to sleep.
An hour passed, THE PHONE RANG … Rebekah (my eldest) was sobbing. She lives in Cyprus in the Mediterranean, 20 hours by plane. She was on the way to the hospital with my granddaughter who she had just found with a bottle of cough syrup almost empty. 2 Year old Audrey had been in the kitchen moments before while Rebekah was unloading groceries and items from the pharmacy. Rebekah had a bad cough. The medicines on the island are not child proof and the cough syrups still have alcohol in them. She turned and realized Audrey was not standing there and found her in another room with the bottle open and mostly gone. She rushed her to the hospital (her husband was out of the country on a business trip) a friend that is a nurse that speaks Greek met her there. They had to pump Audrey’s stomach. It was almost six hours before THE PHONE RANG to let me know she was alive and going to be OK. All I could do was pray and trust God with those He had placed around yet another daughter and granddaughter. During that time I washed the clothes Victoria had been in for four days. In the bottom of my washer I found glass, splinters and other embedded items that washed out. Yet she was never cut during all that time.
The next three months the students lived in a hotel and met in classrooms at a Church and undamaged areas of campus. 41 buildings were damaged. A 10 year renovation plan that had already started prior to the tornadoes became a 10 month plan. Victoria struggled a lot. She would call at least once a week in a total melt down. She smiled and hid it to all her professors, even her roommates. I prayed.
Phil started up his own business as a consultant and landed a contract that would take him in and out of China for much of the next year. I thought finally things were going to normalize (what is normal anyway?).
By summers end I thought we were going to make it …. Victoria’s campus finally opened up the first of September. As an R.S.A. she returned early to prepare for the incoming freshman. Dorms were not quite ready. School was delayed until the 8th. I went up to help set up her room while she worked with the others to prepare for students. I went to bed early on September 5th. The hotel was crowded with evacuees from LA’s latest hurricane threat. I finally fell asleep. THE PHONE RANG. I guess you know by now I pretty much hate to hear the phone ring. It was Victoria calling me at 12:30 am. They had been practicing a skit for the freshmen hours earlier and a girl had knocked her off her prop. She had fallen on her elbow and she wanted to know what to do to get it to quit hurting so she could sleep. I threw on my clothes and drove to her campus against her protests. She was smiling, saying it would be ok and felt bad I had gotten out of bed. I insisted on taking her to the emergency room. She said a nursing student had checked it and it was only sprained. I told her mom knows best. Even the ER admittance nurse looked at her and said, “it can’t be bad, look at that smile”, and treated me as I was over-reacting. Long story short, her elbow was broken into three pieces. The next three months took her through trips to the specialist, intense pain at times, and some intense therapy. In the end she was able to regain all usage of the arm. As a music major she could not conduct, play the piano … it was quite challenging and frustrating.
In October the company that had signed the long contract with Phil activated the 30 day clause. They, like all companies it seems, knee jerked with the bailouts. So Phil is looking for more clients or a job.
The first of November at 2:00AM THE PHONE RANG. Rebekah was sobbing. She was expecting and it appeared she was trying to miscarry. Of course her husband was in Germany on a business trip. Having been through it several times myself I tried my best to talk her through what to do. Helpless again, too far away again, I had to rely on prayer and trust in Him who is in control. She is doing well and the baby is fine. Against doctor’s orders they came here for Victoria’s senior recital and an early Christmas with us. They are back in Cyprus and all seems to be well.
Since joining Facebook I have had so many highschool and college contacts. I will briefly update you all at one time since I have had questions about various things. To update you on my family since some of you knew us all so well (and I apologize to any of you that didn’t):
In 1973 while I stood at the register in Rich’s ringing a register, THE PHONE RANG. It was mom. Dad had lung cancer and had to have a lung removed. We had just moved into our new home in Stone Mountain. He survived and even had a semi productive life until 1990.
Phil and I were married in 1977 after seven years of dating. We met when I was 12 and he was 13 in the Therrell High School band. A week before my 16th birthday we had our first date. We’ve known each other 43 years … wow.
Our eldest is 26. A miracle God sent us. I lost her twin and the doctors did not realize she was there and almost aborted her. They still wanted to abort her because they were sure she was brain-damaged (we were living in East TN). We named her rebirth in Christ – Rebekah Kristen. During the emergency C-section the doctor lost me briefly. That’s another story.
We moved back to Atlanta to be near our parents in 1986.
Our youngest is 22. She was our fifth pregnancy. Another miracle. Doctor’s in Atlanta wanted to abort her for they were sure she was brain-damaged (another long story, another day). We named her victorious child – Victoria Paige.
Trust me – I let both doctors know – no brain damage. My girls and I are tight to say the least. I share their stories and miracles freely because God did a mighty thing in both of their lives and every milestone points glory back to Him.
In the spring of 1990 THE PHONE RANG. Buddy (my oldest brother) was in a horrible car wreck. The morgue was cutting his body out at the scene when they discovered he was still alive; with over 200 breaks in his bones he spent months in the hospital and is still not right mentally. His eldest son, Gene, died of a brain tumor on Buddy’s Birthday a few years ago. His other two children Michele and Chip are young adults living in the Atlanta area. Buddy is also still in the Atlanta area.
In the fall of 1990 Mom and Dad had open heart surgery four weeks apart. Dad had a stroke on the operating table and lived only another 7 months. During those 7 months I cut my hand in dad’s intensive care room and contracted 5 types of infections. For months I battled an immune problem and finally weeks after dad’s funeral collapsed. I was diagnosed with a Lupus family illness, something I had suffered with since childhood but, had been misdiagnosed many times. I spent six months in a research program and years in treatment until we moved to FL and I went into full remission. It left me with R.A., lungs prone to pneumonia and other things but, that’s an ‘organ recital’ I won’t go into. I am able to live comfortably as long as I am in a warm climate. God is good, He moved us to FL in 2001.
In July of 1997 my brother Bobby was killed in a plane crash. A week later his first grandchild was born to Chris. his oldest. Two weeks earlier his youngest, David was married by my twin David. “Little” David, as we call him, lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two children and is an alderman and lawyer. Bobby’s widow, Janet lives near Savannah. Chris lives in N.C. near his two children.
Sherri lives in KY with her husband, Ben and two kids, Jon and Ava who are both college age. Jon recently joined the Marines.
David, my twin, is home from Africa after 20+ years of being a C&MA Missionary and they live near Laura’s parents in NC with their three sons, two of which are in college. Their eldest, Andrew, lost his hearing after a bout with malaria. He is studying in the prosthesis field. Jonathan is a freshman in college following in Laura’s footsteps of P.T. Stephen is in high school.
Mom came here in 2003 to live with me and we sold the family home in Stone Mt.
Phil’s parents and brother still live in the Lilburn area.
Throughout all our difficult times God has seen us through. There have been those that wanted us to blame God; those that wanted to know what we were doing wrong; those that asked how we could believe He exists with all we have suffered… well, we KNOW He exists because we are surrounded by His love. l simply know He loves me and that gets me through it all. We have been blessed with two wonderful daughters that have exceeded our wildest expectations. We have a beautiful granddaughter and one on the way. We have a wonderful, albeit stubborn :-D, German son-in-law that provides for our oldest daughter and loves her dearly. We have a wonderful home for now that God has allowed us to enjoy these past 7 years. And we have each other. Phil and I are best friends and have something so many in this world don’t. So things, and illness, and tragedies are part of our temporal life. Love is the greatest of all.
It is January 01, 2009. Will 2009 be better? It really doesn’t matter. We could lose our home if Phil cannot find clients or a job. We will trust for Him to provide. I have sat and reflected and I realize the earth is filled with the results of mankind’s sin and the consequences. Bad things happen. Not because we are bad, not because we have sinned, although certainly sometimes that is so; but, because we live in an imperfect world. I am sorry this is so long, but, I wanted to share with each and every one of you that no matter what happened this past year, no matter what happens this year, God is still in control. He doesn’t send bad things, He allows them. It’s our job to figure out what we have to learn from these times. No one’s life is perfect. I could not go through what you have to bear. We each have things that are hard. Pray through them. And have a BLESSED NEW YEAR.