Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ten Golden Rules We Learned From A Golden Example

2 Corinthians 1:3 NASB - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort

Three years ago today we picked up our other best friend. Today we held him as he took his last breath. Our hearts are broken. Trooper was the greatest dog in the world, and as Randi would always say he was our 'first born son.'  He was part of our family.  He was an integral part of Team Wideman. If you are not an animal lover I know that you may think this is silly, but I would often make it a prayer of mine to be more like Trooper in the way that I relate to my Master and to the world.  As I would pray that in the wee hours of the morning on my knees, Trooper would be right there by my side. He rarely left it and even more rarely disobeyed a command. If I could only live a life like that...

Below is a list of 10 things we learned from our other best friend:

1.  Always be excited to see whoever crosses your path.

Trooper never met a stranger.  Every person that walked into our house, Trooper loved on.  He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. He would get SO excited when we walked through the door.  You couldn't help but smile when Troop greeted you. Trooper wanted to be friends with everyone.   He could not understand why any person or dog wouldn't want to be his friend. Every day that we went to the park, Trooper played with every kid there. We even trained him to go down the slide:) McKinley loved playing with him.

2.  Always be willing to help with the dishes.

Trooper was the best helper ever.  He licked clean our dishes after every meal. As soon as he would hear the fork scrapping at the bottom of the plate, he ran into the room. All our friends and family laughed at this, but he loved it!  He was also great at licking McKinley's face after meals; she loved to share her food with Troop!

3.  Sometimes the greatest need is to just be there.

Troop was the best at just being there. He would curl up by your feet, or put his head on your lap, sometimes even lay in your lap and his sweet, big, brown eyes would just look at you, making it seem like everything was going to be okay.  He was a comforter.

4.  Follow your Master wherever He takes you.

Wherever we went, Trooper would follow. He was the most loyal thing we have ever known. No matter how he felt, or how tired or scared he may have been, he stuck right by us.  Especially to Matt.  Trooper adored the heck out of his dad. Where Matt was, Trooper always had to be.

5.  Tears are just opportunities for kisses.

Trooper licked far too many of our tears this year. He had the sweetest heart; he knew when you were hurting and just wanted to make all your tears go away. We SO loved Trooper's kisses.

6.  An empty hand is meant to be held.

Trooper loved to have his hand held.  He would sit right in front of you and put his precious paw into your hand and want you to squeeze it. He reminded us that sometimes just holding your hand can make you feel so loved.

7.  No matter how hard things are, make someone smile.

Whether it was when I was in the pain of surgery or sick in bed during chemotherapy, Troop laid right by my bed. He would put his sweet head on the edge of my pillow and just grin his big teeth. After I lost my hair, Troopie would love to lick my bald head. Oh how it made us laugh. He brought more joy to our lives then we could possibly explain.

8.  A Family is meant to be together.

Trooper hated for any of us to separated from each other. When he was a puppy, we took him on the kayaks at Lake Lavon. Matt would be in one kayak, and I would be in the other. Trooper could not stand for us to be apart! When we would ride bikes, Trooper hated that we couldn't always ride next to each other. He was our constant reminder that Team Wideman needed to be one.

9. Complaining never gets you anywhere.

Trooper never wined or complained.  He really made the best of every situation. McKinley loved to climb on Trooper and try to ride him. I'm sure a toddler yanking on him all the time wasn't always enjoyable, but Trooper just let her do it; they were best friends.  Last fall, when we were camping, there was a terrible rain storm and our tent completely leaked.  We were all totally soaked and snuggling together to keep warm. Trooper would not lay down, he stood on his feet all night to protect us. The next morning, although we are sure he was exhausted, he was out fishing with his dad.

10.  Always know the call of your Master.

There was this special whistle noise that only Matt could do, that Trooper always responded to.  He could be so far away, exploring as he loved to do, and yet when he heard Matt's call, he came running. This often kept him out of trouble in dangerous places! Oh how we wish we always respond to the call of our Master that same way.

It has often been said that dogs tend to look like their owners. Golly, we aspire to look like our dog. We were so blessed by every day of the past 3 years with Trooper.  God knew what we needed and when we needed him the most. God used sweet Trooper to teach us so much about His unconditional, always present, forever loyal love for us.  Our family is forever grateful for our time with Trooper. Although so much shorter than we would have hoped, his impact will last a lifetime.  We are heart broken and can't imagine our life with out our baby Trooper. But we are praying that every time we miss him (which we know will be A LOT), we will turn to our Heavenly Master, listening to His call and following Him wherever he leads us.  Even in this moment of tremendous loss and sadness, He is evermore the God of all comfort.

With all our love,

Team Wideman

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When God Says Wait...

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Precious Friends,

   I have been wanting to write this post for weeks now, but I just didn't have the words to express my heart's emotions in all of this. So, I have been praying Psalm 139 faithfully; that the Lord, who knows my heart and my every thought, would rescue me in my struggle to trust Him in this area; asking Him to lead me in His ways, and not my own. So, I have to confess that what I share with y'all today has been my greatest struggle through this cancer journey. Although losing my breasts and hair, being sick, tired, scared, weak, and insecure have all definitely been challenging, on most days it has been easy to trust God and see His abundant goodness amidst them. Oh, how He has been so good to us through every day of this journey. But yet, when I let my heart wrestle with the fact that we may not be able to have any more biological kids, instead of running desperately into Christ's arms, I start running away. Every day I look at our beautiful McKinley and I just cry out that the Lord would let me be a mama again. And instead of trusting that God knows exactly what is best for our family, I begin to doubt that He knows the deepest desires of my heart. As I write this, it just sounds so silly that I would doubt that my Heavenly Dad who created every fiber of my being and every ounce of my soul would keep any good thing from me. And yet, knowing the truth, "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." Psalm 145:16-18 I believe the enemy's lies that God is not for me and that my ways are better than His. I just hate when I let those lies into my heart! But God is so faithful to show me time and time again how much He loves me and how wonderful His plans are for my life.

   About 3 months ago, Matt and I decided to take an adoption class at our church. As I have told y'all before, Matt and I have always had a heart for adoption. (Praise the Lord for that!) But in my perfect Randi world, we would have adopted a little black boy years from now after we had all our biological kids. I never thought that we would be considering adoption because we were unable to have our own. Needless to say, the class was a general overview on the process of adoption, and some of of our sweet friends were also taking it, so we were really excited to start the learning process. We knew that we wanted to adopt, but we really didn't know anything about the adoptive process. The class was great! I absolutely loved learning about God's heart for adoption and His call for us to love His children. What a sweet reminder of how we were all adopted; How God came to earth to rescue us and adopt us as His sons and daughters. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--" Ephesians 1:4-5 Oh, I love that truth! However, the more we learned about adoption, the more excited I got, and the harder it became to be content where God has us right now. From the first day we met with my oncologist and she explained that we needed to shut down my ovaries (hopefully temporarily) because my cancer feasts on estrogen and progesterone, therefore perhaps taking away our ability to conceive future children, I started praying that the Lord would meet me right there in the middle of that 'loss' and help me to be content in this. As the apostle Paul so perfectly wrote, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 And the Lord truly answered my prayer. The more I prayed it and trusted in Christ for my strength, the more content I felt... until we started the adoption class. Because instead of praying for God's will for my life and our family, I started praying that He would give me another baby. Not that praying for more babies is wrong at all, because I know the Lord loves to hear our heart's desires. But I took my prayers off of the Lord and put the focus on me. My plans, My way. Not His plans, His way. It was like I was saying, "Lord, if you won't give me a biological baby right now, then Matt and I will just go and get one ourselves!" Oh, how selfish and vain that sounds now! But then over the course of the class, it was explained to us that any public adoption agency, whether domestic or international, requires you to disclose all medical history. Therefore, disqualifying us from starting the adoption process until I am in full remission (5 years after completing treatment). Oh, how my heart broke! "5 years before we even get to start the process Lord? That means McKinley and her siblings would be at least 7 years apart! God, that was not my plan for our family!" And God gently whispered, "Randi, wait on me. Wait on my timing. Trust me." And I was reminded of Isaiah 30:18: "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Okay, Lord we will wait on you. Truthfully, I've never really had to wait on the Lord before. Waiting is hard. I see so many of our friends waiting: for jobs, to get married, to have a baby, to get healthy, to get out of debt etc... We want everything right now, and then God says wait. So, I know He has a purpose in us waiting. When we wait, we have the choice: run to God to fill that void or try to fill it ourselves. As mush as I hate waiting, I know that the Lord wants to teach me something so beautiful, so I am trusting in God's promise that "Blessed are those who wait for Him."

     Well, in the middle of our waiting, God gave us such a sweet gift. About half way through the adoption class in late spring, I was sitting in bible study on a Wednesday morning and I received a text message from a sweet friend in Alabama, whose husband has been a pastor of a wonderful church there for nearly 30 years. My friend informed me that they had a beautiful 19 year old girl there, who was pregnant and wanting to give up her baby through a private adoption agency. She asked if we were interested. Oh golly, I read that text message and I wanted to dance through halls screaming, OF COURSE WE ARE INTERESTED! I called my precious Matt right away, and he said we definitely needed to get more information. So we then found out that the beautiful 19 year old girl had just come to know Jesus, and that she was having a boy due on August 19th. Since McKinley was born, I have been praying that we would have a son next and that our kids would be exactly 2 years apart. McKinley's 2nd birthday is August 17th. Y'all, it was as if God screamed down from heaven, "Randi, I know the deepest desires of your heart. I hear you. I'm listening. I love you." I just started crying. Even if the story stopped right there, it was as if God handed me the exact amount of hope I needed to hold on to during this time of waiting. We were then connected to the private adoption attorney that she was working with. He is an incredible guy, with such a heart for the Lord and finding Christ-centered homes for adopted children. However, right when we started talking with him, I told him all about my cancer, the treatment etc... I guess if it was going to close the door, I wanted it to happen right away. However, he told us that because it was a private adoption agency, we didn't need to disclose any medical records. Awesome! So we were actual candidates for adoption! He told us though that the girl was going to choose an adoptive family within the next 2.5 weeks, so we needed to get all the paperwork submitted as soon as possible. It was a lot of paperwork and recommendations! But God was so gracious with time and resources and our friends and family were spectacular in getting the recommendations written within 1 week. (We have been told that often it takes months to complete all the necessary steps). We submitted everything on a Monday morning, thanking God for the possibility of getting to adopt that precious little boy and then leaving it in His hands. 

     The very next day, on our way to chemotherapy, Matt and I received an email from the attorney, telling us how great our profile was etc..., but that the girl had already chosen a family for her baby boy during the week we were completing our paperwork. She never even saw our profile. Tears streamed down both of our faces. Sweet Matt, grabbed my hand and just started praying. He prayed for the girl, her baby boy, and the chosen family; then he prayed for my heart and our future children, that God would bless us with a baby in His perfect timing. Matt reminded me that God knows the exact baby for our family, and that he or she is so worth waiting for. A little bit of my heart was broken that day. Of course, being the dreamer that I am, I had already stayed up many nights dreaming of that little boy's nursery and how great of a big sister McKinley will be, and how much Trooper will love him and how great of a boy daddy Matt will be. And then God says wait. So, we are waiting. But every day I am learning that waiting is just an opportunity to trust God. He is so faithful to remind me over and over again how much He loves me and how good His plans are for my life. "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103:2-5 So, as I am in this time of waiting, my prayer is that I will delight in the Lord every day, knowing full well that no baby will ever fulfill me, only Christ can. He captivated my heart 12 years ago, and He is yet to disappoint me. He's my everything. He knows every desire of my heart and He cares more than I can possibly imagine. But if McKinley is the only child we ever get to have, biological or adopted, that will never change how good, powerful and loving our Savior is. 

     Friends, is God asking you to wait right now? My prayer is that you will run right into the arms of the only One who can truly satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. Anything or anyone else will leave us always longing for more. We will always be waiting, if our hearts are not fully captivated by our King. May today be the day, we stop waiting and hoping for what tomorrow could bring and that we find full joy right where God has us today. 

     Y'all, thank you for walking through this journey with us. I cannot believe I only have 2 chemos left! And Praise God, Dr. O'Shaugnessy said that I could bump my last chemo until July 17th, and go to Young Life camp in Buena Vista, Colorado from July 7-15th! I am thrilled beyond words! Please join us in praying that so many kids would come to know Christ's perfect love while we are there. It is truly the 'best week of our lives' every year we get to go! I know that this year will be no exception.  God is so good!

Joyfully in HIM~


Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Man's Role; A Husband's Duty; A Father's Call

Romans 15:1 ASV - Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

To think that we are so far along in this journey, is a far thought from where we started. It is hard to imagine that we now have only four treatments of the Taxol chemotherapy left and for the most part we have been moving right along. My beautiful bride continues to blow me away with the way that she constantly carries herself through this trial. Proverbs 14:30 NIV - A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. I doubt that I have ever seen a heart that has been more at peace than my beloved's during this time. She has had every excuse, if there are such, to compare herself to peers, wishing that it was not her that had to go through this. She could be saying 'why isn't my life like her's?'; instead I have never seen her more alive. I will never forget that first night we found out that it was cancer: the pain, the emotion, the uncertainty. And yet, through all of that I got to hear my wife pray as though she were Paul in Romans 9:1-3. I recall her sweet heart in tears praying 'Oh, Lord,  if this cancer would bring people to you, even if it brings just one, then give me cancer a thousand times over.' As tears filled my eyes, joy filled my heart; I don't think I have ever been more astounded by her beauty than at that moment. What a Gem of a wife she is. 

Tuesdays are the days of chemotherapy and by the grace of God alone, Randi and I have gotten to serve Tuesday nights as marriage mentors through a ministry called Merge at our church. How she is able only a few short hours after treatment to give of herself in this way cannot be answered in the natural realm. 1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV - But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Supernatural strength is so evident in her and I am so blessed by her. Through the class, one of the things that has been talked about is the role of a husband and it has caused me to think often of what my role has been through all of this. Psalm 128 has been a great reminder to me of the duty that I have been given, I hope it is a blessing to you as well:

Psalm 128:1-6 NIV - A song of ascents. 
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 
Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel.

Firstly, it is evident to me that this Psalm is for men, husbands, and fathers. I believe that it is a great vision of God's plan for us. Blessing will be upon me if I fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord can be defined in Proverbs 8:13 NIV - To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. I must so hate evil that I would choose to walk in the truth. This is my responsibility first and foremost as a man. I must lead myself before I am able to lead anyone else and it must be done in righteousness. 1 Timothy 4:7b NASB - Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; Who I follow, is who they follow if they follow me.

Secondly, I notice that I will eat the fruit of my labor. I believe that this can be applied in the confines of work but given the context, I believe that the fruit is shown foremost in the familial relationships. Galatians 6:7 NASB - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. In other words, this thing of being a man, husband and father is hard work, but blessings and prosperity in those relationships will be mine if I am willing to labor for it.

Thirdly, my wife will be like a fruitful vine within my house. Joy is often symbolized in the Bible with wine, but good wine takes good grapes. These grapes must be grown, crushed, and aged. Good grapes only come from a good vine, and a good vine requires a good vine-dresser.  A vine does not grown in the dirt, it must be elevated above all that. I as a husband, must elevate my wife, honor her and take her higher than the dirt of this world. A good vine must also have something to cling to. I as a husband must be her strength, be what she clings to no matter the storms or droughts that come her way. Genesis 2:24 KJV - Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. A good vine needs water and nutrition as well as to keep the pests away. I as a husband must be the provider and protector of my wife. I need to keep the pests away (Song of Songs 2:15 NIV - Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.) and I need to provide for her everything necessary to grow. Lastly, for a vine to grow, it must be in the right climate. I have heard it said this way: As a husband, I have the choice as to be a Thermometer or a Thermostat. I can either report what the temperature is, or I can set the temperature of our relationship. In other words, I must Act as a husband, instead of Reacting like a fool. Oh, when I have done these things well I have tasted the sweet joy of marriage, no matter what has come to crush my bride, she is my fine wine: only getting better with age!

Now if I lead myself well, and I lead my wife well, then my children will be like olive shoots around the table. It is my understanding that an olive plant takes about 15 years to produce fruit and then can produce fruit for more than a hundred years after. It is a sobering thought to me that I only have 13-16 more years with my sweet daughter. How important it is to be "around the table" with her, to be involved in her life. My prayer is that she can grow up to be as much like her mother as she can be, for then she will be an astounding woman.

If I am able to lead well in these areas, I shall be blessed beyond belief. Through this journey of cancer, it has been my hope and sincere desire to be that man, that husband, and that father. As my family knows all too well, I am not perfect in this, I just know the One that is. Proverbs 24:16 NLT - The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked. I have seen in my life that success comes in getting up again, even when I fail and fall. So grateful that God is not done with me yet. Is there anything keeping you down? If God was able to raise the dead, then there is nothing that can stop you from getting up in His power.

In the last two verses of Psalm 128, I see mentioned Zion, which can be representative for the church (Hebrews 12:22-23), Jerusalem, which is representative of a city, and Israel, which is a representation of a country. In other words, God's economy and master plan is summed up in this Psalm. If we want a blessed country, it must be made up of blessed cities. If we want a blessed city, it must be made up of blessed churches. If we want a blessed church, it must be made up of blessed families. If we want a blessed family, it must have a blessed wife & children. If we want a blessed wife and children, we must have a blessed Man: Psalm 128:4 NIV - Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.

Oh, Lord, to be this man! God, would you walk with me and guide me so that no matter what comes my way, my wife's way, my children's way, my church's way, my city's way or my nation's way, I would be blessed; that I would be that man. May I live in such a way that everywhere I am, it is life-giving.

This has been the truth that has guided me so far through this journey. It has been my ideal through the ordeal; it has been my standard to carry in this war. What are you fighting with? What is your goal? May today be the day that we as men would live out our calling in this world that is falling. On this Father's Day and everyday, may we live out what David wrote to Solomon on his deathbed:

1 Kings 2:2-3 NIV - "I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.