Monday, March 28, 2011

Family, not by blood, but by love...

Many, many things on my mind and heart today...  This last week has been such a long and difficult one. 
To begin, I have to explain something.  My best friend of over 20 years has the most wonderful family ever… to include: Renee and her husband Johnny (and their sons, Adam, Kaleb, and Trevor), her mom, Frances, dad, Roger, sister, Tammy, brother-in-law, Ricky, and nephews, Shane, Josh, and his wife Sarah (and their two precious boys, Zeke and Eli), and Ricky’s niece, Ashley.  I am so honored to be included as a part of this family, even though I am not blood related at all.  They are what families should strive to be, should want to be... what God truly intends for families to be.  They support, love, and care for one another… not just sometimes, but ALL the time. (I am stressing ALL because there are too many who only care when it is too late.)  I am fortunate to be included in their family get-togethers on holidays.  I cannot ever remember a time that any one of these get-togethers had someone arguing or any drama involved, not a drop of animosity to be found.  All I can ever remember is hours and hours of talking, laughing, listening to our vast and eclectic music collections, and maybe even a little dancing here and there (well, maybe that is just me, Renee and Tammy LOL).  I never, ever tire of spending time with them.  I can be ME with them.  No fear of judgment, just unconditional acceptance and love (EVEN though I am an Alabama fan!).  Some just don’t understand how much this family means to me… and how much they make me KNOW I mean to them. 
On December 20, 2008, Roger passed away after a battle with cancer.  I remember that while he was in the hospital during one of his many trips there, we were all talking and I remarked that he had always been there for Tammy and Renee as a father should be. His response was to sing, “That’s my job… that’s what I do..”  Hang on a second, I need more tissues…………………….. ok, I am back.  The day Roger went to be with Jesus, I went to see him at the hospital.  As always, he had a ready joke to tell me, even though he was struggling to breathe.  Of course, he made me laugh but my heart was breaking.  Frances’ sister, Jewel was there and as she walked out of the bathroom, he looked at her, pointed to me and said, “THAT is my other daughter right there!”  If most of you don’t know, I am not really good at NOT crying but I held it in until I left the room. I did not make it to the elevator, needless to say.  He went home on hospice that afternoon and within a few hours Renee called me to come.  I did not want to have to say goodbye, but I had to make sure he knew how much I loved him and what he meant to my life.  Some did not understand why I was there; again many do not understand that blood does not always mean everything in a family. Love is what matters.  And Roger had enough love in him for not only his blood, but for many others as well.  See, that is the thing.  So many families have a hard enough time loving each other… their BLOOD.  But that is what is so amazing about THIS family.  LOVE is all they know.  And not just a regular love… a love strong with God at the very center of it.  Firm, strong, faith filled, armor-type love.   If this world had more people who understood how to love this way…  I just cannot imagine how much better it would be. 

And now this family is under attack from the enemy again.  Josh and Sarah’s 18 month old son, Zeke, was taken to Children’s hospital in Birmingham by ambulance last Wednesday because a CT scan revealed a large tumor in his chest that was also pressing on his esophagus.  He underwent a biopsy on Thursday and many other tests. On Friday, the family was told he has Stage 2B Neuroblastoma.  While this news has been devastating, they have said that although the tumor is large itself, it seems to be localized. His blood work, bone marrow biopsy, and bone scans show it has not spread. Thank You GOD!  Zeke began his first round of chemotherapy yesterday.  So far today, the only side effect he is experiencing is a decrease in appetite.  I have seen so much love and prayer for Zeke and for this family in the last week.  I cannot even describe it.  I have watched an amazing family being shaken to their very foundation… but I have also seen them immediately, without hesitation, seek God to help them shore up their defenses and to praise Him daily. I have seen them reach out to the family of 6 mth old Lillian Brackins, who was taken up to Children’s on Thursday and was diagnosed with leukemia.  I have seen them, once again, expand their love… to Lillian and her family and they have prayed fervently.
This unexpected fork in the road, this journey, is going to be long and difficult, but I have no doubt that they will never question the faithfulness of the Lord and what He can do. I know there will be times where there will be tears of grief, frustration, and anguish as Zeke has to go through things no child should ever have to endure… but if I know this family as well as I believe I do, there will also be smiles, laughter, and so, so, so much love. 

 Besides complete and total healing and of course no side effects from the chemo, my constant prayer is that we will all let this family’s faith and love infect us, that we will value those we love and never take them for granted, and most importantly that Zeke’s testimony will change lives and bring more to know the love and grace of the Lord.

Please visit the Team Zeke website and Zeke’s Caringbridge site at

Join me in sending up IMMEDIATE prayers also for:
God bless these children and their families.

Matthew 7:7-8  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.