It’s been nine months since I sat down to write what would be my first blog “Morning Coffee”. If you haven’t already read it, I encourage you to click on the link and read it before you finish reading this (Morning Coffee). My husband was battling Stage IV Rectal and Liver cancer that had led us to Tijuana, Mexico to Hope 4 Cancer Clinic. Just weeks before we were in Florida at a conference, struggling to find answers that may help David live and beat this terrible evil. We met Dr. Tony Jimenez and his wife Marcy, founders of the clinic, and some of their team and patients. This encounter would prove to be God ordained. After returning home from Florida on Sunday, October 8, we called Hope 4 Cancer to get more information about the possibility of David going there for treatment. In less than one week, we were on a plane bound for San Diego, California. Somehow, we had been able to get passports and the $43,000 needed to begin treatment. Miracles were happening and we were taking this journey wherever it would lead us, believing that God was our pilot and trusting in Him.
David was well into his treatments on the day I sat down to write, and my mind was full of turmoil about his diagnosis and about things that were transpiring at home, so many miles away. The day that we arrived at the clinic, I received a call that my Aunt Marsha, who was so dear to my entire family, had unexpectedly died from a massive heart attack. It was such a blow and David and I wondered if we had made a mistake coming so far from home to a place we knew so little about. One week later, I would receive a call that my father had been taken to the hospital and was awaiting a heart cath. With 95% blockages in two areas of his heart, he would receive two stents to add to the ten stents he already had. Then, I received a call about my job that would further add to the weight of concern and anxiety I was already dealing with every hour of every day. We were thousands of miles away from our family and our children, facing a death sentence and doing everything in our power to trust that we would make it through this horrific battle.
There was one hour in every day that David had a treatment that I could not be with him. I would use that time to go for a coffee at the shop down the street from the clinic and take a short walk on the beach to pray and contemplate. On this day, however, I kept feeling like I needed to go to our room and write. That’s when “Morning Coffee” was birthed. I remember reading it to David and he couldn’t believe what I was saying. It got very personal and he wasn’t sure he wanted me telling all his business. By the time I had read to the end, however, with tears in his eyes, he encouraged me to publish it. While I didn’t do that right off the bat, I would eventually publish it and begin writing more blogs about this journey.
Here I am, nine months later, and God is birthing something new in me. I woke up early with “labor pains” as my mind wouldn’t let me sleep and the words, “Morning Coffee II” kept going over in my mind. I counted the months between when I had written my first blog and now and knew that it was no coincidence that it was exactly nine months. Trust me that carrying this “baby” has been the hardest thing that I have ever done, but I believe that giving birth to this new phase in my life and raising up what God is birthing will be one of the best things that I will ever do (outside of birthing my children, of course!).
Let me tell you about the last nine months. My first blog ended with this: “I love this man I married so much and giving up my idea of morning coffee to serve this soldier in this battle over the enemy cancer is my absolute honor! To spend special time with him praying for him and speaking life over him, is my joy. And, believing that one day we will be past this journey and sitting at the table in the morning drinking fresh brewed coffee (or maybe even hot tea) as we hold hands and talk about our day, thankful that we have each other and that we are closer because of the struggle, drives me forward to continue to make the right choices and cherish my precious spouse.” Yet, on January 20, 2018, at around 2 a.m., David left this world and me. My hope was shattered. My best friend was gone.
The time between David and I returning home from Mexico to the day he passed away was a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, medical procedures, hospital stays, sleepless nights, prayers and more prayers. We made the most of our time with family through the holidays and although David was very weak, my kids and I tried to keep our traditions alive and David did his best to decorate Christmas cookies and make a ginger bread house. He always managed to smile that beautiful, pure smile that still melts my heart as I think about it. He kept wanting to watch the classic Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman movies and I finally found them on DVD. He was so excited! On New Year’s Eve, we kept our traditions of making tasty finger foods and playing board games with our children. When the clock struck midnight, I kissed my sweetie, we took The Lord’s Supper (as is our annual tradition) and prayed together for this new year.
By this time, David was too weak to leave the house and I had to be with him 24 hours a day. Our oldest daughter, Megan, or my parents would come sit with him from time to time, if I had to run a quick errand, but otherwise, I didn’t want to leave him, and he didn’t want me to. We were still holding on to hope and believing for a miraculous healing. One day he was in a lot of pain and wanted to go lay down. My parents were at the house and encouraged me and our kids to go lay with him. Dad told David that he thought he should speak a blessing over me and the kids. He said, “not because we don’t believe for your healing, but because you don’t ever want to leave anything unsaid.” I’m so glad Dad encouraged us to take this time. It was so special and the thing that we all remember, as this was, in fact, one of the last times that David really had the ability to speak to us. He spoke so profoundly from his heart and we were all able to tell him everything that he meant to us. It was a beautiful moment that we cherish forever. The next few weeks would prove to be the most trying, as we watched a husband and father die. There was nothing that we could do but try to make him as comfortable as possible and surround him with our love. This was not the plan. Why?
There is no way that cancer taking a beloved husband and father from his family at such an early age makes any sense. I don’t believe that it was David’s time to go or that God chose to take him. I believe that he was taken from us because of this world and the sin that has caused the evils that have taken so many far too early. Yet, my hope in God is still unshaken because I do know that David just passed from this life to the next, the moment he took that last breath. Satan can steal from us on this earth, but he doesn’t win because Jesus defeated him on the cross and took the keys to death, hell and the grave. David is no longer in pain. I look back on pictures of the last year of David’s life. We all look so “war torn”. I had adult acne due to so much stress and looked ten years older. David was wasting away every day. At first, the weight loss was good, and he looked healthy, but then, he just continued to lose and would look at himself in the mirror and cry because he was so frail and yellow with jaundice. He could no longer bathe himself and I would bathe and dress him. He had three drains coming out of his abdomen that couldn’t get wet. We had a routine that took us several hours every day to drain the bags, bathe, dress his wounds, and the treatments from Mexico that we were still trying very hard to keep doing. I didn’t really fuss over getting myself ready. I did well to take a shower and brush my teeth and we both kept thinking, “This will pass. This is temporary”. But with each passing day, neither of us knew how much more we could endure. We were exhausted, and he was in tremendous pain, on top of the exhaustion. When David finally gave in and took that last breath, I thought we would all sleep for 48 hours straight. The battle was over for him, but there was more in store for us.
Grief is a sneaky little devil that comes when you least expect it. This week I’ve had more than one person tell me that I look happy and that I look like I’m having fun in the recent pics I’ve posted on my social media sites. I am blessed and happy. I have a lot to be thankful for, despite the valley my family and I are currently walking through. Yet, there is an empty feeling that I struggle with often. I know that it won’t last forever. At least not as heavy as it is now. But, for now, yes, I am happy, most of the time, but sometimes that smile hides a lot of pain. You cannot judge what is inside a person by what is on their face. I’m certain that there are so many that we see every day in the grocery store, at work, at church, at the gym that are masking pain behind a forced smile. In my case, that pain comes from knowing that the dreams that David and I had for the future will not be as I had imagined them. No matter how much faith you have, that reality is very hard to swallow. So much has changed in my life in the past nine months. I not only lost my husband, I lost my job and even people I thought would be in my life forever. There has been one sucker punch after another. The dictionary definition of a sucker punch is: to punch (a person) suddenly without warning and often without apparent provocation. Just when I think I’m catching my breath, “BAM!”, another punch out of nowhere. But when you experience this, you must choose what you will do next. Will you lay there and be defeated, or will you get back up and decide that fear cannot keep you down and if you get punched again, you will just get right back up.
Not trying to be a “Debbie Downer” but the truth is the past nine months have been full of unexpected events that I wish had never happened. I lost my aunt to a massive heart attack, my dad and another aunt were taken in for heart procedures, two families who are dear friends lost their sons to suicide, another friend lost her son to a drug overdose while still another friend lost her son to complications from an upper respiratory infection. Our dog died. I lost my job. Friends turned their back on me and even my kids because of lies perpetrated by people we loved and trusted. I was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome (imagine that). A precious young woman who I loved dearly died of cancer at 24 years of age leaving three precious children and their daddy behind. A woman who was like a second mother to me and grandmother to my children had a massive stroke and left us–punch after punch, “Bam!”.
Although I prayed that David would be healed on this earth, instead, he received the ultimate healing and Heaven. I celebrate for him. But for me, most mornings, there is just one cup of coffee and I never expected that. I will not be waking David for his breakfast. We will not go on a walk around the neighborhood together. We will not be praying together or reading the Bible together. He will not be joining me for coffee and we will not hold hands and look out over our yard and talk about our future. There is quite a sting to that, as I write it. This is not what I thought life would be, but nonetheless, “it is what it is”. The urban dictionary definition of that phrase “It is what it is” states “it will be what it is,” as in “it ain’t gonna change, so deal with it or don’t.” “Deal with it or don’t.” I choose to deal with it. Yes, I cry. Yes, I feel sorry myself, sometimes. But, I will deal with it. This will not destroy me.
Here are the facts: I am healthy and alive. I have four amazing kids that God has blessed me with. I have a wonderful extended family and friends who love me and my kids and have stood beside us and weathered every storm. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, clean water to drink. I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years and realized that my life HAS helped people and there is value to my past. I have talents and gifts and hope for my future. There are doors of opportunity opening every day. Where I have lost friends, I have gained new ones. I look forward to my son and daughter getting married one day. There is the prospect of grandchildren very soon (no pressure Jake and Megan). I could go on and on about the blessings that have also come over the last nine months. Life is unpredictable. That is an understatement. But, God is not unpredictable. He is never-changing and there is nothing that catches him off guard. He doesn’t get “sucker punched.” And, He is right there picking us up, when we do, if we will just reach up and let Him. If you trust Him, He will bring you out of every valley and you can look back and know that everything that we experience can be for our good, if we just learn how to look at each situation.
I received a package in the mail not long after David passed away. The package was from Marcy Jimenez from Hope 4 Cancer. Inside was the book by Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling.” I opened the book to see where she had written in the front cover the following:
Your words of faithfulness and perseverance have forever touched my heart. When I feel like giving up or feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I will always remember you and David and your belief in a miracle. Lives will be changed for eternity.”
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
Read January 20th!
January 20th was the day David took his last breath here on this earth. It was the day that my hope seemed shattered and I felt that all my prayers had fallen short. As I turned to the writing for January 20th, I wept from deep inside. Here is what it said:
“APPROACH THIS DAY WITH AWARENESS OF WHO IS BOSS. As you make plans for the day, remember that it is I who orchestrate the events of your life. On days when things go smoothly, according to your plans, you may be unaware of My sovereign Presence. On days when your plans are thwarted, be on the lookout for Me! I may be doing something important in your life, something quite different from what you expected. It is essential at such times to stay in communication with Me accepting My way as better than yours. Don’t try to figure out what is happening. Simply trust Me and thank Me in advance for the good that will come out of it all. I know the plans I have for you, and they are good.” (“Jesus Calling”, Sarah Young)
God knew just what I needed, just when I needed it. I refer to this often when negative things try to overwhelm my mind. I decide to trust the Boss!
When our children are born, we have no idea what the next two weeks are going to be like, much less the next twenty years. Yet, we are elated about the prospect of what’s in store. We also feel the weight of responsibility to this new life that depends on us for nurture. The same thing happens when God births a new thing in our hearts and we take the first step to walk into it. Today, I’m giving birth to a new ministry called “Morning Coffee.” I’m one of so many who are walking through trials and valleys and looking for answers. Many have no idea that God has not caused their situation nor is He abandoning them through it. He is right there beside them. I believe that God is has a plan to use what the enemy meant to destroy me and so many that I know and love, to bring hope to so many others who can’t seem to find it. I choose to “Simply trust ‘Him’ in advance for the good that will come out of it all.” (Young, “Jesus Calling”-January 20). There may be only one cup of coffee in front of me as I write this, but I am not alone. My “Morning Coffee II” is spent with my love, Jesus. He is holding me, teaching me and comforting me through this time. He is showing me that if I will just rest in Him, He will carry me through to the other side of this and I will look back and be thankful. It is difficult to see that quite yet, but He is showing me, day by day.
Just because my morning coffee is different from what I had planned, doesn’t mean it is bad. “It is what it is,” and it is good. So here is the new thing God is birthing! Starting in August of 2018, I will launch a morning YouTube show called “Morning Coffee with Heather Kristin” where I interview others who will tell their stories of how they have allowed God to pick them up through unimaginable grief and trials and how they have not allowed the circumstance to destroy them after being “sucker punched.” Trust me when I say that this is WAY out of my comfort zone. My prayer is that this will reach people all over the world and even save lives that have all but given up entirely. I’m so excited to share with you, my readers, stories that will change your life and help you see that no matter what you go through, you can make it and joy does come in the morning! I’m moving forward and pray that whatever you are dealing with, you choose to move forward, too. Get ready to grab a cup of coffee and join me for inspiring stories that will lift your spirits and encourage you to grab hold to all that Jesus has for you, regardless of what you have gone through.
Today, I pray over all who are reading this: Lord, cover them with your love and comfort. Let them know the peace that only You can give. Let them know that no matter how dark the night may seem, joy does come in the morning. There is hope. There is life after death. There is a future and it is good. In Jesus Name, Amen!