Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dear Levi

   
Eleven years ago I held you, bundled and pink skinned, a mere six pounds.  Your dad and I could tell right away you had blond hair and blue eyes.  We knew you would be named Levi Connor Stables.  Your Dad did a road trip with a friend in High School and met a Levi on the road.  There is still a sketch of that Levi in one of his notebooks. A long haired man hunched over a guitar.  Your dad described him as a kind soul, a man with a big heart and a love for others.  Your dad told me about his road trip and this man while we were dating.  That if he had sons he would name one Levi.


When we found out we would have another boy dad physically jumped up and down with joy.  You know his broad smile, the one he gave you when he was so very proud of you?  Riding your bike for the first time, showing compassion to a friend, or showing him your ninja moves as a little guy?  Well, that is the grin he gave.  We already had a Luke.  He was a quiet and determined toddler at that point.  we prayed that a little brother would unlock his world and draw him out.  We prayed that you would be a joy bringer, and that you would always know the God that knit you together in my womb.  You showed up five days early and small just like your big brother.  The first six weeks were bliss.  We would hold you and you would look straight into our eyes, your big blue ones peering in to our brown.  On the seventh week at four o'clock you started howling.  You didn't stop until 11 pm that night as dad rocked and bounced and sang and prayed.  This continued every night for seventy-eight days.  I know because I counted them.  And while you wailed and lurched and were inconsolable, you also grew, and grew, and grew.  Your small, pink, six pound body quickly grew and lengthened each week.  The nurse was amazed as she measured and I sat weary in the green chair watching her weigh and measure you. The doctor came in declaring
you were as healthy as an ox even if you wailed all afternoon and late into each evening.  Dad standing beside me smiled big and said "That's my boy."  When you would finally drift to sleep at 11:30 each night I would stand over your crib and pray the same prayer every night.  "Lord, help him be a joy bringer, a hope giver, to point towards you and life and all that is good.  Help make him a bridge maker and peace bringer.  Give him wisdom."  And honestly, I prayed this in faith because I was enduring seventy eight days of hard.

     I don't remember if it happened all at once or in small steps, but I do know I stopped counting the wailing days at seventy eight. Something must have turned in me or you, or both of us.  And my sweet Levi, you
kept growing, but you also started belly laughing and smiling, and cooing at anyone who would lock eyes with you.  You made us laugh and pulled Luke out of his quiet world of block building and track laying.  The
minute you could walk you were tottering over to your dad to give him hugs and kisses.  Your first words were dada and moon.  He often told you he loved you to the moon and back.  And we continued to pray the crib prayer over you as you grew.  You almost filled the length of the crib at two.  Even as you slept you smiled, pink cheeked and happy.
     Your name means "to be joined, attached', or in other translations "to live in harmony with".  Your middle name means wise.
      And Levi, you live out the meaning of your name so easily.  You fumble forward loving others without thought of yourself.  There were so many, many nights when after dad went into pray with you he would pause and say "I am so grateful for Levi, he is such an encouragement to me, he knows how to love so well at such a young age...I cannot wait to see what God will do with a heart like that."  Your dad saw you as a world changer, a pink cheeked boy who's everyday was the "best day ever" that would grow into a man that was not afraid of the hard ones ahead.  You are a lover of love, a face turned towards the Sun, who is learning to not be afraid of the shadows.  My sweet Levi, your heart has taken a beating this year.  We are still in the wailing days and the shadows still fall long upon us.
For 119 days you have had your earthly father joined with your heavenly one.  But son, you will have the Sun shine fully on your face again.  You will attach and join together and bring harmony to where ever our good Father takes you.  You will love deeply and receive so much love in return.  I am so grateful that I get to call you son.  You are walking the walk of your dad and literally wearing his shoes at age eleven.  I agree with dad, I can't wait to see what God is going to do with the years ahead!  Happy Birthday Levi!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Humble hope

Three months have passed without my hand in Jeff's.  Three months of hilltops and valleys.  Three months of learning how to move forward without our gentle leader.  Three months of feeble prayers, the bold ones got left up on the hill in Scotland.  Three months of breathing, living, hoping for what is next for us.  These are messy days of finding our way forward.  It often can feel like treading water, staying in place.  Some days we are grateful to just to keep our heads above water.  I don't know this walk of grief very well yet.  The deep valleys still terrify me.  The unknowns can swallow up joy just as it leaves my lips.  And when I climb a hill and see the terrain a little better, I am amazed at His goodness, and His provision.  I am grateful for fresh eyes that can see hope rising on the distant horizon.

The trip back to Scotland overwhelmed my heart in so many sweet and hard ways.  To see and touch the ones that walked us through our darkest days.  The days of finding out and then slowly accepting that this indeed was the path we would walk.  To weep with them and hug them and know that there are more good byes ahead, but that they will stay nestled in this heart of mine forever.  To remind them and myself that prayers are never wasted.  Even the ones that are not answered in the way we long for them to be.  I will forever be grateful for the five days of soaking in the realities of what was, what is, and what is to come.  

While in Scotland one of our leaders, Euan, handed me a small brown envelope to carry back to Luke.  He gently suggested that I might want to read it first.  Luke had written the letter to himself.  In a time of reflection, Euan had asked all his campers to write a letter to themselves to read six months later.  He was concerned that Luke's own words might hurt him.  Back then we were all so hopeful that the treatments would continue to work.   Holding  the letter on the plane ride home I remembered the days leading up to the camp trip.

It was Euan first time leading an overnight trip and Luke's first time going.  Jeff was to go the first few days to show Euan the ropes and support him in his brave steps of leadership.  He was also thrilled to see Luke as a camper and not just a son of an area director.  While the aggressive chemo treatments seemed to be working, Jeff  was starting to struggle to breath deeply, climb stairs, and keep any food down.  We didn't know at the time that he had a major pulmonary embolism and that the stent holding his throat open had fallen into his stomach.  The day Euan showed up at our house with a bag and pillow in hand, Jeff had to tell him he was to go alone.  Jeff just couldn't manage.  We sat sullen in the living room and prayed for God to provide in ways we could not.  Euan rallied and Luke hugged us good bye.  There were other guys to pick up, a cabin to be filled.  I waved as they drove off until I could not see Luke 's face looking back at me anymore.   Camp ended up  being incredible for Euan and the guys he took, including Luke.

When Euan passed me the letter seven months later, he worried Luke had written about Jeff.  He worried the letter was filled with hope of healing or the suffering he had already seen.  Seven months ago none of us would have expected to be standing here, without Jeff.  I nervously held the small brown envelope, unopened the whole flight back.

Luke smiled broadly when I laid the envelope in front of him.  "Ah, I forgot about that!" I asked if he remembered what he had written and he replied he hadn't a clue.  I held my breath as he slid the white, folded paper out.  His eyes scanned the paper and his smile softened.  I thought of Euan's suggestion of me reading it first and I silently wished that I had.  Luke finally looked up and his eyes met mine.  It just says thank you.  "That is it?  Thank you?"  I took the paper and looked at the small words written in pencil in the center of the page.  Surrounding it was a drawing of the Scottish countryside, our village church in Wormit, and three crosses on the horizon.  "Why did you write that?"  I asked, slightly confused.  "I suppose I wrote it more to God than myself.  I just remember being so grateful for camp, and Scotland, and all that had already happened.  And being excited for what could happen next."  My heart stilled.  He smiled again and left me holding the picture of thanks.  I sat in my desk chair and tears slid down.  Humble hope.  A heart of thanks.  Hope  doesn't always have to hurt.  It can be the prelude to a thankful heart.


These two small words washed over me.  You see, I had been holding onto the guilt and fear that somehow my hope had hurt more than helped.  That my hope had prepared Jeff and the boys for healing instead of suffering.    And maybe if I hadn't hoped and instead prepared for the worst, the worst wouldn't have hurt so much.  I stared at two simple words written by Luke's hands.  It was written in a season where he knew how much could be taken, and how much was uncertain.

And now we see with different eyes, eyes that have seen suffering and loss. But it is hope that still anchors us.  Our hope presses us into the truth that this world we see is not the one we were created for.  That beyond the pain and suffering we are all to endure, there is more.  There is more to come.  The story does not end with our final breath.  The boys and I will choose to live homeward bound.  And in humble hope, look forward to the day when Jeff's strong arms will draw us in again.  We will fall asleep with thanks on our lips because our hope is in His goodness and His love.  Our hope is in the fact that this is not a game, we are not chess pieces to be placed and scattered.  We are His beloved and our future is rooted in that love.  
   My heart aches for Jeff, and my heart still longs for Scotland.  My hands still feel emptied.  But there is hope, small and fluttering, deep in this heart of mine.  And it is a hope refined that will in turn bring thanksgiving to our lips.  

"And hope does not put us to shame, Because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given us."  Romans 5:5

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Soft Heart




   Ian often uses the same expression when his heart is hurting.  "Mom, the stone is back."  It is usually whispered into my ear.  "It feels like it is getting bigger, and it will squash my heart."  A heavy stone is on his heart.  He told me that is how he felt the morning after Jeff passed.  He whispered it then with worried eyes.  He physically hurt.  My eyes filled and spilled as I explained that I have that same heavy stone.  It is sitting on my heart also.  He was shocked and then saddened.  "Does everyone have one?  Because I don't think I had this stone before."  I thought about all of the people that loved Jeff so much.  I remembered all the notes, hugs, and words of love and hurt and confusion.  I answered carefully; "yes everyone who loved daddy has a heavy stone on their heart also."  He looked at me long and hard, "but their stone is not as heavy as mine."  Sweet Ian, I wondered how heavy this stone must feel to a five year old heart.
   
     Ian doesn't know how to push grief aside.  He doesn't know how to push down the lump in the throat and try to have a normal conversation.  He doesn't know how to not include "My daddy is in heaven now" in his introductions or goodbyes on playgrounds.  Luke, Levi, and I are learning from this little lion heart.  This week when Ian said the stone was back, and heavier.  He spoke loudly and with confidence.  And these past two weeks have emptied me.  Joy and hope seemed to become hidden in sorrow.  Good news, old
memories, and photographs pierced and hurt instead of comforting.  I am told all this is normal terrain for the boys and I.  To not be surprised.  But as much as I was surprised by joy the weeks before, I am caught off guard by these hard days.  So, when Ian spoke of a heavy stone with a louder voice, demanding I take it more seriously than offering that I have it also I ached for a better answer.
   
     Earlier that morning I had gone down to the cedar grove to pray.  In a full house, and when God and grief are so intermingled, it is best to find a quiet spot outside to spill out my heart.  I had been praying of how I needed Jeff.  How I wasn't sure I could mold and lead the boys without him.  How I am a bit lost at sea without my sweet Jeff.  I prayed out my concerns and asked for help to a God who comes near.  I pleaded for a crack of hope, a glimmer of joy to creep back in.  I asked for God to keep my heart soft and I picked up a heavy stone and carried backup the hill to the house.

    
     When Ian spoke of the stone again I knew it was time to share a truth I was still learning.  We climbed the wooden steps hand in hand and I sat him at my small bedroom desk.  The desk that faces the drive and side woods.  I handed him a bright red mound of clay.  "Can you make me your heart?"  He smiled and nodded, rolling the clay between his small
hands until a perfect Ian sized heart had been formed.  "How does it feel?"  I asked.  "Small and soft and smooth."  He answered, adding that technically it didn't really look like that.  I lifted the heavy stone from beside my desk where I had set it earlier.  "Is this how heavy the stone on your heart feels?"  His small hands received the heavy stone and lowered it to his lap.  "Definitely, mom, definitely."  I asked him to place the heavy stone on his clay heart.  He lifted it again and set it on the heart.  We lifted the stone together and set it aside.  "That is why it hurts so much, see?  My heart is so squashed."  I understood, and begin to explain why a squashed heart isn't the end of the story.  It was squashed indeed.  The shape, texture had changed.  It would not look the same now.  But, something else had happened.  "What else changed Ian?"  He looked harder.  "It is bigger!"  We both smiled now.  The clay heart was bigger.  We spoke about how soft hearts get squashed and misshaped.  How heavy stones come that we cannot lift off that change us forever.  But we also spoke of how hardened hearts break.  They don't stretch bigger when heavy stones fall.  They shatter into a million angry pieces.  We spoke through the last months and how we knew our hearts were bigger.  How much love was poured into our small family.  We remembered Christmas and being surprised by packages and trips.  We remembered how the stars seem so much brighter, and the sky bluer.  Our gray was starting to fade back and the colors fill in again.  Babies made us cry, and kind words from strangers made us cry harder.  We are squashed, but not shattered.  And in this squashing we are trusting that our hearts will be stretched wider.  That the capacity to love and be loved will become greater.  And that we will stay soft as the heavy stones come.  Tears wiped, hugs, heavy stone still there.
   
     Ian ran to Levi and then Luke's room explaining why squashed hearts are blessed hearts.  I even saw him whispering to Zoe outside.  Explaining the reason we need to keep our hearts soft even though they hurt.  On my hardest days, I have the gift of my boys.  Speaking truth, in turn, helps me to remember.  It helps me to see the good and not just the hard.  But most of all, it keeps this mama's heart soft.
 
   I will be going to Scotland at the end of this month.  Saying I was surprised by joy is an understatement.  I can barely think of it without dissolving into a puddle of grateful tears.  I will get to see leaders, friends, and YL staff from the UK.  All are dear to my heart and proper good byes were never said.  I will be in Scotland for a very small part of the five day trip.  The rest will be spent learning, worshiping, and praying with staff and leaders at a Young Life UK weekend conference in England.  The boys are thrilled for me and will stay here with grandmas and cousins.  We will all four return this summer to allow them to see friends, and camp.  But this trip needs to be just me as I reconcile more of my heart to the God I love.
 
 I have started my two classes online and am trying to be a good student as I continue to teach the boys.  We will stay at this place of wait a little longer.  Once housing is found and we are more settled I will place them back in public school.  For now I am
grateful to have my fingers on their pulse throughout the days.  Conversations and tears still spring up in hidden parts of the day and I want to make sure they are not hiding from those very things.  I am continuing to be paid by Young Life and our health insurance is covered.  There is much to be grateful for.  Thank you for all the continued prayers and love.  You all have had a part in filling up these stretched out hearts.

 Much love, Becca and the boys

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted; He rescues those who spirits are crushed."  -Psalm 34:18


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homesick


When Jeff breathed his last breath I was holding his hand and my head was resting on his chest.  His mom was sitting close by.  The boys were playing legos upstairs.  My mom was taking Zoe outside to chew on something other than legos.  And in those minutes of breathing stilled and his heart beating slowing to a stop it all came into focus.  Jeff was free.  He had suffered greatly.  But he had suffered with a dignity and grace few have experienced.  It was all real, all worth it, there were no regrets on how poured out his life was for God and others.  There was such a peace in knowing his race was finished.  He was created for Heaven and he was home.  And then the understanding slowly unfolded that I was still here.  My feet were still planted on the broken world he just left.  While he was standing unhindered before the God who made him I climbed the stairs to face the boys with a heavy heart.  I was left.  In those first minutes I experienced the full depth of peace and hope that all was well and all will be made right.  I also experienced a soul wrenching separation.  And ending of what I knew to be good.  I was overjoyed for Jeff and heartsick for us.

This is the very thing that is the hardest to hold and to explain to others.  The boys and I experience such amazing moments of clarity each day.  Where we talk about Jeff and who he was.  What he gave us.  How he is where he was created to be and there is still so much more for us.  But these very moments of pure joy and hope are nestled beside such tremendous heartache.  And grief feels a lot like a deep, deep homesickness that will not leave us.  We are homesick for a home that no longer is here on Earth.  We left everything to go to Scotland, we left Scotland to come back here.  And the truth is, home was where Jeff was with us.  Home changed a lot in the last few years, but it never left us.  So we are here now, traveling light.  That sounds so much nicer than saying we are empty handed.  I tell the boys that the only good thing about having empty hands, traveling light, is that God can choose what to place in them next.  Full hands cannot be filled.

So much has been taken it is hard not to notice that what is left standing.  My boys, family, friendships that survive an ocean apart, and friendships that are still here.  God can rebuild and provide the rest.  He has already started to.  I drive the van we sold to go to Scotland.  It was given back for me to drive again.  Given.  The games, puzzles, legos, and toys that were left in Scotland were replaced in one week.  The week of Christmas.  Margaret and I were excited and then became concerned as the pile of brown packages grew into a mountain.  More gifts were delivered from a school I taught at in Culpeper.  I had talked to the boys of how we were rich in the things money could not buy.  And they smiled broadly and said now we are rich in both.  The presents did not give the boys their father back, or me a husband.  The presents did however, remind us that we were not alone.  That the fear of not being provided for was unfounded.  We live in a beautiful house on beautiful land with a very gracious grandma.  A grandma who has gone from one quiet grey cat to three loud boys, their mama, and a cheeky puppy.  We will stay here for the next few months as we grieve, receive, and prepare for what is next.

And this place we find ourselves is terrifying and wonderful all mixed together.  The grieving is not just crying, and missing, and wondering why.  The grieving is a deep homesickness for Jeff and a learning to live in the next chapters being written.  We have heartbreaking moments of wanting Jeff here.  I still grab my cell phone to call him.  I still roll over reaching out to scratch his back.  I still pour out my heart every single morning to a God I trust but don't understand.   But we are not walking in and out of rooms and days sad. We are honoring Jeff by living.  And not taking our breath, strong legs, and changed eyesight for granted.  We are adventuring, laughing, and making lasting memories every single day.  Grieving right now is all encompassing.  It is as if we get to climb glorious mountains and trudge through perilous valleys all in one day.  Every day.  It is exhausting, but it lets us see God's fingerprints on so many things, including our hearts.

We do not know what is next for Team Stables.  We have picked a family verse for the year.  All three boys agreed on it.  That alone made it worthy of repeating all year.  It is Romans 5:3-5.  Our favorite version of it is The Message.  "There is more to come:  We continue to shout our praise even when we are hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we are never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary-we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"

I will continued to be paid as a part time Young Life International staff.  We will also continue to be covered by our medical insurance.  This will continue into the following months as we figure out what is next.  I am so grateful for the support of amazing staff in Young Life that are standing with us in the transition.  We will continue to pray about the possibility of returning to Scotland in the future.  I know for now God has placed us here and we are starting to plug into a church and community around us.  Please continue to pray for us.  The hardest moments seems to be at night, as the sun sinks and the stars come out.  We miss him most then.  Pray that we will not feel shortchanged, but see the ridiculous amount of blessing surrounding us.  The boys had more in Jeff as a father than most men will have in a lifetime.  I will not write as often but hope to continue to update you all as we take steps into what is next.  Much love, Becca and the boys



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Final Update

"Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, 
but is a strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that 
God is holy love."

-Oswald Chambers

        Jeff is home.  He is standing before holy love and is free from the heavy hearts we carry.  Thank you for walking through this journey with us.  I know we are not alone. 

   Jeff's scripture for the year of 2015 was "But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it says, "Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead.  And Christ will shine on you."  Ephesians 5:13&14

So grateful he is basking in the light of God's holy love.

We are currently making arrangements for a celebration of Jeff's life and will let you all know the details.  Much love, Becca






























Sunday, November 22, 2015

Update 22nd of November

     I was twenty years old.  More humble than the Autumn before, but just as stubborn.  I thought I would never marry and end up teaching in an orphanage an ocean away.  After a summer in Latvia I realized my weakness and need, but still knew little of my heart.  I first noticed Jeff explaining his sculpture piece to a disgruntled professor in the middle of a courtyard.  The professor did not go easy on Jeff.  Jeff spoke of God and our frailty and the professor disagreed with everything he shared.  I hid in the bushes that surrounded the courtyard listening to his response and was late to English.
      That began a friendship that grew into a relationship.  We were both independent, stubborn, and unwilling to settle.  We both knew God had amazing things in store for us as individuals and struggled  with the thought of lifetime commitment.  What I saw in Jeff that first day carried through some difficult seasons as we dated, got engaged, broke up, and began to date again.  Even in the harder seasons I saw integrity, an unwillingness to be fake, and a lion heart.  He didn't talk about loving others he just did it.  He didn't talk himself up or down he just showed up faithfully.  And through his eyes I saw more than what I thought sacrifice was all about and began to understand what it meant to take one faithful step at a time.  Jeff had and still has an unwavering love of Christ.  Not an easily won, nicely packaged love.  But a bleeding, broken love that doesn't quit.  He sticks it out, he plods on trusting that it is less about him and more about HIM.  When Jeff and I decided to get married (the second time) we knew full well that our hearts were still afraid.  Afraid we would mess it up, afraid we would not know how to love when feelings ebbed and hard times came.  But we made vows knowing God was bigger than our fears.  That the God who called us together would help us walk the million steps forward.  I remember thinking there were many in the world I could laugh with, many I could walk the normal days with.  But when I looked at Jeff I knew I could walk hard days also.  I knew I was safe.  I knew I could laugh, walk, and even struggle beside him.
     We still joke that it was only God that could have brought us together.  We naturally messed so much up it shouldn't have happened.  But we made it.  We stood face to face on June 9th and repeated our vows in humility and love.  And after years of good and hard I am so grateful I said I do that day.
 
     We took some weeks to fully settle into Jeff's childhood home.  The boys explored the same woods he did and biked the same trails.  We had nightly fires and smores, and early morning back porch bible readings while sipping coffee.  I began teaching the boys and Jeff helped to check their work.  I started emailing friends back and having them slowly trickle in to see Jeff and share memories.
   And then the next wave hit.  It started as the normal cough,dry turning to deep chested and rattling.  It has come and gone many times in this past year.  But this time it stayed.  It racked his body and stole his breath away.  He began sleeping more and his legs weakened.  Oxygen was delivered and he became breathless walking from room to room.  The hospice nurses brought more medicine to dry him out and cough medicine to give him rest in the late hours of the night.  Nothing seemed to work.  In one week we went from "we can do this" to "no please, not yet".  Jeff is confined now from bed to recliner.  He is tired, he sleeps more than he is awake.  The nurse will now come twice a week instead of once.  His voice is weaker still, his body thinner.  His heart however is not wasting away.  His heart beats as strongly for God and for us.  Not because God has healed him, or made this path easier.  And he loves us deeply.  He uses the little words he can speak now to whisper prayers and love.  His body is spent.  His heart is not.
     And the nights when God has seemed too silent and too distant, we talked about how in heaven there will be no distance, no silence.  There will be no pain, or weak limbs.  No fear, no tears, no more questions.  When we stand face to face with our Maker we will be known and know in full.  Jeff knows this and there have been many nights he would have gone gladly.  But tonight he asks me not to give up on him.  He prays to stay longer to raise his boys.  He asks to have more time in a world that is broken and so far from perfect.  A request more motivated by love than fear.
     Tonight after a seeing Jeff's body heave and cough Ian ran to his room.  I stayed to help Jeff and checked on Ian after.  He was at his desk drawing so I came back and wrote a quick update to friends asking for prayer and sharing the hard.  Just as I finished he ran up with a drawing for Jeff for me to see.  "Remember in the cabin when we read the story of Jesus in the boat sleeping during the storm?"  I answered yes.  "Remember when we prayed and asked him to wake up."  I answered yes again.  "Well this is him waking up!"  He walked over and gave the picture to Jeff.  With shaking hands and heavy lids he took the picture and thanked him.  I framed it and hung it above the basket of pills.
     We don't know how this storm will end but we know it will end.  We know the waves will eventually be stilled.  We know Jeff's body will be made whole.  This part of the journey feels unbelievably hard.  We are broken watching Jeff's body fail.  But we cling to the hope we have in Christ.  The hope that all things will be used a thousand times over what we can comprehend.  Jeff has reminded the boys, that in all the many ways this can go down, he has already won.  So grateful I said yes to this life shared with him.  We love you all and continue to covet your prayers.  Much love, Becca

Monday, October 26, 2015

Update: October 26th 2015

Two days ago a plane landed in Edinburgh, Scotland with five empty seats.  And today, after a two week October holiday Wormit Primary and Madras had three empty seats.  This week 2 The Beehives will be packed up quietly as we try to explain to three boys that life is about to change again.  That we are staying longer and we don't know how much longer.  And because of all the unknowns, life in Scotland needs to be packed up.  There is no way to explain in typed out words.  Even face to face I could not possibly bridge the canyon of how far our hearts have traveled these past few weeks.  Scotland was home.  Luke and Levi both put it well when they say the past 16 months hold the most amazing and hardest part of their lives so far.  We really believed we could board that plane.  We really thought it was possible to go back to life there and not here.

When we landed, Jeff was seen by doctors at UVA.  We had appointment after appointment, going through everything again.  Diagnosis, scans, blood work, bad news.  You would think after three times we would be ready for it.  London Clinic, Ninewells, and now UVA.  We weren't.  This cancer has decided to leave the soft tissue alone for now and further attack Jeff's spine.  Numerous lesions were pointed out, along with spreading to the ribs.  Second line chemotherapy was mentioned, and radiation on the worst lesion was scheduled.  Jeff struggled with new pain medicines and radiation and lost more weight.  His voice became raspy and weak and he struggled to cough well enough to ever clear anything.  We limped through the days as Ian counted how many more days until we could go home.  When we met with the doctor last week, it was to tell him that Jeff decided to not have anymore more chemo treatments.  Dr. Hall let us know he agreed and that it was time to begin hospice services.   Papers and numbers were given by a nurse with sad eyes and a quiet voice.  We had another talk with the boys.  We explained as best we could.  Levi asked if we could stop having family meetings for awhile.  We cried, talked, tried to answer questions about Zoe, school, friends, the house, and where we would live now.  I think back to the first talk with the boys, 9 months ago, and realize how much we have tried to shelter them from this hard climb.  But we are weak legged and tired.  And from this viewpoint they know too much to be sheltered in the same ways. We read the story of Jesus asleep in the boat during a storm.  How the disciples woke him up terrified they would perish in the waves.  And with two words the storm stopped and they were saved.  "Be still."  The wind and waves were stopped by two words spoken by the son of God.  We prayed as a family for Jesus to wake up, to still the storm, to guide us safely to the other side.  We prayed for the boys as they fell asleep still crying.  The next day we decided to run away to a beach.  We would find sand to dig our toes in and waves to ride and promised Levi there would be no family meetings at the beach.

So here we are in NC, with a few friends helping out and loving on us while we feel a little freedom to not be okay, and to grieve what we have lost so far.  And help us as we figure out how to have tender hearts as we move forward.  To remember how to thank Him for what is still given and not fixate on what has been taken.
We will stay here until Saturday and then we will move in with Jeff's mom near Harrisonburg, VA.  This will also allow us to be closer to the rest of his family.  We will sign more papers and close out all that we hold dear in Scotland and try to begin again.  I will home school the boys for the remainder of this year and sign up for online classes to get ready to teach art in the Fall.

Lately the boys and I have talked a lot more about my dad.  How going to heaven is the number one, best thing that can happen to a person.  The race finished, the tears and pain gone, the aches and heart holes finally answered and filled.  To meet the one who made you face to face and be at peace with all else.  We have talked about how healing is the second best thing.  And I really believe that with my whole heart.  That Jeff will find complete freedom heaven side.  That he will no longer have to walk with weak legs and a heavy heart. But I also  pray every night for the second best to be given.  That Jeff would be healed.  That somehow the cancer would retreat and healthy tissue and bone would grow into the voids left by disease.  That we would get to keep walking together as a family in this world.  That his voice would become clear and strong again.  That his lion heart could continue to teach and lead.  That the story of the five of us together is not over yet.

I will end this post with what we are thankful for.  Because today feels too hard, the losses feel too great,  and if I end with this maybe the sting of loss will turn into a heart of thanks.

I am thankful for a husband that loves me, that he is and always has been a gentle father to the boys, I am thankful for my own father who led me gently in truth and love, for a mom with a big heart and the energy of ten moms, for aunts and uncles that love us and the boys so well, for grandparents that show up and continue to give even if they are tired, for the houses we have called home these last few weeks (Ian falls asleep so often asking, "why do I feel so rich?", for a Levi to remind us that everyday is the greatest day ever (or could become that if it starts off rough), for a Luke who shares such deep wells of truth when I least expect it, for a car to drive and that I can drive legally!  For friends that keep sending messages and words of love when I am hiding, for all the words of hope and truth given, songs written, and prayers said daily for our little family, for the hope that others are walking in for us when it hurts to much to hold on to it ourselves,  for the friends and schools in Scotland that loved us so very well,  for the health of the boys as we transition and settle, for friends who are willing to watch Zoe in Scotland and pack up things on that end, for medical leave that still allows Jeff to be paid, for a boss with a heart that is so big and a willingness to help in anyway, for paid flights and luggage, and a beach house to stay in that we would never have been able to afford, for toes in the sand this week and for sunrises and cups of coffee over donuts, for early morning and late night hot tub dips, for birds that start to sing just before the sun rises, they sing in those last dark minutes, knowing it will rise....I could go on and on.  We are broken but blessed.  Thank you for standing with us.
Much love, Team Stables

P.S.
Jeff would still love to see friends, we know the crazy arrival and settling with UVA appointments took away much of the time he had hoped to spend with others.  His voice is still very weak, it is hard for him to project or talk for long so we will be in touch with when and how visits should happen.  He is eating well again and coughing less.  we are all sleeping well.  The pain is being managed and he is getting out each day.  Please message or email knowing it make take a few days for me to get back to you.  We are still sorting out phones so email is the best form of communication right now.