Sunday, November 30, 2008

Opening a Christmas Present Early

The presents are wrapped and under the tree. I think it took Jadyn less than five minutes to "accidentally" rip one of her present, but according to her own eyewitness account she didn't see what it was. My parent always threatened to take my presents back when my curiosity got the best of me and I peaked. I didn't do that, but I'm a little sad for her that it will no longer be a surprise for her.

After I posted yesterday, I thought about Jessica's first two cars. Her first one was an Audi and a present from her dad. She drove it back from her dad's in Oregon to her mom's in Texas. Unfortunately, that was the last time she drove it because it died after making the trip. Then she bought a red Pontiac. Soon she was driving with the heater on during the summer because it was the only way to prevent it from overheating. Finally, I went with her to buy a Mitsubishi Mirage which has been a great car.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funny Car

Katelyn and I had a car conversation tonight. Being sixteen may be two years away but she has getting a car on the brain. I thought it was pretty funny because she told me that she wanted a Mustang GT with a GPS. It has to have a GPS she said because she has no sense of direction. Then we talked about how much that would cost. Apparently she she had already seen one with her cousin for about $11,000. She pretty much had no idea how much that was because she thought she could convince eleven people to give her $100. When I told her that would be $1100, she said they could just donate $200 then. That lets me know two things: 1. she thinks she's pretty persuasive and 2. she has no math skills. We'll see where she is in two years but
I think she may be driving a rusty used school bus.

Today is also one month removed from Jess passing away. I am taking advice from the wise and taking the girls' presents over to someone's house to have them wrapped. The bonus is hanging out with a godly couple who are both great friends. If I have to wrap any presents after this (even with double sided tape), the great thing is no one will have to wonder who they are from.

The Start of Christmas

Today was a good day just for making it through it. For Jess, Christmas always started the day after Thanksgiving. Today was the day I would normally take all the Christmas stuff down from the attic with Katelyn. Then Jess would spend several hours doing the tree. Often she would ask me to help with the tree which I would gladly do. Then she would redo all my branches to make sure they were spread out and rehang all the ornaments I had put up to make sure they were placed in the best possible spot. Well, I was really, really dreading today as everything about today reminds me of Jess. Katelyn was off at the movies with friends, but the Christmas stuff is stored in the shed now so no problems getting it out. Jadyn and Bryn had a wonderful time decorating the tree and putting out Christmas stuff. Other than feeling a little nauseous as I put up the tree (no, I'm not making this up) it really turned into a pretty decent day. Usually when it comes to a day like this I depend on my friends to help me get through it, but for the first time I did pretty good on my own with the Yikes. I even went Christmas shopping late tonight. I do still have one problem. Thanks to gift bags I no longer feel embarrassed when presenting a poorly wrapped present for a birthday gift. However, with Christmas presents gift bags are not going to be the solution for my awful wrapping skills. I know with certainty that if I put gift bags under the tree my kiddos will know what their presents are before Christmas comes. Right now I can think of only two solutions: put an alarm on each present to deter peeking or be OK with my kids' presents looking deformed like Quasimodo.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving began when Bryn crawled into bed with me early this morning. That's not an unusual way to start my day. However, then she said "my stomach hurts." Then I found out why as she began to throw up everywhere. It could have been a bad day. After all Thanksgiving is just as much about eating as it is giving thanks. However, Jadyn and Katelyn had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with our family at large and I had a nice time with Bryn at home. The best part of my day was doing thank you cards with her. She helped put the postage stamps on and handed me envelopes so I could stamp with our address stamp. Jessica's dad came by later to drop off traditional Thanksgiving stuff for Bryn and I which I ate and Bryn slept instead. This Thanksgiving may not have been about eating for Bryn and I but it's pretty cool that ended up being a day of giving thanks.

One year Jess and I handed out Thanksgiving dinners at Mission Arlington (a place for the down-and-out for those of you not from here). It was a lot of fun because it involved our whole family got to do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Secret in the Closet

I found out today that the reason Katelyn's room was clean was that her closet was not. Her closet wasn't so much a storage area as a secret overflow for clutter. It's 10:45 and she's still cleaning it. On the plus side Katelyn has discovered she has thirteen pair of jeans.

I am looking forward to being with family tomorrow. I don't think it will feel exactly like Thanksgiving has in the past, but as a friend of mine said we are going to be living in a "new normal."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Girl Names

It was hard for today not to be a great day for the girls. To start with Jadyn and Bryn's classes gave them each a Build-a-Bear with a message said by all the other students in their classes along with a gift basket for our whole family. This time both Bryn and Jadyn had a great time in after school care. Then one of their great friends got to come home with them for a little bit to play. Katelyn got "kidnapped" by one of her friends to go spend the night. Actually Katelyn asked first, but I cracked up when her friend Kim actually played the outlaw when she showed up at our house complete with bandana. As for me I felt good this week in class-- I definitely felt more like a teacher whereas last week I felt like a lot of the time I was just going through the motions. I love teaching and I am so glad when my kids can get the best me-- not the one who is thinking of a zillion other things instead of focusing on them.

One of the years I taught preschool-- I had a cute girl named Jadyn in my class. Years later when it came time to name our second girl, Jess loved the idea of naming her with an uncommon name that I had a great association with and Jadyn seemed a great fit. All that was missing was a middle name, and we let Katelyn pick it out: she picked "Rose" and we both thought "Jadyn Rose" was a delightful combination. We now had a precedent of "yn" at the end of our girl names, but luckily Jess had a fabulous eleventh grader named "Bryn' the year before. "Isabell" for a middle name was harder for us to find but once we heard "Bryn Isabell" we were set.

Monday, November 24, 2008

First Day in After School Care

Sorry I forgot to hit "publish post" before going to bed last night, so the post before this one is really from yesterday.

Today was the first day for Bryn and Jadyn to go to after-school care. Bryn really liked it. Jadyn said she did at first, but then she didn't like it. She asked me if she could stop going, but my thought is it was just the first day and Jadyn takes awhile to warm up to new things. She, like me, also wears her emotions on her sleeve, so while she was upset about going today it might go great tomorrow.

I am looking forward to the break after tomorrow. I plan to spend it with friends and family and perhaps take the Yikes to the zoo one day. Katelyn is planning to go with her friends to see Twilight tomorrow night. She is actually almost done with the book even though she just started reading it. I may be the only guy ever to read the series but it's cool now that Katelyn and I have one more thing to talk about now. It's good because there was no way I was going to read the other girly stuff she reads but werewolves and vampires I can handle.

Jess was an avid reader. The last book we read together was the Last Lecture. It was pretty cool because we alternated chapters with her reading most of it while
I would drive her to doctor appointments. I think in a way this blog has become a Last Lecture for us: we have written it for other people but eventually our kids will be able to read it and know their mom in a way they couldn't have know her before. They will learn about the impact she had and how many people loved her.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Importance of Family

The nice thing about going to a Lake house in the middle of November is that it's nice and peaceful. That's not the first thought I had though; my first thought was this would probably be more fun in the summer. The truth is that I think my whole family needed just what this weekend provided: time away from the rest of the world. I also think it's really cool that everyone is totally comfortable with talking about Jess-- I think the part of her that everyone misses the most is how she was a good friend to us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Possum Kingdom

Bryn cried three quarters of a soccer game but played a fine job of goalie in the fourth. The most impressive thing to me was the other parents that tried to comfort her. It was a bitterly cold day more suited for football games and hot chocolate.
We are out in Possum Kingdom tonight (for those of you not in Texas I am not making this town's name up) hanging out with our extended family. It's too cold to go out on the lake but nevertheless its been great hanging out with family. . The most exciting thing for the girls has been the deer that let yopu come so clode you can almost touch them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Date

Katelyn went on her first date tonight. Even though they went with a group of friends I was still a little bit nervous but I also felt proud of her for saying "yes" to the right guy. I and my shot-gun cleaning buddies will still need to get to know him better, but he has done the right thing by being a good friend to her first.

I feel like "Missing You" by Hawk Nelson was written about Jessica after listening to it. Thanks Taylor for telling me about it. I once put a CD together for Jessica with songs that reminded me of her. A song on that CD became a favorite of ours: "We Belong Together (Tarzan and Jane)" by Stephen Curtis Chapman.

Days are still going great: God has put so many wonderful people in my life that are fun to be with that I find myself smiling and laughing all the time. Nights are still horrible: I'm sleeping 4-6 hours a night. Bryn has had nightmares the last few nights. Her favorite thing to do now before she goes to bed is for me to give her two choices to dream about. Last night I told her to dream about unicorns or playing soccer. Tonight I told her to pick eating ice cream or playing soccer. She pointed out that playing soccer was a repeat from the night before so she made me suggest something else.

I am honored to have you read our blog tonight. Please pray for us but pray for my girls first.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Early Thanksgiving Feast

When I let Jadyn read the blog comments tonight, she told me that the reason that people left comments is that they found out how sweet she was because I wrote about her. Then she said in a super excited voice, "Why don't you write about Bryn!" I think that's so sweet because I don't think she realizes that I write about the Yikes and Katelyn all the time.

I'm still not sleeping well at night but I slept soundly enough in the early morning to be surprised when I woke up. I found Bryn curled up with me. She had come into my room after she had experienced some bad dreams.

Today was the one day in a year I eat from the school cafeteria. The week before Thanksgiving the cafeteria always serves up turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. I usually eat with my teacher friends but today I ate with some of my students. The only bad thing was that they were too good at conversation: it was time to go before I finished my food.

One of the things Jess and I liked to do together in North Richland Hills was ride our bikes. There are lots of bike paths there-- unlike here in Arlington. I think my favorite bike ride is when we rode all the way to where she was teaching at Richland High School.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Taking Breaths

Jadyn was super excited about the comments left for her and amazed by the rose made with keyboard keys.

Days of the week don't normally matter to me, but it mattered today. Jess passed away on Wednesday three weeks ago. Aunt Jaque keeps telling me something that seems simple, but it helps: breathe. Every time she does I find myself letting go of the breath I'm holding and then moving forward.

When we lived in an apartment, we lived upstairs from the Taylors. What makes that remarkable was that the wife's name was Jessica but no the husband's first name wasn't Jacob. We actually got to know them pretty well because we were constantly getting her mail addressed to Jessica Taylor and they got my Jessica's.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Warm Welcome Back

Yesterday I got a hero's welcome on my first day back at Young Junior High. It felt really good to be missed so much by teachers, staff, and students. I even got a welcome back song sung to me by one of the math teachers (thanks Nancy). I am definitely not "back in the swing of things," but it feels great to know that I will be supported and loved while I get there.

Before Jadyn came went to bed tonight she said she wanted me to mention her on the blog. I guess I never thought about it before but she has tons of people telling her that they read something about her on the blog. She has been both super sweet lately and super sensitive, so please continue to pray for her.

Jessica's favorite video game was Ms. Pacman. She never quite understood why I would want to spend lots of time playing a video or computer game, but she definitely had a weakness for Ms. Pacman. I'm not sure why really since she didn't even really like the regular Pacman. She also pointed out something to me about the ghosts that I never noticed. First of all she knew all their names (why not just call them things like the blue guy?) but more importantly she recognized that each one had different tendencies and speeds. I eventually bought one of those plug and play units for the tv that had Ms. Pacman and some other classics on it. She especially liked challenging me to play her; I think mostly because she won most of the time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pick a Side

One of the things that has really helped me is going to Gilda's Club. There are lots of several groups at Gilda's Club but the one I have been going to for friends and family members of someone with cancer. There is nothing magical about it: it's just a group of people talking about our struggles and triumphs, but on the other hand having a group of people that share in your griefs and achievements just as they are going through the same thing is exactly what make it so special. The people in the group and I share a special bond and the coordinator for the group, Ellie, is phenomenal. When I lost Jess I didn't know I could still go to the group since there is a different group for those that have lost a friend or family member to cancer. I recently talked to Ellie on the phone and she let me know that I was more than welcome to still go to the same group. I don't know how more times I will go, but I felt it was really important that I go tonight. I was so glad I did-- seeing this remarkable bunch of people was exactly what I needed tonight.

I come from a family of very little sides. Whenever my mom would make a meal, there sometimes might be a side of vegetables but most of the time it was just the main dish. However, whenever I made the main dish, Jess always wanted to add a side. Even though she began preparing these herself it was still annoying; "Why do we need a side I thought?" However, I came to realize that it was her way of coming along beside me and adding value to our meal. I have trouble letting go of doing things that I do my way when it is good, but when it became our way it became better.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Be Still

We went to church in the morning and Sunday school. It wasn't the subject of the sermon but God definitely wanted me to pay attention to Psalm 46:10 which is "Be Still and Know that I am God." Lately my mind has not been still-- especially at night when it takes a long time for it to slow down enough for me to go to sleep. Practically, being still for me means letting myself relax and not trying to fill up down time. After church Jadyn had her last soccer game followed by her end of the year soccer party. The families of the girls on her team have become very much my family. Not only are they fun people to be around they have been a tremendous support to us. We finished the night at a friend's house where we have been studying The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel which is a terrific book. We got through a busy weekend and had fun but I'm looking forward to a calmer one. I go back to work tomorrow which I am a bit nervous about since I haven't been there in a while, but luckily I have awesome students that I get along great with.

I have a silly memory tonight about Jess. I have no idea why I did this other than to be goofy but one time I put my mouth over her eye and created suction on it. "Stop," she said, "You're going to get my eye infected." "No," I said "you can't get an infection from sucking someone's eye." Just in case you were thinking about sucking someone's eye in the future, don't because Jess was right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Busy Like a Bee

Today Katelyn had a basketball tournament in the morning and a dance and a sleep-over tonight, Bryn had a soccer game and an end of the season soccer party, the Yikes had a skating birthday party, and I had an indoor soccer game. I got Katelyn and her friend Kim off to the basketball tournament this morning, but Bryn had a major melt-down. We couldn't find the soccer shorts that went with her uniform and she didn't want to wear any other shorts. Her melt-downs are not explosive: she simply stops talking and refuses to move. She very much reminds me of a stubborn turtle that has retreated inside her shell. The rest of the day went well though except for my soccer game. Our goalkeeper from last season can't play this season so I played keeper. I actually really enjoyed playing it because its an exciting position but I got scored on a lot and we lost. All and all it was a good day but we have another busy day tomorrow.

When Jess and I first got married we went out to eat a lot but when it came to eating at home I did the cooking. I think she would have picked up on it faster but I don't always measure or set timers to see how long things take to cook. Even if it was something simple like spaghetti Jess would want to know how long to put the noodles in for and I would try to tell her what they look like when they're done. However, she learned to cook when she started to stay home when Jadyn was born. Her exact measurements and timings lead to her being a better cook than I was. She loved trying out new recipes and rarely made the same thing twice. I think the only thing I've ever made only once was alphabet salad that my sister Sarah and I attempted to make when we were kids. We tried to find a food item for every letter of the alphabet and mixed it all together. Needless to say we would have been better off if we had limited it to less letters.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Start of a Busy Weekend

Today was my last day off work and the start to a busy weekend. Lots of stuff is going on plus end of the year soccer parties. Tonight Katelyn went to a basketball tournament, Bryn went with a friend to McDonald's, and I took Jadyn out to Cracker Barrel. I signed up Jadyn and Bryn to do after school care starting the week of Thanksgiving. I took them by earlier this week to make sure they were comfortable going and felt like they would have fun there. Jadyn was Ms. Popularity already when we stopped by and Bryn I'm sure will make a friend or two quickly.

I saw the new Cowboy stadium while driving around and it made me think of memory of Jess and I. Sometimes when we would go out on a date we would just randomly drive around until we found something. This one night we drove by the stadium only to see it moments later again. I tried getting on another road but there are a bazillion different roads that go by the stadium and somehow I kept getting on the wrong ones. We ended up just going home but we laughed quite a bit at the stadium that kept looming up in the front windshield.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Foreign Languages

Bryn came in just a second ago and asked to go to bed. It's the Yikes bedtime but I was starting to get worried until I told Jadyn it was time for bed. She responded with "But daddy!" so I think the kids must be alright after all. They should be worn out though because I took them to a park for about two hours tonight. My friend Kyle lost his first wife right before Jessica was diagnosed. Tonight our two families got together for pizza and playing in the park. His two daughters are the same age as Jadyn and Bryn but I wasn't sure if they would play well together (they've met before but it's been a long time). One of his daughters asked my girls right away when their mom died. I don't think I would have handled a question that fast well, but for my girls I think it was a good connecting point and they shared right away. We all had a great time together.

One of the books that changed Jess and my marriage was The Five Love Languages. There are five specific ways to love people but everyone has a favorite. Jessica's favorite was what the author calls "Words of Affirmation" but he could have more simply said compliments. Mine is "Acts of Service" which is doing nice stuff for someone. We found out it's not enough to "do onto others as you would do onto yourself;" instead it's better to put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to "speak" their love language. By the way it also made a difference in how we love our kids.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lots of Fews

Jadyn invented a new word: fews. It means a lot of something which is exactly what you would have if you had the plural of a few of something. I have been asking God for help in a few things. My thinking was that God can help me provide for my girls. I had it flipped though because it is God is providing for my girls and I am only helping. There is no other way to explain the outpouring of love that has been show us. OK there are other explanations but they would just been plain wrong.

Speaking of turning a few into fews, this weekend over 3500 people raised 8 million dollars towards reaching a cure for cancer.

Tonight I thought I'd share a story from my childhood that brought me the same feeling as I'm feeling right now. Christmas was approaching and we were traveling on the road. The main thought on my mind was "How is Santa going to get into the roof of our VW bus to give us presents?" I also remember my sister and I being cold and hungry so I'm sure our parents were too. On Christmas Eve my dad stopped at a motel to ask if we could use a shower there. I can't remember if the manager did or not. What I do remember is him inviting us to join his family for Christmas Eve dinner. I remember feeling warm and full. He even let us play some of the video games in the lobby for free. Christmas did come the next day (I suppose Santa made it up the exhaust pipe) but truly we had gotten to open up a present early.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Half Full

On the way to a friends' house tonight-- Jadyn looked over at the fuel gauge and in the mathematical way she has (which is foreign to me) said that the gauge was half-full. Actually she said, "Wow, dad you you're fuel is half full. That's great right dad?" She's going to grow up to be an awful lot like her momma.

I hadn't realized until today that Natalie had posted about Jess on Nov. 2nd on her blog it's:

I am going back to work next week. Originally, I was thinking about this week but things have been harder than expected in some ways. Several people have made the comment that I have been feeling: life keeps moving. I still have a few things to get done this week (like take Jessa's will to a lawyer), but I am also figuring out how to be a single parent too. I know my kids miss me at school (I miss them too), but they are in great hands right now and I will be better equipped emotionally next week to teach.

A big thank you to the many people who have sent cards, done laundry, given money, brought meals, prayed for us, and have supported our family. Please also continue to think of and pray for our extended family: the Mcnutts, Moodys, etc.

Jess frequently tried to make her English class fun. She had no problem with using crayons, scissors, and paper to make things like red As for the Scarlet Letter. In particular I remember her spending hours trying to find the perfect song to tie in to her English lessons. I remember one time she couldn't decide which version of a song to choose so bought all three.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Sunday Evening Post

I thought I would post early tonight as I have a moment despite the girls being still awake. Our family really enjoyed church today. I'm going to put this in my own words but what my sister Sarah got out of the message was that in order to truly tolerate someone you have to love them completely even though you know they've done things that are simply not right. I think she and I know each other's faults really well but we were still able to reach over and give each other a big hug because we love each other too. I am so glad she was able to stay longer with my nieces Elizabeth and Vanessa and my mom. Today they all left back to go back to Virginia (my sis) and Maryland (my mom).

Today Bryn cracked my up when she named one of her stickers. It wouldn't stick so she called it Stickless the stickless sticker.

I think one of the greatest things Jess taught me was selflessness. The first year we were married if I was thirsty I got a drink of water for myself. Jess would ask me in a voice cracking from lack of water (not really) if I wanted to ask if anyone else wanted a drink. I'm a slow learner so it took me awhile to realize the answer to that question was not "no."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

50 Reasons

Last week neither of the Yikes played soccer because of the funeral. Jadyn's game was at the exact time as the funeral so one of the team moms called and canceled it. It turned out that several families from the other team were going too. Today though I had fun coaching Jadyn and her team. My team just started passing a few games ago and Jadyn is coming into her own as a defender. The coolest thing though happened after the game: the other team (a different one than the the one we would have played last week) gave me a card that they had all signed.

Today was the last day of the Three Day walk for the cure. One of Jessa's favorite memories was going to cheer on the participants last year. It is a truly special event.

I just now read Tessa's blog post on Jess. I know many of you have already read it but if you haven't its the November 4th post at Also, today Tessa and I received a $450 check from Al Clark to go to Weekend Backpacks in honor of Jessica.

One of the neatest things Jess did for me the first year we were married was to write down on paper 50 reasons why she loved me. She said it was hard at first to come up with reasons but then she got in the flow and she came up with 56. I would say our first year of marriage was the toughest. We were both fiercely independent and naively thought that letting the other person have their way meant giving up and losing a battle. It was during those times I pulled out my list from Jessica and perhaps she pulled out mine because I made a list for her too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Courageous Kara

Kara came over today to drop off some presents for us and I got to hear the whole story behind her speaking at Jessa's funeral. Kara had told Jess earlier that God had called her to speak to women but she was unsure if she would be good at it. The funny thing is I didn't know Jess wanted Kara to speak until a couple of days before the funeral. She had told Aunt Sandy who later remembered to tell me. I remember that Jess was scared to death to speak a part in the Christmas play at church. She didn't think she could do it but ended up doing a marvelous job. Now it was Jessa's turn to encourage Kara to speak-- even as she lay dying and could no longer speak. Speaking at Jessa's funeral provided the spark Kara needed; I'm super excited for her because she is now going to speak at a woman's function in December.

Here's what Kara said:
1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ lay down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

I remember when Derrick and I were new to Lake Arlington, I kept hearing about this couple “the Kaylor’s”. I heard about how neat of a couple they were. I heard how they taught preschool Sunday school, and had started out with their Sunday school kids when they were babies and moved up with them each year. I had a 2 year old and a baby then. That was pretty impressive to me. It sounded to me that they were not just laying down their lives for those preschoolers, they were risking their lives.

I wanted to meet these “Kaylor’s”. Derrick and I signed up to help watch the preschoolers during worship. As God would have it, the class we helped in was the Kaylor’s class. I remember meeting Jake then as we would switch responsibility for those preschoolers and wondering where was this Jessica.

One day I was walking down the hallway, and I saw this beautiful woman with a maternity sweater I was quite familiar with. I had that very same black and red striped sweater from my favorite store, Target. Jess, who was pregnant with Bryn, was wearing that striped sweater. I knew then that any woman who fancied Target would be a friend of mine.

Shortly after, I officially met Jess at the baby shower that our Sunday school class had for her, myself, and one other new mom. I cannot recall from there a time that I did not know or love Jess.

I could go for days listing all the things I love about Jess. She embodied an extraordinary faith, bold courage, confident hope, supernatural patience, and perfect peace. What I admire most is out of a heart surrendered to her Savior, she served.

I remember one of our Wednesday lunches at ChickfilA after BSF. Jess and Bryn had been invited to a friend’s house to see her new furniture. Bryn apparently wasn’t as excited about the new furniture as the rest of us were, she just wanted to spend some time with her mom. Jess politely said that she and Bryn were going to go home so they could rest together but that she’d love to come over and see the furniture another time.

I remember thinking it seemed so simple, but was such a selfless act of love. For Jess, thinking of others above herself was the norm, not an accomplishment.

One of my favorite Bible stories is in John 13. “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love…so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

What I love about this story is that Jesus knew his time on earth was short. The cross was before Him. Jesus loved his own so very much. He was thinking of them, not what tomorrow held for Him. Jesus showed them the full extent of his love. How? Washing their feet. The King of Kings washed the disciples dirt-stained, calloused, wayward feet. This was not the job of the Master, it was the job of the slave. It was an act of humble service. It met a need. It had nothing to do with Him. It had all to do with them.

As Jesus served, Jess served. She did the not so glamorous job of changing diapers as a preschool Sunday school teacher. That is humble service.

She spend countless hours organizing, packing food, and delivering backpacks to schools for kids whose families struggled to provide food. It met an amazing need.

This past summer, Jake wheeled her upstairs into room 221 to help with purple crafts at VBS. It wasn’t about her comfort or ease. It was all about the kids that came to do cool crafts and hear about Jesus.

Tuesday mornings this Fall a group of us has met at Jess’ house for Bible study. During a visit with Jess while she was in the hospital, she asked me if we had met at her house for Bible study that week. I said no, we had decided not to. She went on to say that we should have gone ahead and met. One of the girls had a key and she could let us in. The following Tuesday, though Jess rested at the hospital, we received once again, the gift of her selflessness as we met in her home for our weekly Bible study. Even after Jess came home for those final days of her time here with us, she extended the invitation for Bible study at her house.

Doesn’t that sound just like Jess? Always thinking of others more than herself. It is also just like Jesus.

Like Jesus, Jess’ time on earth was short. How pleased our servant Jesus is with His servant Jess. She lived showing the full extent of her love. She served, having nothing to do with herself, but all to do with everyone else. Listen, can you hear the Master say, “Well done, Jess, my good and faithful servant.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Note Writing

Jadyn and I have started writing notes. Unlike Katelyn and Bryn she hasn't said anything about missing her mommy. In fact she has been completely close-mouthed about her feelings. Jadyn has just started reading so she was super excited when I wrote her a question asking how she was feeling. She wrote down a response super quick and couldn't wait to show me. I am so glad she has decided to open up and "talk" about what I knew she was feeling. It's the same with God and me, He already knows what I'm feeling but it's not so much a fact gathering mission-- its about strengthening our relationship. It's my prayer that I will be able to continue reaching all of my girls so that we grow closer together.

Jadyn has a favorite balloon from her birthday. It's pretty big, has a pink boa around its border, and says "Happy Birthday" in big letters. Today Jadyn called it her Happy Balloon-- which I thought was too cute.

The first purchase Jess and I made together was a leather couch. We went to Rent-a-Own store not to rent a new one, but to purchase one that someone had used and then returned. They had a pretty good price already on the couch (which isn't surprising considering the quality of stuff at places like that) but Jess and I haggled over the price with the sales man. We didn't like the price so we came back later and haggled but left because we still thought it be cheaper. Finally he ended up selling it to us for $135. Even though it wasn't a great couch, it was special because we bought it together. I also have a favorite memory of Katelyn on that couch. She would stand on one end of the couch and then totally without fear and hands by her sides would fall face first into the couch. She would laugh and then do it again and again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From Box to Albums

I and a few friends sorted photos today. We don't have photo albums we just have a box of photos. It's really important to me that Katelyn remember and the Yikes know how Jessica was before cancer. That urge is what lead me to sort pictures to be put in albums. It was actually pretty cool because it ended up reminding me of a lot of memories of Jess and the girls. I also got to spend a lot of time with my sister Sarah and her girls, Vanessa and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is just a baby and so she has been fine with me holding her; however, today was the first day that two year old Vanessa truly felt comfortable around me. I have really enjoyed getting to know her.

When Jess and I got married we moved into a two bedroom apartment in North Richland Hills. Jess had gotten a job teaching at Richland High School and it was only about an hour away from the University of North Texas where I had just enrolled to get a Masters in Secondary Education. The first thing I learned about married life is that my guy stuff was not going to have any part in the decoration of our apartment. The only thing Jess let me hang up was a drawing of a duck. It was a gift from one of the campers that I had a counselor at a camp during one of my summers off from college. His mom had drawn it herself and they had made a special trip out to the camp just to present it to me. The truth is though Jess only let me hang it up in the closet. The difference between a bachelor apartment and a married couple apartment is that the bachelor one is just a place to stay while the married one is a home. Jess had a knack for making our place a home.

Jadyn with Bryn and friend Evelyn as Scarecrows

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Cards than Junk Mail

Today was the third day in a row that the kids and I have gotten more cards than junk mail, and we get a lot of junk mail. I very much appreciate the kindness that continues to rain down on our family.

A lot of people have been asking how we're doing. Sometimes people are just making conversation and if so the answer is we're doing OK. The real answer is that we are each hurting. Bryn is sad. She tells me that she misses mommy and wants to do the things with her that she used to do. She wants Jess to do her hair. She wants to tell her that she got to be the line leader or the caboose at school. She wants to give her pictures that she's drawn. Jadyn is mad. She gives up on games if she's not winning. She slams doors. She says she won't do things like cleaning her room. Katelyn and I are in a similar state. One minute we're seemingly doing well and the next we're walking around in a daze. Like me she has been forgetful. Today she told me that a friend of hers came by while I coached Jadyn at soccer practice, but I was here. I signed our family up for the Warm Place which provides grief support for families. Apparently it takes kids two months before they are able to process things, so we have an introductory meeting in late January.

Originally Jess and I had planned to leave for our Honeymoon right after the wedding. However, we had to take care of my Eclipse first by having it towed to a repair shop. Then we drove the new, but now battered Mirage to San Antonio. If you're wondering why we drove Mitsubishi cars its because I was a nanny that year for a guy that was a manager at a Mitsubishi dealership. Anyway, that year ice storms hit and while it slowed us down many of our family that drove had trouble getting back home.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Other People Said it Better

Right before the wedding Melody, the singer we had lined up, got a sore throat and couldn't sing as loud as she needed too. It turned out even better because to make up the volume she got her daughter to sing with her. Check out her daughter's blog and her post on October 30th:

Jess was a member of the Young Survivor's Coalition and went to one of their annual conferences. Because of the incredible women she met there, it was an life-changing experience for her. On their site they have a Remembrance board. Important: click on the topic Remembrance Board and then on Jessica Kaylor

This is what our dear friend Shannon said at the memorial Service:

Isaiah says “Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock (25:4). He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces (25:8).

I’m not sure when I first met Jessica. I know we went to church together for about 10 years. We worked on marriage retreat committee together, did Sunday school fellowships together, and hung out at church college events where both of us were serving. I had a baby shower for Bryn at my house called a “sip and see” where we sipped punch and got to see baby Bryn. We did lunch at each others’ houses, went swimming with all our kids in the summer, did a monthly Girls’ night which we dubbed “The Birthday Bunch,” and even though there were only 6 of us we figured out how to meet every month of the year anyway. We did Bible studies together and our friendship just grew. When Jess was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2005 I remember thinking that if anyone could deal with this in a godly manner it would be Jess. Several of us friends met regularly to pray for her healing, and I never would have learned so much about our God and His Word had I not walked with Jess over these last few years. Jake and Jess joined our homegroup this last year and, I had the privilege of getting an inside peek at the challenges, fears, victories, and walk of faith that they both had. It is my privilege to share with you today a little bit about my sweet friend Jessica.

When Jake asked me to speak today I began to pray. I typically have the emotional control of a broken fire hydrant, but I really want to honor Jess as her friend. Jessica would not want us to worship her today and make her seem better than she was, but because she loved Jesus so much His work in her life is what I have to tell you about. I used the letters in her name to do an acrostic and verses that I think exemplify who Jessica was.

Psalm 21 says, “For You make us joyful with gladness in Your presence. Because we trust in the Lord, and through the loving kindness of the Most High we will not be shaken.”

So J is for Joyful. Joy is not happiness based on circumstances, but it is a choice and a discipline. Jessica’s joy was based on her relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus filled her with joy that emitted a sense of peace and trust in her Savior that circumstances couldn’t touch.

I Thessalonians 5 says, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you are doing.”

So E is for Encourager. Jessica was genuinely interested in what was going on in my life and the lives of her family and friends. She wrote it down to pray about, prayed about it, and then checked back in to see how things were going. The last time she was in the hospital my son, Jay, was in a football accident and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance.
As I sat there in the emergency room my cell phone rang. Jess had heard that he was hurt and called to check on him and as she put it, “just to hear my voice.” That’s the kind of friend she was. There she was in the hospital with such great pain of her own and she was calling to check on me! Oh, to be that selfless! She was a great encourager.

Exodus 15 says, ”The Lord is your strength and your song, and He has become your salvation; this is our God, and we will praise Him…”

S is for Strong. When Jess found out she had cancer she did not sit back and accept defeat. She researched her disease, talked to doctors, endured many aggressive treatments, and fought as hard as is physically and spiritually possible. She continued to go to all her kids’ sporting events and school programs. She worked hard in physical therapy to be stronger to make transferring easier after her back was broken. She endured tremendous pain without grumbling. All along the way she prayed to the Lord and testified to anyone who would listen of God’s presence and enabling in her life. In the 3½ years she had cancer I never once heard her dishonor the Lord. The Lord was her strength and her song.

I Peter 1 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, that even though now for a little while if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

This S is for Suffering. Jess did suffer…as though by fire…but she didn’t use it as an excuse to complain or wallow in self-pity. Instead she used her suffering to proclaim the glory of the Lord. Did she ever question “why?” or feel pain and anger. You bet! But she never stayed there. I remember vividly one of our girls’ weekends away when we had settled into our beds in the hotel and she opened up about the storm she was in. I’m going to finish with what she wrote in her blog about that, but she said so beautifully that this whole cancer thing was a struggle for her that she didn’t understand, but she did trust God anyway. She chose to look at her suffering with an eternal perspective. She chose to trust our Sovereign God whose understanding and ways are so far beyond the comprehension of our finite minds. And she gave Him glory and honor and praise in the midst of her suffering.

Ephesians 5 says, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
I is for Imitator of Christ. What does it mean to imitate Christ? Christ was a servant. He loved people without reserve, even people who were difficult to love. He forgave without conditions. He prayed to the Father for His will to be done in His life. Jessica imitated Christ. She served faithfully…in a preschool class at church, on multiple committees, and as the coordinator and originator of the weekend backpacks for kids. She loved without reserve. People were simply drawn to her and she accepted anyone and everyone...even me. She forgave without conditions, and she prayed for God’s will to be done in her life even though that included having cancer.

Deuteronomy 31 says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble…for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

C is for Courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear but the determination to face what causes fear. There was fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of leaving the ones she loved so much, fear of being forgotten. But Jess knew that she was not walking this path alone. She knew that Jesus would never fail her or forsake her. So she faced those fears and others by calling on the name of the Lord, by seeking His face, by reading His Word, and by trusting in Him. For the last few summers we have done a Bible study at my house. This year she had Jake bring her even in her wheelchair. As the summer went on she began letting friends come get her and bring her.
It took lots of courage to let friends roll her up and down the steps and get her in and out of the car, but she came and shared what God was teaching her because she was courageous.

Psalm 91 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. He has said to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

A is for Abiding. Abiding means to stand fast, to wait, or to submit to someone. Jessica did all three of those things. She chose to stand fast in her faith in God’s purpose for her life. She chose to wait on Him for strength, answers, direction and peace. I remember when she didn’t have peace about her illness. She shared with me that as she prayed peace truly came from God straight to her heart. And she chose to submit to God’s plan for her life. And now, after abiding with the Lord here for 33 years, Jess is abiding with Him in heaven and I am sure that He said to her, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”

God promises in Psalm 112 that “The righteous will be remembered forever (v. 6).” I know Jessica will be remembered by each one of us as a godly woman, a faithful wife, a devoted and loving mother, and a friend who has changed my life forever. I want to end with Jessica’s own words from her blog on January 30, 2008…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Star Telegram URLs

We didn't do a lot today-- mostly hung out with our family that is still in town, which was perfect for today. All three girls go back to school tomorrow while I am not going back to work yet this week.

I wanted to share with you Jessa's obituary and an article about her both of which were in the Star Telegram. Here's Jessa's obituary:
Here's the article about Jess:

On our wedding day Jess and I had an amazing mother and daughter sing songs that were precious to us. One of our family members told us one of them had posted on our blog, but I couldn't find it. Perhaps they said something on their own blog? Please post a comment if you know more about it. I did find in rereading comments over the past several days a new comment about Barbara (our minister who did our wedding). I was saddened to learn that Barbara had passed away from cancer-- I also thought that she and Jess shared the same heart for other people despite their own suffering.

Oops, I originally repeated the same story the first time I posted this. Here's a new one. Right before our wedding started, one of my groom's men said something I didn't expect to hear. We had just been told it was our time to make our entrance, when he said, "I have to go to the bathroom." When I asked him if it could wait, he told me that he was really nervous and now he had diarrhea-- and no he wasn't joking. Thankfully the music at our wedding was really good because those in attendance got to hear about ten more minutes of it covering for him.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day a day that honors saints both known and unknown. Considering the life Jess led I thought it was appropriate that she was buried today.

Eric, Jason, and Carla did an amazing job today. They did a fantastic job at the graveside service and at the memorial service as well. Combined with testimonies by Bob, Kara, Shannon, and Sandy I feel like they perfectly captured Jess and her purpose here on earth. If I were to sum up Jessa's life I would say what they said: she put others first, she was special because of God, and as a result God no doubt has told her, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Today was also a hard day. About half-way through the graveside service, Bryn asked, "Is mom in there?" Jadyn was ready for the memorial service to be over long before it was. Katelyn was amazing though. At one point Jadyn told me not to put my arm around Katelyn anymore. When I said something about me wanting to keep it there, Katelyn said she thought Jadyn wanted me to put my arm around her instead and that it was OK with her. It was what Jadyn wanted. Bryn also at one point took her stuffed lamb over to a crying Ella.

After everything was done, we went over to Jessa's grandmother's house. It was pretty amazing because there was so much family there because there were a lot of family there besides the McNutts: mostly the Kaylors and Moodys. Family is so important to me. Aunt Diane already has a aunt-niece play date with Jadyn: I think they came up with about thirty things to do.

On the way to our wedding, Jess rear-ended the car in front of her. When they saw the wedding dress in the passenger seat, they apologized to Jess-- never mind that she had hit them! Fortunately the car was drive-able because if it hadn't been we wouldn't have made it to San Antonio for our honeymoon. As it was, we had to have my car towed to the shop before we left. Tomorrow I will tell you what happened to one of my groom's men the day of the wedding.