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Dear Family and Friends,

Last week was the 7th anniversary of Sean’s passing. 

In some of your eyes, I have seen the unspoken question, “How can you still believe in God, after this?” or “How can you still trust God after this?”   “If God is the all-powerful God you say He is, why didn’t He stop this, why didn’t He heal Sean?”   “You don’t really think Sean’s death was part of God’s plan—that God actually planned to take Sean home—do you?”

I know what motivated those questions—pain, (those of you who knew Sean, loved him, and his death brought searing pain)—and fear—(if God could take our child, will He take yours?)

Sometimes death is a relief– but when death comes unexpectedly and to one who is young and beloved, it brings devastation with it.   It is a reminder that we are not in control of our own lives—and it brings the question—is God really in control?   Don’t these things just happen?

I remember when my friend Becki Crain died, asking these same questions, wrestling with God, questioning and doubting Him.

Then again when Sean died, I did the same thing.   I somehow forgot all the ways God has worked in my life in the past, and all the times I have been immersed in His presence, and all the answers to prayers, and all the times He has provided for us and protected us.  My feelings went haywire—and I was bombarded by negative thoughts about God.  So here’s what I have done in those situations—

 I research again, the validity of God’s Word.  I start with researching whether or not Jesus rose from the dead– why?  Because I agree with the apostle Paul, when he says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain.

Each time I have done this research, I have confirmed the truth of what happened.  Jesus did live, He did die, He did Rise from the dead—and He tells us that He is coming Again!!   I confirm the consistency and truth of His written Word, and the trustworthiness of His Word.

Therefore, I can take God at His Word.  These are some of the verses, I cling to:

“In this world, you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” John. 16:33

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and God’s peace which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Philippians 4:6,7

“Everyone who hears my words and acts on them, may be compared to the man who built his house on the rock, and the rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet  it did not fall for it had been founded on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24,25

“All things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor angels, or principalities, nor things present, or things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will ever be able to  separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. ” Romans 8: 38,39

“Therefore we do not lose heart…..”2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

I don’t know all the answers.  I don’t know why Sean died.  I do know that God knows, and that is enough for me.  

I do know that I can trust this God, who came down to earth from Heaven and offered Himself up for me and offered Himself up for you, and that is enough for me.

I do know that this God loves me, and this God loves you, and that is enough for me.

God is enough for me.  God is enough for you.  Let’s be Encouraged!!

Much love,

Katie

Sean James Stanton

7 years ago, on September 16th, my 16 year old son Sean was riding his bike.  It was a beautiful, lovely September day.  He was hit by a vehicle.  My husband is a firefighter/first responder and he was paged to the accident, not knowing that it was Sean, but knowing it was Sean at the same time.

A friend of ours kept a journal of the events of that fateful day and the events that were to follow. She gave me copies of this journal recently and I am going to share some of her thoughts with you all, to give glory to the Lord who carried us through these days, and has been carrying us every day since.

“It’s been about 2 1/2 weeks since Sean Stanton got hit by a car while riding his bike and died the next day.  Of course, there are some moments about that week that I’ll never forget, but I want to record a few things because I know how time goes by and some of the details slip away.

Monday, September 16th about 6:10 pm Katie called and said, “Listen, Sean’s been hit by a car and is going to be life flighted to Hurley and I need to bring the girls over.”  She came over with the girls and then left to go to the hospital.  Rich called a few minutes later….I asked about Sean and he said, “It’s bad, it’s bad” and then gave the phone to Katie.  She told me that she got to see Sean and bent down to pray for him and was all bloody when she stood up.  She also begged me to spread the word to anyone/everyone to pray!  She said, “Pray specifically that he’ll live because he might not! (ugh!) and that he doesn’t have a head injury, that his neck isn’t broken, that he won’t be paralyzed and that he’ll have a full recovery.”

So, we prayed, emailed others to pray, etc.  While I was gone in the evening, LP called and talked to my husband… not good news….brain damage, internal bleeding and the Doctor at Hurley Medical Center, told them to prepare for the worst.  LP went to get the Stantons’ other kids so they could all be together.

So we tried to sleep but it was nearly impossible.  I texted them at midnight that I was thinking of them with a heavy but hopeful heart and Katie replied that” they were waiting to get test results to see if he is brain dead or not”  Oh, I can’t imagine how her night went.  I tried to sleep but got back up at 1pm and came out to the living room to pray…of course, I wanted God to choose to glorify Himself through healing Sean…stunning the medical world, etc.  I found out later Katie stayed up all night singing to Sean.  Oh, how hard that memory will be…but hopefully somehow precious as well.  Rich said he thinks he finally slept around 3 a.m. for a bit…in the room with Sean. 

Tues 9/17:  I took S & B to the children’s museum and while we there in the music room Katie texted @ 11:43am:  “He’s gone.”  I read it and gasped then covered my mouth and started to cry.  I think S asked, “Is it about Sean?”  and then after I nodded, “Did Sean die?”  I told her yes and that we had to go.  I dropped off B and came home and cried with my husband…he hugged me and I cried…although he was choked up, too.  Of course, we couldn’t eat and felt totally shocked…it was surreal…unbelievable and heartbreaking.  We felt utterly helpless as to how reach out to the Stantons…we assumed they’d be home later that night and we’d see them but we didn’t know that Sean was being sustained on life support so his organs could be donated.  After a long, sad, confusing day, (people were posting on Sean’s FB to keep praying…he’s still alive…ugh…it was awful.)

Finally I talked to LP, who called Katie to find out what was happening and then it was clear…yes, he’s gone but being sustained till the organ donor team could come.  Meanwhile, lots of email and fb messages going back and forth…..  Todd Wilson*, after I emailed him about Rich being so strong for his family, “I hope God never asks it of me.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013—I had decided the night before, (after talking to LP again) that I would drive down and hope to see them.  They had been told 24-36 hours til the organ donor team would be in place.  She also said Rich and Katie had welcomed Sean’s friends to come and see him…Rich referred to it as a “living visitation”.  I guess most of Shepherd’s Cross Country team came down and many others.  The girl Sean liked came down and her mother posted on Sean’s fb page that they had their “1st and last kiss” – ugh—so sad.  So, I arrived at 10 and found Katie sitting by Sean’s bed with her sister.  We hugged and cried and then she introduced me to her sister and started telling me how things had gone the day before as far as people coming to see Sean, as well as just reminiscing and telling funny stories about Sean.

This  is where the really powerful memories became etched on my heart—seeing Katie and her mom weeping together, holding each other with really no words, seeing M & D just sobbing as the reality would hit them afresh and then Rich strong, comforting, rock solid– reminding them of God’s sovereignty while heart broken himself….wow.  He reminded them that God could have made Sean or the driver, (a believer—which was so comforting for them I think.) go a little faster or a little slower but for them both to be there at that exact moment was basically a divine appointment.  Rich reminded us all, (as he spoke to his sons), that our tears are for ourselves and that Sean is in a better place.

I went to Sean’s bedside and held his hand and arm and looked at his face thanking God for the 16+ years that we all had him and for his sweet spirit and kind heart.

Katie said that morning as we sat by Sean’s bed that they knew he was already in heaven but I’m sure they, like me feel thankful for those bedside moments…seeing Sean still warm and still breathing, although not on his own…it was far more peaceful and comforting than seeing him in the casket.  I know that’s the whole point of a viewing…seeing that the person—their soul and spirit—is gone and that what you see is merely a ‘shell’… this earthly tent.  JC wrote something about this on facebook and mentioned that his dad reminded him that people think about us as “having’ a soul but in reality we are the soul and we have a body.  Anyway, I just felt thankful for every moment that I shared with the Stantons by Sean’s side that morning.  I told them how very generous it was for them to share Sean and those moments in the hospital with anyone who wanted to come.  Even while I was there one of them was on the phone with someone from MP who wanted to know if people could still come or if they wanted people to stop coming and they said if people want to come tell them to come.  WOW!

Then my dear friend wrote this in a letter, when she shared this journal with me:

We are praying for your whole family as you remember, hurt, and grieve together on a deeper level this week.  I’m guessing it never really gets any easier to go on without Sean.  We love you guys and are thankful for your friendship and are humbled as we watch you move forward in life with such deep wounds and pain.  Watching you “keep on keeping on” in your faith after losing Sean.. well, it’s a gift to those around you to see you “suffering well”  (reference is from a Piper article I read a while back…actually it was written by another guy Marshall Segal, who writes for DesiringGod.org…”Few things fortify the soul against Satan’s deception like watching another Christian suffer with persevering faith.  When we watch others walk through the valley of the shadow of death with purpose and joy in God, through ups and downs, their faithfulness and endurance inspire fresh hopefulness and vigilance.”  It’s a great article and of course, made me think of you both.)  One of the most powerful images I carry with me, (that I didn’t write about in this journal entry) is of you guys singing with hands held high In praise to our loving Father at Sean’s funeral…Praise you in the Storm.”  It is seared in my heart and mind…witnessing your faith…trusting God despite the horrendous circumstance that you were facing.

I’m so sorry Sean is gone….so sorry you didn’t get to watch him continue to mature into adulthood and see him become an Uncle, (a doting Uncle I’m sure) to your precious grandkids or become a dad himself one day.  He certainly would’ve been an amazing husband and father!!  He was one of the warmest souls I have ever known.

This is me – Katie—speaking now—what a precious gift my friend has given to us by sharing with us this journal—by continuing to show her love and concern.  One of the ways that God ministered to us then and now– is through His body of believers—people who came along besides us and helped us and ministered to us. I wrote my own version of these events in my blog, “The Gift of Grace”, where I talk about God’s presence which sustained us and still sustains us.

I wanted you all—people I have met and people I have not—to know that God is real.  He is real.  He is love– even during the worst times of your life.  I am praying for all of you reading this blog, right now, that you will know God and be filled up with His love which has no end. I am praying that you will be encouraged!

*I used Todd Wilson’s full name as he is a public person, as a Christian author and speaker.

To Can Or Not To Can?

My daughter and I worked all afternoon, making applesauce.  It is quite a process to wash, then quarter apples, boil them until they are soft enough to process them into applesauce with the Vitrola, and then can them and process them again in the canner until—voila—many hours later– all we have to show for our hard labor is 7 jars of applesauce.  Or is that all we have to show…..

We enjoyed talking with each other during this time, laughing and joking.  I relived memories of watching my parents can, and when I was old enough—helping them can.

My Dad was taught to can by his grandparents, and my mother was taught to can by her grandparents. 

Participating in this activity, links me to a tradition that has been in my family for generations—of producing food, and canning it to prepare for the winter.

Years ago, after canning tomatoes, my son Sean—who had helped with the process of gardening and canning—wondered why I went to all that work and labor.  “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy some cans of tomatoes at the store?”   He wasn’t wrong, it probably would have been less expensive in some ways—but now I have the memories of Sean working in the garden—ok—in some of those memories—he was complaining—and Sean helping in the canning process–ok–there was also some complaining going on there as well 🙂 , and I have memories of these things with my other children as well. 

Someday my children may have gardens, they may can, and honestly after this past year—the ability to grow and preserve our own food is a handy skill to have.

I am so impressed and amazed with how many of my siblings and cousins have beautiful gardens.  It is something that was passed down in our family tree—this love of the land, and the desire to grow vegetation.

I was talking to some of my International Friends this week, and we were talking about canning, and pickling.  One of my friend’s mother is a great pickler, and we joked about having her Skype with us and teach us how to pickle. 

Except I wasn’t really joking—I would love to learn from her mom about pickling.

If you have someone in your life that you want to learn a skill from—I encourage you to make the time to learn.  Make some memories–  Learn a skill—that you may be able to pass on to someone else.

Engaging with each other, talking with each other, working with each other—these are precious things—these are encouraging things, and since this is the National Day of Encouragement—I hope that you are encouraged!!  God Bless you!!

Worried?–no? Praying–Yes!!

Well… my birthday has come and gone—and newsflash—I actually had a lovely day!!  I am not sure why after years of having terrible melancholy on my birthday, this year, it was a sweet and enjoyable day.  As I explained in the blog, titled, “The Beat goes on.”, since I can remember, I have felt terribly sad on my birthday, and I don’t know why.  In fact, I just expect to feel badly—but this year although I expected to feel badly–  I did not!!!, and I can only attribute this to the fact that I let you’all know I was feeling sad, and you’all prayed for me; you fought this spiritual battle with me, and for this, I am grateful, so, very, very grateful, and so is my family. 

  I must say, that you prayed for me before—when I wasn’t sleeping, and I shared that with you’all in my blog, “The Gift of Sleep, has been taken away.” and then in my blog, ” I am sleeping again, Thank you God!!,” I was able to tell you’all that I was indeed sleeping again— because you were praying for me.!!

  Wow—who knew that this would be the benefit of writing this blog to me!!  I thought I was just stepping out in faith and being obedient to what God was telling me to do—but God knew that He would also be using this blog in my life—to help me in fighting  spiritual battles.

I hope you will share on my blog areas you need prayer, as I think this could be one of the most encouraging and transforming elements of this blog—all of us praying for each other.

I ask you to pray for my family and myself as we come up to one of the most difficult seasons of the year for us.  We lost our beloved son, (and for my children—their brother), seven years ago this coming September 17th.  Sean was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike on September 16th, and declared dead on the 17th.

This is a season with great pain and suffering, not just for me and my family, but for our entire nation–for many, many reasons. I am praying that our circumstances draw us to the Lover of our souls and that we find what we have all been thirsting and hungering after in Him. May we love one another as we are filled with His love. May our country be changed because of that love.

I found this video that gives examples of the transforming power of God. I found it to be so, so encouraging, and hope it encourages you as well.

We have so much to pray for and about.  I encourage all of us to go before the throne of God to find help in our time of need.  Let us set aside time everyday to humble ourselves before His Mighty Hand and pray!!  And Let Us Be Encouraged!!

I don’t want to leave a legacy….

I have a newborn granddaughter, and she loves music. She calms down when we put music on. Her Aunt Julia, a classical violinist, plays classical music for her. I play christian music for her, and she loves the following song in particular—“Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns.

I love this song as well, and this is what I long for in my life, not that I would be known, but that my life would point others to Jesus. This is my great desire. Hope you enjoy this song, and hope it encourages you as it encourages me!!

And the Beat goes on…..

And the Beat goes on…..

La de da de de, la de da de da…..

For those of you too young to recognize this, it is a line from an old Sonny and Cher song.  It sums up life—it keeps going on, in spite of tragedies and traumas all around us.

It does not stop for anything—not even for pandemics, not for losing precious loved ones, not for anything.

Life keeps going on…

There is something to be said for that—for knowing that the Sun will come out tomorrow, that one season will follow the next season, that there will be a high tide and a low tide.  There will be consistency among all the uncertainties of life.

The Beat goes on… la de da de di, la de da de da….

The One who created those consistencies is also consistent –in fact He tells us that, “I am the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  “ I am the rock.”  “He who listens to me and believes my words is like the man who built his house on the rock, and when the storms of life come, that house will not fall.”

La de da de de, la de da de da….Yes, the Beat goes on….

I am writing this mostly for myself—to encourage myself—I need to rely on the Rock.  I need to listen to His words.  I need to take comfort from the Lord. 

I am coming up to two very difficult things in my life—my birthday, and the loss of my son Sean.

Since I was really young, I have had a hard time around my birthday.   I don’t know why.  I do know that my mother almost lost her life when I was born.  I do know that my son died a few weeks after my birthday.  Needless to say, when my birthday comes close, I feel terribly sad—and I have felt this way since I can remember.

7 years ago, I still had my son on my birthday.  I was still terribly sad. 

I used to try to make myself feel better on my birthday, but now I just accept the sadness, knowing it will pass.  My spirit is grieving, and I let it grieve.  But in the back of my mind, I am remembering, that life will go on, no matter what…..

Yes, the Beat goes on……

So Be Encouraged!!

P.S. The featured picture is of my grandson kissing my newborn granddaughter, proof that life does indeed–go on. 🙂 At times, life goes on very sweetly, indeed. 🙂

If you are reading this…….

Young women, if you are reading this, it is because God has something to say to you about marriage and about loving your husband.

God wants you to experience oneness and love in your marriage, and yet He knows that you may not experience intimacy, and at times find it difficult– if not impossible– to truly love you husband.

Why?  Because you married a human being.  (Your husband also married a human being.)

Marriage will expose both of your humanness in a way that nothing else will.  It will expose the areas where God made you in His own image, and the areas where sin has been allowed to grow and rule.  It will expose your sinfulness and selfishness and your husband’s sinfulness and selfishness. (And if I am being perfectly honest–it is much easier for me to see my husband’s faults than it is for me to see my own, and vice versa.)

At times, you will wonder, “who is this person I married?”—he will seem such a stranger to you.

At times you will wonder, “who am I, and why am I acting this way? I seem such a stranger to myself”.

This is what I know, after being married for 31 years—it is God who has brought my husband and I to this point—I mean that in every way.  We have raised 5 children together and lost a son, we have experienced sorrow so terrible—it seemed we could not go on and joy so great, we rejoiced in our life; we have weathered many storms in life—and believe me when I say that every day, sometimes moment by moment, we choose to hang on to God.

So, if I could give you any advice, any advice—it is—hang on, hang on—to God and to each other.  Sometimes it will seem as if you are riding the rapids of life, and you are—so hang on!!  

When you don’t think you can hang on for one more minute–read 1 Corinthians 13, and ask God to show you how to love your husband.  Thank Him for loving you as He describes it in 1 Corinthians 13— and ask Him to fill you up with His love.

He will!!  And while we may, with our limited strength, be hanging onto God, please know that He is always holding onto us with His infinite strength, and He won’t let go!! So Be Encouraged!!

Marriage advice from John and Wendy Beckett

Since Rich and I celebrated our 31st anniversary this week, I wanted to give couples some hope and encouragement in their own marriages, and I found this sweet 6 minute video of John and Wendy Beckett, a couple who has been married for 58 years, almost twice as long as Rich and I have been married. They say everything I would have liked to have said and I hope they encourage you as much as they have encouraged me!!

Happy 31st Anniversary to us!!

Love –God’s Gift

PUBLISHED ON 

Tomorrow is my husband and my 30th wedding anniversary.  I remember the first time I saw my husband.  We were both on staff with Cru, (a Christian ministry), working with college students in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Staff were taking college students down to Florida for a conference being held over Spring Break and we were riding on Greyhound Buses.  My roommate pointed out the new staff guy in Wisconsin from our bus window.  Rich was standing out in the parking lot talking to some other staff.  He was tall, athletic looking, with dark curly hair, and I thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen.  I was not looking so lovely, in my sweats, with my hair pulled back in a ponytail, and my thick round glasses on.  (I had decided to forgo my contacts and attractive clothes for comfort.  I was not looking for a husband or a boyfriend, finally happy with my single status at the ripe young age of 27.)

Rich ended up riding on our bus, and sitting in the seat right next to me, (I’m still not sure how that happened).  We talked for the entire 24-hour trip.  We had so much in common; we shared about our families, our college experiences, friends we had in common.  One of the weirdest things that we discussed is that when I graduated from college, I got a job in Columbus, OH.  Rich was finishing his degree at Ohio State University.  We went to the same church for a while, had many of the same friends, babysat for the same family, remember being at certain places at the same time—and we never once met each other or remember seeing or even hearing about each other.  It’s as if God blinded our eyes to one another.  It was not time yet for us to meet.

I remember thinking after that bus trip, “this guy is going to be one of my best friends”.  I felt so comfortable with him, like I had come home.  Rich told me later, that he knew from that bus ride, that he was going to marry me.

Forward to the night before our wedding—I stayed up until 3 a.m. talking with my friend who was one of my bridesmaids, trying to decide if I was really going to go through with the wedding.  There was a storm outside, thunder and lighting and rain—weather truly suitable to the turmoil I was feeling inside.  Could I do this?  Could I really commit my life to this man?  The fear I was experiencing was palpable.  Finally, I went to sleep, and the next morning, I woke up to sunny skies and a feeling of absolute joy and peace exploding within my heart.  God was giving me reassurance that this man was for me, and He would be with me, every step of the way.

I realize now that the reason I was so fearful about making a commitment to one man for the rest of my life, was because I was terrified about letting one person see who I really was and seeing another person for who they were.  I was nervous about the soul intimacy of marriage.  Marriage is about becoming one with another person, which in my mind meant becoming vulnerable to that person, while that person became vulnerable to me.

I did not want to do this– to be vulnerable is to open oneself to being hurt.  I had been hurt in the past and was not eager to be hurt at that level again, at the same time I did not want to hurt Rich.

Before Rich and I got engaged, I prayed and asked God, “Do you want me to marry Rich?”  God answered me, “This man needs to be loved.”  I knew God was telling me that if I married Rich, I was not to hold anything back.

The Holy Spirit has been my faithful teacher.  Nudging me to apologize when I’ve been wrong.  Spurring me on to act out love—even when I do not feel love.  Giving me the courage to be vulnerable, and share who I really am, even when I am filled with fear.  Giving me the faith and patience to accept my husband, realizing it is God’s role to transform my husband in His timing, just as it is God’s role to transform me.

In addition to all these things, God has brought other brothers and sisters in Christ into our lives to help us along the way.  There are times in our lives that I don’t know how we would have endured without this help.  Particularly after our son, Sean died.

I must be honest and say that while at times the Body of Christ has been amazing, it has also been disappointing.   The Body is made up of people, and people—the people to whom we are married, or the people with whom we go to church are not perfect – not by a long shot.  (I include myself as part of the “People”).

Therefore, I have come to glory in what Jesus has done on the cross in dying for us amazing and many times broken people. 

Jesus’s death on the cross is the perfect expression of love.  He sees us for who we really are, and He loves us anyway.  He demonstrated that love by dying for us, so we could belong to Him, and be with Him, forever.

In the movie, “Sleepless in Seattle”, there is a scene where the woman in it describes a scene from another movie—a classic, called “An Affair to Remember:.  In, “An Affair to Remember”, the heroine is in an accident and is paralyzed, and the hero finds her, (after searching for her for a long time), and finds out she is paralyzed, and they embrace and he cries, “I wish it had been me, not you”.  (I always, always cry during this part, as it hits that part of me that recognizes true sacrificial unconditional love—the longing within each human heart.)

This is the love that God has for each of us.  He sees us for who we truly are and loves us unconditionally.  He loves us sacrificially.  So even when others disappoint, God does not.  (Sometimes, that does not “feel” like the truth – but it is the truth, even when it does not “feel” like it.  Our feelings can lie to us, but God and His love letter to us—The Bible—never lie).

It has helped me to remember how forgiven I am, when I need to forgive my husband.  Mostly, it helps to remember how loved I am.  I have been loved with an everlasting love.  You have been loved with an everlasting love.   This love will never fail.  This love will never, ever leave.  Hebrews 13:5

                      So Be Encouraged!!