This past Saturday, December 6th, marks three years since Abby went home to be with Jesus. So much has changed for us during that time, and yet much has stayed the same. The biggest changes most of you are aware of, but I will recap anyway in case there are some that have read this blog but haven't heard.
In November of 2006 our friends, the Crosses, shared with us that they thought God was leading them to move to Utah--and they wanted us to come with them. We were floored to say the least, we counted them among our best friends, and could never have survived Abby's illness without their steadfast support. We said we would pray about it, but the logical part of my mind said "no way are we moving to Utah--I just got a new job that was really great, we have family here, our church is here..." But as many of you know, God has a way of changing our minds about things.
One of the things that comforted us during Abby's illness was the unmistakable whispering of the Holy Spirit that told us we weren't going through this experience apart from God's knowledge--it wasn't the arbitrary or capricious whim of a detached God, or an "accident" of which He was unaware. He had reasons, and He told us He would let us know in due time what He was preparing us for. Over the next few months the reasoning began to take shape. We had been involved with HopeKids during much of Abby's treatment, attending the wonderful events that they provided and reveling in the ability to be a "normal" family for just a little while. One day while folding laundry Amy pulled out one of our HopeKids t-shirts and found herself wondering if there was a chapter in Utah. A quick email to Rob Cottrell (founder and president of HopeKids) elicited a quick response, "No, why do you ask?" And from then on out things began to become clear--God was asking us to relocate to Utah to start a chapter of HopeKids there. And to make things more amazing, He had been preparing us for this long before Abby was even a part of our family--we had known the Crosses for 15+ years, and God knew that we would need to work together to make this happen.
It's impossible to overestimate God's hand in the events that followed in the next few months. We sold our house in less than a month in a very poor real estate market, and we got more than our asking price for it. The Crosses also managed to sell their house across the street from us, and we found houses across the street from each other in Utah. PODS (the portable storage company) stepped up and helped us with moving and storage costs. My remaining vacation days at work were exactly what I needed to house shop, pre-move, pack, and move. The list goes on and on.
Now we've been in Utah for almost 6 months. We continue to homeschool, we're involved in a homeschool co-op that has been such a blessing, we've found a good church, and made new friends.
And our brand-new HopeKids chapter is healthy and growing. Thanks to Rob's diligence we had 30 families when we arrived, now we have 70. We've done events at Classic Fun Center (roller rink/bounce jungle/all around cool party place), movies, a camping trip, a mock football game (the Mascot Bowl), and we have an awesome Christmas Party coming up.
And meeting the families and their HopeKids has been the best part of all. These kids are fantastic--they endure so much, but their spirit remains strong, and we like to think that we play a part in that.
We're writing more about our adventures here in Utah at our new blog: http://theoldhamfamily.com. We will keep posting here at abbysjourney.net infrequently as we gain insight or experience things relevant to our time with Abby. And we want to leave this record online so others who wrestle with cancer might gain from it.
As for Abby's third "heavenly birthday," we went with the Crosses to the Festival of Trees. This is a fundraiser for Primary Children's Medical Center, where people decorate themed Christmas trees, create centerpieces, door wreaths, gingerbread houses, and other Christmas decorations, and these items are sold to raise money for the hospital. Over 800 trees were on display.
We saw trees of every possible theme: Barbie, Golf, BYU and University of Utah, Video games, Disney, and of course traditional Christmas ideas.
We thought this would have been something Abby would have enjoyed if she had been with us.
Emotionally, and as a family we are doing well. God is good, He comforts us even when we don't realize we need it. We have bad days and good days, I expect that will always be the case. Not a day goes by that we don't miss Abby or think of her, or wonder if she would have liked this or that, or what her interests would be as she got older. All our kids still take turns sleeping with Panda.
I am proud and thankful to God that while our experiences shaped us, after three years I can say with certainty that they don't define us. Instead of allowing Abby's illness and passing to create the boundaries of our lives, we are privileged instead to live for others, helping them cope with circumstances that can be unimaginably painful, and trying to be like Jesus to them, just like so many others were for us. We're not perfect, but the Bible says all we really have to do is be faithful to His call.
May God bless you and yours during this Christmas season!
We have lots of news to report for any of you that might not be on our other email list. We will write more about that soon.
Life is busy but God is faithful. We’ve been up to a lot these past 9 months. I’ll highlight the big events.
We celebrated New Years in Pinetop, AZ with some of the members of our families. We enjoyed the cozy cabin and the fun times with family. The kids loved their experience with snow. Josiah hadn’t seen snow since he was 18 months old. Daniel and Elizabeth had never seen snow. They were thrilled with sledding even though mom was a little anxious. Their sled run ended at the lake. After a little practice, the kids learned to steer the sled off to the side and the human blockade of parents received fewer bruises.
In the spring, Daniel discovered a love for soccer. He enjoyed the sport and played with a great team. Of course, the trophy was the highlight of his season. We were very proud of the sportsmanship he displayed during the season, though it did take some training at the beginning to convince him it was OK to steal the ball from members of the other team.
In early February, we took a quick trip to Disneyland with our friends, Joe and Jennie Cross and their family. We brought along a wonderful babysitter who helped out with the kids so we could spend some focused time at the parks with the older, then the younger kids. Elizabeth was thrilled with all the fast rides she was tall enough to ride. She asked to ride Big Thunder repeatedly. She definitely takes after her big sister. Abby was a thrill seeker when it came to rides…just like their mommy. Daniel was hesitant to try out Space Mountain, but after we insisted he try it, he was hooked. Josiah had the same hesitation about riding California Screamin’ but ended up declaring it his favorite ride. The highlight of the entire trip for the boys was when they were selected to participate in the Jedi Training Academy. They enjoyed "using their lightsaber skill to defeat the Dark Side," which included mock combat with Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Vader, of course, could have been anyone (since his suit doesn't show his face), but the person who played the role of Darth Maul looked identical to the one in the movie. We wish you could have seen the boys' faces when they rejoined our entire group--"And I got to fight DARTH VADER!!!!!!"
We wondered what it would be like to visit a Disney park again. We hadn’t been to one since our last trip to California with Abby. So many elements of our days there would make us think of her, but it was a relief to realize that our memories were mostly happy ones. We thought of her especially when we sat near the same place we did on our last trip to watch the parade, and saw Ariel waving from her float. We wondered if there are parades in heaven. As always, God made a potentially painful memory full of joy for us, but we simply added to our treasure chest of memories associated with visiting the Mouse.
In February, Josiah researched and became Galileo for the Eagleridge Living History Museum. He had a great time learning about Galileo’s discoveries and we experienced the challenge of making his hair prematurely white.
In April we once again hosted our annual Easter gathering, a tradition we have held for most of the last 10+ years. Most of the members of our families join us, as do several families from our church and neighborhood. Our guest list sometimes exceeds 40 names. The older kids are now the egg hunt hiders for the younger ones. We are amazed at how fast they grow up.
Spring would be incomplete in the Oldham home without butterflies! We visited the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the Painted Lady butterfly pavilion and, of course, watched our own caterpillars undergo the amazing transformation. Release day always makes us think of Abby. She loved butterflies and we’re sure she is enjoying them in heaven now.
Elizabeth made her stage debut with her ballet class at church in the May recital. She had a great time performing with her friends and continues to love dance. Although, we did promise her she could try out soccer this winter. She is taking after her brother, Daniel.
In June, the boys participated in the annual choir camp at church. This year they performed Nic at Night, a dramatization of the passages in the New Testament about Nicodemus. Josiah was excited to have a speaking part with his best friend, Brad Cross. They were Roman guards who really got into their part. Daniel impressed us with his ability to stand still and focus through the whole performance. His secret is out now! He can sit still :)
We spent some special time with our nieces, Amber and Cheyenne this summer. We celebrated with Cheyenne as she finished Junior High with a ceremony at the Arizona Science Center. She has been attending Arizona Virtual Academy, so graduates there were from all over the state. Then, later in the summer, we treated all the kids to a few days at a local hotel/water park. The water slide was a big hit.
We ended our summer with the kids and me joining my parents and Amber on a quick trip to Christopher Creek in Payson. They reveled in their creek experience which included building dams, wading, and catching crawdads. It was a peaceful and fun few days.
In September HopeKids offered free family portraits. We put on our Give Kids the World shirts and Abby buttons and brought along Pandas to represent Abby. She is still very much a part of our family even though she is not with us physically. Yes, Panda still makes the rounds at night in our home. He’s getting pretty worn but it’s probably ok with Abby :)
Our kids all celebrated birthdays this summer. Elizabeth turned 4, then Josiah turned 11 and finally, Daniel turned 6. We are proud of the sweet, sensitive, and fun-loving children they are growing into. We often pray that God will use their lives and their experience with Abby to bless many people. It is neat to see their genuine concern for others when they hear about a child who has cancer. They understand what that means and their prayers for the family are heartfelt.
C.R. continues to work hard and succeed at his new job at Marvell. His group is responsible for the processor core that goes in the Blackberry phone as well as many other smartphones and devices that require low power but high performance. It's been a very fulfilling transition for him.
I am juggling the homeschool mom schedule of keeping up with lesson plans, laundry, shopping….and the list goes on. Yet, I love it and feel blessed. Our homeschool co-op group meets on Friday afternoons and I have the privilege of teaching the younger bunch. I have 6 girls from age 3 ½ to 6. They are a lovely group and we are having a good time together.
We are coming up on Abby’s birthday in October and her spiritual birthday in December (the day she went to be with Jesus). You can pray for us to continue to feel God’s peace and hope. We still miss having her here and we cry sometimes but we are not without hope. God seems to reveal more and more of Himself to us every day. Our morning times with Him have become so important, the verses in Scripture that talk about seeking Him have taken on new truth to us as we have laid hold of the associated promises and found them to be unwavering.
We've recently been venturing into a support group for families fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, not so much to be supported, but because we feel that God is directing us to use our experiences to help others. Would you please pray for two families that we have met through this group? Hannah, age 5, has leukemia, and Abby F. (11) has alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. Both are making progress in their treatment.
We thank you for your continued prayers.