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!