Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year in review...

Because it is the end of the year... and I have not updated in dayzzzzzz. I thought I would post our year update/Christmas letter.
If you are at any way connected to or have donated to the trust, you have already seen all the words on this post! I did, for fun and interest, add more pictures!
2013 has been a rough year for the Chastain’s. It has also been a great year. We have celebrated so many awesome and wonderful things this past 365 days… all the while carrying a load that, at times, seems too heavy.  We are lifted up, encouraged and comforted, not only by those who love and support us, but by our Heavenly Father, who knew not only this path He had chosen for us to walk… but who provides a way for us to walk it with grace and strength.                      

Let’s start the family updates from the youngest up, shall we? That starts us off with one feisty little booger, Ryder. Ryder is 2, turns three in January. He is the strangest, sweetest, most infuriating child I have ever had the privilege to parent. He is loud, hilarious, smart, strong and cuddly. He is also stubborn and has to do everything himself.  This year he has busted a front tooth clean away, leaving him with a nice hillbilly hole in the front of his mouth, and been on the receiving end of 7 stitches in 2 different locations on his face. He is rough and tumble, and all boy. He also is a lover and wants a hug about every 30 minutes. He stretches me as a parent. And I love him to pieces.

            Rigg turned four on June 19th. He is obsessed with transformers, mazes, puzzles and asking why. About everything. He started preschool in the fall and I have seen an enormous change in him. He is more curious, more imaginative… and now knows all his letters, can count to “furty” (30) and is sounding out words.  Rigg is a thoughtful child, he contemplates what he hears and sees and asks deep questions. He is learning about Jesus at his school, Trinity Lutheran School, and at his Bible study. I have been able to share the gospel with my son over and over this year. He asked me on the way to school one morning “how do you believe?” He also stretches me as a parent, but in a totally different way than his brother. He is sweet, thoughtful and energetic. I am blessed to love a son like him.

            I am spending my time juggling all the different aspects that come with being a stay at home mom and wife of a cancer patient. I have learned to take over the bills, the home and car maintenance, and the hospital and pharmacy runs. All the while still doing dishes, laundry, loving and disciplining two growing boys and trying to keep up with friends and family. I have an amazing support system. If I am in need of anything, I have too many people waiting in line to help. I am constantly overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of how much my little family is loved. We have been blessed this year to have been given the gift of house cleaning. For the whole spring and summer a sweet girl I went to high school with paid to have my house cleaned once a week. When she was no longer able to do so, 12 families pitched in and have finished off the year with once a week cleanings. BEST.GIFT.EVER.

I have taken a very small leadership role in my bible study, Bible Study Fellowship. I am a substitute discussion leader and an overall fill-in where they might need me. The boys also attend BSF and love it. It is such a joy taking the boys and watching them learn the same lesson I am for the week. Along with BSF, I also started a small Etsy shop this year. Etsy.com is a site where people who make items can place those wares online to sell. In my shop, Printed Joy, I am currently doing art prints and cards. (http://www.etsy.com/shop/printedjoy) God has blessed my little shop more than I expected! I am filling 1-4 orders a week since opening and having so much fun designing not only the art offered in my shop, but custom orders as well.  And, let’s not forget our family blog… which I am so bad about updating as often I used to.  (www.andyandcari.blogspot.com)  The blog has long been a baby of mine, I love to write and process all that God has done and is doing. It just seems lately my life is full with other time worthy things, and the poor blog falls by the wayside. I still try to keep updates on the Captain (Andy) as close to real time as possible.
Ah, the Captain….
            A year ago, on Thanksgiving 2012, Andy was in the ER getting news that his tumor had returned. He underwent his second brain surgery on November 26th 2012. Since that day we have hit the ground running, so to speak, dealing with all the things that come with battling cancer. Radiation was done in Bloomington, IN for the first 6 weeks of 2013. While Andy was getting himself to and from treatments, resting at a wonderful facility in Bloomington (Jill’s House) and working on healing, I was home with two boys… trying to live a normal life as a single parent for a month and a half. Since that time Andy has slowly, ever so slowly, declined physically and cognitively. All the chemo and drug trial treatments, all the medicine, all the side effects from radiation, chemo, and drugs… have left him weak, tired and worn. Andy has had a couple different hospital stays, some ER visits, and a few scary moments. He has battled with massive swelling, drastic drops in blood pressure, and blood clots in his lungs and legs. He spends a lot of time resting and sleeping. It is an ongoing discussion between me and his amazing oncologist… the struggle between letting him rest and trying to find a reprieve for the fatigue and discomfort. His energy level is low and he is only up and going a few hours a day. It has been a hard transition for me, picking up all that Andy once did. But God has been gracious and has provided all of our needs… even some of our wants!

            He still has 2-6 months of chemo treatments left, a number that will be determined by MRI’s and doctors as we get closer to that point. The drug trial drug he is on is supposed to stop the growth of the tumor, because of this he will be on it indefinitely.  We spend every other Thursday at the hospital, getting treatments, seeing doctors, waiting in hard chairs. It has been a life shift… But God is faithful and we do not feel abandoned. Nothing is wasted, and we know God is using this for a purpose. Our prayer is that in every aspect of our lives, that God would receive glory.       
            “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly was are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”       ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ~
Andy, Cari, Rigg and Ryder


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Faithful, faithful,faithful.

The past week or so I have been ruminating over this past year of life. One tends to do that at the end of a year, and this year is no different. I have had a metric ton to think over, sort and sift through, but one main theme stands out; my God is overwhelmingly faithful.
So today I want to share with you how abundantly God has provided for my little family over the past year. Some of these stories I may have shared here, some I have not, but now is the time.
Late in 2012, about 2 months before the Captain's tumor was found, we decided to begin looking for a new church. It might be one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. When we came to the decision, I literally felt grieved, like I had lost someone precious to me. It was crushing.  Also that year, I started my bible study (BSF) in a different location, different side of town, different church, different ladies... it was all new and slightly scary. Not long after, we discovered the tumor was back and growing. I will not lie, I was terrified. Here we were in a really hard and needy place, and we had just stepped away from the only outlet I had ever seen God care for us from. I had no idea how we were going to make it... how God would provide. It was a true act of faith on my part to trust Him... because I had no vision of how or from where provision would come.
At this point I took my questions and doubts to God... I prayed for a peaceful heart that would trust in His promises to provide... but I admitted I was nervous...
to which God responded...Game on.
About a week before Christmas (2012) I received a letter in the mail telling me that because we were so far behind on our mortgage our house was not only being foreclosed on, but had an auction date set for early January 2013. I was stunned. Here I am trying to take care of Andy, get things in order for this uncertain new road we were on... and I get this letter. I had NO.IDEA. Andy had always taken care of the bills, and with this massive tumor growing in his head for the past year, he dropped a ball or two... understandably. We had about 3 weeks to pay 15,167 and change or our home was gone.
I panicked. I fell to my knees and cried.
Then I got a call. A family, whom I had never met, had prayed about giving us a gift. When asked what we needed, the man they asked replied "Just pray about it and give whatever you come up with."
That family wrote a check for $15,000.
Some days, when I am standing at my sink full of dirty dishes, staring out my tiny kitchen window while the kids make a colossal mess at my feet, I start to cry... because it is all happening in my home, that some generous, loving family so graciously saved for me, and I am beyond thankful. I can never say enough about what they have done... or the encouragement and faith they build in me that day.
God is faithful.
In the same vein, a lot of money has never been a problem we were burdened with. And now with Andy ill, me taking care of the boys and no income coming our way for the first 6 months of the year, there was some concern as to how we would live. Well God began His thing. He rolled up his proverbial sleeves and started throwing money at us from everywhere. Gift cards, a trust set up in Andy's' name, a benefit dinner to fill up the trust, checks, food, and all other manner of provision.
And since that time, money has been the furthest thing from my mind. I have not worried how something would get paid, or if the house would be warm, if we could afford dinner... God has continually come through, Just last week I got a card in the mail with some $ and a note saying $350 had been credited to our gas account... so we would be warm for the winter and I cried. Because every time we have a need, God comes up with the cash. Amazing.
God is faithful.
This summer I received a call from the leader of my bible study group. They asked if I wanted to join leadership. I accepted in a very small role, but God not only gave me a score of new faithful ladies to walk alongside, He gave me unity, comfort and a feeling of belonging. He took the scariness of a new place and made it feel like home.
God is faithful.
I have picked up a lot more responsibility in my role as wife and mom over the past few months. My time is stretched thin some days. I fill many shoes and wear many hats as some would say... and I also drop many balls... and lose lots of sanity.
The sweet family of a girl I went to high school with, gave the gift of house cleaning once a week all through the spring and summer months. She not only gave me a clean house, but she gave me time. Time that I would have spent sweeping and scrubbing was instead spend wrestling with the boys, lounging with the Captain and having coffee with friends. She not only gave me a clean house, but the ease that comes with knowing your home is clean and others can come over whenever... When she was no longer able to continue, 12 amazing families pitched in to finish off the year. It has been just another small thing God has given to help encourage me and give me rest.
Also, BEST.GIFT.EVER! (outside of my Salvation)
God is faithful.
I know Andy and myself are always getting cards, texts, notes, emails, comments and hugs of comfort and encouragement. We are being told in many ways and with beautiful words how much we are loved, cared for and prayed over. It is the thing that gets me through most days... because being a mommy is hard. Being a good wife is difficult. Being a homemaker and caregiver and errand runner and chauffeur and medicine sorter is wearing. These words of edification and encouragement are like water for my soul. They heal and bring peace.
A couple weeks ago I went to the grocery store after bible study. The boys were hyped up on life and I was tired. We finally get in the store and they start running circles around the produce section with me whisper screaming at them to "stop! for the love of all that is holy, please, stop!" And just when I reached the point where they were defeating me and I started leaking and melting... a precious lady from my bible study walked over to say hi to the boys. They bounced around her and told her about their morning... about the store... about their whole little lives it seemed... and then she hugged me and told me I was doing a good job.
God sent Rhonda to the store to help me that day.
God is faithful.
These are just a few of the hundreds of things God has done to bless us and care for us over the past year. He is faithful to the point of awe. He provides.
So my response to God, who so long ago took my worries, my doubts and my fears and said "game on."
I say.
Well, played, Sir. Well played!