Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just another Levi memory.....

Prior to the last couple of weeks that Levi was here with us, every evening had the same routine. I was always the last one home from work – usually after they had eaten and were ready to nap for a while. Levi would hear my car pull up and he always met me at the door! Eager to greet me with his whole little (65lb) body with the smiling because he knew that after I petted him….the fun would being. I always said hello to him – patted his head and then said – Levi where’s your ball? That was the signal that we were fixing to play.

Every night he would run back into the den to get his ball so that I could chase him…He would do this for hours if his little body would let him. Playing with him was so much fun! On this particular night, he went running into the den and sat by the back door. Levi always knew where his ball was normally but he just sat by the door that leads to the patio.

I looked everywhere for his ball….down on my hands and knees looking under the sofa, the TV stand, behind the toy box, under the recliners, behind the sofa…etc…etc…etc. I even made Coach Burns look for it also. After we combed the den and could not find it…we went to the kitchen, to the bedroom, to the big bathroom.. You get the picture – we must have spent a good 45 minutes looking for the ball.

All the while, Levi was sitting by the door patiently waiting. I finally said – Lil Ball Boy tonight we are going to have to use a different ball because mom can’t find your favorite. I then asked Coach Burns if Levi needed to go outside because he was sitting by the door – he assured me that they went out after dinner and he did not need to go back out.

And again, Levi sat patiently waited – I offered him several other balls to play with – he would not have any of them and stayed by the door. I finally decided that he must need to go outside despite what Coach Burns had told me. I opened the door – it was pitch black outside and Levi took off into the back yard running like he was chasing a cat….he must have stayed out there 10 minutes or so….I went into the laundry room to start the nightly chore of washing clothes only to return to the den and find my precious Levi ready to play ball because he had found his ball….in fact he knew exactly where it was at all the time….I just did not pay attention and let him outside to get it. What a smart little fellow he was.

The moral of this story is sometime I get so caught up in trying to fix/find/help things myself that I don’t realize that there is someone patiently waiting to answer my cares and concerns, my troubles, my insecurities, my loneliness, my pain if only I would notice that HE is waiting by the door.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Thank You Lord for patiently waiting on me! And for the stories that can be told thru a Lil Ball Boy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Go tell it on the mountain....AGAIN!

Night in Bethlehem 2011 appreciation dinner is this Sunday night (April, 29th) and my mind is full of feelings and words and memories….so in order to process everything and neatly store it away – I feel the need to write it all down.
This was our 5th year of telling the story of that wondrous night some 2000 years ago when Jesus came to earth as a baby to be our Savior! You would think that each year of telling the story would bring the same results and the same memories but that is not the case! God continues to grow us even though by now most of us can recite it all by heart!
Let’s take a walk through all the prior years of NIB – just a few memories that need not be forgotten.

NIB 2007 – the very first one for WBC – we were without a pastor and using pulpit supply at the time. There was some distress among the flock wondering in the dark without a visible shepherd to keep the herd in line. It was the most primitive of set designs as we attempted to reenact that special night for the first time as an outreach program. It took weeks to prepare for and we spent many long hours together! It came together and despite the weather and a few glitches – we successfully told the story night after night to the visitors. But the amazing thing that happened in year one was that God took a scared flock and transformed them into a family – a true family! We told the story of the love of God sending Jesus to save us and in essence was given that love for each other! – Priceless memories – Thank you Lord!

NIB 2008 – Bigger sets and live animals….fun fun fun for those in charge of the animals! Lots of hard work..beautiful tents and backdrops….cold, hot, rain – the show must go on and it did!! What a blessing it was despite the hard work and the weather! The story was shared and once again we grew closer to the Lord and to each other! This year yielded me a photo that will forever be one of my favorite pictures – Ashley as the angel, Lex as Joseph and Kathryn Ray as Mary! Thank you Ms. Sheila for capturing that memory on film!

 NIB 2009 – A new pastor and a new beginning as we gathered together once again to share the story for one more season! Lots of set building and reworking of the event but somehow again the Lord showed us how to grow in Him and as a family of God all with one purpose of sharing the gospel. Our first real live baby Jesus this year and he was beautiful! Numerous visitors remarked about the authenicty of having a real baby there. May we never forget that the baby in the manager was alive and well and grew up to be the savior of the world.

NIB 2010 – Expanding once again with awesome sets and lots of fellowship time preparing for the live nights! We brought life back into the old white building! We encompassed most of the church building this year and enhanced the outside dramatically. Most all of WBC contributed from set design, to cooking food, to character roles, to golf cart attendants, to ALL who participated – the numbers just kept growing. Again, we were blessed with a real baby to portray baby Jesus and his parents to fill the roles of Mary and Joseph – how beautiful the scene was – how real it felt to walk up to the stable and find a mother and father with true love for their baby laying there….goosebumps still today!

NIB 2011 – the 5th one – what a celebration! Bigger sets, more shops, 5 live nights, youth designated night, a cast of 75 including all support roles. Some families have made this a yearly tradition – some have been all 5 years (Praise the Lord) Some WBC folks have also made this a yearly tradition by spending most of November and December dedicated to preparing to share this story. After five live nights there were tears being shed that it was over and again the Lord drew us closer to each other and to him!

What does the next year bring – I don’t know? How could be possibly tell the story again? What would be different this time? What will make a difference in the lives of those that are visiting here? How do we make them understand the importance of this story – I don’t know but God does! It seems to me that God is using NIB to help WBC as much as He is using it to plant seeds in those who visit with us.

How do I know this? Let me share just one more story – in the 5th year at the manger a little boy (who had been to NIB four times) wanted to give baby Jesus a gift…He asked if he could leave his apple there for Jesus. Now anyone who know anything about babies knows that they cannot eat apples as newborns but that is not the point. The point is that young man – wanted to give back to Jesus something that he had and he did so with love! Just when you think that telling the story again cant surprise you – think again! God is always finding ways to amaze us and grow us and love us! Thank you Lord!

So I leave you with this….Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and EVERYWHERE! Go tell it on the mountain that JESUS CHRIST is born!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What will your tombstone say?

The photo has been picked and the granite memorial urn(to match Arthurs) has been ordered. This was fairly simple to do once we found the perfect photo - the remaining information needed was full name, day he entered this world and day he left us and one line to memorialize his time here.

For Levi - that was simple - Unconditional love Always - that is what we put and that is how he lived the entire twenty two months he was here....just wanted to be loved and played with and give love back....

The tears are beginning to dry somewhat as long as we dont dwell on it...But the thoughts run rampant in our heads of what if or if only.....All of this makes me think of how our lives will be remembered after we are gone.

What will my tombstone say? What will yours say? There is an old beautiful cememtery in Selma Alabama with moss flowing from the trees....I spent an afternoon there a couple of years ago with COach Burns and two of our dearest friends....I went from grave site to grave site reading the inscriptions - trying to catch a glimpse into someone's life I did not know. Some were sad - some made me laugh and some were just beautiful! I treasure that day so much!

What will my tombstone say? I hope it says that she LOVED the LORD, her family, her friends and her dogs with all her heart! She died working for the Lord and loving every minute of it! She lived a blessed life!

What will yours say?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Searching for the perfect photo....

Now the task begins of searching for the perfect photo of Levi Malachi Burns to have engraved on his resting place. I guess over the last couple of days I have looked through hundreds of photos - each one is very special now...still not sure of the perfect one just yet...but know that when I find it - I will know it is the right one...

Let me share some with no certain order - this is just a glimpse into the life we shared with Levi Malachi Burns!

Sure do love you!! Miss you terribly!!!

Last photo in peace Lil Ball Boy!!
Unconditional love always!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The sweetest goodbye ever.....

This is difficult to write and may be difficult to read - not sure but it has to be written down before some of the details begin to fade from my memory. It is important to Levi's legacy that I remember the day of the sweetest goodbye.

On Monday morning, I took Levi to the vet early and I already knew that the end was fastly approaching but I prayed that I was wrong. The vets at Montevallo Animal Clinic are such loving and compassionate people - I praise the Lord for them! It did not take them long to tell me what I already knew - Levi was going to die soon. There was no composure on my part - I cried like a baby as Dr. Wadkins promised to keep him comfortable until later in the day when Coach Burns could be there to say goodbye.

As I left the vets office and went home to get ready for work - I found no relief in the tears - they flowed like a water fountain all day long. I could not talk or work - I just sat at my desk in a daze. I called the clinic to check on him and talked with the vet one more time begging almost for something to bring him back to us. Again, Dr. Wadkins assured me of what I already knew and did so with love and compassion.

Coach Burns and I decided to go and say goodbye to Lil Ball Boy at 3:30 pm that afternoon. Little did I know that both Ashley and Lex would want to be there - As a mom, as a protector, as a shelter from the storms - I was scared to let them feel that kind of pain. But they insisted on coming - how could I not let them say goodbye to something they loved so much?

In the midst of the tears, Dr. Bamburg and Dr. Wadkins and all the staff - showed compassion and love in a professional yet personal way (thank you Lord). We all said our goodbyes as Levi layed on the table - he kept cutting his eyes toward Coach Burns as if to say - Help me to go....Our hearts were shattered and tears continued to flow....but GOD was there in a mighty way - HE gave us the strength to love this little fellow to the end. It was peaceful, it was beautiful and it was the sweetest goodbye ever! A memory that I never want to lose.

Never have I felt the presence of the Lord like I did in that small room #2 at Montevallo Animal Clinic surrounded by my children and my husband - Thank You Lord for holding us up on one of the worst days of our lives. You have given me so much more than I deserve and even on the bad days - you never leave me.

Thank you for the memory of the sweetest passage ever. Levi is free of pain! Coach Burns, Ashley, Lex, Mike and I are better people for having loved him! We give you praise and honor Lord! And we thank you for new mercies every day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rest in Peace Sweet Lil Ball Boy...

It is day 82 - 04.16.12 and today you left us. Praise the Lord for the precious time we had with you before and during the illness...Today you walked with our help toward Rainbow Bridge to live with Arthur until we can come.

We (Coach Burns, me, Lex, Ashley & Mike) were there to help you along, to hold you and kiss you and tell you that everything is going to be ok - to tell you not to be scared....RUN FREE sweet one - there is no more pain, no more excessive thirst, no more dietary food, no more pills, no more fluids - nothing but sweet days of playing ball and sleeping at your leisure!

You left us with a whole in our heart that will ache for you and tears that wont stop now but you gave us more love than we could ever imagine or deserve...just like the Lord gives us everday (and most of the time - we fail to recognize it). We treasure each memory and praise the Lord for our time with you!

Until we meet again Levi Malachi Burns know that you are loved and you always will be more than words can quote your teaching - Unconditionally!

Thank you Lord for blessing us with this little dog that show us all how to love again unconditionally!

Arthur - Sweet Arthur....we need your help!

Hey there Big Nasty! We sure do miss you down here - cant believe that you have been gone since August of 2010. Not a day goes by that we dont think of you and talk about you! You were our first bulldog and we loved more than we ever thought possible.

We need your help now - you see Levi is walking toward you today. He is a just baby - he was born just a few weeks before you passed away - he is not even two years old yet. He is going to need someone to show him around at Rainbow Bridge - he is scared but we know that you will show him the way - we know that you will be the big brother and take care of him until we can get there!

Arthur -we love you and we did not get a chance to say goodbye to you - we wish that we could change that so.

Lord willing - we will be there when Levi takes his walk and we will tell him to run straight to you that you will be waiting!

Until we see you again, know that we love you UNCONDITIONALLY!Love you more than all the words in this universe!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

How do we help you say goodbye?

How do we let you go sweet Levi? Right now as you are sleeping so peacefully, we can pretend that all is normal and you will awake ready to eat, play, and be chased with your favorite ball....but we know that is not the case any longer.

This weekend has been the worst ever! You dont want to eat - that has not ever been a problem with you in the past for long - You dont want to play - that is definitely a first - oh how I long to chase you with that silly ball in your mouth. You cant keep water down - throwing up is the norm yesterday and today. Your stools are pure water with a terrible smell and yet you still try to manage to get to one of your pads before letting it go. Your legs are not working correctly - you cant stand for body is shutting down and we are SICK with anguish over this.

We knew the day was coming - we just keep praying that it is not today. So Levi, my precious precious Lil Ball Boy - how do we help you to say goodbye? How can we put aside our selfish wants and let you go? Lord we pray that you will help us as we prepare to walk him toward Rainbow Bridge. Arthur is waiting for him there....he will be free of pain and illness and Arthur will take care of him till we can get there one day.

Lord we will rely on you to help us carry on down here - We praise you for the time that we have spent with him and if it be your will for it to end now - we trust you and praise with every ounce of our being. You alone are GOD and we praise you on bended knees with a flood of tears....

Vet in the morning for one final appeal for help - believing that all things work together for good - we have fought the good fight and we have run for the prize...sweet Levi - your pain is almost over!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walk down memory lane....

Let me start by saying this is not about bulldogs! This walk down memory lane involves two human beings that are precious gifts from God - loaned to me to raise - and I could not love them more! I am not trying to be prideful or boast - everything they are and everything they mean to me is a blessing from the Lord! Thank you Lord for loaning me these two little ones to raise down here.

Today a chapter in this mom's book closed - I attended the last awards ceremony for my youngest - Lex - who is a senior in college - and who just won - Mass Comm Student of the Year 2012 (I love you Lex). Thank you Lord - I was there!

As I sat there waiting and watching - I strolled down memory lane with tears of joy for the many times that I had been in this position before. Ashley and Lex are four years apart - and once it started - it did not stop for eighteen years! From Ashley in students of the month, good citizens, peer helpers, annual scholastic awards ceremonies,honor society, high school graduation, college graduation - I was there. Thank you Lord!

For Lex - the same - kindergarten, student of the month, good citizen, sports banquets,honor society, annual scholastic awards, high school graduation, college awards - I was there! Thank you Lord!

Both of them will graduate in December 2012 (Lord willing) - Ashley with her graduate degree and Lex with his undergrad one and Lord willing - I will be there!

But today was different - in a small ceremony - I was a spectator - as I watched my son accept awards for what he has done with his life and I realized this would be the last awards ceremony and I cried. For one brief moment, I wanted to turn back time and have them both home with me - depending on me - safe from this big bad world we live.

Memory lane continued with the death of Nanny - their first sense of loss - she was like a mother to them - the first real hurt in their life and I was there - Praise the Lord!

A few years later - they chose the Lord as their personal savior and both were baptized on the same day - PRAISE THE LORD - I was there! Hallelujah - there is no greater joy than knowing that your child will spend eternity in heaven with you! Thank you Lord for letting me be there!

To say I love Ashley and Lex would be an understatement! You cant truly realize a mother's love until you are a mother! I could not be more proud to be their mom. I would not change a thing - they are my treasures here on earth and they will be with me in heaven (who could ask for anything more)

Thank You Lord for blessing me with these precious ones! Somehow you knew just exactly what I needed! I can never thank you enough! If I were to be called home tonight, I could honestly say - I could not have asked for more - it is well with my soul!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What a difference a day makes....

This morning - Levi wanted to play ball....oh my what a glorious sight that was! He has regained clumsily use of his back legs and was toting his ball in his mouth daring me to chase him....My heart jumped and I stopped right then and thanked the Lord for one more chance to play ball with him!

Yesterday when Levi was in such bad shape, I talked with the vet and it was decided to reduce the amount of phenobarbital and see if he returned to a more normal Levi - we did just that - and things are better (much improved). He is not 100% (nor will he ever be again most likely) but he can stand now, walk now, and has the desire to play with his ball. He was one the sofa this morning when I got up - that means he found a way to jump up there last night by himself....all of this is such a welcome relief from the past few days.

We know the days are numbered but for today.....we are living in the moment! Loving in the moment and enjoying new mercies as they are given to us! Was it worth being late to work today???? OH YES!! Thank you Lord! Thank you Lord! Only tears of joy today!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Levi - Day 68

First let me say "Thank you Lord" for letting us have this precious fellow for the last 68 days - as bleak as the prognosis was - you gave us 68 more days and WE ARE SO THANKFUL!!! To God be the Glory!

The past few days have been very difficult on Levi and us....We started giving Phenobaritol to control the seizures caused by the declining function of the kidneys. According to everyting I have read, it takes a few weeks for this drug to full work and while his diseased body gets use to it, there are side effects.
"As a result, many of the side effects of Phenobarbital are neurological. You'll notice your dog appearing lazy, sedated, restless, hyper-excited or uncoordinated (ataxia). These side effects will disappear after a few weeks of treatment when your dog's system gets used to the medication."
We are experiencing the ataxia condition - uncoordinated movement of legs. In other words, our precious Lil Ball Boy cannot chase his ball - he cant make his legs work like they are supposed. He cant jump on the sofa or climb the stairs or stand up long enough to eat. His walking is similar to an intoxicated person - He looks at us with confusion as to why he cant do what he normally does....and our hearts break a little more each time.

As we watch Levi, we are so constantly reminded that the day is coming when it will be time to let go of him so that he can run free with Arthur at Rainbow Bridge with NO PAIN and NO TEARS ( Heaven will be like that for those of us who know the Lord)!

We are praying now for healing, guidance, comfort and wisdom to make the right decisions at the right time with the least amount of pain for both Levi and us. Lord, please put the selfish side of us in the proper place and give us the strength to show Levi unconditional love by letting him go when that time comes!

Thank You Lord for blessing so and hearing our prayers!