Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Life

Greetings to all! The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and thoughts of sugar plums will soon dance in my children’s heads. As I sit here on the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ I am reflective on this holiday season and also on this past year that will soon come to close next week. I have never really been the “Christmas” type, I don’t like large crowds of people, traffic, Christmas Carols, or elves, they kind of freak me out. On the other hand, I married Ms. Christmas, I believe that if you tract Ali’s genealogy that she is distantly related to the Clauses. She loves to decorate, she loves to have Christmas music on in the house, and her little heart goes pitter patter when the Egg Nog is put on the grocery store shelves in November. As the years have progressed I have made small steps to partake in my wife’s Christmas joys, more for her than for myself. I try to do things that let her know that what is important to her is important to me.

This year has been different for me. This year I found myself turning on Christmas music and singing along. I noticed just the other day as I strolled along a shopping center sidewalk doing a little Christmas shopping I caught myself whistling the tunes to popular Christmas Carols. I even succumb to my wife’s pleas to get the kids two kittens for Christmas. I am not sure what has happened to me this Christmas, especially with the year we have had. This Christmas season has had a real longing to it, there have been many tears shed between Ali and myself over the “missing” of our sweet Cate. But even with the “missing” there has been a lot of LIFE in our house. This morning I was thinking about Christ’s humble entrance into the world and how His life has brought us ALL the opportunity for real, true, and lasting life. Isn’t that was Christmas is about? LIFE!

Today makes six months since our precious Cate departed from this earthly life and began the celebration of her eternal life. It has been a painful six months yet even with that pain there has been so much LIFE brought into our family. There have been so many little “Christmases” in the past six months. Some small and some large instances where so many of you have humbly brought Christ into the life of the Cantrell family. So, as we approach tomorrow and the celebration of our Savior’s entrance into the world, my heart is grateful to all of you who have realized that Christmas is not something that we celebrate one day a year but something that we actively live.

There have been countless examples of how you all have brought the life of Christ to us, whether it is through your financial generosity, dinners you have dropped off at the house, gift cards so that we could take the kids to McDonald’s, Masses that are being said for Cate or our family, gifts that have been sent to our houses from you the readers that we have never met, and how after I wrote the blog about Ali and I liking La Crema Pinot Noir, you all brought bottles of La Crema to the house (I am thinking about mentioning in my next blog how I like beach houses, just kidding), or the group of anonymous women who have somehow banded together from around the country and world to spiritually carry my wife with prayers, cards, flowers, and gifts. You women whoever you are have touched my heart so deeply. I love my wife with all I have and I think she is such a special person, so to know that she has touched you in such a special way and that you all love her and are so committed to her means more than words to this humbled husband. I get emotional as I type this just thinking about how much of the life and love of Christ has been poured out on our little family. All of you, our family, friends and complete strangers have made this challenging time just a little easier. You all through your acts of kindness and generosity have truly decided whether you realize it or not to LIVE Christmas.

You all have inspired, encouraged, and challenged our little family to realize that once the carols have all been sung, the presents have been all unwrapped, the food has all been gluttonously devoured and the tree has been taken down, that Christmas does not end. Christmas is to be lived everyday in our hearts and in our actions. You all have shown us over the past six months that the opportunity to birth Christ into the world everyday in small ways and sometimes in big ways is always there. We do not have to wait until the toy drives or the giving tree in our Churches go up to bring the life of Christ into the world around us. Everyday there are opportunities to reach out to family members, neighbors, or in our case, as some of you have done, to complete and total strangers.

Maybe this year instead of New Year’s resolutions, which we don’t keep anyway, we can have “Christmas Decisions.” Decisions that we make as individuals and/or as families to not let Christmas be one day, but instead, be a lifestyle. On this eve of the birth of our Savior know that the Cantrell’s will carry you all in our hearts as we celebrate with our family this tremendous and spectacular event that happened so many years ago and that Christ continues to let happen through each one of us. From our family to yours we truly and whole heartedly thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas YEAR!

Much Love,

The Cantrells

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snowmen Chalkboards

Greetings to all. Wow, it has been a long time, I know. The months immediately following Cate’s death were very slow, painfully slow at times. Our weekends were not committed to anything or anyone just because we could not make commitments. Well, as we have begun to make our re-entry back into society our calendars and lives have filled up rather quickly. It has been nice though to have “stuff” to do and to interact with other families. I feel as though I have been in a place of progress, moving forward, not moving on, simply moving forward and in a good way. I found that I had not been crying as much, yet still missing her. I truly believe having my counselor to work through these issues has been very helpful.

Before I get started with what I want to share with you all today I want to tell you a funny story. Living here in South Louisiana our winters are mild. We will get a few cold days here and there but rarely see snow. I remember growing up it snowed once when I was eight or nine and there was only enough snow to make a pathetic snowman about two feet tall and that took every flake of snow that had landed in our yard. Well, we had a strong cold front come though two nights ago with a lot of precipitation. Last night the weatherman they said that there would be a possibility that we would have some flurrys in the early morning hours before sunrise but nothing would stick because the ground was too warm. Around five o’clock this morning my phone starting beeping like crazy with text messages. It was friends and neighbors sending me messages to tell me that it was snowing. My first thought is WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE! and then I quickly fell back asleep.

Well, when Dude and I rolled out of bed a little after six thirty and I looked out the bedroom window and sure enough it was still snowing. There was snow on the ground and snow on the rooftops. As Dude and I stumbled our way downstairs I told him that it was snowing outside he quickly slide down my arms, ran to the front door and pulled the curtain back. He stood at the door just staring out at the white world that he had never seen before. I told him that if they wanted him and Ella could put there shoes on and go in the backyard to see the snow. They started screaming as they franticly ran around the house looking for their shoes. They located their shoes, half way put them on, and headed for the backdoor with lighting quick speed and in a single motion that I couldn’t stop Dude ripped his diaper off threw it on the kitchen floor and ran out the back door into the snow covered yard. As I watch my half naked son and my beautiful daughter experience snow for the first time I knew that it would be a good day. Boys, what do you do with them???

Now, on to why I write today after a long hiatus from writing. Over the past few weeks I have noticed a regression in my feelings about Cate’s death. I feel like we had been moving in such a positive direction for quite sometime but over the past few weeks I feel like I have been taking three steps back. I find myself sad more often and missing her almost every minute of everyday. As Christmas quickly approaches as Christians we find ourselves in the season of Advent, a time of expectant waiting. Unlike the season of Lent where we take an active role in offering sacrifices, Advent is simply a time of waiting. I think that is exactly where my heart is right now, it is in a time of waiting. I am waiting for the pain to subside, I am waiting to find the new “normal” that we are now beginning to get glimpses of, I am waiting on the day when Cate will be reunited with our family and we will be whole again.

Waiting, it is such a hard thing to do when we desire something so much isn’t it? As Christmas gets closer Ali keeps asking me what I want for Christmas and honestly there is nothing that I want that anyone can buy. What I want cannot be bought, it must be given and there is only one person who can give it to me. What I want does not come in a pretty box with pretty paper and it does not come all at once. It is a big gift that comes in many small and often inconspicuous packages over time.

As I read the readings from daily Mass the other day it talked about the gentleness of our God. All I keep hearing in my heart was, “Charlie, be gentle with yourself, I am being gentle with you.” In a culture of cell phones, drive thrus, and microwaves, waiting is not something that we do very well and gentle waiting is not even in our vocabulary at times. Gentle Waiting is what I want for Christmas. I want to gently wait as my wife and children’s hearts mend and I want to gently wait as my own heart mends. Just as the Jewish people waited and longed for their Messiah, I too wait and long for my Messiah’s healing touch. There was nothing they could do to make Him come any quicker and there is nothing I can do to make this come any quicker. There was already a plan in place, a plan that God knew from the beginning of time. I know that He has a plan already in place for me and my family, the question is will I gently wait on Him? It is so difficult not find comfort in the things of this world but instead to say, Lord, I know your word is true. I know that you will be faithful to your people and I WILL wait on You.

Unlike the snowman chalkboard that hangs in our kitchen counting down the days till Christmas there is no chalkboard counting down the days until healing, wouldn’t that be nice? All of us are waiting on something, whether it is healing with our parents, reconciliation with our spouses or children, the healing of past hurts from friends, the healing from the death of a loved one, or the healing of our 401K, just a little economic humor for you. We all find ourselves in our own personal Advent. We all find ourselves waiting just as the Jewish people did over 2000 years ago. The question is how will we wait? Will we wait with an eager gentleness or will we grow weary and simply give up and give in. I want to choose to wait with that eager gentleness but I need help. I ask that as the holidays grow closer and we prepare to celebrate them minus one, that you, our many, who Cate has brought into our lives pray for our family, that we continue to gently wait on the healing touch of our loving God and as we wait on that special gift, that we be gentle with ourselves and each other as our God is gentle with us.

Much Love,
The Cantrells

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Celebration of Life

Greetings to all! This past Friday, November 7th, was Cate’s first birthday. It is hard to believe that our precious Cate was born a year ago. It feels like ten to be honest after the road that we have been down over the past year, but especially the past four and half month. As her birthday began approaching Ali and I started talking about what we wanted to do to celebrate her birthday. How could we honor Cate as a family, what could be do to commemorate her birthday without her physically being here? How would we do this with Ella and Dude without throwing more confusion into their little brains with all that they have had to process over the past four and a half months?

Be a family, celebrate the life of our family is what we decided is what Cate would want for us. It just so happened that Sesame Street Live was going to be in town the weekend of Cate’s birthday. Ella and Dude live for Sesame Street Live, they have been able to go the past two years that it has come to town and ask when can they go back for the next 364 days it feels like. Every time we past the Cajundome, where Sesame Street performs, they tell us, “Look, look, that’s where Sesame Street lives!!!” So, Ali though that going to Sesame Street Live as a family would be a fun celebration for our family and so one night after we put the kids to bed we were both in the kitchen and she was on the computer booking the tickets for the Friday evening show. I suggested instead of the Friday evening that we go the Saturday morning that way the kids would not be tired and cranky, even though it was actually the day after Cate’s birthday. She agreed and proceeded to buy the tickets, when all of a sudden I heard her say, “OH NO!” I asked what was wrong, she said I accidently booked them for the Friday morning performance and once you book them there is no switching it. I said well, let’s not worry about it, we will take the day off and just spend it as a family.

The next day I was thinking about Cate’s birthday and the show and thought, you know what, let’s get out of town for the weekend. A few couples in our home town had gotten together and given us some money for a getaway weekend with the family as well as some passes to a zoo. I talked to Ali and she loved the idea. The bed and breakfast that one of the couple had originally suggested was booked for the weekend, but they recommended another place, so I called and they were open. Plans done!

Ali’s family called early last week and offered to have the kids sleep over at their house on the Thursday night before Cate’s birthday so we could have a couple ours to ourselves on Friday morning before Sesame Street. It was really nice, Ali and I woke up, kind of let the moment, the day, the “missing” sink in and then left to pick up the kids. Ali had bought really nice seats to the performance so the kids screamed, ate cotton candy, and got to high five all of their favorite Sesame Street characters. It was awesome to see the pure joy and excitement in their little eyes. Ali and I throughout the performance found ourselves just looking at each other smiling at the fact that our children were having such a wonderful time. After the show we bought each of them a ridiculously overpriced nicnac as well as a cd of the WHOLE show we had just watched. Looks like we will have all new songs drilled into our heads over the next year, but hey at least it is a change and that’s good I guess.

We then loaded up the van and headed off to the cabin, or as the kids call it “our camp” for the weekend. By the time we arrived it was dark, so we were unable to see the grounds, but when we walked in our cabin we were all blown away at how beautiful it was. It was big and spacious with two bedrooms, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river, and a huge deck with chairs and a barbeque pit. The kids ran around exploring, claiming and decorating their bedroom, and then they hopped in the Jacuzzi tub for a nice warm bath with, as they called it HUGE BUBBLES. I went outside and fired up the pit for some good ole hot dogs. We put the kids to bed and Ali went and took a VERY long bath in the huge Jacuzzi tub and while she was bathing I fired up the wood burning stove so the living room would be nice and toasty for her when she got out. Once she was good and pruned she got out and curled up on one the beds that was right next to the fireplace to read her Tim Gunns, “Guide to Style” till she was fast asleep.

The next morning we woke up and headed off to Global Wildlife Center, which is like a zoo without cages, don’t worry, not carnivores, just herbivores. We loaded up on the covered wagons and road around the 900 acres feeding the giraffes, long horns, deer, camels, and all the other animals that stuck their head in our wagon. The kids had a blast, I looked over at one point and Dude was literally face to face with a giraffe that was eating out of his cup. The night before I had talked to dad on the phone and he told me that Global Wildlife was having one of its annual parties for its members and if we wanted to join he would go in halves with us, so before we left we join the Global family so we could go to the bonfire that night. After feeding all the animals we left to go feed our two little animals at a local pizza joint for lunch and then went back to the cabin for naps.

When the kids woke up we went exploring the grounds of the bed and breakfast, which were absolutely gorgeous. We did some fishing, played croquet and horse shoes, the weather was beautiful and we were just enjoying being all together. Once it started getting dark we headed back to Global Wildlife for the bonfire. What an awesome night! They had a HUGE bonfire, hot chocolate, marshmallow roasting, a live band, and SANTA was even there. The kids ran and played till they were totally exhausted. We woke up yesterday morning enjoyed the grounds some more and then headed home. It was truly a spectacular weekend.

It is hard to believe that our Cate would be a year old. Ali and I truly feel like we celebrated her birthday in a fashion that was honoring to her. She loved her family, she LOVED her brother and sister so I know to see them enjoy life, each other, and our family is what she would have wanted for her birthday celebration. We want to thank everyone who prayed for us this weekend, your prayers are appreciated and were strongly felt. Ali and I both shed tears of longing over the weekend, we miss that little girl, we wish everyday that she were still here, but the mark that she left on our family remains strong and makes us a stronger family. We have now officially had our first “anniversary” to get through, one behind us, a few more to go, but we are united as a family and we will continue to walk this path that has been set in front of us with hope. If you would like to see pictures of the weekend I uploaded them to our flickr account you can check them out at

Much Love,
The Cantrells

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turning 1

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl. May your day be filled with rainbows, roses, and butterflies! We love you, Mom, Dad, Ella & Dude

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Candy for Dinner

Greetings to all! It’s been a big week around our house and a lot of fun too. Last Friday I picked Ella and Dude up from their after school care and was delighted to see that Ella was proudly carrying Ribbidy in her little arms. Ribbidy, is Ella’s pre-k class’s mascot and the student who has been chosen as “student of the week” gets to take Ribbidy home for the weekend. Well, needless to say Ribbidy has been the focus of my four year old daughter’s world since she started pre-k this year. Every Friday afternoon was met with a tinge of disappointment that someone else had been chosen as student of the week. Now, as wonderful a child as Ella is, she is also my wife and I’s daughter and if you have ever meet my wife and I then you know we are a bit animated and very vocal people. Well, needless to say our daughter is a perfect blend of my wife and I and therefore can be quite the busy bee in class sometimes. We had already planned a family outing Friday night to take the kids to the movies and then out to dinner, so we were very excited and then for Ella to be picked as student of the week was just the icing on the cake.

As student of the week at the next school Mass, which was today, you are given the class cross to take home and to pray for all the students at the school for the week. Well, today was also Grandparents day, so it was a double whammie for Ella, not only was she getting the cross at Mass, but both sets of Grandparents were going to be there for her to gloat just a little more. I went to Mass as the proud dad and sat in the back while Ella sat in the front with her grandparents. As the kids were filing into church they had music playing. All of a sudden I recognized the beginning notes of the song that was starting. It was, “The Mother Song” by Kelly Pease, the one that was sung at Cate’s funeral and the tears immediately started streaming down my face. Here I am sitting in the Church where we celebrated my daughter’s funeral with the song that was sung at her funeral being played. I pulled it together the best I could and then Mass began. Well, wouldn’t you know it, for the communion meditation they played it again and again the tears streamed down my face as I watched Ella singing the words of the song to my parents. She loves that song, her and Ali sing it almost every night before she goes to sleep. After Mass she was very excited to see me and to show me her cross so I walked her to her class where the grandparents where hanging out with the kids and then I headed off to work.

That song has continued to play in my head all day long and with it so many images of Cate have flashed through my head of her short life here with us. The last one was of the night before she went in for surgery. The room was filled with love ones and you could tell that she was so happy to see everyone. As each person held her she would just stare at them with this big ole cheesy smile and it was if she was soaking them up. There is a part of me that wishes I would have never put her down that night. There is a part of me that wishes I would have held her all night long and soaked up every second that I would have with her if I only knew then what I know now. As I write these words the pain falls from eyes in the shape of tears, the longing that I have for that little girl hurts to the core at some moments. I miss her today, I miss her a lot.

It really got me thinking this afternoon about my marriage and about my fatherhood. I want to soak up every minute I have with my wife and my children. I want to savor it deep in my heart knowing that we don’t know what tomorrow brings. I want to try to be a little more patient than I have been over these past few months with Ali, Ella and Dude. I want to hold them more, kiss them more, and listen to them more than I have done lately. I want to be quicker to listen than to get frustrated. I want to laugh more than fuss. I want have candy for dinner some nights just because we can and it means that we get to hang out as a family enjoying the moment and each others presence. When they crawl in my bed at 3:00am I want to pull them close to me, feel their little arm around my neck and smell their little breath even if it smells bad. I want to play outside, inside, in the car, in my truck, wherever they want to play, because there really isn’t anything else that is THAT IMPORTANT.

Unfortunately, we have had to learned all to close to home that life is short. We are not guaranteed anything except this moment that we find ourselves. My prayer today is that God allows me to be in that moment, experience that moment, and savor that moment. Also, that those moments be written on the walls of my heart, my wife’s heart and on the walls of our kid’s hearts forever. Thank you Lord for my beautiful family! Thank You Lord, for our precious Cate, though her earthly life was short, through You may her little life continue to teach us about what it means to truly live. Amen

Much Love,
The Cantrells

Monday, October 20, 2008

Every Hill Has a Bottom

Greetings to all! This past weekend we had a great family weekend! Friday night Ali and I got to go on a date night and then Saturday we participated in “Family Adventure Day” to raise money for the Healing House, which is the place that we asked people to donate instead of sending flowers to Cate’s funeral, there are pictures of the day at . Friday was the first date night since the huge falling out that Ali and I had two weeks ago. I gave my spiritual director this analogy today over lunch to describe the time that our family finds itself in right now. Have you ever watched little kids run down a steep hill? It’s funny because at first they are in control but the further they get down the hill and the more they pick up speed the more they loose all control of their little bodies. They eventually can no longer maintain their balance and what do they do? Fall, and then they continue to roll down the hill until they reach the bottom. Well, I believe this is exactly what has happened to our little family over the past four months. After Cate died we started running down this hill of grief and at first we could “control” it, but the further and further we got down the hill and the more and more speed we picked up and the more out of control we got until eventually, we fell. It was probably about three to four weeks ago that we fell and two weeks ago that we reached the bottom of the hill. Now for the past two weeks I truly feel like we have begun the ascent uphill and we are doing it together, all of us even the kids. They have been putting into words their feelings about their sister in ways that they have not over the past four months. Are we out of the woods, no not in the least bit, but I do feel like we have at least started walking back up the hill and we both know that it is because there are a lot a prayers heading our way from all of you faithful sojourners on this road in which we travel.

Now on to the reason I blog tonight. This weekend I did what any good South Louisiana native does in the fall, watched the LSU Fighting Tigers football game. Saturday afternoon a friend of mine called and said that he was going over to another buddy of ours to watch the game and wanted to see if I wanted to join them. The friend that we were going to watch the game at just had his first child a few months back, a beautiful baby girl. Long before Cate went to have her surgery Ali offered his wife all of Cate’s clothes that she did not fit into anymore. His wife was so delighted and I remember that she washed, folded, and had them all put away months before their daughter was born. We were glad that the clothes were going to be put to good use and that the person who got them was so very grateful for them. Well, after Cate died there was one particular night gown that Ali wanted to keep, so she called his wife and asked if she would mind giving that one night gown back, of course she completely understood and offered everything back. Ali insisted that she keep the rest, it was just this one little night gown of Cate’s that was very sentimental to her.

The other night before I left to watch the game Ali asked me if I would not mind picking the nightgown up while I was there. When I got over to their house I asked him if he knew where that nightgown was because Ali had asked me to pick it up. He called his wife and found out where it was, but did not bring it outside right away. We then proceeded to hoop and holar as we watched the Tigers play ball and after the game when the night was winding down he brought out a plastic grocery bag and gave it to me. Not remembering that I had asked him for the nightgown earlier in the night I opened the bag and saw my little girls clothes in it and it tugged hard at my heart. If you remember from the last blog, it is the “missing” that can sneak up on you. In that moment I realized that I had no one to bring those clothes home to that would wear them. I said to my friends, “wow, that’s kind of weird you know, those are Cate’s clothes, but I don’t have Cate to wear them. His eyes welled with tears and he quickly turned his back and looked at the sky, the field, whatever he could to not make eye contact with me. I said, hey bro, what’s up, are you ok? At first he would not turn around so, I said it again, hey man, what’s going on? He said, “I realized that as I handed you that bag, that you don’t have a daughter to take those home to. He went on to apologize for crying and said that he has never wanted to breakdown in front of me, that I had enough to deal with and that I did not need him crying in front of me adding to what I was already feeling.

He is a former football jock and was quite the head cracker in his high school football days. I asked him, “When you played ball in high school did you have one guy that you loved playing football with?” He responded yes with a smile and named his teammate by name. I said those plays when he got hurt were you worried about him, was there a part of you that hurt cause he was not out there playing with you? He responded with a smile, yeah. How do you think that made him feel, that you loved playing with him that much and that you cared about him that much? I said, I bet it made him feel pretty dang special to you. Well, brother your tears don’t add to my grief they lighten it in some way, because they show me that you love me, my family, and my daughter. I don’t want you to feel like you have to hold them back anymore around me.

As I sat on my back steps tonight reflecting on that conversation the scripture that came to my heart was Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who Rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” This in a nutshell is what it means to be a community, this is what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. There are times that we will all rejoice together, and there are times that we will all weep together. Ever noticed that kids often run down hills with other kids? When one of them falls it is like dominos, they just start taking each other out, rolling down the hill together. When they get to the bottom, they ALL get back up and starting running back up the hill to do it all over again. We have some amazing brothers and sisters in our life who have run down this hill with us and are going to run back up with us and for that we are eternally grateful! Thank you, to all of you who are still with us and as we hopefully and hope-filled begin the walk back up this hill, hold our hands and laugh with us, hold our hands and cry with us knowing that one day we will all be back on top of the hill! Much Love, The Cantrells

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crushed Grapes

Greetings to all! This week I attended the funeral of another precious heart baby that went home early to be with our Heavenly Father. This is the second heart baby funeral I have been to since our precious Cate passed away. When I went to the first one in July I was still in a place of numbness and the reality of Cate’s death had not sunk fully into the depths of my heart and mind. This one was different, this one brought back a lot of memories of Cate’s funeral. Although I was at someone else’s child’s funeral it was though a movie was playing in my head of all the scenes from Cate’s funeral. From the rain on my face as we took her little casket out of the hurst, to the image of my three year old son without being asked taking his role as his little sisters escort as we walked her casket down the isle the church, the scene of the small wooden box that contained such a priceless treasure under the tent at the cemetery. It all was so vivid and so real, I did not go to this funeral to inflict unnecessary pain on myself I went because we have become friends with the parents through mutual friends about a year ago and then when they found out that they too were having a heart baby there was even more of connection. I just wanted them to know that we loved them and that with each other and with their God, they would make it, that they too would still be standing in the months to come.

They named their precious daughter Cana and so fittingly the gospel reading of the funeral mass was the wedding at Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle. Let me briefly summarize the story if you are not all to familiar with it. Jesus is at this wedding reception with his mom and the bride and groom run out of wine. This would be a huge embarrassment to the hosts if they ran out of wine to serve their guest, I am starting to wonder if the Jewish people and Cajuns aren’t second or third cousins to each other. Mary, being the good mother that she is cannot let this happen, so what does she do, tells her Son, Jesus, you better do something and do it quick, we can’t let this happen. Jesus says, Mom, it is not time yet for me to start doing things like this. Mary being the typical mom totally ignores him and tells the servants, to do whatever Jesus tells you to do. Jesus being the good son, listens to His mother’s request and tells the servants to fill six big jugs full of water. Then He tells them to take a cup to the head server for a little sampling. The head server is clueless to the events unfolding in the kitchen so when he tastes the wine that the server brings him he is a bit perplexed. This wine is far better than the stuff that they had just run out of so he goes to the groom and says, You know, normally people serve the choice wine first and then once people have been drinking a while, that’s when you serve a lesser vintage, but you have kept the good stuff till last. (John 2:1-11) Now this is my paraphrasing here, it is worded much more eloquently in the gospel of John but this is in a nutshell what happened.

Ali and I sat on our balcony one night last week talking and of course the conversation moved towards Cate and how we were feeling about her. The main thing that we both felt was that we were missing her. The shock and the pain have begun to subside although not gone completely of course. Lately it has been more the reality of she is really gone and she isn’t coming back and we miss her. I read on another parent’s blog that has lost a child about a meeting that her and her husband had with their pastor, who had also lost a child. The pastor talked about “the missing” and how it snuck up on him at times. As I reflected on this Gospel reading and sweet babies who go to heaven earlier than we anticipate, I got to thinking about those words, “the missing.”

What I came to realize is that with “the missing” comes “the longing.” You see this life is like the lesser vintage wine that was usually served first at wedding in Jesus’ time. It is good, there are things that we are truly going to enjoy in this life that will bring us great joy and happiness but there is a greater wine to be had. If you have had a taste of the greatest wine, i.e. heaven, then you long for that even more. The glimpses that I have had in my life of an intimate connection with God make me long for that greater wine even more. Its like when Ali and I go out to eat for a special occasion if they have it on the wine list we will get a bottle of La Crème, it’s a pinot noir that runs about thirty bucks a bottle and it is delicious, I strongly suggest you try some if you are a wine fan, but anyway. We have tasted great wines, but on an average night if we want a glass of wine we will pop the cork on just a five to seven dollar bottle of good wine. We enjoy it, but we have tasted better and that memory lingers in the back of you mind, man, if this were a glass of La Crème it would be even better, hence the longing.

We have always longed for heaven, for a day when we are in perfect relationship with God, there is no more sin, guilt, and shame, and we will be completely happy for all eternity. We long for that greater vintage wine. Well, now that the fruit of our love, Cate, has become a part of that finer wine and in my humble opinion making it all the sweeter, now we long for it even more. Our prayer is that we can still remember to enjoy the wine, i.e. the life, which we have now, with each other and with our kiddos. That we can accept the lesser wine knowing that there is a greater wine to come and that when we get there our precious Cate will be there waiting with a big smile and couple of glasses. Much Love, The Cantrells

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wood and Nails

Greetings to all. I just want to start out by thanking everyone, especially our family and friends, who are in our everyday life, not to exclude all you readers in far away lands, but in a way fortunately you only have to read my words of messiness and don’t have to be knee deep in them. Ali and I hit a big wall Saturday evening and it was not a pretty experience and that is putting it lightly. Close friends and family were around and unfortunately they got dragged into the middle of our chaotic grief explosion. Though it actually ended with what will be a fruitful outcome, for the people left in our wake my heart hurts and all I can say to them is, “I ask your forgiveness?” As I met with my counselor last Friday we talked about the messiness and chaos of my life right now. A metaphor came to me to be able to put into words what I feel like and I wanted to share it with you all.

As Hurricane Gustav approached South Louisiana one of my brothers and I shipped our families off to other states and decided to ride out the storm with another close brother of ours and his family. We all stayed at one of their houses for the storm because there were not any big trees threatening to fall and crush the house we were sheltered in. In front of his house, his cousin is in the process of building his home right now and on the side of his new house he is building a large wooden outdoor storage shed. It was all framed up with two by fours but no walls and no roof were put on yet. It was the skeleton of what was to become a really nice outdoor storage shed. My brothers and I looked at the shed and shook our heads because we knew the storm was coming and that there was a really good chance that the frame of this soon to be really nice shed was probably not going to make it through the storm. As the storm’s eye approached us the winds began to blow like nothing I have ever experienced in my adult life. The walls of the house were making cracking noises the cars outside where actually shaking from side to side. I walked to the window and saw that in fact the shed had been blown completely down, not a single board was left standing. It was a pile of jumbled lumber, some broken, some not, nails sticking out everywhere, simply, it was a mess.

I told my counselor that the shed represented my life. I finally felt like I had a vision of where God was leading me and my family long term. I had a great marriage with a wonderful wife, we were setting our eyes on the future. We were about to start a new decade of our lives truly moving into a more “adult” time. We had three beautiful children with plans for one or two more down the road. I was no longer in full time youth ministry so I was being able to spend a lot more time with my family. I was in a job that I not only enjoyed but financially we were doing ok for the first time. I had the best friends a guy could ask for and this group of guys was really moving in a direction of life long friendships.

Our building was getting framed up, the plans were being laid out and we had a skeleton of a great life framed up, knowing that we would continue to add on to it as the years went on. Well, my little family experienced its own hurricane and it has blown our little studded up shed completely down. Ali and I found ourselves standing over the splintered plans, dreams, and visions just starring in disbelief, anger, and sadness. We keep walking around it wondering, “what do we do now?” We don’t have any tools, energy, or expertise to even begin rebuilding, at least not right now. We get so angry that everything that we had worked to build has been lost, we get angry because we really liked that shed and what it was going to become. We could see ourselves in 20 years playing with our grandkids in that shed and now we are realizing that we are going to have build a new and different one.

When people come around to help us take nails out of the boards so we can stack them to get a new plan, we don’t know how to act sometimes. We are so angry that we are even having to do this that we turn on each other and/or whoever is there to help. We know it’s not right, we just can’t control it at times. It is scary to think that the people who want to help the most and who aren’t afraid to come in to the danger zone of broken boards and sharp nails poking out everywhere are the ones who often get the brunt of our anger, through little or no fault of their own. Lately I fear that eventually people will just stop coming around to help us because it is just too messy and too big of a project. The foundation is still there is just hard to see right now because it is covered up with debris from a storm that we never saw coming and had no time to prepare for.

There will come a time in the future, hopefully nearer than farther that we will begin to rebuild this little shed we call our lives. Our vision and our plans will have to be different than they were before. Maybe this time instead of a wooden building we will rebuild a nice strong metal building that will be able to withstand storms that comes our way. I ask that you all, especially those who have shown up to help us in the rebuilding effort be patient with us. We truly and whole heartedly ask forgiveness for the messiness of our life right now, it just is what it is, but I thank you for your continued perseverance and patience. We will rebuild and we will be stronger with God’s grace, strength, and forgiveness. Much Love, The Cantrell’s

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tears are Pain Leaving the Body

Greetings to all! Lately it has been a real emotional rollercoaster for me. I can be completely fine one minute and then pissed off, ashamed, lonely, or sad the next. I am for the most part a pretty passionate guy whether it be passionate about my wife, hey get your minds go out of the gutter, I said passionate ABOUT, not with, I want to keep this blog G rated people. I am passionate about my work, when working I strive to be quick, accurate, and irreplaceable. I am passionate about competition, I don’t care what it is, BRING IT ON, I like to compete and I LOVE to win! My newest passion is fantasy football, you would swear my children were playing each Sunday by the way I get so nervous and loud. When I get to cheering or yelling at the inanimate object I call my TV set Dude and Ella coming running in because they immediately think they have done something wrong. Often times I just find them standing there waiting for me to fuss at them. When I ask, what are you doing? They usually say either, “We don’t know” or “We thought something was wrong.” To which I have to explain to them that daddy’s overpaid football player looks like some third string high school running back who is not quite sure which way down field is apparently. They usually just roll their eyes, give me an, “Awe dad,” because I interrupted their important game of “Extreme Tent Makeover” and scurry back to their important renovations. I am passionate about my God and preaching the Gospel, just ask anyone who has ever had the pleasure of to sitting in the front row of one of my talks. Poor things often have a few drops of spittle on them and have been pulled up on stage to act out an eighth grade dance scene that I am using to elaborate a point in my talk. I am passionate about life, is what I am getting at if you have not caught on yet.

My passion runs deep, wide and in a variety of directions to say the least. These are passions that I have grown to love over time and these are passions that at the same time have also had a large impact on my life in someway and over time have begun to change me or aspects of me. There is one passion though that the moment it entered my life or should I say “they” entered my life, CHANGED me in that very moment. The moment that I became a father and I am not going to get into the whole moment of conception I was a father argument, I know that, but remember guys are visually stimulated. Although I saw my wife stomach getting larger I could not see my child and the one that I saw on the ultrasound machine kinda freaked me out. The moment I laid eyes on Ella, she being our oldest, I was changed, my heart was changed, literally, spiritually and passionately. I was a different man and my heart overflowed with a passionate love for this little child who was “mine.” With each new addition that followed Ella my heart filled with more and more passion, as well as more and more debt, just kidding.

When they noticed in Utero that there was the potential that something might not be developing properly with Cate my passion went into overdrive. My passion to be strength, love, and stability to my wife and family as well as to be a passionate prayer warrior for my unborn daughter was squared to the infinity power. Therefore with Cate there was a different connection with her in Utero that I did not have with the other kids. They were “normal” pregnancies, boy there are two words that should never go together in one sentence, normal and pregnancy, there is not ANYTHING normal about pregnancy, totally speaking from a man’s point of view ladies, I am just a spectator for the most part and only get brought into active participation when I am called upon, yelled at, threatened to within an inch of my life, or at the point in the pregnancy that she can no longer reach her shoe laces and have to tie them for her. So, with Cate for me being the passionate person that I am I was dedicated and intense that Cate was going to make it and that she would be alright. And gratefully she did make it out of Utero, but we all know that her story ended very differently than we all pictured it would. Still to this day I can’t believe at moments that she is not “here” with us anymore, though I know in spirit that she is VERY here with us.

The past few weeks I find myself just welling up with tears to the point the dams, that I call my eyelids just can’t hold back the floodwaters. You know how when it rains real hard, and people say, “Wow, those are big drops!” I don’t know, maybe I just say that, well that is what I feel about my tears, they actually make sounds as they hit my chair they are so big. I am a self admitted crier long before this ever started, you get me watching an episode of Extreme Home Makeover with Ty Pennington and you would swear that he had showed up at my house and redid all that for me. I can sit there and cry and cry over that show, it is quite weird, but that can be a whole other blog. The tears over sweet Cate seem to always be right there behind or below my eyes, wherever tears hang out until they stream down my face. At any given moment they can come out, whether I be walking past the fridge and see her picture or reading an email from someone sharing with me what Cate has done or is presently doing in their life.

As I met with my counselor two weeks ago to journey with me through this grief process I cried almost the whole time we talked. He said you seem like you are in the place you need to be right now. He said if you would have walked in here acted like you had it all together with no problems then I would have been worried, but your not, your hurting, it sucks, it really does, but it is where you have to be right now. There was such validation and permission hidden in his words. All of a sudden a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and it was suddenly ok to just be hurting right now, missing Cate right now, and to not feel the need or rush to be anywhere else as much as anyone in the grief process knows, you want to rush out as fast as you can. I was reflecting this week on how often I find myself crying and I make it sound worse than it is, it is not like I cry all day long, but when you are used to not crying everyday or every other day sometimes you feel like an emotional basket case. But I was reflecting on my tears and for some reason I remembered a poster for the military that I saw one time years ago, the poster said, “Pain, is weakness leaving the body.” As I reflected on those words I thought, you know what it is ok if I cry a little everyday or a lot some days, I am going to let it come out because for me right now, “Tears, are pain leaving my body” and I don’t want to keep that pain bottled up any longer than I have to.

What I have decided is that my passion for Cate I want to remain and this blog allows me to continue to be passionate about her, her short life, the powerful mark that she left on this world and the work that to this day she continues to do in this world. But, as for the pain over the loss of Cate I will let that flow out of my body as the tears fall from my eyes. My God wash me clean of this pain in YOUR healing and perfect time and I ask you to help me not keep it bottled in any longer than I have to. Much Love, The Cantrells

Friday, September 26, 2008

Surprised by Design

Greeting to all! Man this week has flown by its hard to believe we are up against the weekend again, but I am very grateful for it at the same time. There was nice breeze put back into our sails this week due to an overnight excursion that Ali and I got to take last weekend! Yes, we got to get out of our house and away from our crazy children for a night! It was spectacular, we knew we had a limited amount of time so we chose New Orleans as our destination because it was close. Because we were staying one night I decided to pick a nice hotel for us to stay in. When we arrived at the hotel Saturday around one in the afternoon and I ask the manager what the next room upgrade would cost me. He said, “Sir, it is already taken care of, I have put you in the nicest suite our hotel has, I have gone up and inspected the room myself, I also put a bottle of wine for you and your wife to enjoy.” I literally had to pick my chin up off the counter, I looked at him and said buddy, you don’t know how much that means to my wife and I. We got up to the room and to say the least it was phenomenal next to the bottle of wine there was a handwritten note from the manager welcoming us to the hotel and letting us know that if there was anything less than exceptional to let him know and he would take care of it. WOW! How does God take care of His children uh?

Ali and I partook of New Orleans to the fullest! It was the first time in what feels like a very long time that we just fun together. There was no schedule we had nothing to do so we laughed, we sang along with the bands, I even embarrassed myself by attempting a little Karaoke, with the emphasis being on the word attempt and an even a bigger emphasis on the word embarrassed. We woke up the next morning had breakfast at one of New Orleans local hang outs and then headed home to pick up our kids. After we pick them up, the noise of life returned quickly, but there was a difference in the air. There was a breath-ability about life again, I don’t know how long it will last but I will take it as it comes!

Well, this week made three months since our precious Cate departed this earthly life. The pain, the hurt, the tears, the snot, the anger, and the loneliness all seem so overwhelming at times that we are not sure how you will make it through the day. We all have plans of what our life will look like and we all work very hard to design our lives, our futures, our marriages, our children, our friendships in order to move us in the direction of that plans. When our designs get tossed out the window by this thing we call “life,” it truly puts us into a world wind of confusion, desperation, and even hopelessness. There are plans that we have, though we may never say them out loud, the “in case of emergency” plans, the how we will react plan, what we will do plan, the who will be there plan, the who will do what plan, can often get thrown out of the window because life is not always as we design it, though we think it should be and we try to buffer ourselves as much as possible in order that we may live safely within the lines of our design.

Over this past week I have been reflecting on the people who have pushed through the awkwardness of grief to be close to us, to reach out to us, to take their place in a design that was not mine and probably was not theirs, but God has surprised all of us by HIS design. I have reflected on people who we have never met who have sent cards, gifts, sweet comments, and prayers our way. On people who have left dinner on our doorstep in a Styrofoam ice chest with a pretty red bow rapped around it. People who have called to go run errands, grocery shop, take the kids for the afternoon and I stand in awe of the design that God has been orchestrating through this catastrophe we find ourselves in. To be real honest with you, I think I got so focused on my design and my emergency plan and saying, where is so and so, why aren’t they doing whatever, that I have truly failed to recognize that God has been trying His best to provide for our every need. The other night as I reflected on what “I” thought should be happening and “who” should be doing it, I truly found myself being surprised by God’s design. All the phone calls, emails, comments on the blog, cards came flooding into my mind and God just said I have been trying to provide for you all along.

So, I have decided that my design for my emergency plan may not have been the way that it was supposed to work and that once again I need to sit back and allow God to be God. I need to ask Him to make me more aware of His designs and how they are playing out in our daily life on this road we find ourselves trying to navigate. A good brother of mine has a ministry that is centered the paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 2097. The last sentence of this paragraph says “The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the World.” When we fix our eyes solely on ourselves and our designs and life doesn’t go “our” way our hearts can quickly be filled with jealousy, angry and resentment, but if we can keep our eyes on God and His designs our hearts can remain grateful, joyful, and hopeful. We ask that you pray that we may be aware of and submissive to God’s design as we continue this journey of grief and we thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts for accepting your role in God’s design for our life. May we all continue to be Surprised by Design. Much Love, The Cantrells

And by the way I met with a counselor last week and have another appointment next week thanks for the prayers and keep praying!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Independence vs. Interdependence

Greetings to All! I know I have been sparatic in my blogs lately and as I drove to work this morning I was questioning myself as to why I have not written. First and foremost I want to thank all of you who responded to the “Quiet Loneliness” blog with your comments and prayers. We even got a card of support in the mail signed a “Loyal Reader” which Ali and I thought was very sweet. It has been very difficult for me lately and I have been trying to process my thoughts and feelings but I keep coming to a dead end, therefore I feel I have nothing to share or to write for that matter.

Ali and I started a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey last week. It is a once a week class for thirteen weeks. As I sat in the class last night one of the questions we had to answer in small group was, “When you are tired and stressed how does that effect your financial decision making?” When I read that question it was as if it jumped off the page at me, but not in the financial sense. It got me thinking about how I feel and what decisions I make and have made when I am tired and stressed and especially in regard to the past three months, by the way this past Saturday made three month since Cate’s surgery day, hard to believe uh. I have been coming to realize that I have gotten to the point of being so tired and stressed that I just do not care anymore. I don’t care about anything but not in the sense of I want to die or anything, but I just don’t care. Nothing really seems that important to me, until it frustrates me and then I just go off the deep end.

The only thing I seem to care about or the only thing that fills my heart and mind lately is that Cate is not with us anymore and I miss her so much that my heart just seems to be consumed with her and the grief of the loss of her. Even yesterday as I drove back from the area I have been working in, which is about a three hour drive I started thinking about the hospital staff that took such good care of Cate and how I wish there was some way that we could show them our appreciation. All of a sudden I was taken back to her hospital room, the beeps, the hustle, the looks on the staff's faces as hope for her recovery dwindled away and of our sweet Cate just laying there lifeless. Right then every bit of pain, hurt, and sadness flooded my heart and from that moment on and the rest of my day went to crap. I got home, I was ugly to and impatient with Ali not to mention completely non-compliant with anything she said or did. As we drove to our meeting I asked her questions that were just looking to pick a fight so I could blow up and get what was inside of me out of me out, but of course Ali being the virtuous wife that she is mostly likely saw through my childish attempts and did not play into my game. Even as I was doing it I was questioning myself, “Charlie, what are doing? You are acting like you did ten years ago," but did that stop me no of course not I charged on in my efforts to spark an arguement anyway. Which proved to be futile because I am married to such a wonderful woman. So, I spent the remainder of the night in quiet and at times not so quiet desperation for release.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a rather stubborn guy, I am a pull yourself up by your boot straps, either you make it for yourself or nobodies going to do it for you kinda guy. This has kind of been my mindset through this grief process. If I just keep walking even when I am not sure where I am going, just keep walking and eventually I will get on the right path. All the while, I also feel, and my wife may disagree with this, that I have been so focused on her and the kids and their process and what direction they are going in, that honestly I have not thought too much about how I feel or my own journey of grief, which right now isn’t much of a journey at all, more of a stale mate that looks like grief and I bashing into each other over and over. Therefore when I allow myself to finally “feel” is comes out in a burst tears that lasts for twenty minutes and then I dry my eyes and say, ok, enough of that you have got to pull yourself up and get yourself together for the sake of your family!

So, as of today I have not pursued any real “help” on this journey and as I type that I realize how silly that sounds. Well, as I drove to work this morning I realized my way isn’t working. It is not working for me, it is not working for my marriage, and it is not working for my family. I need help and I have to be proactive in finding it and I need to find it now. I don’t want to be ten years down the road still feeling like I feel right now, hell I don’t want to be one year down the road and feel like I feel right now. No matter how much I try to convinced myself that “time will heal,” which it will, but I think time and good direction are the necessary tools, if you will, that I need to walk this painful path in a positive and lasting way.

So, for all of you still out there, this is my prayer request for you all. That Ali and I, individually and as a couple, can find the right person/people to journey with us through this process of grief. God has revealed to my heart, yet again, that I am not as independent as I think I am, but that in fact, I am interdependent and if I am to begin the process of healing that I need to allow Him to guide me out of the miscontrude independence that I cling to and move towards a healing and holy interdependence. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. Much Love, The Cantells

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quiet Loneliness

Greetings to all! Well we survived Gustav with no problems at all, thank God and now our eyes turn to Hurricane Ike. Dude had his tonsils out the Thursday before the hurricane hit Louisiana and I think for our little family that was worse than the hurricane! He is getting better every day, hopefully now that he is back in school he will have some good distraction, but please keep his recovery in your prayers.

I know that it has been a while since I have written and it is mainly because my thoughts and feelings are so jumbled up that it is hard for me to focus on anything. Ali and I sat outside last night and were talking about the blog. I was telling her that I just do not know what to write or what I want to write could come across in a way that could be offensive to some people. I am going to do my best to explain to you all where Ali and I find ourselves on this journey of grief so that we can ask you to pray for and support us in this specific way.

Over the last few weeks the feeling of loneliness has invaded Ali and I’s life. The road of grief after losing a child is one that we so often feel that we are walking alone. Although we know people are out there willing and or wanting to help, it is almost that we feel secluded and isolated. We have become, “those people” who are sheilded away from and at times it feels, and I use the word FEELS like we are forgotten about. This feeling can range from our family to close friends to anyone else that we want to feel frustrated with because WE feel alone. We are trying our best to work through our grief but as Ali said the other night, “it is crippling.” Now, couple that with having to take care of a four year old and a three year old, who even last night asked why their sister had to leave and if they were going to go to heaven soon, trying to maintain some type of marital bliss, which bliss occurs less frequently than heartache and hurt, and then to get up and go to work, which at often times feels so unimportant. And when the weekend finally comes, there is no relief, we are isolated from our friends because a lot of them have babies or about to have babies, we don’t hear from some people anymore, or when they call, it’s not at a time that we feel like talking, so we don’t answer. The comment I have gotten from the few people I have shared these feelings with is, “when people don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything.” This maybe true and maybe the case but we still desire to hear from people, whether it is a card simply saying, “Love you and praying for you,” a text message saying, “your not forgotten,” someone dropping dinner off at our doorstep,” a call saying, “hey, I am coming over to pick up your kids so you and you can have some time with just the two of you” these small acts help us to feel not so alone and give us the encouragement, time, and ability to continue on and to most importantly focus on healing. It just feels like at times everyone else’s life has gone back to “normal” and we are still here left trudging through the misery and grief of the loss of our sweet Cate.

It is been very difficult because we don’t always want to “talk” because we don’t know what we are even feeling so when people do call that we have not talk to in a couple of weeks, months, or years and ask us how we are doing? We don’t even have the energy to answer them or even pick up the phone. We often feel like a damper on any joyful situation we walk into because we are wondering if our very presence makes people uncomfortable as you watch faces of joy turn to this sympathetic look of, “Oh the poor Cantrell’s.” It really is a terrible feeling, so instead of trying to hang out with people, Ali and I just hang out with each other, which I know for both of us, has gotten old after almost three months. I watch my beautiful wife struggle quietly through this heartbreaking journey and I often think to myself, where is "so and so," why haven’t they reached out. The struggle of being resentful is very difficult because we know that people’s lives must go on. We know that we are not the center of the universe, but we are a couple who needs the people who are closest to us to be here right now and we continue to be surprised by how alone we feel on a day in and day out basis.

I have not wanted to post this because I fear like it could come across as a “need” for attention, food, or child care and that isn't the intention. Yet, at the same time Ali and both feel like we want and need you all to know where we are at so that you can pray for us in that place. Ali said just last night that she has been putting feelings down on paper but was not sure if she was going to post it because, “it’s down right depressing.” We are standing at the foot of the cross and are asking that you lean with your hands on our backs supporting us as we walk this journey of grief. We love you, we are offering this time in thanksgiving for you, and I sincerely hope that these words may be encouraging or enlightening rather than offending. Pray for us…we need each and every one of you. Much Love, The Cantrell’s

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Greetings to all! I am sending this message from my buddy's house. We all had to get the heck out of dodge due to Hurricane Gustav! I sent my family to Houston and I am about 30 miles north of my house. We have huge oak trees in front of our house and the hurricane is going to pass almost right over us. I just wanted to ask everyone to please pray for all of us here in Louisiana, for our saftey and that the damage that Gustav brings in minimal. The storm is coming through tomorrow around 8:00pm. As soon as the power is back up and we have assessed the damages I will let you all know how we are doing. Also, please pray for Dude, he had his tonsils out last Thursday and poor thing is not feeling well, spent 9 hours in the car yesterday, and got very little sleep. Thanks for all the prayers in advance and will update you again soon. Much Love, The Cantrells

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We are still here

Greetings to all! If anyone is still out there checking We are still here. I ask for prayers I have been in a very difficult spot in my grief. I wrote a blog yesterday but i believe it might come across the wrong way so i did not post it and I am really praying about how God wants to relay what is in my heart. If yall are still out there, its coming, please please please pray for Ali and me, its been rough. Blog coming soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Words Do You Hear?

John 21: 14-17
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Greetings to all! Well before I get into what feel like God is putting on my heart today I wanted to take a second just to thank all of you for your continued prayerful support of our family. We are very much leaning into it right now and want you all to know that it is truly working. We are hanging in there, fighting the good fight, and trying our best to love each other with all that we have and are. I shared a story with Ali that one of the readers had emailed me about a real connection her five year old daughter has with Baby Cate and immediately Ali burst into tears, I was like OH GREAT, Good job Charlie!, but actually she said, that is her high point of the day! We share high points a dinner every night with our kiddos and that precious story help lighten the load of grief for Ali, so thank you all very much for you stories of how God is still using our sweet Cate to move in your lives.

As I sat in Mass today listening to the reading I was very moved by how gentle our God is. Here is Jesus sitting, I would imagine almost face to face with Simon Peter, the same Simon Peter who had denied Him publicly three times just days earlier. The same Simon Peter who not only denied him, but was no where to be seen, at least not openly anyway during Jesus’ crucifixion. This had been one of Jesus’ closest Apostles during His whole public ministry and Peter just bailed that sinking ship as quickly as He could. Jesus, in the most loving gentle way calls Peter back into relationship with Him. But, notice how Jesus does it. It is not forceful, it is not derogatory, it is not degrading, or humiliating, in fact all Jesus does is ask Him a series of questions.

Well, let’s be honest, Jesus asks the SAME question three times, “Simon, son of John, Do you love me?” Did you really hear that? Read that again and allow those words to sink into your heart. “Do you love me?” I love it! There are a million questions that Jesus could of asked, like; What in the Hell where you thinking? Do I mean that little to you? Are you that chicken? Do you feel bad about that decision? Are you sorry? But Jesus doesn’t, because those questions never entered his mind or heart, Jesus KNEW how much Peter was hurting, how ashamed and sorrowful he felt, He knew that those questions would not empower Peter, but cripple him. So what does Jesus ask Him, “Do you love me?” You can almost hear the gentle and healing words filling your ears and overflowing your heart. Our God does not get caught up in the past for He looks to what lies ahead for us, just to steal St. Paul’s words and as the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful.

Now thinking about those powerful words I have to be honest when I fail miserably as a husband and father. When I selfishly choose my way over God's way to serve my wife and children or when I run from the commitment I have made to be a husband and a father, those are not the words I hear. Especially in this time of mourning often it is easier to just worry about me, then to worry about Ali, Ella, and Dude and sometimes that is what I choose to do to be honest and the words that I hear are not, “Charlie, son of Chuck, do you love?” The questions I get usually start with YOU and the followed by one of these adjectives idiot, moron, loser, self-absorbed jerk, and then end with one of these questions, are you happy now?
Do you really feel good about that? Is that what “holy” dad’s do?

After listening to the Gospel today I got to thinking, who am I listening to? That is not what I hear when I turn my back on Jesus. Ah, yes, what a perfect opportunity for the evil one to kick you while you are down, so you stay down, but what does our God do when we are down? He comes oh so gently to bring us back in to the fold and He does it with the most compassionate and understanding demeanor. How blessed we are to have a God who loves us like that and who runs to meet us, like the prodigal father. In those times that we turn our back on our God, our spouse, our children, our family, our friends and those sharp words of condemnation come flying at our face may we take refuge in the shadow of His wing and listen very carefully for the beautiful words, “Charlie, Do you love me?” You can fill your name in there where mine is, I don’t think God would ask you that question with my name in it that would just be a little awkward. It would be like my grandmother who, bless her heart, could not remember my name so she could just call me random cousins and/or uncles until she go it right. Anyway, may we all keep praying for that we can be gentle with ourselves as God is gentle with us. Much Love, The Cantrells

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Follow His Steps

Matthew 10: 16-19
A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Greetings to all! I heard these words and the priest’s homily today and it got me thinking about this whole grieving process. It is not quick and it is not easy by any means. This past Saturday and Sunday were particular rough on Ali. She came back inside Sunday afternoon after having some quiet time outside and she began to apologize for the way that she had been acting and proceeded to tell me how much she appreciated me. I stopped her, mainly because they were all vicious lies, just kidding, and said, Baby, you do not need to apologize, I do not need you to “be” anywhere or “do” anything else.

One of the difficult aspects of grief is that you want to hurry it up, get through it, and get over it. There are a lot of books out there on grief, there are a lot of support groups for those people who are going through the grief process, and there are a lot of ministry groups for people going through loss. Now, do not take me the wrong way, I believe that all of these are good in their own right. But I know for me that I am often tempted to “do” something, rather than “be” something. We live in a world that has the cure for everything, the ten steps to this, the five steps to that, and all of them require us, “doing” something. So often I find myself doing these things, following these steps and at the end I still feel like the young man in the Gospel, still looking. I think that is the case for faith that we often find ourselves in. Our world has become so “climb the corporate ladder” oriented that we begin to place those ideas on to all aspects of our life, even our faith, or in the case of Ali and I the journey of grief.

The young man in the Gospel today wants to know what he can “do” to gain eternal life. Jesus’ final words to the young man are, “Then come, follow me.” I think that we can get everything backwards so often. I think that if we can start by following Jesus, all the “to do’s” will come in to clear view. I think that if we can put all of our books down that are telling us how to live our lives and start just spending time with our God then we will know with confidence what book we need to pick up. If we can simplify our lives of the multitude of ministries that we can get ourselves so wrapped up in that we forget why we are doing in them in the first place and start to really looking to our Creator, then we can begin to realize what ministries will best fit us, ministries where our gifts and talents will be best utilized, and/or what specific needs we have in our lives, i.e. grief support groups, for Ali and I. There was this reporter that once asked Mother Theresa of Calcutta, “What do you do in Adoration?” Regarding the time she spent before the Eucharist. She simply answered, “I look at Him, and He looks at me.” And I do not know what you think, but I think she sure was on the right path.

(Ok…Ali’s Sidebar commentary….
After reading Charlie’s analogy on the “young man,” I realized that I never notice Jesus’ final invitation to …come follow me. I have always hung on to…”go, sell all of your possession and give to the poor.” Um, excuse me…my bank account is not padded and I often feel like I am the “poor,” not to mention I am TOTALLY vain and even in my “poor-ness” I still like to buy shoes. But to follow Jesus in the day in and day outs is do-able (most days). If I can march in my payless pumps and still follow Jesus, then I guess I will turn my attention to “being” with Jesus in this grief and to stop trying to “do & accomplish” the next stage of this process. Pray for us, as we pray in thanksgiving for you, that we can “be” with Jesus and rest in His grace. love to you all, Ali )

We want to commit today to following our God in this grief process as well as every aspect of our life. I know that He will lead all of us down the road that will have lasting results. I know that it may not be a quick fix, but it will be a lasting one. I know that if there is a book to read or a group to join that He will put it on our hearts strongly that this is where we belong. When I was talking to my buddy who is giving me some guidance on writing our book, he said, “Instead of putting our energy in a lot of different directions, let’s find a good direction, and put a lot of energy into that one. I like that idea, I’ve got a wonderful Counselor in Christ, I am going to put a lot of energy into Him and I know that He will lead me in the right direction. I pray that we all stop trying to climb the corporate ladder of faith and start listening to the CEO’s directions because they seem pretty clear to me, “Come follow me.” Much Love, The Cantrells

P.S. We uploaded some new picutres of Ella and Dude and their first day of school as well as our trip to The Games of Acadiana to check them out go to

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A One Winged Butterfly

Greetings to All! As I sit at our breakfast table on this lazy Sunday morning listening to the kids play their imaginary games my heart is a little heavy, not bad just a little. Ali had said this morning that the past few days had been tough on her. I could tell that something was bothering her, but I tend to think that I have done something to upset, offend, or bother her instead of remembering that we lost our daughter less than two months ago. It’s that whole “movie thing” that I live in. This week was A LOT better than last week, it just seemed to go a little smoother. We had another milestone, the 13th came and left pretty quietly. It’s hard to believe that it has already been two months since Cate’s surgery and the heart wrenching grace-filled days that followed.

Our pediatrician called last week with the results of Cate's autopsy. This kind of brought back up a lot of memories and emotions. There is a series of the questions you ask yourself when you lose a child. Did I do enough? Did I make the right decisions? Is there more that I could have done? These questions haunt the recesses of your mind and heart. In those dark moments of grief they seem to come up more poignantly. Of course these were the questions that I did not want to ask, but I knew that I had to. Dr. Mark went on to explain that everything surgically look great, and that he had even called a profusionist friend of his to ask about how they continue to give the heart oxygen during surgery because he wanted to more fully understand this process of Cate’s surgery. After the surgery the surgeon told us himself, that he was unhappy with the amount of “clamp time” that they had to do in order to get Cate’s heart surgically corrected. Dr. Mark went on to say that he truly believes that it was the amount of clamp time that was the downfall of Cate’s heart. He said that he truly believes that the right side of Cate’s heart died that day of surgery.

I asked him why we did not see the complexities of Cate’s heart before and were there any procedures that we could have done before the surgery that would have enable us to see the complexity of Cate’s heart. If Cate’s heart was SO complex why was she not having “Tet spells?” This is where babies turn blue because of the lack of oxygen in their blood. He said, Charlie, I don’t know why Cate appeared to everyone to be so healthy. Even, the night before her surgery we went to Dr. Mark’s house so that he could give her a “once over” to make sure she was ready for surgery. He thoroughly checked her out and told Ali, “She looks great, yall go have that surgery and come on back home.” He said that after reading the autopsy he just can’t understand how Cate was not much sicker that she appeared to be to everyone.

Although it is difficult losing a child, Cate was such a joy. Our memories are filled with joyful moments of laughter and love. She was truly our most joyful baby, all of our children are joyful, but Cate was just different as a baby. The memories that we have are ones of a smiling, healthy, beautiful baby girl and for that I am so grateful. We did not have to watch our child suffer for seven months, we got to watch her live life to the very fullest a seven month old can. I smile even as I type this just thinking of Cate’s joyful presence. This is what I miss the most and what pains my heart to tears at time. I remember one night in the hospital, at Texas Children’s, as I sat at her bedside crying my eyes out, one of the profusionist left his machine and came and sat beside me and just put his hand on my leg. He just sat there, he did not say a word, he just sat there with me. As I went to walk out of the room he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “I lost my son fourteen years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. She will be with you forever whether you leave here with her or without her.” How true those words are, I do feel that she is always with me. As I have told you all before I feel her presence very strongly at mass. The other day I was at mass and I quickly noticed that her presence was not there with me. I know that may sound a little crazy but I was very aware that her sweet spirit was not around. As soon as I noticed that she was not there with me, I heard her voice in my heart say, “Sorry dad, God has me working on something right now, see you soon.” And sure enough the next time I was at mass, she was back there with me. It was really a very neat experience.

Since Cate’s death butterflies have been a real connection to Cate for Ali. People who lose children or loved ones will often have something that reveals the love one’s presence or a connection of some sort. For Ali’s family their connection to Phil, the brother that she lost, is dimes and rainbows. We have jars full of dimes and their car ashtrays are full of dimes. It’s just a connection that they have with him. For Ali and Cate, its butterflies. Ali and I were talking on the balcony the other night about my conversation with Dr. Mark. I was relaying the information that Dr. Mark had given me and I was specifically telling her about how Dr. Mark said that he believed that the right side of Cate’s heart had most likely died the day of surgery. She smiled and said you know what? “I was talking to one of my students today and a butterfly went fluttering by. I was telling her how butterflies were very special to me. The student then responded, ‘You know Ms. Cantrell, a butterfly can live for 12- 14 days with only one wing.’” Now, we don’t know if this is actually true or not, and if its not, don’t tell us, per Ali’s request. It’s just another connection to our sweet Cate and the beautiful reality that her life and the grace filled days that followed her surgery. Her short yet beautiful life touched our family and so many others so deeply, just as butterflies can brighten our day with beauty and grace as they flutter by us for a brief moment.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, cards, and support. They are so very appreciated Ali and I were talking just the other night about how blessed we feel by those people who have not forgotten about us, now that the “hype” of Baby Cate is over, so again thank you. A prayer request, we are beginning the process of getting the blogs turned into a book because of the overwhelming request we have had. This is much more emotional for me than I had anticipated. Going back and re-reading the blogs during those days is difficult, but I want to do it while they are fresh on my mind. Please pray for good discernment of what goes in and what does not go in and that we find a publisher that is a perfect fit for us. Also, after re-reading the blogs from when we were in Houston, I want to thank you for interpreting my jiber jabber at times, WOW, there was some terrible grammatical things going on there. And last but not least if you still are wanting a Baby Cate prayer card but have not wanted to ask, go ahead, ask! It honors us to know that you want to pray for our family and to ask our precious Cate to pray for you. So again, if you want one just drop me your mailing address to . You all really do mean the world to us and we appreciate you staying with us, Please keep praying for us! Much Love, The Cantrells

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Taking the Underwear Off Our Head

Matthew 18:1-5
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

Greetings to all! This was part of the Gospel reading today at Mass and it is one that I have heard countless times over the years. What typically happens when I am very familiar with a particular Gospel reading is that my mind immediately goes to, yeah yeah, yeah, be innocent, be pure, be simple I know this old dog and pony show. And sure enough the priest went on in his homily to say that yes we are supposed to be innocent like little children and I was like see, I have heard this one before, but then, he through a curve ball at me. He said we also need to be dependent and trust in our Heavenly Father, just as children are dependent and trust of their earthly parents.

That got my mind thinking about Ella, Dude, and yes even Cate. Although Ella believes, at the ripe old age of four that she is capable of doing just about everything on her own, unbenouced to herself she cannot. She still needs someone to cook her food, put her to bed at a reasonable hour, which last night was a daddy night, so they got to stay up later watching cartoons and eating sugar candy because mommy was not home. Dude, needs some one to help him put his Spiderman undies back on, that boy can get them off faster than lighting and usually in places that I would prefer him keep them on his little body, like my mother-in-law’s front yard where he decided it was a good place to pee because he saw the dog peeing in the front yard. Cate needed someone to change her poopy diapers and to hold her bottle while she ate. All three of them are and were dependent on their mommy and daddy to take care of their everyday needs. They have complete trust that if they are hungry, they will be feed. If they can’t get their underwear off their head and back on their bottoms, that there will be someone there to help them. If their leotard is stuck on their face that mommy or daddy knows the trick to get it off. They place all of the trust in us and for the most part we don’t let them down, because we love them, we care for them, and we want the best for them and underwear stuck on their face in their Nana’s front yard is not necessarily the best for them or the son-in-law, which happens to be me.

After that train of thought had left the station, I was reminded of the scripture verse Matthew 6:30, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you.” In these troubling times that we find ourselves this is where our dependence and trust must rise to the top of our hearts. We must willingly and frequently fling ourselves into the loving and guiding hands of our Heavenly Father. Those times when life feels like it pulls our underpants over our face and we can’t see and we can’t get them off, God is right there trying to help us to get them off and so often we, like my four year daughter, just keep telling Him, “No, I can do it myself,” and He patiently asks, “Will you let me help?”

I spoke to a good buddy of mine on the phone this morning and he asked the question, “What is the one thing that you feel like is pulling you through this time?” I said, well, it’s actually two things. First, it’s Daily Mass and the Eucharist, as often as I can get there. When I am going to daily Mass and receiving the Eucharist things stay in perspective and I feel as though I have the strength to continue on. When life gets “busy” and I “can’t” make it to Mass, is when I start losing hope and losing my focus of who is really guiding me through this. I start thinking “I” have to get the underwear off my head myself, instead of just trusting and accepting the help that God is trying to give me. Secondly, I continue to invite God into these emotions and moments of real heartache. Over the past year I have begun to work on some inner healing prayer with my spiritual director. The premise of this type of prayer is that attached to every memory is an emotion and as time goes on whenever that memory is triggered you experience that emotion again. Through inner healing prayer you invite or ask God to take you back into your heart and into certain memories where you felt like He wasn’t there and to show you that He was in fact there. This process allows those old memories and emotions associated with those memories to begin to be healed and you do not have to continue living out of the past hurts. I know this may sound a little crazy and I was skeptical at first big time, but God has really rocked my heart over the past year and given me a lot of freedom. So, what I told my buddy was either I invite God in now and let Him reveal Himself to me and show me that He is here with me or I am going to live the next twenty years out of abandonment, hurt, and anger, because I think, “God didn’t show up.”

What I am getting at is the more that we can depend on God and trust that He will show up, the more that we can live freely and enjoy our lives that He gives us here on earth. Have you ever just sat and watched little kids play? They have no worries, you know why? Because they ultimately trust that they are being watched, guarded, and protected by the eye of their parents or people that their parents know and trust. My prayer is that during this process of grieving that we as a family can continue to learn to depend and trust that God is going to be with us, comforting us, guiding us, and ultimately healing us, even if we can’t get our underwear off our head, He knows the trick. I ask that you pray that our dependence and trust might increase, that we stop looking to ourselves or to things of this world and start looking to our Heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need. Much Love, The Cantrells

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dirt Filled Nails

Greetings to all! Ok guys I wish today I had some pretty flowery words to give you all, but I don’t. I just wanted to share my heart and where it finds itself over the past week. I have not written lately because honestly the messiness of grief has just overcome me and I have found it difficult to put into words or have the energy to sit down and write a blog, not to mention work got kind of crazy at the end of last week.

I feel as thought I have been struggling to keep my head above the water lately. I feel like there is a true and real battle raging in and for my heart. I am not giving in by any means, but at the moment I feel like my fingernails are full of dirt as I do my best to cling to hill the of the cross. Last week was probably the hardest week so far in this journey of grieving. There were two days that I sat at my desk and cried for most of the day. I cried over the fact that I miss Cate so much and I cried over the fact that I have REALLY been stinking it up as a husband and a father. I had my guys group last Thursday evening, which I have every other Thursday night. It is a sacred time for me and the men that sit at that table are sacred to my heart. They are they one’s that no me inside and out and have my back no matter how ugly life gets. We get together and play cards and whenever someone is ready to talk about what is going on in their heart we all just put our cards down and listen. We had been playing for a while when out of the blue one of my brothers just flat out asked me, “Ok, Charlie, seriously, How are you really doing brother?” I lost it right there, the tears came streaming down my face and I just shared with them for what felt like thirty minutes all the miseries that my heart is experiencing right now and they just listened, no one offered advice, no one tried to compare my suffering to what they are going through, the biggest brother, who sits at our table got up came behind me and wrapped his big burly arm around my neck tightly and just said, We love you man, and we are here for you. They then talked about how they didn’t know how I was doing it and didn’t know how they could do it if they were in my situation. Those where all nice words and good to hear but the truth is I feel like I am sucking it up big time right now and my heart is breaking even more because of it. I always try to do whatever I do the best I can and attempt to be great in whatever situation life brings my way. This particular situation just feels so much bigger than me. It feels at times and at the same time most of the time like I can’t even breathe because I feel like such am stinking things us so bad and I do not even know where to start to stop stinking it up.

As some of you may have heard Steven Curtis Chapman, a very popular Christian musician, lost his 5 year old daughter Maria in May in a very tragic accident. He and his wife were on Good Morning America the other day and a friend sent me a link to the interview. Although our situations are totally different and I have no idea what they are going through I saw a similarity in the way that he and his wife are handling their loss to how Ali and I are handling it. He seemed to be the strength, the one directing his family in Hope while in the public eye and his wife Mary Beth was so honest and beautiful and said, “I don’t care whose lives are touched or whose lives are changed by this story, at the heart of a Mom, I want Maria back.” These words just struck me to the very core and confirmed even more concretely that Ali’s heart just wants Cate back and there is nothing that I can do, nothing I can write, nothing on this earth that will change this. I have been so short with Ali lately, it doesn’t matter what she does, I get frustrated and yet I too feel like I can’t do anything right either. I find myself being very selfish, instead of generous, impatient, instead of patient, and harsh, instead of gentle. Then when I am finished being all of these things, usually within a period of five minutes I am frustrated with myself because of it, but it feels almost impossible to be anything else.

As interview went on they talked to Steven and Mary Beth’s three older children and their oldest Emily said, “Grief is this windy road I feel like sometimes you turn a corner and you’ve got a straight away and its beautiful and then you can turn a corner at the end of that straight away and its thunderstorms and mountains and it can be hard and even within the same day.” I think that young lady is wise beyond her years I feel like our lives right now are like those road signs that you see in the mountains that have a wavy line with an arrow on the top pointing up. I just feel like there are a lot of corners that we must go through before we get to where that arrow is point, up. Right now it does not feel like there are many straight aways and that is what I am finding that very difficult. There just seems to be no rest for the weary… right now. The other night was a particularly rough night for all of us and I found myself as I was putting the kids to bed lying in bed with Dude and I called Ella over to come lay down with us. I proceeded to apologize and to ask there forgiveness for the brunt that they often bear because we can quickly take out our anger on them. I explained that mommy and daddy were just having a hard time right now and that it was not in anyway their fault and that we were very sorry for the times that we treated them unfairly, to which Ella said, awe dad, we love yall, can I go get back in my bed NOW! Kids! Even last night we were over at the in-laws having dinner to celebrate family birthdays and after a while I just had enough and I felt like if I stayed any longer I was going to unleash a fury of words that would not have benefited anyone so what did I do in all my wisdom? Walked out of the door and walked home.

I am not sure where this particular blog is going, but for me it had to come out, as you know this is my therapy of sorts. I just ask that you continue to diligently pray for us as we continue to grieve the loss of Cate. I know that things will change and I know with confidence that God will heal our broken hearts. It is just the interim that is difficult. So with dirt filled nails that are clinging to foot of the cross we ask that you remain with us. Much Love, The Cantrells

I am attaching the link to the Chapman Family interview if you would like to check it out.
You will need to copy and paste this into your address bar at the top of you browser. Please keep the Chapman family in your prayers as well.

Also if anyone would still like a Baby Cate Prayer Card just let me know by emailing me at

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mountain Tops

Greetings to All! As I ate my lunch today I was reading the Mass readings for today and reflecting on the Gospel. Today’s Gospel is from Mt 17:1-9 in which Jesus goes up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John and before their very eyes he is transfigured into all of His Glory and Jesus is conversing with Moses and Elijah. What a sight this must have been for Peter, James and John? The joy they must have felt as right before their eyes they were seeing Jesus in His Glory, not to mention Moses and Elijah were there. It had to be a total confirmation of everything that Jesus had told them and of everything that they had truly placed their faith in. Peter was so excited he did not want to leave nor did he want anyone else to leave. He offered to build tents for all of them and they could stay on the mountain forever.

Isn’t that how we all feel so often? Having been involved with church ministry for a number of years now, I have often used this particular scripture passage while ministering to teenagers, especially after they come back from a retreat or conference. Explaining to them that whatever event they were on and however powerful it might have been, that we cannot stay on the mountain, that our life is not like that all the time. No matter how bad we want to stay on the mountain, although all of us would really like to, life just does not work like that for us either. I believe that God gives us all these mountain top experiences in order to show us His Glory and His Power, and Jesus is our perfect example, yet again and in the words of my wife, “That Jesus, He is so clever!” Jesus Himself shows us that we have the mountain top experiences and they are good and that it is necessary for us to hear from our Father in heaven that, We are His beloved Sons and Daughters, in whom He is well pleased. Isn’t awesome? That even Jesus needed to hear these words and have this experience in order that He might have the strength, courage, and perseverance to come down the mountain and to walk up the hill to Calvary.

For Ali and I our life together has been filled with many mountain top experiences, individually and together as a couple. God has done marvelous things in our lives to show us that we are His beloved Son and Daughter, in whom He is well pleased. There have been real moments where He has revealed Himself, His Power, His Beauty, and His Faithfulness to us and there is part of me that wonders if it is partly because He knew the mountain that we would have to climb with Cate and her death. I firmly believe that these experiences along with our faith are what continue to root us deeply into the heart of God right now. I would think that as Jesus walked the road to Calvary that those words, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” were echoing deep in His Sacred Heart. It was these words that enable him to get up again and again after he fell. Similarly, but on a MUCH smaller scale, I know that this is what is carrying Ali and me right now. We are reminded of the mountain top experiences in our lives where we have truly witnessed for ourselves the power of God before our very own eyes. Since Cate’s death when it is has been difficult and we have had trouble hearing God or being reminded of His faithfulness, We have had our own Simon, who helped Jesus carry his Cross, come into our lives and speak those words of the Father into our hearts that we cannot hear at that moment because the shouts of hurt, angry, and sadness get so loud at times.

I thank you Jesus for not staying on the mountain that day. I thank you for coming down and accepting the will of the Father so that we all might receive Salvation. I pray Lord that you will continue to remind Ali and I of the mountain tops in our lives as we walk in this valley of the shadow of Death. But even more than that I pray that we might not only see You on the mountain but that we might see You even clearer and even nearer as we walk in this valley. May we all follow Christ up the mountain and then follow Him all the way to Calvary. I love you Lord, help me to love you more. Much Love, The Cantrells