|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
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"Consider the lilies of the field ..." (Luke 12:27a).
Prior to December 28, 1998, we were a normal family with a normal life. Some of it messy, but overall, pretty typical for the average American, blended family. My husband Larry and I are the same age and went to the same high school, but we were just two kids among many, in the same place at the same time. After graduation and unknown to each other, we both married at a young age, each had a daughter and were divorced after two years. As Providence would have it, Larry was invited to the church I had attended from youth by his sister's friend. We soon noticed each other and realized all that we had in common including both being single parents of a young daughter. Mine, Nicole was three-years-old and Lisa, his, was two.
Larry later said he first noticed Nicole and me because Nicole was always so cutely dressed each Sunday for church. I, in turn, noticed Larry because he came in every week with Lisa sleeping in his arms. We soon started dating and married within a year.
Once Nicole and Lisa became sisters, they were instantly inseparable best friends. Their names were no longer spoken individually, as "Nicole" or "Lisa," but always spoken together as "Nicole and Lisa." Nicole took her role as a big sister very seriously and made it her responsibility to "take care of" her new little sister. Lisa was only a year younger (almost to the day) so they were often mistaken for twins. Contributing to this notion was the girls' sizes. Nicole, a petite brunette with blue eyes and freckles. Lisa has green eyes and inherited her father's blonde hair and tall, slender build.
Our first home as a newly formed family was a rented, one room house situated on ten acres in the high desert of Southern California. We had no heat or air conditioning, but we were young and it was all a great adventure. We didn't mind at first. Being a one room house and very limited on space, the landlord graciously gave us permission to close in the back porch and make it in to a room for the girls. Larry built each girl a hanging bed, so they had plenty of room underneath for playing and pretending. They spent hours in their room giggling and creating their own little world.
The girls were unaware we had no money and struggled to pay bills. Our church had a food bank that gave away free blocks of processed cheese. We consumed quite a bit of that free cheese. Many times, we were low on food when my mom would show up at the door with bags of groceries. She said she accidentally bought too much food at the grocery store. I remember thinking, "Yeah right, Mom. How do you 'accidentally' buy too much food?". But we were grateful for those groceries and free cheese.
We loved making that little house our home during those first couple of years together. We learned to cope with the cold in the winter by hanging out near the bathroom with a space heater running or having the girls run laps around the couch before school. The fireplace also helped when we stayed near it in the evening before bed. It was a simple, sweet, poor time and I cherish every moment of those memories! In the midst of it, we were truthfully stumbling along as best we could, with little conscious faith in trusting God to provide. Yet in retrospect, we are amazed and humbled by God's repeated provisions.
There were times the adventure turned into alarm, like when I realized there was a bat hanging on one of the baskets on the ceiling of my kitchen. Needless to say, I freaked out and ran outside until Larry took care of it for me. I have had an aversion to bats ever since. There was also the time I almost stepped on a giant lizard running through the area we called our living room. I tore the house apart trying to get that thing out of there.
Larry, an earth-moving contractor, worked close to home in those days, so when I would have a crazy critter emergency, he could usually rescue me when he got home in the evenings.
Our business was small and sometimes he needed an extra person, so I would go help him by hauling equipment or running errands. One day he needed me to help him haul the backhoe, requiring me to drive a big dump truck pulling a trailer with a 16,000 lb backhoe on it. While I was focused on not running over anyone on the road, I was suddenly struck with a terrible pain in my lower abdomen and had to pull over. I told him I needed to go to the emergency room because of the extreme pain. He knew it was serious, because I didn't often consent to going to the doctor.
The hospital did some initial testing and found I had an ectopic pregnancy. (The egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube instead of dropping down to the uterus.) At that time, I didn't understand what that was. All I heard was "pregnancy" and was thrilled to think about having another child. Within moments, I went from joy to sadness as the doctor explained the baby would not survive and unless they did surgery, my life would be in danger as well. So, I had emergency surgery and tried to reconcile the fact that I would never have the chance to hold my baby.
I grieved that loss, even though I was only aware I had been carrying my unborn child for a few minutes. That experience gave me a heart for those mamas who have had miscarriages or those who carry their children full term, only to have their dreams dashed by the sometimes sudden and unexpected loss of those little ones. Deep sorrow comes with the loss of a child, at any age. Heartbreak can't be measured or should never be compared.
Through the pampering of my family, I got back on my feet and returned to the routine of life. About a year later, I began to notice the symptoms of pregnancy. I ignored it at first because I didn't want to get my hopes up. I didn't tell anyone, but decided I needed to do a home pregnancy test. I was both delighted and fearful when the little plus sign appeared on the testing stick. After sharing the news with Larry, we decided I should go to the doctor to be checked out. The doctor confirmed the pregnancy and assured us our baby was growing in the correct spot. Coincidentally, or should I say divinely, my new doctor was the same one who took care of me during my ectopic pregnancy and celebrated with us. We happily gave the girls and the rest of the family our wonderful news.
We realized during my pregnancy the little adventure house we lived in was no longer a good fit for our growing family and decided to move somewhere a little less adventurous. We bought two and a half acres and put a mobile home on it. I was so thrilled to have closets and carpet before our new little one arrived.
On February 13, 1987, our daughter Megan was born. We jokingly said we had "his, hers, and ours". Nicole, then five, and Lisa, four, loved their little sister and spoiled her rotten. Time flew and they were growing up before our very eyes. (I long for the sights and sounds of those days and the craziness of our busy household, even now.) I was trying to keep the kids focused on school while keeping up with our family's schedule. There were animals to feed, horses to ride and dance classes to take. In addition, the kids were involved in Awana along with other church activities and 4-H. "Happy Chaos," as Lisa used to call it.
Our kids had a blend of homeschooling and taking classes at our local charter school. Our earth-moving business had changed and expanded. Instead of focusing on a volatile residential and commercial market, we began to specialize in cemetery expansion and improvement. Larry had to travel more for work and our unique school situation gave us the opportunity to travel with him.
We had a full and content life as a family of five for many years when I heard a message about the overcrowding in Russian orphanages and the need for American families to fill in the gap through adoption. My heart was stirred and I wondered if the Lord was calling us to adopt a child from Russia. Larry wasn't so sure about the idea and told me he would pray about it. He did pray about it and the Lord pursued him on it for about three years. Every time he turned around, he was hearing about Russian adoptions. He finally asked the Lord for one more confirmation when he turned on the radio. Guess what they were talking about? Yes, Russian adoption. So, we began the year-long process and realized that about the time the Lord put adopting from Russia on my mind was about the time our new little son, Alexander was born.
We knew it was not a coincidence and were convinced in our hearts Alex was our son from the moment he was born. The ten-day trip in December of 1997 to Russia to pick him up was a bold endeavor that tested me in many ways. With the exception of Mexico, I had not traveled outside of the United States, much less with a four-year-old that spoke no English. Yet this stocky, hazel-eyed blonde boy held all of our hearts before we even met him.
We were then a family of six (the kids were ages 16, 15, 10 and 4) and settled into our new routine. Instead of "his, hers, & ours," we became "his, hers, ours & theirs." Nicole started her senior year in high school and was a huge help with driving everyone to their classes and picking up food for us when I was too overwhelmed to cook. She and I were really close. I think that is because at the time, she was more like me than anyone else in the world.
She was very balanced for someone so young. She was compliant, yet strong. She and Lisa were still buddies and partners in crime. She spoiled Megan and Alex and made sure no one messed with them. I'm not saying she was perfect, but she was a remarkable teenager. She definitely had a mischievous streak and was usually instigating some form of "Supervised naughtiness," as my friend Terri called it.
Nicole loved to TP (string Toilet Paper in the front yard) the homes of her friends in the darkness of night. I wouldn't let her drive that late, so I would drive and help them TP their friend's homes. Now, don't judge me, it was all in fun and I knew our house would get TP'ed during pay back and we all agreed, they'd have to do the clean-up. We'd load up whoever was at our house and the four kids, armed with lots of toilet paper and sneak off to decorate their friend's houses. We often got caught and ended up running down the street giggling. A few nights later, we would hear noises outside our house and would run out to discover that we'd been hit.
Nicole and Lisa fancied themselves as the TP Queens and even decided to use their influence to get the younger kids involved in their escapades at horse camp. They decided it was a good idea to TP the tents of the other campers and got caught. The leader in charge wasn't as understanding as I was about the concept of TPing and Nicole's "Supervised Naughtiness" got all of them in trouble. Even after that, Nicole would have a line of younger kids following her at the horse shows like the Pied Piper.
Lisa, Megan and Alex would love it when Nicole drove them anywhere, because she would always pull her purple truck into the gas station and load up with Slurpies and snacks. They were fiercely loyal to one another. Don't get me wrong, they would fight like crazy, but when mom pulled up, they would all act like nothing ever happened.
I know I remember the good more than the craziness, and there was plenty of craziness. There were times I was frazzled and perpetually disorganized. Everything felt messy, sticky and noisy. But now, looking back I see it was a pure, simplistic time. I miss it. I wish I could go back and capture those times and savor them. I think so much of our lives are lost in the striving and caught up in the busyness of life.
It was during one of those busy seasons, a year after we adopted Alex and about three weeks before Christmas when Larry said the strangest thing to me. I was sweeping the kitchen floor and he said out of the blue, "We need to be prepared in case anything was to happen to one of our kids." Those words struck terror in my heart as I quickly pushed even the consideration of such a thought far from my mind. Just like most moms, my kids were my world and I believed deeply I was too weak to cope with anything like that ever happening to me. I dismissed it, thinking only "strong" people lost children. I told him God would not allow that to ever happen, because He would not give us more than we can handle and I could not handle that. I see now God was preparing us when those sentiments were placed in Larry's mind. I think God does that for us many times in our lives, but we rarely catch it.
I had no idea what I would be facing a few weeks after that. After Christmas, with decorations and wrapping paper strewn all over the floor and leftovers still in the fridge, we began to prepare for our family camping trip to Pismo Beach, CA. It was something we all were looking forward to, but I felt an unexplained anxiousness in my spirit. I chalked it up to fatigue from the holidays and the anxiety of trying to take care of household and family details before we were to leave. Lisa stayed behind because she was on the varsity basketball team at school and they were participating in a holiday tournament. She stayed at my parents' house next door and took care of the animals while we were gone.
It was December 27, 1998. I didn't realize it would be the last normal day for our family as we loaded up the truck and got on the road. I wonder how many moments we miss in our everyday life because we are consumed with the details of getting where we are going, instead of being present in our current situation? The truck was filled with delightful chatter and I could feel the anxiety of the past few days melt away as we drove north on the highway toward Pismo Beach. We happily ate snacks and talked about plans for the upcoming year. There were many activities we looked forward to in hopeful expectation.
Nicole had gotten a new show horse, Neon, and excitedly talked about all the horse shows she was hoping to attend. She loved all things horsey and had been working hard to qualify for the American Quarter Horse Youth World show. Megan entertained us with her comical antics, while Alex just took it all in.
We finally made it to our destination and met up with some of Larry's family, with whom we would be camping. After dinner with the family, we stayed in a hotel so we could get a good night's sleep before we would be sleeping in sleeping bags and tents for the next few days. I often hold on to the sweetness of that night as I recall the little things. We had two rooms at the hotel with an adjoining door between us. In my mind I can still recall the silliness taking place as I tried to get everyone calmed down and in their assigned sleeping spots. The kids kept going back and forth between the rooms goofing off. Exhaustion from the busy last few days and the long drive started to set in as we eagerly climbed in bed. My unsuspecting mind could not conceive what the next day would hold as I drifted off to sleep.
Grief Note. Cherish the memories. Don't be afraid to recall the sweet times.
Love Them Well. It's okay to talk about how life was before a tragedy.CHAPTER 2
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).
December 28, 1998, we woke up rejuvenated and ready to go camping. The weather at the beach was clear and glorious as we all climbed in our vehicles to head out to the sand dunes. With the sparkling ocean on our right and the sand dunes on our left, we drove along the beach that led to the rolling Oceano Sand Dunes. After finding the perfect camping spot, everyone pitched in to set up our camp in a circle with the fire pit in the middle. Nicole and Larry had some dad and daughter talks about relationships while they worked on an area for us to ride the ATV's by our camp spot. We relaxed at the campsite for a while and ate our lunch before venturing out into the dunes to play. We took turns on the rented quads, motorcycle, ATVs and riding in the truck. Nicole was hanging back, letting everyone else take turns riding, when I encouraged her to get in there and make sure she took a turn. We found an ideal area to watch everyone ride around what we called a sand dune bowl on a high hill and parked the truck.
Before the kids took off on the ATVs, Larry made sure they all understood the dunes dropped off dramatically when riding directly away from the beach. It is difficult to see the size of a drop-off, so they needed to be extra careful when riding away from the ocean. Larry was riding his motorcycle, Nicole was on our three-wheeler and everyone else was taking turns on the four-wheelers. I was relaxed, enjoying the sun watching everyone ride around when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a three-wheeler riding away from the beach at a high rate of speed and was headed straight toward a large drop off into the bowl of the sand dune. I realized that it was Nicole the moment she went sailing off the sand dune and lunged head first down the forty foot drop off. We all watched in horror as she landed on her head with the ATV on top of her at the bottom of the dune. Everything was a blur as we rushed down to where she was. I can remember screaming as I ran toward her, "It's Nicole!".(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Victorious Heart"
Copyright © 2019 Kim Peacock.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Simple Times,
Chapter 2: The Accident,
Chapter 3: Going Home,
Chapter 4: The Service,
Chapter 5: Reality Sets In,
Chapter 6: Contagious Courage,
Chapter 7: The New Normal,
Chapter 8: Letting Go,
Chapter 9: Protecting My Mind,
Chapter 10: Laughter and Joy,
Chapter 11: Unanswered Questions,
Chapter 12: Birthdays and Holidays,
Chapter 13: The Rest of the World Moves On,
Chapter 14: Aftershocks,
Chapter 15: Use Your Pain,
About the Author,