Thursday, February 25, 2010

Memories Of Jenny

The last few weeks have been really hard. As most of you know, my friend, Jenny Bizaillion, was hospitalized after struggling with the flu for a few days. She developed pneumonia, then sepsis, had her legs amputated to try and save her life, then developed infection/lesions in her brain and heart valves. Then just a few days ago, Jenny went to be with God. It is a very sad situation for the family she leaves behind, specifically for her nine year old daughter Malaya. We will continue to pray for their family, as I know the road ahead will be full of difficulty.

Memories of time spent with Jenny have been flooding through my mind during the past few weeks. I wanted to write a blog in order to write down some of the things that I remember about my friend Jenny. I will stop to tell you a some of the precious memories that I have from time spent with this wonderful Christian woman. I won't do her justice, and I'll probably get carried away with lots of insignificant details, but if you've read this blog before you know that's how I like to do things anyway...

Jenny and I first met (briefly) while we were pledging Kojies at ACU in the fall of 1997. Of course, that whole pledging experience bonds people a little bit. Jenny was engaged to David Bizaillion just a couple of weeks before Josh and I were engaged. I remember a few days after my "Pass the Candle" (the ceremony that let our Kojie sisters know that we were engaged), Jenny approached me and suggested that, since we were going to be getting married around the same time, we needed to hang out because we married girls were going to have to stick together. Jenny and I started spending time together. We were both engaged and were consumed with talking about our fabulous fiances, wedding plans and general hopes and dreams for the future. I remember a time that we were talking about how we met our spouses and when we "knew" that they were the ones that God had for us. I remember her telling me that she fell in love with David's heart, that she knew that there would be obstacles to overcome in their relationship, but that she knew that he had a heart for God and for doing what was right. She and David had discussed how they both wanted bigger than average families. Jenny told me that her career goal was be a mom and have loads of children. I felt exactly the same way. We clicked. We were so young, only nineteen, and totally giddy about our upcoming marriages and family plans.

On July 11th, 1998, Jenny and David were married. I was in her house party. I remember being amazed by the spiritual strength of her family. Her younger brother conducted the ceremony. The thing that impressed me the most was the spiritual nature of the wedding. I mean, I know that a wedding is a spiritual event, but for Jenny it seemed especially so. I remember she and David kneeling at the front of the auditorium and praying during the wedding. I can't remember the exact wording at the wedding, but only the general impression it left on me. Jenny and David wanted God to be the center of their relationship. It was precious! Jenny was a beautiful, radiant bride. She was so excited to be marrying this man. It was written all over her face.

Josh and I were married about three weeks later. David and Jenny were both at our wedding. When we got back to Abilene and settled into our new roles as wives, we seemed to have even more in common than before. Jenny and I met together a few times a week at her house to pray. I don't know what we were praying about, but we seemed to have lots of concerns because those were some SERIOUS prayers. That girl could pray! Have you ever been around someone who led very eloquent, heartfelt prayers, not showy, but just genuine? Those were the kind that Jenny led. Jenny often encouraged me to lead a prayer. I wasn't as spiritually mature as Jenny. I usually let her lead the prayers, because hers were just better. :) This girl had a "real" relationship with God, real enough that she had said enough prayers to be able to do it with ease. I wasn't quite there yet. I was learning from her. This is a pic taken in David and Jenny's first house. This is where we met to pray.

Jenny and David had a great relationship, but like most newly married couples they were learning about each other's quirks and habits. They were getting to know each other during that first year of marriage. Jenny was constantly telling me some funny story about something-or-other that caught her off guard in their relationship. She loved him and laughed as she learned to adjust to the things that he would do that she would have done differently. Anyway, David and Jenny drove this old clunker of a car. It had several minor problems. One day, when I came over to see Jenny she marched me straight out to the clunker and pointed to the windshield. The windshield wiper blades needed to be replaced. Jenny and David were newly married and didn't have alot of money, so resourceful David improvised. Jenny showed me how he had "fixed" the blade so that it would work again, only he didn't put a new blade on it... He had taken a pair of old underwear and tied it to the wipers with a trash bag tie. Jenny was horrified! We laughed so hard at that! I will never forget that. I remember watching Jenny struggle through getting used to the differences that two people from two totally different backgrounds have to go through. She adored David, despite their differences, and during that first year or two she learned to be a little more flexible in lots of different situations that came up.

Jenny loved to be silly! Though she was a very spiritually serious person, she definitely had a mischievous and fun-loving side. One of our favorite things to do together was prepare the most preposterous lingerie shower gifts for our soon-to-be-married friends that we could imagine. We would take the couple's personalities into account and design a custom lingerie item for them. The lucky recipient would usually get a hand written poem full of lots of crazy, silly stuff. My favorite handmade item was for this couple that we knew (Rusty and Andrea). Rusty enjoyed hunting and fishing. We took this bra that we bought from Goodwill and decorated it with metallic lame "scales" and two fishing bobbers on the front, rubber fishing worms glued on the back. We also bought a matching piece for the groom to wear and attached a homemade fishing pole and hook to the front of it. We were very silly. Our creations were always a hit! We had lots of fun trying to think of crazy creative gifts to give to our girlfriends. The items were probably laughed at and thrown straight into the trash, but it sure was a cheap way to come up with a gift for the many showers we had to attend while we were at ACU. I wish I had some pictures of the outlandish gifts we made. They were pretty funny!

This pic was taken of the four of us at David and Jenny's house during the first year of our marriage. I don't ever remember Josh looking that young. We look like we're about twelve. :)

Another fun memory I have of David and Jenny is when Jenny and I planned a mystery date for our hubbies. Of course we were broke, so we had to think cheap. We decided to surprise them with a hobo type date. We made beans, cornbread and other cheap hobo fair, blindfolded them, and took them out to an old abandoned train car for a nighttime picnic. I remember it being really cold and wanting to get out of there, but, hey, we had a date that we will always remember. After we ate our hobo dinner, we went back to campus and bowled at the student bowling alley. It was sweet time in my life that I look back on with fondness. Jenny and I had each other (and David and Josh too) over for dinner often and tried out our budding cooking skills on our husbands. We were a real support system for each other then. I was sure I had a better picture of this, but apparently not! I'm sure Jenny was taking this picture, but you can still get the idea. You can see David off to the right. Jenny and I were dressed up in some kind of crazy outfits. It looks like I'm wearing Josh's old football jersey.

After we had both been married for about a year, I received a phone call from Jenny. She had just found out that she was pregnant (unexpectedly). Though she had always wanted to be a mother, she was anxious that it had happened before she graduated from college. I remember talking with her for a long time that night. We prayed together on the phone.

Fairly quickly, Jenny suffered from the nausea that plagues lots of women during early pregnancy. My parents had given me some gift cards to Luby's. Jenny and I would go out to Luby's often. Cooking made her feel sick. She gave me some candles that she had laying around her house because they made her want to puke. One time, I was over at her house watching a movie. We were watching "Message In A Bottle" together. The constant movement of the ocean made her feel so sick that we had to turn the movie off! :) I asked her what they were going to name their baby. She told me that if it was a girl, they were going to name her "Malaya". I remember her telling me that it was a Hawaiian name and that it had a special meaning.

When Jenny went into labor, a friend and I went up to the hospital after our morning classes. I guess we assumed that Jenny would have had her baby much earlier in the day. We arrived and asked for Jenny's room. When we walked up outside her room, we just waited outside the door, not wanting to intrude. We knew that lots of her family were there. Right then, Beverly (Jenny's mom) came outside and said, "She just had her!" She pulled us into the room. By..."just" had her, Beverly wasn't joking! We literally arrived moments after Malaya came into this world. They were mopping up the floor. Jenny looked beautiful. She was swollen and not as "attractive" as her usual stunning self, but she had the look of a proud new mother. She looked absolutely beautiful. That look fit her well. Rick and Beverly and fam were all so excited. Josh (Jenny's brother) had this t-shirt on that he had made. I can't remember exactly what it said. If I remember correctly, it had one side that said one thing and another side that said another. Or maybe it had Malaya's footprints on it or some clever saying about Uncle Josh? Either way, he was a super proud uncle. Rick and Beverly immediately pulled us (Jenny's friends) in and were saying, "You guys wanna hold her?" Then, the family circled around Jenny and said a prayer of thanks for Malaya's life and Jenny's health. It was such a special moment. Again, I witnessed what a special family Jenny was a part of. God was a part of every detail of their life. Jenny held onto sweet Malaya and beamed. That was a special moment that I will not forget.

I remember bringing rolls over to Jenny's house after Malaya was born. I got to hold Malaya a little bit for Jenny so that she could take a shower or whatever. Jenny settled into her role as a new mother beautifully. She was fulfilling her dream career of being a mother. Jenny was in a new phase in her life. She didn't drop out of the social scene entirely, though. Jenny was still as involved in club as she could be, especially with a new baby. She and I shared a little sis in club during our senior year. It is funny now to remember all of the silly things that Jenny wanted to do to scare our little sis. (Not really scare, but more just to make things more fun.) We joked about how we hoped that our Nunu wasn't disappointed because she had the two married girls for her big sis' and one with a baby. Jenny had to go home early on bid night. She felt badly to miss out, but told me that Malaya came first.

Everybody thought very highly of Jenny and wanted to help her out as she transitioned into mommyhood. I remember that a bunch of Jenny's friends from club and I got together and bought a video camera for Jenny so that she could capture the early moments of Malaya's life. We surprised her with it, from "The Kojies". She was very excited. I have no idea how much she used it, but I hope that Malaya has some special recordings of her early years with her mommy.

Jenny stood out to me as an extra special person in many ways. She was also extremely dedicated to her friends. She was a dedicated member of our social club. She really enjoyed being a part of all of the fun of being a Kojie. I remember, shortly after Malaya was born, one night they announced in club that they were giving out a special scholarship "The Smitty Berkeen Scholarship" that would be given to one deserving Kojie from our pledge class. This Kojie had to exhibit Christlike characteristics, be financially deserving and be a dedicated member. They asked us to nominate people we thought we deserving of the honor. I thought, who could be more deserving than Jenny??? She seemed the obvious choice! Jenny had a newborn baby, for goodness sakes, yet she continued to be a die hard! :) I remember cornering Smitty Berkeen (who went to church with us) to let her know that I knew the perfect candidate for the scholarship. I gave her a colorful description of all of Jenny's many attributes. Smitty instructed me to write a letter about Jenny and why she deserved the scholarship and mail it to the scholarship committee. I did. I wrote the best letter I could possibly write. It detailed the kind of a person Jenny was and why she was deserving of the scholarship. I was sad when they announced at Homecoming Breakfast that another girl won the scholarship, then elated to hear them announce that they had decided to add an additional scholarship to the scholarship. :) Jenny won! I was thrilled and proud of her! She was such an amazing girl. Of course she deserved the scholarship!

Another memory I have from that year is when Jenny and I wallpapered her bathroom. She had this bathroom with this hideously ugly wallpaper that she couldn't stand. Neither one of us had any idea what in the world we were doing. We went into the paint store and pretended that we did, bought some supplies, and made a huge mess wallpapering her bathroom. We were a total mess, with our arms and clothes all covered with paste. We laughed the ENTIRE time...The finished product looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. :)

One time during that year, David surprised Jenny, another friend and myself and got us tickets to see a Christian concert that was in town. I had never been to a Christian concert. I watched Jenny during the concert, raising her hands up in praise to God. She was very uninhibited in her worship. You could see just how much she truly enjoyed singing praises to her God.

Around the end of the year, I started interviewing for teaching jobs. I got a job with Mesquite ISD. It just so happened that Jenny's mom, Beverly worked for that district. Jenny's mom helped me to get a job teaching second grade at Price Elementary in Mesquite. I was originally supposed to be teaching first with Bev, but it worked out that they needed me in second instead. I got to know Beverly during that year while Jenny and David moved to Tulsa. Meanwhile...I had Mary Alice.

Jenny called me from Tulsa and seemed anxious to be closer to her family. I don't remember exactly why, but she, David and Malaya ended up moving back to Mesquite, much to Jenny's (and my) delight. They went to church with Jenny's parents in Mesquite. Josh, Mary Alice, and I went to church in Dallas. I searched for a way to spend more time with Jenny. Jenny told me that she was starting a MOPS group (Mothers Of Pre Schoolers) group at her church. I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in MOPS. Honestly, I joined just to be able to spend time with Jenny on a consistent basis. It worked. We were able to hang out during that time and Jenny was even able to get me on board with her goal, ministering to mother's of preschoolers. This put us on a committee that planned and organized events for young mothers in the community. It was a fun time. Planning events together is a good way to build friendships. Planning events like that brings the obvious problems and frustrations that go along with it. Working through those problems makes friendships stronger. Jenny did really well in a leadership role with that group. Jenny was an encourager. She had a way of making you feel like you could do things. She was one of those people who could convince you that you could do it, at instilling confidence.

After MOPS, Jenny and I hung out less often. She was involved with her things. I was involved with mine. We kept in touch. I remember calling her with my fertility issues, knowing that she would understand. She did. She prayed with me. We talked about how the desire to have a baby can become an "idol" in your life. I know that Jenny struggled with her infertility for several years. There are only a handful of people in my life that I've prayed for daily literally, for YEARS. Jenny was one of those people. I prayed and prayed...SO diligently that God would give her a baby, up until even a couple of years ago. She was a fabulous, intentional mother. She sought God's help for every decision she made as a mother. She took her God given job SO seriously. I learned so much from watching Jenny as a young mom. She adored Malaya and was SO good with her! Why wouldn't God bless her with more children to love and train up for Him?

I remember one time that Jenny and Malaya were over at our house for Mary Alice's first tea party. There were a handful of girls there. One mother was having quite a bit of trouble with her daughter. This little girl was throwing terrible tantrums. It was really disruptive. The little girl threw a big fit for like, fifteen or twenty minutes. Instead of disciplining her daughter, the mother kept trying to reason with her. After several warnings, the mother announced to her daughter and to me that they were leaving because the little girl was acting too badly. I told them goodbye and let them out. I thought they had left the party. About twenty minutes later, the mother and daughter reappeared. They had been sitting on the front porch "discussing" and decided to come back in and "try again". The daughter proceeded to throw more uncontrollable fits. Finally, after quite some time of tantrums, the girl and her mother left the party. Afterward, Jenny told me that she was just about to scoop Malaya up and leave the party. She said, "I'm sorry, Amber. I know it would have probably seemed rude to that other mom, but I just can't have Malaya around little girls who act like that! We work too hard to teach her what is right. I just can't have her around little girls who behave like that!" Jenny was so intentional about her teaching and training of Malaya. It definitely left an impression on me. This pic is of Mary Alice's first tea party. It was taken toward the end of the party. (Not pictured: Tantrum girl)

When Mary Alice was about four or so, Jenny and David moved to Keller. Jenny's dad had a preaching job nearby. From that time on, Jenny and I saw each other much less often. We kept in touch, primarily through blogs, e-mail and Facebook.

Jenny brought a light to so many people in her lifetime. During the last few weeks, I became aware of some of the many of the lives she touched. Things don't always work out like we plan them. Our dreams don't always become realities. God has a plan for our lives. We don't know what direction His plan will take. We have to trust that He will lead us because we belong to Him. For Jenny, her journey is complete. Her dream became a reality. Jenny wanted to be used by God. I can speak for myself, and probably countless others, when I say that the seeds that she planted will continue to bear fruit. For me, her close friendship with God that I first witnessed back in their first married home during our prayer time is something I knew that I wanted and now feel like I have! Her devotion as a mother and prayerful consideration of what some would consider minor details made such an impact on me. When I remember Jenny, I think of a person who was passionate about God and about living her life as an offering to Him in all the details of her life. Let us all follow Jenny's example and be all that God calls us to be while we are on the earth. Let our lives be living sacrifices. I will close with the lyrics of two songs that I know were some of Jenny's favorites. I e-mailed her about a year ago and asked her for some recommendations of powerful Christian music that had ministered to her in her life. She listed off several songs, which I promptly looked up on You Tube and started jamming out to in my own home. :) Of course, if you know Jenny, you know she loved Nicole Nordeman. The first is My Offering, by Nicole Nordeman. This is just what Jenny's life offering to her King. The second song is My Desire by Jeremy Camp. God certainly DID use Jenny in a mighty way! And He continues to use her still... We will miss you today, Jenny, but we WILL see you again! Thank you, Jennifer Laine Bizaillion, for inspiring us to be all out for Jesus!

My Offering (by Nicole Nordeman)

If You made me like the grass that is green
Growing tall and covering the hills above me
Maybe I would pray for sunshine and a little rain
To fall now and then to make me lovely
I could be a place where sheep could graze
Or barefoot feet could play
And I would grow and grow and hope You'd bend down low
To hear me sing my offering

Open up the heavens, open up the sky
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song, so let the earth sing along
'Cause I just want to praise You

If You made me to be a cloud in the sky
Found the perfect place way up high where I could hover
Maybe I would pray for skies that were blue
Or a sunset or two to show Your colors
Or maybe I might be
A mountain strong and steep
But I would try and stand as tall as I can
And I would sing my offering


And the sun every morning cannot wait to shine
And the stars every evening are all standing by to light the sky Give the rocks and the stones voices of their own If we forget to sing praises to our King

This Is My Desire (by Jeremy Camp)

You want to be real, you want to be empty inside
You want to be someone laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all down before the king

You want to be whole, you want to have purpose inside
You want to have virtue and purify your mind

You want to be set free today
Then lay it all down before the King

This is my desire, this is my return
This is my desire to be used by You

You want to be real, you want to be emptied inside
And I know my heart is to feel You near
And I know my life
It's to do Your will
It's to do Your will

This is my desire, this is my return
This is my desire, to be used by You
Oo yea
This is my desire, this is my desire
To be used by You

All my life I have seen
Where You've taken me
Beyond all I have hoped
And there's more left unseen

There's not much I can do to repay all You've done
So I give my hands to use

This is my desire, this is my return
This is my desire, to be used by You
Oo yea
This is my desire, this is my desire
To be used by You

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Playing With Icing

The weather has been so cold and rainy lately. We've been stuck inside wondering what to do with ourselves. We thought it might be fun to play in some icing. Mary Alice baked the cake and made the icing. I gave the kids a little tutorial on how to ice a cake. They spent the rest of the afternoon icing and decorating their cake.

Future Cake Boss :) Seriously, I was WAY impressed with his little football.

They each decorated half of the cake. Major's half was a football. (His first choice was a Texas Rangers hat. After thinking about it for a while, he decided that a football would be much easier.) Mary Alice chose a field of flowers. :)

Milla scooted around in her pajamas leaving mayhem and destruction in her wake.

TA-DA!!! They are so proud of their cake and can't wait to show their daddy when he gets home.