July 29, 2008


A happy Zoe.

Zoe and Zeke

Ten years ago, the kids and I moved back to Louisiana to be near family while Keith was deployed for a year to a small atoll in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. It was a hard time for me and the children, who were missing their daddy. One fateful night we watched "Old Yellar"... a bad mistake if you have emotional children but it was to be one of the best decisions of my life. It made me want a yellar dog! After wiping my tears and grabbing the classifieds I saw an ad that said "yellow lab mix, free to good home" I promptly called. The next day, a most loyal friend entered our lives and forever changed us. We named her Zoe.

Her former owners had found her as a stray who had been hit by a car. They were moving to a new home that didn't allow dogs so they had to let her go. When they cried at releasing her to us, I knew then that we must have someone special on our hands. But not knowing yet if she would work out with my young children, I asked for a trial period with her. One morning a few days later, Max was in the yard playing... When I heard Zoe ferociously barking, I became concerned and rushed outside. I saw her hair standing up on end and she was barking at Max. I thought- this dog is vicious! She's Old Yellar at the END of the movie! I was about to rescue Max and send Zoe packing when Max said, "Mom, there's a snake!" Zoe was standing between Max and a 5 foot long water moccasin! As you can probably guess... She passed her trial. We kept her! And we never regretted it! Since that day, she patiently followed us wherever the Navy led us, eventually coming full circle to her birthplace in Louisiana when Keith retired.

Zoe was the sweetest, most loving, loyal dog you could ever meet. She was a beautiful yellow lab and retriever mix with the softest fur I've ever felt. And did she ever LOVE to be petted! Often laying her head in your lap to make sure you got the point. There was something especially comforting about burying your head in her fur and wrapping your arms around her wide frame. It was just plain "therapetic" to quote Barney Fife. She could fix those beautiful eyes on you and melt the coldest heart...

But this past Monday, July 28th, Zoe passed from this life, leaving our home and family with an empty place. We are all heartbroken and devasted.

Zoe loved everybody she met (except for the UPS man :^) and was a faithful protecter of our home. No wild animal was safe if they were unfortunate enough to venture into Zoe's domain....Possums, stray cats, snakes, coons... Years ago she had a legendary fight with an enormous raccoon. Needless to say... the raccoon lost.
She was full of personality. She is the only dog I ever saw who could actually smile. She usuallly did it when she had done something wrong. If we came home from church and Zoe was smiling, we knew she had gotten into the trash... It was her one vice. If one of us ever put on a baseball cap, Zoe would practically dance. In her mind, this meant she was going for a walk. Even after she got older and couldn't walk as far, the twins would thrill her soul by taking her down the sidewalk on her leash. She didn't ask for much and was easy to please.

Zeke (our German Shepherd) adored her. Zoe tolerated Zeke. He loved to wrestle with her. She usually won but that didn't stop him from trying. If Zeke heard Zoe go outside, he had to be with her. He is lost without her.
Zoe had been relatively healthy throughout her life. A couple of weeks before Haley's wedding I noticed that she seemed weak. She seemed to have trouble getting up and moving around. She was going on 13 years so we knew that she wouldn't be with us a whole lot longer. But I prayed she'd hang on until after the wedding. She seemed to get stronger and to be her old self for a while. Then Monday I noticed that her breathing was labored. I called Keith and he made her an appointment with the vet. She came and laid down in the hall, outside my bedroom door to be near all of us. Hannah and Joseph were concerned for her so Hannah went and got some anointing oil and put it on her head and was praying for her. Suddenly Zoe just looked up and laid her head down and then died. She was where she wanted to be- with the family she loved. She didn't have to be put down by a vet but she died in her favorite place, in her home, near her family. Keith immediately came home from work, so did Max and Haley and Josh rushed over... We all said our goodbyes. There were lots and lots of tears. We then took her out to Cathy and Bill's house in the country and wrapped her in her favorite blanket and buried her there. It was heartbreaking. But we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose. I don't understand why this had to happen now, when so much is going on in our lives, but I do know that God is good and His ways are higher than our ways. I told the kids that she is waiting for us in our mansion in heaven. Probably getting hair all over the floor and terrorizing the possums... ;^).

Please pray for us, the children especially, they are inconsolable... They will be okay for a while, but then suddenly they will break down. We all do at times. It is very hard. The twins have had Zoe in their lives since they were two years old! We miss her terribly. There is a huge fluffy empty place in our home where Zoe used to be. We don't know how to function without her loving presence in our home. But we will learn.

Also pray for Zeke. He walks around looking for her and whining. She was his closest friend. She was a member of our family and a constant part of our lives for ten years. Our hearts are heavy but God is good.

We are thankful for many things. One being that Haley was still here when she passed on. Haley and Zoe had a special bond. For this to have happened after Haley was in St. Louis would have been very difficult for Haley to bear. Also we are thankful that she was at home with those she loved when she died. And we are thankful that she didn't suffer. Even up until the end, her eyes were peaceful.

Our hearts will heal, but we will NEVER forget our Zoe, aka- Zolene the Possum Queen, Zolanda, Zola Coyola, Zo-Zo or just plain Zo. She was almost human. Heck, she was BETTER than human. We humans could learn some things from dogs like Zoe. As Haley said so rightly, she loved Zoe more than many people she knew. Its because Zoe was ever patient, always loving, forgiving, protective, faithful, loyal, always there. Lord help us be more like that ourselves!

Please pray for us. For non-animal-loving people, it may seem hard to understand, but we are all truly grieving. I know that God will bring us through and it won't always hurt this bad, but until then, we'd appreciate your prayers. His grace IS sufficient!

God bless. Kayla

July 18, 2008

Wedding Pics

A portrait of the bride

Another portrait

Wedding Day: Getting ready

Kent Henry, Josh and Devon

Here comes the bride!

Josh's face as he sees Haley.

Josh sings to his bride!

Max singing "Amazed"

The wedding.

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Ortego!

Hannah and Joseph

Bride and groom's first dance

Bride and Dad's dance.

Then Daddy gets his groove on...

And Daddy-in-law jumps in!

The bride and groom

The wedding party

The bride and groom's parents

Cutting the cake!

Off they go!

Here's some pics of the wedding I wanted to share. Various friends of Haley's posted these on their Myspace. We haven't gotten the photographers photos yet so we were excited to see these... Read my blog below for a blow by blow (probably more than you want to know!:^) of the wedding.... God bless. Kayla

July 15, 2008


Joshua singing to his bride...
Warning: long blog ahead!
Whew.... I sit here typing and desperately needing a cup of coffee because I am still so tired. But I will try to gather my thoughts enough to somehow share my thoughts on "The Wedding". Okay, I convinced Hannah to make me a cup so I'm good... I have great kids.... sniff, sniff...

Weddings-some may ask... What's the big deal? Why spend so much time and money and ask for prayer for a ceremony that will last at the most, one hour? I suppose some are definitely overdone... but weddings ARE significant. The one I had the privilege of being heavily involved in this weekend was VERY significant. It is a milestone in the lives of the Johnson and Ortego families. Up there in importance with births and deaths. If you've ever studied covenant, you will see how alot of today's wedding traditions stem from the ancient covenant practices of the Bible. When someone "cut a covenant" with another, they became as one... I will protect you, you will protect me. They often exchanged a gift- a ring, a sword. They often took on each other's names. They became responsible for the other party. A drink from the same cup, a bite of the same food was shared... Covenant. It's what God cut with us beginning with Abraham and completed through the death of His Son on the cross. Except He alone can keep up His end of the bargain perfectly. His life for ours. And our lives belong to Him. He is responsible for us. He is faithful and trustworthy. And He has taught me this through this wedding process... Covenant has become real. Covenant is very significant, even today. And that is what I participated in this past weekend. The public celebration and authentification of a covenant made between a man and a woman- my precious daughter. Two lives becoming one, pledged to each other until death. I was so blessed to be intimately involved in every detail of this covenant celebration (although at times, I thought I might come out of this with a nervous tick as a souvenir...)

Anyway, until I became the "mother of the bride", I was fairly ignorant to the whole wedding process... Back last summer when they first got engaged, I was thinking, 'what's the big deal? We can pull this off without breaking a sweat'. Its amazing how easy things look in the dim future... As the future became the present, panic began to set in. So many details.... Details upon details. Details I never thought of before. Lists became my constant companion. I carried them everywhere. I say 'them', because I had many... Hannah's old math notebook contained most of them. Lists on receipts, Lists on lists.... Details woke me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.... "Oh what if I hadn't thought of that! What could have happened?" (As if my future grandchildren would be in jeopardy if we forgot serving spoons or ice!) This has been my life for the last several months, but in concentrated doses the last few weeks. We honestly could have never pulled this off without Beverly Ortego, Josh's mom. Poor thing. Usually the mother of the groom gets a bit of a break... Yes, there's the rehearsal dinner, but other than that, she could have technically, ethically, morally sat back and watched me chase my tail with a clear conscience... But no, she jumped in there with me and many times bailed me out. I owe her a lot... If you ever need a kidney or anything Bev, I'm your man! (although I'm a woman... but you catch my drift). With her experience in wedding planning, I was in good hands.

I made some discoveries through this wedding journey... I realized that I am extremely detail oriented. That may be obvious to those who know me, but I guess it wasn't to me. The details nearly were the death of me,. But the details got covered (although often occuring to me at 2 am), they got written down on one of my infernal lists and in the end, they got checked off! (Which is the most satisfying feeling for a OCD like myself).... I discovered that my daughter is very decisive and a confident leader. She knows what she wants and she has her Dad's (cough) stubbornness to not budge on her stand. It was exasperating at times, but in the end, she planned the most beautiful wedding any of us could have forseen. She never waffled on decisions but was confident and sure. I came to admire her strength and to not see her just as my little girl, but as a young woman who is a true leader... I discovered the generosity of the Body of Christ. I can not tell you how many people were involved helping with this wedding. People who didn't know us that well, but who said- I'll just take care of that, don't worry about it. People prepared food, served it, cleaned up. Wow... I discovered the type of friends we have. The Cutrones missed the wedding because they were seeing to it that the Coleman's had all of the help they needed for the reception. The Doucets and Will stayed after everyone had left to help with clean up and delivery back to the church. Stacey and Kirk drove all of the way from Kansas City to be there to help. My oldest friend Carole drove four hours by herself and her two girls to make sure she was there for me. Nicole Brown giving of her time to keep us organized. Scott and Russell straightening up the sanctuary the next morning. Margie getting me a pedicure the week before :^). As Proverbs says- "Many hands make light work". Too many servants to mention here, and I thank them all! I cannot tell you how much that meant to us. People prayed for us. They took this wedding on as their personal prayer project and prayed us through it. My sister and Mom certainly did that. I am in awe of God's grace and mercy and love delivered through human hands. I will be forever grateful..

Now all of these months of planning were leading up to this one moment. The week before I was nervous and busy. I knew that this was Haley's dream. To marry the man of her dreams in a meaningful, God-glorifying, beautiful ceremony with a fun reception. My mother's heart wanted it to be just like that for her. So I started my prayer list early on- My prayers went something like this: "Lord, let the ceremony be special, meaningful, may it be anointed. May You be glorified. May people be touched. Let Haley forever remember it. Let it be beautiful Lord and really represent them and who they are. Cushion mine and Keith's emotions Lord and help us to hold it together and somehow enjoy and cherish the ceremony. Lord, let Kent please wear a suit... (does Kent Henry, Mr. Aloha Shirt, even own one Lord?) Please let the ceremony flow with no problems. Let the reception be fun and let us have enough food! " I guess I made God a list too... He didn't seem to mind. Because He answered every single concern I had (even Kent-who married them- in a suit!). He answered well beyond our imaginations. Again- God teaching us about His covenant faithfulness to us and convicting us of our unbelief , all the while building faith in us...

After the craziness of the week before, we woke up Saturday to a tangible peace. We were being prayed for! Most of the bridesmaids and I got our hair fixed at the beauty shop that morning. We laughed and talked. It was a good way to kill time instead of nervously waiting... When we got to the church, the AC upstairs was not working well. I felt like my makeup was running down my face, but Haley was radiant. We had a small panic when Hannah's dress which had gotten wrinkled in the car would not iron out or steam out. Nothing worked. It just stubbornly resisted all of our attempts. I prayed and finally calmed down... the wrinkles never fell out while we were upstairs, but when she was standing there with the other bridesmaids at the altar, I noticed- no wrinkles. God is good! He really takes care of the details. Another lesson in not panicking but trusting!

I had been concerned because some people didn't get their invitations and others were on vacation... I thought- "poor Haley. Our church is pretty big and I was concerned that it would look empty since (I thought) not may people were going to be there. I didn't want Haley to be discouraged as she walked down the aisle. HA! I think every single person who was invited who lived in the Baton Rouge area (except for a few) were there (and many who weren't showed up!). I was shocked! The middle three rows of the church were completely filled. Another unfounded worry.... Another conviction of -"when will you trust? Haven't I proved faithful in every thing up till now?"

All too soon it was time to come downstairs to begin the ceremony. The time arrived when Josh, his best man Devon, and Kent to go to the front... But ... where was Kent? We looked and looked... Still don't know where he was, but finally, he just appeared. Thank God! Then the ceremony began...The grandparents went down first... I was so proud of our parents. They were all so so excited... they also were pretty good looking to be the grandparents of the bride and groom! I was thrilled for them to meet our friends and church family. They felt very much at home. Then it was my turn. Keith escorted me to the unity candle. And I couldn't work the lighter. Keith' was whispering- "Push that button there... No, push it the other way! NOW pull the trigger. Goood".
Right before Keith escorted me down, he said, "pray for me. I'm feeling very emotional". I said, "Lets try real hard to keep it together for her sake. She might get upset if we're crying". Somehow, we did.

First my Hannah and Joseph walked the aisle. They were precious. I was so proud of them. All grown up. Hannah with her hair fixed and Joseph in his tux. Then the rest of the wedding party... They all looked wonderful. Then it was time- I was to cue the congregation when to stand by standing first. They closed the doors after the last bridesmaid went down. I held my breath and waited a moment and then I stood... so did everyone else..........And there she was. My beautiful daughter. I wish I could have looked two places at once because I desperately wanted to see Josh's face when he first saw her... But I had to look at my baby girl. Her daddy was fighting to hold it together. She was magnificent. Poised, beautiful, full of joy! I finally looked at Josh. He was grinning from ear to ear!

Kent gave a prophetic word about the ministry they'd be going into. Mary and Max sang and the anointing was strong. The father's spoke a blessing over them. Josh sang a song he'd written for Haley... I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. They said their vows and Haley's little voice put a lump in our throats... but we maintained. They went to the Lord's table together and had communion, signifying in a tangible way, the covenant they were making. The part I was the most concerned about losing it was the video that I knew would be played, with pictures of them growing up, during which my son Max was to sing an anointed song about the love of God. I mean- how could we NOT lose it? But miraculously, we did not. I just sat there and thought- "God, look what You've done!" Precious memories of our little girl, now another man's wife, flooded our minds. But gratitude and pure joy filled our hearts... Look how God answered! She was in God's will- what we'd always desired for her. Then they walked down the opposite aisle as man and wife to the song "Canon Rock".. As they descended the stairs, violins and an orchestra played sedately, only to slowly build and merge into a rocking electric guitar solo. A perfect song reflecting Haley and Josh. Wish I would have thought of something like that for our wedding 25 years ago! People's expressions were priceless! lol

The reception was PACKED! My first thought was faith-filled (not!)- "oh my gosh how will we feed all of these people?" But again, the Lord reminded me of His faithfulness throughout. So I let it go. And I believe they were all fed. We did run out of punch, but I hadn't had that on my prayer list. One detail I missed I guess... But I believe it was the most fun reception I'd ever been too. I wasn't able to visit with everyone there much to my regret because of the massive number of people. But it was a blast. I even hit the dance floor... something I said I wouldn't do... Aretha just drew me there like a magnet. Just could NOT' sit still for "R-E-S-P-E-C-T".... Haley said to me, "Whats the world coming to. My mom's in a conga line!" haha. It was a blast... Then it was over. They ran to the car under a cloud of bubbles and were gone...

Now the house is quiet, the busyness has ground to a screeching halt and life goes on... On without Haley's voice heard every day in our house. On with her place empty at the table. Her brothers and sister just sat in her room the other day and tried to soak up her presence somehow. We all miss her. I may fall apart when she leaves for St. Louis in three weeks, but for now, God's grace sustains me. I am just grateful. When your children are in God's will, even if it takes them far away, you can't be completely miserable. And He has shown Himself so faithful and true. It may seem like a silly little thing to some, but He knew how important this wedding being beautiful was to me. Because it was important to my Haley. He truly does care for the details...As concerned as I was for Haley, He was for us as well. That parent love- we both understand.... My faith has grown... and so has my heart. Thank you all for praying. Now as Kent charged us, let's pray for the marriage. They have a good foundation and heritage. God's hand is on them. I am excited to see what He will do in and through them. Just wish I didn't have to watch it from a distance... sniff... but it's going to be okay... I cannot tell you how many people who attended this wedding said that it was the absolute most God-honoring, beautiful wedding they'd ever attended. God is just so good isn't He?!

I'm sure I'm not done with this subject... but this is long enough as it is... More to come... Stay tuned if I haven't detailed you to death.. :^)

God bless,

July 13, 2008

Praise God!

The wedding and reception were both perfect.... All of our prayers for it were answered- God was honored, the wedding was meaningful. God was there. The reception was fun. Haley was very satisfied by everything. She and Josh were happy... More on all of that later. But this morning, on The Advocate website I saw this headline below... This happened right down the street from The Woman's Club where the reception was held, probably 30 minutes after we, the last ones, left... So, 'fess up. Who did it! :^). Just kidding. But I must admit before I read the article and had only seen the headline that East Boulevard was involved, my first thought was- oh my goodness we burned the place down! Now, I know Keith and Jack's fancy footwork on the dancefloor was pretty hot, but come on....! :^) What do ya'll think? Maybe....
But all I can say is Thank God! They shut down Government Street during the fire. We'd probably have had to evacuate had it happened earlier in the evening. Wouldn't that have been awful?! I shudder to think! But God knew. He is good! He can be trusted! Wow! Praise God!

Fire destroys 2 buildings on Louisiana Ave.; damages 1 on East Blvd.
An off-duty East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy driving south in Interstate I-110 spotted the start of a large fire Saturday night that totaled two homes on Louisiana Avenue, damaged another and injured one firefighter who was treated at the scene.
The sheriff’s deputy pulled off the Interstate and called firefighters at 10:21 p.m. to notify them of the blaze, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Howard Ward said.
Firefighters arrived at 980 Louisiana Ave. after the fire had already spread to two other buildings and was endangering another.
A second alarm was called and about 50 firefighters were eventually on scene to battle the blaze, Ward said.
It took about 80 minutes before the fire was completely under control.
Two vacant homes at 974 and 980 Louisiana Ave. were flattened by the fire and an office occupied by real estate appraisers next door at 301 East Blvd. was heavily damaged in the fire.
Government Street was briefly closed while firefighters kept a 5-foot-wide hose stretched across the street to provide water for dousing the flames.
Fire investigators were on the scene trying to determine the cause of the blaze, but Ward said it could take more than one day to do so while they try to determine where the fire originated and what caused it.
One firefighter was injured and treated on scene from exposure to electrical wires.

July 10, 2008

In the home stretch

Hey all,
Just a quick blog to ask for your prayers. As most of you know, Haley's wedding is in two days! We are all very excited and very busy. My heart is full and it is also heavy... This is a bittersweet time for us. Our first born is leaving the nest. Not only to just move out of our home, but to marry and move to St. Louis.... We know that this is God's will and plan for Haley and Josh and we rejoice with them. But please keep me and Keith and Haley's three siblings in prayer during this time. Also keep the Ortegos and their three other children in your prayers as well. Please pray that as we treasure each moment, that our sadness at the ending of one season won't overwhelm our joy at the beginning a new season. I know many have already been praying for us and many have blessed us in many ways- with prayers, with time, with service, with provision. We thank you all from the depths of our hearts. God has truly given us some of the most awesome people in our lives. Its times like these that you really see what is in the heart of your brothers and sisters. And we have seen wonderful things. We thank you. I plan to give a full report next week if I am not in a puddle on the ground Monday morning... :^) God bless you all. Kayla