November 30, 2011

Missing Them...

These are my sons. Four babies turned toddlers, turned stinkers, turned young men. They carry my heart with them wherever they go.

I tried to soak them up when they were small; tried to memorize their little boy voices and their little boy hugs; tried to memorize the way they laughed and the way they told their little boy stories. I tried to absorb into my heart the flowers they placed in my hands and the sweet sweaty kisses they placed on my cheek.


That's #2 in front of the rock. He walked a few feet off the trail and said, "I'm tiowd. I'm staying heow." If you look closely at this photo, you'll spot a tiny dot up at the top. That's #1. He climbed as high as we'd let him go....he's always been that way. Stretching to do more, learn more, pushing himself to accomplish one more goal...



I miss him more than words can say. I miss late our late night discussions over theology, algebra and apologetics. I miss playing scrabble with him and watching him sleep. I miss seeing him intensely going after God, studying the Word...



I miss laughing with him over something only the two of us found funny.


Our second son has always been a conundrum. Intense, thoughtful, sneaky, sensitive, sweet, sarcastic, selfish then selfless, deep and hilariously funny.



You never know what he's going to say or do next, which is one of the best gifts he has...one of the best gifts he gives. I miss him more than words can say. I miss his smile and his hugs, his encouragement and his sarcastic sense of humor. I miss watching him intensely study the way something works and patiently fixing something that was broken.


#3...this boy was a handful and is a heart full. Imaginative, creative, spontaneous, random and tender hearted. He has the ability to make me laugh so hard I practically fall over. We have so much in common sometimes it's mind boggling. Even our weaknesses mirror each other.


I miss him more than words can say and he hasn't taken flight yet. But, in many ways he has... His thoughts and heart and dreams are out there...he's beginning to look away, longing to stretch and move and test his wings...




Then there's this one. The unexpected one. The gift I almost didn't get because I let fear rule my heart for too long a time. This one is an assortment of all of his brothers, plus a unique blend all his own. He's a goal setter; someone who loves to learn and be stretched. He's sweet and sensitive, deep and selfless. He's imaginative and funny and creative. We love to be together crafting, reading, cuddling, talking.....

However, I'm beginning to miss him more than words can say. He's already wanting to stretch his wings; he is slowly moving toward manhood and wanting to be with daddy. He's cutting the apron strings and bruising my heart. I'll let him go though. I won't cling and pull...I won't. Watching them, seeing them grow, observing their lives from a distance...seeing what God can do when I step back...it's a sweet, painful part of mothering.

Letting go and moving on; letting them become and cheering them on....

November 29, 2011

what would you do?

#3 had a cold a few weeks ago and is still coughing; he just can't seem to shake it. Like all coughs it seems to be particularly annoying when he's trying to sleep. The other night he was able to sleep through the coughs but they still found a way to annoy him-they snuck into his dreams. He dreamt his cough was part of an incurable disease and come to find out, the doctor gave him but two years to live.
"Well Kid, you have two years left. If you want to git it done, git it done."

When my son told me about his dream, the first thing I did was laugh. Two years?? Wouldn't that be nice? To know you only have so much time left and then to have such a long/short time to wait? What would you do with that time?

You could prioritize your projects and goals, divide the time and then conquer. You could work on your bucket list and take a trip around the world. You would have plenty of time to say goodbye to everyone; plenty of time to make new friends and say goodbye to them. Plenty of time to mend fences and write a will.

Toward the end of those two years, while you still had strength and stamina, you could throw your own going away party/memorial service and invite all your friends and family to attend. Do you wonder what they'd say about you?

And finally, when the end was very near, you could tell someone everything. Everything that's hidden and every longing you've had; every unfulfilled dream and every ugly exposed...

The thing that stands out to me...the thing I'd really like to do...the thing I finally wouldn't be afraid to do, is tell certain people near and dear to me all about Jesus. I'd tell them He's real and He is the Son of God. If eternity were staring me in the face, I'd remind them that they too will someday be standing in my shoes, with eternity the next step. I'd ask them about eternity and if they ever wonder where they'll be spending it. I wouldn't be afraid of what they thought of me or of losing their friendship because, well, our friendship would be coming to an end anyway. (at least here, on this planet)

I'd tell them Jesus is the only way to have whole, unbroken hearts, and forgiveness no matter what on earth they've done. I'd search through the bible and books and any lectures I could to find a way to push through their arguments and doubts and the lies they cling to in hope of seeing their eyes open...

I wonder if I'd be able to forget about eternity if I knew in two years I'd be facing it? Would things like bills and annoying kids and a flat tire get to me the way they do now? Would I still yell at the person driving in front of me because he forgot to use his turn signal? Would it be as easy to put God on a shelf or in a box and ask Him to wait "til later" to spend time with me?

So now, as I sit here in the dark, with the rain beating against the window, I think about that doctor's words. Yes, I know he was a dream man, but he spoke truth. If you want to git it done, git it done.

What do I want to git done?

November 24, 2011

a walk to remember

Exactly 20 years ago today I was pregnant with our 3rd baby. That pregnancy had started out like most do: morning sickness. It also included noon sickness and night sickness. For months I couldn't move without being sick.

Finally, on Thanksgiving day, I was able to raise my head off the couch, stand up, and actually begin to function. It felt so good to be alive again.

At the time, we were living about a block away from a cemetery. It was beautiful that day so after we'd eaten we decided to take our 2 little boys for a walk through the cemetery. (Don't ask me why....)

My husband took our oldest son's hand and the two of them meandered through the tombstones. I could hear my son's little voice reading all the names and dates and asking questions about each person he came across.

In the meantime, I walked around with our 3 year old, James. He chattered too, but couldn't read yet, so his questions centered more on the birds, the grass, and the little flags he saw on some of the graves.

I started daydreaming about the baby I was carrying and wondering whether it was another boy or would we have a girl this time?

Suddenly James stopped walking and he stopped talking. He stood, frozen to the ground, staring at a 12" cross standing guard over one of the graves. He had a puzzled look on his face, then:
"Look. Look at dat cross Momma. Jesus wasn't vewy big, was He?"

November 23, 2011

out of a full heart

today i am thankful for

Jesus

twinkle lights and candles

friends who think i'm worth their time

memories

baby clothes in the laundry again

4 strong sons who love me

the gifts of sight and touch, hearing, taste and smell

pizza hut

21 years of learning, teaching, laughing and crying as the teacher of my own children

a long-suffering, gentle husband

a place to call home

the friendship of two new daughters

hard things that have made me soft

my dad's final words to me

the day my husband burglared something for me

crows outside my window

the magic of words, spoken or read

you, because today you stopped by to see what i might have to say

November 22, 2011

The Only Thanksgiving I Really Remember

Over the last few months I've spent a lot of time chewing on my mother. Not literally. You know me better than that by now.

What I mean is, I've been looking at the relationship I had with her and how she mothered and how it affected me. The strange this is, as I've pondered and written and dug into my heart and laid it all out here, I find myself able to forgive. A little. I'm still praying about all of this, but just by opening all that up to you and exposing the uglies I was battling, I'm now able to look at her and our relationship a little more objectively. The little girl in me still hurts, but the mother in me sees my mother's hurts and understands....

Anyway-as interesting as all that is, that's not what I want to write about today. I wanted to tell you about my very most favorite Thanksgiving. The one that I will never, ever forget. The one God used to give me hope and healing-I learned that day that good things can follow heartbreak.

I'm sorry-I know I keep talking about my parents' divorce. It's either that or my broken body. Please bear with me because, well, here I go again.

As you know, my parents divorced when I was 7 or 8. And as you know, until then my life had been idyllic; I knew I was loved and I always felt safe. We had a comfortable home and the holidays were packed with family, good food, and tradition. When the divorce came all that shattered. I felt like I'd been floating through life on a magic carpet and suddenly found the carpet gone. Needless to say, I was devastated.

At this point my oldest brother was living in Evergreen Colorado with his wife and two babies. I finished 3rd grade and then my mom made an announcement. We, (she and I) were moving to Evergreen to be near my brother. I absolutely hated the idea. Even though my dad was gone, we were still living in the only home I'd ever had. The one filled with safety and memories and stability.

To make a long story short, mom and I ended up living with my brother and his family for a few months. I enjoyed spending time with my baby nephews and getting to know my brother and sister-in-law, but I still missed my "old" life. I missed having a place that was home to mom and me-a place to call our own.

Then one November day, (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to be exact) my teacher handed me a note from the school office. Mom had called and wanted me to take a different bus home that day. I was to go to a place called Sunnybrook Lodge and go to Unit 9.

Sunnybrook was a small vacation spot tucked away in the mountains. There was a large main building where the owners lived, and then 9 units designed to be rented out by the day, week, or month. Each unit was a different size, but they were each laid out like a cozy little home.

I followed the note's instructions and went to Sunnybrook. I found #9 and timidly knocked on the door. To my surprise my Mom answered the door. She was smiling and happy and so excited. She'd rented #9 just for us. It was a tiny place-just big enough for a double bed, a table for 2, and a teeny tiny kitchen. There was a pumpkin pie cooling on the counter and a chicken roasting in the oven. It smelled exactly like Thanksgivings had in Illinois. Like I said, it was a small place, but it felt safe and cozy-it wasn't the home I was used to, but because of mom's attitude, it felt like home. She somehow managed to press beyond her own pain and create a loving, happy place to land that day after school. It was a holiday that wasn't filled with family or tradition but it's always been my favorite.

I saw and learned a lot about parenting that day. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have or how many people are there-what matters to a child is the love and stability a parent can give. I saw my mother leap over a broken heart and ignore her own fears and unstable circumstances to give to me; she wanted to create a wonderful memory for me and she did. She taught me how to look beyond circumstances and act like an adult. She showed me, by example, that being a family, and having a home and wonderful holidays are an attitude rather than a place or the traditions or the food. Because of her outlook, she was able to carve a cozy, loving holiday out of a tiny cabin and a chicken and give me a memory I will always, always treasure....

November 20, 2011

going home

I am a conundrum.

There are times where I am a very timid, cautious person who startles when the wind blows. On the other hand, I've been known to just leap first and ask questions later.

The brave person, (or foolish, depending on how you look at it) nearly got me killed 13 years ago. In all honesty I'm not sure how close to death I actually came, but I thought I was dying. I'll tell you the story and let you decide.

My whole side of the family were in Colorado for a family reunion. There were several planned activities-things like horseback riding, sight seeing, a funeral, and white water rafting on the Colorado River. It was the rafting, or the lack of a raft, that got me into trouble.

There were 1 or 2 places in the river that day where no man in his right mind would purposely get out of a raft; there were a couple places where we had to actually get out of the raft and pull it down the river because the water was so low. Then there was the place where I learned for the second time in my life that I am not invincible.

The river at this point was very deep and bounced along at a good clip, pouring over large boulders periodically. We had pulled the raft to the river bank and all of us got out to stretch our legs. Suddenly, all the 20 somethings in the group decided they were going to jump into the river and ride this spot in their life-jackets. I stood there and watched a few of them bounce down the river, looking like little dots in the churning water, laughing, making it look so incredibly fun and inviting. After about 1 minute I decided I was going to do it too. You only go around once in life, right? Go for it. Have some fun!

I received some dubious looks from my family, but no one tried to stop me. They gave me specific directions on how to ride the river in a life jacket:
You pretend you're sitting in a chair-you keep your head up, your tush back, and your legs straight out in front of you. That's all there is to it.

Great, thought I. Looks easy peasy, sounds easy peasy. So, I took a flying leap and there I was, bobbling down the Colorado River, a tiny dot at the mercy of the water, the rocks, my life-jacket and God.

There was just one teeny tiny problem. I could not stay in a sitting position. My legs refused to stick out in front of me; the force of the water kept pushing them behind me. (that and the fact that they kept slamming into those large boulders.)

Every time I went over a boulder I would be forced completely under water. When I came up for air I would swallow gallons of said water instead. This went on for a bit; me bobbling along bouncing over rocks, coming up, swallowing large bits of the Colorado River, going down, coming up, swallowing large bits of.....you get the point. And, it got to the point where my lungs decided they'd had enough water and wanted some actual air. The problem was, I couldn't find any.

OK-so that's what was going on on the outside. On the inside? I was terrified. At first. But then, after a bit I realized I had no say in the matter. It was either live or die but that was up to God.
The fear went away and I started thinking, hmmm, what would happen if I died right now? Here? Today? Amazingly, the thought didn't bother me. I had perfect peace about it and I could sense God was right there, next to me as I moved down the river. The only thing that bothered me was thinking about our then 6 year old growing up without a mother; other than that, the only thing I thought was, hey, death by drowning isn't a bad way to go. I don't hurt, I'm not afraid. This isn't bad at all.

Right around the time I thought it truly was The End, that part of the river calmed down and one of my nephews came to my rescue. He saw me bobbling by, looking and feeling literally like a drowned rat, grabbed a corner of my life jacket, and pulled me to the river bank. I sat there on a boulder, gasping for air, happy to be alive.

Looking back, I am so thankful for that experience. Like I said, I don't know how close I truly came to dying. What I do know is that when my time comes, God will be right there, giving me the strength and peace I need, when I need it, to get through whatever it is. If He was there doing all that when I didn't die, I know He'll be there, doing all that, when He comes to take me Home.

November 18, 2011

a lightbulb moment

My brother came for a visit 2 1/2 years ago. We spent some time catching up on what was going on in our lives and a lot of time reminiscing over the past.

One thing I noticed about my brother was the fact that he spoke quite fondly of our mother. He had loved her dearly and misses her deeply. I don't feel that way. I miss the idea of a mother, but I don't miss my mother.

As a matter of fact, after spending 2 days with me my brother told me he thought maybe I have some unresolved issues with my mom and I should spend some time working through them.

Well guess what? After approximately 910 days I have finally figured it out. (I'm fast like that.)
I have finally figured out why my heart still longs for even a peak at my dad's face, but I still feel relief when I think about the fact that my relationship with my mom is over.

I know both of my parents loved me and something tells me it should be mom that I miss. She was the one who raised me; she provided a home, and food, laughter and practical advice.

On the other hand, my dad was pretty much out of the picture when they decided to divorce. He re-married, had 3 more sons, and lived a busy life with his new family.

So, why don't I miss my mom and why do I still struggle with feelings of bitterness toward her? Why were there times I didn't even like her? She was funny and generous, creative and practical. Why do I simply feel relief when I think of her? I have pondered that question for more than 910 actually. I've been thinking about this for over ten years.

Then finally, finally it hit me yesterday. I finally figured it out. My mom provided for my physical needs, and yes, even some of my emotional needs, but she also attacked my essence. I never really felt unconditionally loved or understood or accepted. There was always something about me she didn't like and thought I should change.

Dad on the other hand, just wasn't there. He was busy with his new family and his new life. But, when we did talk on the phone or we were together, I felt completely loved, accepted and missed...I knew he liked me and enjoyed my company.

I really should've been able to sort through this years ago. I've worked hard as a mother not to be like my mother. You'd think I would've been able to put two and two together; I guess denial is a powerful defense mechanism. Who wants to admit their mother didn't like them?

OK, so, now that I've figured that one out, I know what's next. I need to forgive and let go....

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this with you. I guess this blog is my cyber-journal and that's what's been going on in my head and in my heart....

I do know parenting is a tight-rope act. It's a parent's responsibility to help train a child's character; to point out his weak spots and help him see where there is room for improvement.
However, it's also a parent's job to stand behind a child; to let that child know he is loved and accepted no. matter. what.

I'm not sure what else to say. Maybe I should've called this one, "A Ramble Through My Heart". I guess I'll leave this as is and let you take from it what you will...

November 17, 2011

I'm not a squirrel. Really. I'm not...

I must admit here and now, I have a few obsessions. Mt. Everest is one of them. I have longed to climb that mountain for years, and like I said once before, I've read more books about Everest than I have books on marriage, homeschooling, or parenting.

There are other things I'm obsessed with; things that are closer to home and, unlike climbing to the top of the world, things that are actually within my grasp. (One of them is collecting heart shaped rocks. God-made rather than man made; they are everywhere if you take the time to look for them.)

Another is gathering acorns and fall leaves. (Oak leaves are my very most favorite.) I have yet to discover why I do this. If I believed in reincarnation I would guess I'd been a squirrel in a previous life.

However, since I'm not a squirrel, nor have I ever been a squirrel, there must be some other reason for this strange behavior. One thing is clear-I drive my family nuts with it.

We hike nearly every weekend in the autum and every autumn it happens; we put our hiking shoes on, (or our sneakers since that's all that's necessary here in the Midwest) and off we go, out to enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful leaves, the deep blue sky, and as many trails as we can find.

I miss out on so much when we autumn hike. I very rarely look up or around. My eyes are focused on the ground. I'm so busy concentrating on, and collecting squirrel food and leaves that I miss the big picture-the beauty up and around and over my head.

I have a shoe box full of leaves I've gathered over the years, and a gallon size zip lock bag full of acorns. Once in awhile I'll use them for a project or a fall centerpiece, but more often than not, the nuts and leaves stay hidden away. I know they're there, and it's a comforting knowledge, but why? Why do I do this and what is the need?

Like I said before, this need to collect is somewhat annoying to my family and I think they are secretly concerned about my sanity.

The other day our youngest son took a walk with me. As we walked I kept pointing out leaves that were just too pretty to leave behind.
"Oh Barrett! There's one! Grab it before it blows away..."
"There's another one. Look how red it is! Would you nab it for me?.."

Finally at one point, the poor boy nearly snapped. I was standing in the middle of the road, chasing after a leaf when a car came zipping around the corner. My son yelled and pulled me out of the way.

"Mommy, you're going to get killed looking for leaves. I bet you'd try gathering them if we were caught in a storm!"

Then, when we got home he drew this picture, just for me:


November 15, 2011

a once in a lifetime prayer

It was just around 2 years ago our pastor challenged us, his sheep, to pray a simple prayer.

"Lord, please do something big in my life and make it obvious You were the one who did it."

I wrote that prayer down on the church bulletin, brought it home, and thought about it. Visions of sugar plums danced in my head. I could only imagine something wonderful, and sweet and miraculous coming as a result of saying those words to God, so I prayed them. Then I forgot all about that prayer. God didn't. I have no doubt He heard it. (can you hear me sighing?)

To make a long story short, my back went out. I had a herniated disc which led to a smooshed sciatic nerve in my left leg, which led to horrendous pain, which led to back surgery, which led to 15 months (and counting) recovery time; my left leg still bothers me frequently. My surgeon was baffled when he looked at the MRI and x-rays. He said there was no sign of osteoporosis, no sign of arthritis, no sign of anything that would cause the herniation. (I should've told him it was an answer to prayer.)

Anyway...many, many, many years ago I heard a sermon on sheep. Apparently they are very stubborn, independent, prone to disease, and have been known to make stupid choices a thing of habit. The speaker said that when a shepherd has a sheep that's being particularly sheepish, he will gently, tenderly kneel over his sheep and break her leg. Then the shepherd will bind the leg, pick up the sheep, and tie her to his chest. He will carry that sheep with him, everywhere he goes, until that leg heals. The purpose? The sheep gets to know the shepherd intimately. She smells the shepherd's breath, feels his heart beating away in his chest, becomes intimately acquainted with his voice, and feels his warmth and caring day in and day out. Then, finally, one day, the leg is healed and the sheep is free.

The shepherd hopes that by now his little sheep has learned that being stubborn, independent and stupid is not the way to go. He hopes that the sheep has learned to trust him; to know that no matter what happens she is loved and will be cared for. He trusts that by spending all that time in the shepherd's arms the sheep will crave his company and will stop being so sheepish.

I have since googled this information, trying to find out if shepherds really do break a sheep's leg, or if they ever did, maybe in ancient times? I couldn't find anything that proves this has ever happened.

However, I still love the story, true or not. And, like that sheep, I have learned so, so much. I could literally write a book about it all....I asked my husband if he's noticed a change in me since all this began. He says he has. He says my faith is stronger, I'm less stubborn, more feminine, more vulnerable and compassionate, more open to the Lord and less independent and prideful than I've been in days past. We both know I'm not perfect, but we've both noticed some improvement in my character and in my relationship to our Shepherd.

The last 2 years were an unexpected answer to a prayer. My broken, bruised leg has been used to teach me many lessons. It's been an exhausting and confusing time. Wonderful, sweet, miraculous things have come from it all; really, really wonderful things....(If you're interested, I wrote a bit more about all of this here and here.)

But, would I ever, ever pray that prayer again? Just between you and me? I don't think so. It's been worth it, but...nope. I'm just not sure I'll ever utter those words to my Shepherd again....I'm not sure I have the courage....
would you?

November 13, 2011

be it ever so humble....

No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my bedroom best.

Well, that sounds good, doesn't it? Before you rush off, thinking I've become someone you shouldn't spend time with, let me explain.

As with most people, home is important to me and I've had what some would consider quite a few of them. When I was small, home was a house in a typical little "Mayberry" town in Illinois. I loved that house, but not because of it's spaces or the way it was decorated. I loved it because our family was still intact when we lived there. It was a place filled with love, safety, laughter and ease.

After that my mom and I lived in a vacation "lodge" in Evergreen Colorado, bouncing around from unit to unit depending on actual vacationers' reservations. (long story-you can ask me about it some time if you're all that interested.)

For one year my mom and I lived in an apartment right across the street from my school. Now I ask you, isn't that every child's dream? To have the joy of staring at your school day in and day out whether school is in session or not?

Later, as a young teen, (for ten months) home was a cabin in Alpena, Michigan and for almost another year I made my bed in a Christian community in Minneapolis.

For 3 1/2 months my address was a manor house in England and I lived with 6 girls in a trailer in a campground in Spain. The beautiful Mediterranean Sea was on one side of the campground and the Barcelona Sewer System on the other. (I'm sure you can imagine the smells that wafted through the area depending on which way the wind blew.)

I had a tiny apartment all to myself in Estes Park, Colorado and I spent one summer living with 11 other girls in an army tent in the Rockies.

After we married we lived in an apartment above a garage, another apartment that stared Rocky Mountain National Park in the face, and we lived in a teeny tiny cabin on the banks of the Big Thompson River. (Our bedroom was literally the size of our bed!)

After 2 1/2 years of marriage we moved to Indiana. We lived with my brother for 4 months, and two different apartments for 8 years. Then, we rented a house. I loved that place, and the Lord used it to bring a lot of healing and wholeness to my heart. But I learned there that it's not the beauty of a home, nor the furnishings, nor the paint on the walls that fulfill me. It's being with the people I love that make a house a home.

And now? We still live in Indiana. Our house is small; tiny some would say. It's only 1200 square feet-we have 3 bedrooms, a livingroom and an eat in kitchen. I've tried to make the house a welcoming place. The kitchen is painted a warm, happy color; it's bright and happy when the sun shines, and twinkle lights make it cozy and homey when it's gloomy outside. The table only seats 4 comfortably. I admit that is a drawback, but that table....the stories it could tell...I'll save that for another day; for now I'll just say if the house burned down, that table would be one of the things I'd miss the most.

I always thought our livingroom would be the place to hang out in this house... I've worked hard to make it a place that is welcoming, relaxing, warm, and friendly. I've tried to declutter it to get rid of some of the visual noise and have made the guys in my life rearrange the furniture til their backs ached, trying to create a space people would love to visit in.

Our bedroom is the last place on earth I thought people would want to hang out in. It's the last space in the house to "finish". My husband just painted the room and we have yet to find a comforter that can be friends with the walls. There is a treadmill, a sewing machine, our computer and a large desk in the room. It has been impossible thus far for me to make it a cozy, romantic place. It's more like a basement bedroom where all the things that don't fit anywhere else get tossed.

And yet, it seems to be a favorite place for the family. Maybe because of the basement type atmosphere? Whatever the reason, for some strange reason, whenever the 9 of us are together, we often end up here, in the "master bedroom", most of all of us piled on the bed. We lounge around, we laugh, tell stories, and hang out here, in this crazy, un-cozy, un-romantic place.

Which leads me back to the beginning. I think our family loves this bedroom, but not because of the way it's decorated. I think they love it because we can relax here. When we spend time here, we are together, with people we love. It's a place filled with warmth, safety, laughter and ease.

November 10, 2011

a very expensive shelf

There is no eternal purpose to the story I'm about to tell. It's just a story; a story that stares at me every single day. It's about a bookshelf that fills my heart with laughter, contentment, deep sadness, and a shake of its head. (that is, if a heart had a head to shake)

One day, about 11 years ago, I asked my dad to make a shelf for my cookbooks. I had an ulterior motive for this request-not only did I want a place to stuff my cookbooks, I wanted something from my dad. Something he had made specifically with me in mind. Something I could look at every day and picture his large, warm, rough hands creating.

Well, I got my wish, but it came with a price.

When I asked dad for the shelf he asked for something in return. He wanted a pair of slippers crocheted by his one and only daughter. Okay, thought I. No problem. It's a deal.

So, we set to work; dad went to his workshop, found a beautiful piece of oak, and carefully put together my shelf.

I went to my yarn, found some, and carefully crocheted his slippers. There was only one problem. Dad wore a size 13 shoe. I had no idea how large to make those slippers, but I knew they had to big. As I crocheted, I kept holding them up to my husband's size 10 foot for comparison. I finally decided to make them a couple inches longer than a size 10 and hope for the best. I'd like to tell you now, guestamation isn't a wise idea when you're making slippers for someone. They were not slippers. They ended up looking like small canoes. Dad was sweet enough to say he loved them and he actually wore them.

Okay-so, now fast forward about a year. My dad has lung cancer and is in a literal battle for his life-it was a losing battle.

Early in December of that year I got an email from my dad. He just wanted to say hi and give me an update on how everything was going. He felt fine, had a lot of energy, was still active and busy except for one minor problem-that stupid cast on his foot. I whipped out a reply: Cast on your foot? Dad, what happened to your foot??

Oh, it's not a big deal. Those slippers you made are just a bit too big and I tripped over one, fell, and broke my foot.

Great. Not only is my dad dying of lung cancer, he has to do it with a cast on his foot? Because of me??

Now fast forward to December 21 of that year. I was having a normal, busy day with 4 boys in the house. We were doing school, baking Christmas goodies, crafting and doing all the other normal things a family does as the holidays approach. Suddenly the phone rang. It was one of my brothers.

"Judy, I just wanted to let you know I think...I think dad's dying. He's going fast. If you want to see him before he goes, you better get up here soon."

About 8 hours later my husband and I were at my dad's side. I'm not going to tell you everything about those last few hours with my dad. They were precious, but obviously it was one of the most heart-breaking times in my life. What lightened it up for me was that cast; that silly, stupid cast.

Dad was laying on the bed, not really coherant, but not completely gone yet either. He was literally, carefully balanced between two worlds. Sometimes it seemed as if he was leaving-fluttering away from me....then suddenly that heavy cast would pull his whole leg off the bed and dad would return, growling and grumbling, completely ticked off by the fact that that cast was there, pulling him back, causing pain.

All through that night I sat by dad's side, in the dark, crying, talking to him, praying for him....waiting, watching....and, occasionally soothing his ruffled feathers when that cast would pull his leg off the bed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get that leg far enough from the edge of the bed to prevent the whole falling thing from happening. Dad was just too heavy for me to move.

I don't know how to tell you this, but each time that cast did its thing, I laughed inside. It wasn't a wicked laugh, or a huge laugh. I just knew that was dad's last little thing he had to go through and it was amazing how annoyed he got each time it happened. He liked to be in control, and no one likes pain...and I know each time it happened it hurt. But his face...he looked like an annoyed little boy and I kept thinking, dad, you're about to be ushered into the prescence of God...eternity is literally here, now, in this room with you, just moments from taking you away....life and all it's everything, including that stupid cast, are almost over for you....

Do you understand why I find the whole cast thing amusing? Or am I warped? I wasn't the one dealing with the pain or the dying. I had a bird's eye view of the situation and, along with the heart break, I had incredible peace about it.

There was one bible verse that came to mind that night:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I just kept thinking wow, my dad is going to be with Jesus any second. He's going to see Jesus, finally and face to face....

Thinking about that put the cast and the pain of a broken bone in perspective for me and I was able to be amused.

So, the story is over but never forgotten. I still have that shelf, and every time I go into the kitchen I see it. I see large, safe, rough, warm hands; I see a man I loved with all my heart going Home; I see a cast on a leg annoying the daylights out of someone, and I see a silly pair of slippers and I laugh, but only inside...along with a few tears...

November 9, 2011

two worlds becoming one

Sometimes I just don't know what to write about or what to say or whether to say it because of this: A few years ago our pastor told us to examine our lives; he told us to think about every single thing we do or say and ask, will this stand for eternity or is it a waste of time?

Do you have any idea how much pressure that question puts on a person who loves to write? Especially one who is not a teacher nor a bible scholar? Sometimes I'm able to ignore the little voice in my head asking that question and just type. Sometimes that question makes me question should I write? I wonder about you-what do you get out of this place in space? Is it a waste of your time? Is it ok to tell you stories about my life, or my thoughts? That's all I have to offer. I'm not Anne Graham or Kay Arthur or Ann Voskamp. I couldn't even begin to string together a bible study or a deep spiritual lesson, but I don't want to waste a minute of your life either.

I often struggle with the whole idea of living in two worlds-we are eternal beings created to have a deep, intimate friendship with God. I believe there is an unseen world all around us-a spiritual world where God is, and sin, repentance, angels, demons, hell, and heaven....

However, we also live on a planet filled with moose, stubbed toes, music, bad hair days, new babies, and beautiful sunsets. And I know our pastor loves football. That's not eternal. (At least I hope not.)

I also believe the things we experience in life are sifted through God's fingers. That's an amazing thought if you spend time with it; that certainly reconciles the two worlds, doesn't it? God who is eternal and invisible, giving us a planet and experiences that are altogether tangible...

Somehow, we are meant to live straddled between the two. Our noses pointed in one direction while our feet take us in many.

Which brings me back to the question: will this stand for eternity or is it a waste of time? What about the music we listen to or the books we read? What about the pain we experience and those lovely bad hair days? None of those things are eternal.

And yet, think about Jesus.

What did He do? He told stories. He used tangible examples of everyday experiences to bring people to their knees in invisible repentance. Each story He told was like a tiny thread tying this world to the invisible, eternal one. His stories built friendships and showed people how to live and love and have a renewed relationship with God the Father.

Please don't even think I'm comparing this blog to the stories Jesus told! That's not where I'm trying to go with this, although it does sound like it, doesn't it?

What I'm trying to say is this:
stories are good for us. I love hearing about people's lives-what they've seen or done or experienced. Our life stories may not be eternal, but they do help us along while we're here, on a temporary planet, to get to there, an invisible eternal home. Your story is full of experiences like bad hair days, deep heartache, sin, good food, and memories of your childhood. When you tell your story, when you give others bits of yourself...when you are vulnerable and expose your sin or pain or the things you long for, you are tying strings from your heart to another. You're telling someone you've been there, you understand...you're creating a link from a tangible experience to an unseen world, the one that is eternal.

November 7, 2011

what do you see?

I know you know what I'm about to tell you, but I need to say it anyway, for my own peace of mind.

We are not perfect. Our marriage isn't perfect, our sons and daughters-in-law are not perfect. Our lives are not perfect.

I went out for coffee with a friend yesterday and I noticed something. We hadn't seen each other for a few months so we spent the first hour or so just catching up with surface stuff-we talked about our homes, our busy schedules, and what each of our kids are up to. It was light hearted and relaxing.

However, the longer we lingered, the deeper things got. We shared our hearts with each other and told each other things we don't just tell any or everyone.

This blog is sometimes like a coffee date. Sometimes it's light hearted, sometimes relaxing. Sometimes I go a little deeper and share my heart with you-I tell you things I don't just tell any or everyone. But those things are my things. I can't write about the struggles and stresses and lessons being learned by my family because those things belong to them.

I will go this far-I will tell you my husband and I drive each other crazy once in awhile. There are things I've said or done that have hurt him deeply and he in turn, has done the same to me. There have been times where I've wondered if our marriage would make it, and to be really honest, times where I just didn't care anymore and I've wanted to walk away.

I can tell you I lose sleep over my sons at times, and spend hours praying for them or worrying about them through the dark hours of the night. We have misunderstandings and get annoyed with each other and say things we want to take back.

There are times where I've felt like a failure as a wife or mother or have wondered what on earth I did to deserve these people I'm stuck with. There are times where I've wanted to run away from everything because I have felt helpless or hopeless.

I've tried to look at this blog from a bird's eye view and wondered what you see when you stop by. Do I give you the impression that we are a perfect little family, living a perfect little life? Do you leave here feeling discouraged or wistful?

I pray not. I pray you go away knowing we are not perfect. We hurt each other, we struggle, we annoy the daylights out of each other. It's just that this blog is my blog. It's not my husband's nor my sons', nor my daughters-in-law's. I have no right to share their stories with you-I can only tell you mine.

What I want to show you is our perfect God. No matter what we've gone through, or what our struggles or hurts have been, He has been at our side, walking through it all with us. He is constant and consistent. No matter how hard the things we've gone through or how much we hurt or annoy each other, He promises to bring good from it. I've learned to cling to that and I've been known to remind Him of that promise. No matter what I see my sons or husband going through I cling to that promise. Whatever the state of our marriage or whatever is going on in our family-when I've felt like the only thing holding me together are chintzy bandaids or the only thing holding me up are my fingernails, I've clung to that promise.

That is what I hope you see when you stop by. I want you to see God. I want you to see He is love, He is good, He is able. I want you to know He is all you need and He can be trusted.

He is the perfect One. That's what I pray you see.


November 4, 2011

oh those phone calls....

My daddy was the most important thing in my world when I was small; he was my anchor, my hero, my comforter...I trusted and loved him more than anyone else I knew.

I know I've told you that before, but I love saying it because I love/d him.

All that changed when I was 7 or 8 and my parents divorced. Dad moved to Michigan and I moved to Colorado. From that point on our relationship was sporadic and required actual work to maintain. I was only able to see my dad twice a year-the rest of the time we communicated via letters or his phone calls.

Those phone calls...they were intensely bittersweet and always left me feeling lonely, hungry for more of him. On the other hand, I always felt treasured and missed; I knew he was lonely and hungry for more of me too.

The worst part of each phone call was saying goodbye. At first, when I'd hear his voice on the other end of the line, I was thrilled. My daddy had called me! He'd ask me about school, my friends, what I was doing for fun, and then he'd tell me about his life and what he was up to. After a bit we'd come to the end of the conversation and dad would say, "Well sweetheart, I love you. I miss you. I'll call again soon, but for now let's hang up."

"OK daddy. I love you too. Bye..."

Silence. Neither one of us hanging up.

"Judy, are you still there?"

"Yes daddy."

"Sweetheart, we need to hang up now, so hang up the phone."

"OK daddy. I love you..."

Silence. Neither one of us wanting to end the delicate connection we had.

"Judy, why don't you hang up?"

"Because I miss you daddy...."

"OK sweetie. Let's hang up together. I'll count. 1, 2, 3..."

and then I'd hang up. I wouldn't leave the phone for a long time though. I'd sit there, staring at it, waiting, wondering if he had actually hung up. Was he still there, on the other end of the line, hoping to hear my voice telling him I love him? Telling him more than I already had? Was he longing for those tiny phone wires to keep me there, in the room with him, as close as we could be under the circumstances? Sometimes I'd doubt his love, and would wonder, did his heart hurt like mine did, or was he off and running, on to the next thing?

I'd sit there, staring at the phone, aching to hear his deep, comforting voice cradling me, making me feel loved and safe....so thankful he'd called, relieved to know he still loved me, regardless of our circumstances.

There are so many spiritual parallels here...so many. A Father's love, a deep connection, sin severing that, work that brings it back, work that maintains it, doubt, time spent together that heals it....

I think, if this were my last blog post...if I never put my fingers on a keyboard again, my last words to you would be Romans 8: 38-39. Unlike my dad's availability, God is always, always, always available. We can talk to Him and pour out our hearts to Him incessantly. (I think He'd actually enjoy that.) His love is constant and there's no reason to ever doubt it.

I used those 2 verses yesterday when I wrote, but they are perfect for today as well and I pray you would get it. I pray I would get it...

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(not even severed phone lines...)

November 3, 2011

The Rock

Sometimes my husband overwhelms me with his love. It has been constant, regardless of my words, my actions or my state of being. He has never, never, not ever said a cruel, impatient word or lost his temper with me. He has never said that I was anything but beautiful in his eyes, regardless of how I looked. He has never made a nasty joke at my expense. He has patiently been by my side for over a quarter of a century, consistent, trustworthy, gentle and loving. My steady man.

My husband is my rock. I know, the bible clearly states that Jesus is our Rock. I don't mean to imply that my husband has become God to me. He's not that perfect. Here's what I mean: imagine a forest full of deep green pine trees. Then imagine a huge boulder sitting there in the midst of all those trees. It's larger than a minivan but not as big as a semi. Got the picture? Now imagine a curly haired, hyperactive, fearful, emotional poodle running pell mell around that boulder. It can't leave the vicinity of the rock because it's leash is stuck under it. It cannot get away from that rock. If that were our marriage? Well, let's just say I'm not the boulder. My husband has consistently been there, allowing me the freedom to be an emotional, fearful-at-times, typical female, while steadily keeping me in line with The Rock; with Jesus.

The other night we went to our son's house for dinner. I'd had a rough day pain-wise and was feeling weary of it. As we were driving home that night I asked my husband if he was getting sick of taking care of me; I asked him if he was sick of helping me with the mundane little things I can't do; I asked him how he'd feel if this turns out to be the new me. It still hurts to lift a wet blanket out of the washer to put it in the dryer, I still can't scrub the tub, (I learned that the hard way) it still hurts to clean the floor, and I can't climb up on a chair to put something away or dust "up there". I still need so much help.

When I asked my husband if he was getting sick of it all, he said, "What?? What are you talking about?? I love you. I married you and promised to love you in sickness or in health til death do we part. I'm not sick of it or you. This is how it is now and I love you no matter how you are because I love you." He said a lot of other sweet things and blew me away, really. He was truly dumbfounded that I could even imagine him being sick of helping me.

In turn I was dumbfounded that anyone can love like that. I'm not sure I could. If the tables were turned I'm not sure I'd be as patient, as unconditional, as selfless. I'd be so ready for "this" to be over...

Then my happy little thoughts turned to how deeply painful it is to be this vulnerable. To actually need constant help. I hate it-I have never liked being dependent on people and I sometimes wonder, what if this never changes? What if I'm never able to be independent again? What if this is the new me?

When I voiced those thoughts out loud, My husband said he wondered if that is why I'm still healing. He wonders if God is wanting to whittle down (even more than He has) my independence. My pride. He wonders if God is wanting me to learn to be vulnerable and allow myself to depend on others. (All I had to say to that idea was yuck which probably proves his point.)

And that's where the boulder/poodle thing comes in again. That poodle is vulnerable. It is so dependent on that rock to keep it safe and grounded.

And that's where The Rock comes in again too. God's love-it is perfect. It is even more consistent than my husband's. He is even more patient, more trustworthy, more steady.

Romans 8:38-39 says, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Don't those verses take your breath away? Don't they make your heart skip a beat? Don't they make you want to fall on your face and lay there, worshiping, in awe of Him? Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from His consistent, trustworthy, patient love.

Psalm 48:14 ...for this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.

He is faithful and He loves. He is our Rock. Our giant, consistent boulder.

November 2, 2011

getting through the winter

I am sometimes a rebellious, sometimes sneaky person. I've been known to take the last 2 cookies from the cookie jar and hide them just so I can have them in the morning with my coffee.
(Yes, I know, "breakfast is thee most important meal of the day", but this isn't breakfast, it's pre-breakfast. There is a difference-at least that's what I tell myself every morning.)

Anyway, a few years ago, when I decided to lose weight, I kept my weight loss efforts a secret. For some reason, in the past, whenever I'd lose a few pounds and someone would comment on it, I'd stop trying. Rebellion? I wonder.... when I got good and serious about weight loss, I didn't tell anyone and I did it during the winter so my big, comfy sweaters would hide the fact that I was shrinking until I'd shrunk. That idea worked.

Well, about 2 weeks ago I told you my how-to get-through-an-Indiana-winter plan, remember? I pick a major goal to focus on and race the winter months to see who wins. Can I accomplish my goal before the first crocus blooms, or will dandelions be pushing up through the ground before I finish what I started? (Please note, this is not the same thing as daisies pushing up...)

This year I'm in big trouble. I think I have what may be too many goals, even for an Indiana winter. I have not 1, not 2, not even 3 goals. I have fourteen. I've decided to go ahead and share them with you-at least some of them. The really, really important ones I'm keeping a secret, just like my weight loss, because I know me. If I told you what they were, I wouldn't work on them. (Can you explain that aspect of my personality to me? If so, I'd be most appreciative)

Anyway, here's my list:

spiritual goals:
-Barrett and I want to finish memorizing Hebrews 11:1-12:13. We are almost done with this and hope to have it completed by Christmas time.

-there are 2 more here, but, well....those are the most important ones

physical goals:
-exercises that will strengthen my back, arms and stomach muscles. I have a granddaughter I want to hoist around and play with and I've become quite wimpy over the last year.

-cut way back on sugar. I've noticed an increase in the size of my sweet tooth and I want to shrink it down to size.

relational goal:
-another secret-my husband says this one's impossible for the time being, but I'm stubborn enough to keep stewing on it and will at least be praying about it

miscellaneous goals:
-make and send out birthday cards ON TIME
-scrapbook some random photos that have been floating around
-do some fun science experiments and other projects with Barrett. My days with him are numbered and I want to soak up any time I have with him.
-Barrett has asked me for a granny square blanket-I have the squares made, I just need to put them together
-finish another granny square blanket I've started for our bed
-another secret. This one is huge, but I'm really excited about it-I just may share it with you in the spring, depending on how it goes.
-scrapbook my husband's pictures from his childhood
-begin sorting and organizing our sons' photos so I can scrapbook those maybe next winter?

So, there you have it. Realistic? I doubt it, but I also doubt I'll notice the grey this year!