Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not So Random

It's amazing what you can think of when you're busy sweeping the floor! Why do messes help us organize our thoughts?Hmmmm...while cleaning up, I had some memories playing back in my mind. One of them was about friends who had come and gone, in my life, over the years. When you meet someone, you imagine that you'll be in each other lives, forever. Everything seems so grand, so wouldn't change a thing...and then, it happens: life changes things for you.

When I was 2-1/2 years old, my parents relocated from Nebraska to Minnesota. We settled into a middle-class neighborhood, in Rochester. My mom was finishing up nursing school at RCC and my dad worked in retail. For me, it was as if the whole world had opened up: there were kids, toys, and bikes going here and there, around the block, again and again. The ice cream man would glide through the streets with his little cart and alluring bells--and instantly, every child would be pulling on their mother's pant leg, shirt, or arm--begging for 50 cents to get their favorite Popsicle--he was like a modern day Pied Piper! I'm sure our parents just loved it when he came around(ha,ha).

I lived next door to the Peterson family. They had a boy named Michael, who was my age, and a little girl, Sarah, who was a few years younger. We had great times, playing together. Across the street was the Sandberg family, with their 4 kids(at that time). I was good friends with their oldest daughter, Allison. Our October birthdays were 2 days apart. Allison's sister, Emily, was also part of our little pack. We would have many adventures together. One of them was climbing the humongous willow tree at Michael's house. I'd like to think that I was the bravest one of the bunch, who somehow managed to get to the very top! We would make bets and dares upon double dare, to see who would win. It was a great time to be a kid!

And then there were swing sets, sandboxes, monkey bars, and my big backyard--which seemed so deep that I was sure a football team might have played there. My mom would comment that it always took so long to mow the grass with our puny little push mower! I recall draping sheets and blankets over the monkey bars in our yard. I would lay on the ground, gazing upwards, imagining that I would someday live in 'an outdoor room'--where you could feel the breeze and see the sky. I think truly, God puts those desires in our hearts so that we will someday strive to make our dreams come true(Did I mention that we have our retaining wall up now? Soon we'll be enjoying our new patio and outdoor room!).

Do you think it was some random, incidental choice that brought my family to this state, this city, and into this neighborhood? Probably not. I've come to believe that everything happens for a reason. Our family went to church and followed the ritualistic traditions that had been passed down for generations. We were a normal, American family by many standards. Were we happy? Did we have our share of troubles? The answer to both questions is 'yes'. But God knew that we also needed Him in the center of our lives. He placed us next to the two families I've already mentioned, so that we could see Jesus reflected from their lives and into ours.

I absolutely loved spending time with the Petersons and Sandbergs. Watching them be together was such a comfort to me because my own family was becoming more and more broken, as each year passed. Although my childhood memory can't recall when and how it all happened, I still could sense that something was not right; little by little, much sadness began to creep into our home. God surrounded us with good neighbors that helped us in so many ways. Even though they couldn't stop the inevitable, they were there to support us through the many changes that would be coming.

And Life did change for all of us. Our family divided into two homes when I turned seven. The Peterson's moved to Colorado, and the Sandbergs--across town--when I was about nine. I remember how devastating it was to lose those connections. Kind of like seeing that big willow tree get cut down, next door. No more shelter, no more tree-climbing. Sadly, those days were now over.

But around this time, I was invited to Camp Victory by my friend Allison. It was there that I discovered who God really was and how much He loved me. And not only that, I had never heard music like I had heard there. No church organs, no chanting, no dismal hymns...well, that's how they seemed to sound to me(I do like some hymns!). No, it was so different. I thought to myself, "Whatever it is they have, I want that in my life." And so began my walk with God, my journey of faith. That was back in 1986. My life was not very secure at that time. There were still many unknowns and changes, but I felt peace because I knew that someday it was going to be ok. And even today, music is a big part of who I am and what I do. I love to sing and use those gifts to praise God. He put that into my heart, even before I chose to trust Him with my life.

Now, here we are, 24 years later! Thanks to the miracles of social networking, I'm back in touch with Allison. My heart was warmed, knowing that her walk with God is also strong today. So coming full circle, God put her in my life many years ago--knowing all the events that would take place, ahead of time. Isn't our God amazing? He definitely has a plan and purpose for all of us(Jer. 29:11). I don't have to despair as to why He chooses to remove friends from my life, for a season. Or maybe I will never see some of those friends again--who knows. But, if I'm trusting Him completely, I know that He will continue to bring new people into my life, as well. Like another old friend once said, "Your heart grows bigger with more room to love all the new people God brings, into your life." So true.

"Into the darkness you shine, out of the ashes we rise.
There's no one like you, none like you:

"Our God is greater, our God is stronger. Our God is higher than any, other. Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God..."(Chris Tomlin song)."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting an Education

When I first held my little guy in my arms, 4 years ago, the last thing I was thinking of was where he would go to school and how he might learn. I was in love, and that was all that mattered at the time. I remember thinking that my new occupation--'rookie mom'--was going to be the ride of my life and I wanted to enjoy it for as long as possible. Now jump ahead to today: I have two active little ones and the quiet peace of that hospital room is but a memory now.We are doing the preschool thing, and when that is not in session, I find myself answering all kinds of curious questions. I've added to my resume teacher, full-time referee, macaroni chef, band-aid expert, laundry-lady, dishwasher--I mean "dish stacker", and the list is endless--as any parent knows!

This week, we've had an education in weather patterns. The tornado that almost touched down over our house, decided to go east and visit my husband's parents. Quite an intrusion, this storm was! No warning, just the sound of wind, and then glass and debris everywhere, within a matter of minutes. We are thankful Grandma Suzie was not hurt and that the damage is able to be fixed. Adrian now understands what tornadoes are. He's been talking about it a lot since Wednesday, when it hit. Some of my favorite questions and remarks: "Mommy, do tornadoes live in the woods? Do they have sharp teeth?...Are they boys or girls?...Mommy, Grandpa Jim shot that tornado and now it's dead, lying in the ditch!...Mommy, that tornado is naughty--him needs to go back into the clouds!"

Want to hear something funny? By no intentions of our own, we've had to start educating our kids about gender differences. Those of you who have boys and girls know what I mean. They start asking questions, even at ages 2 and 4 years old. You can't convince me that little kids don't know that boys and girls are different, even from outward observations. In my world, there are many questions about which animated characters are boys, and which are girls. They want to know. Then we have to go one step further by defining which parts these cartoons have! It gets even better: we are out in public and once again, the conversation surfaces. "Mommy, that boy has a______! That girl has a butt and a _______!" Reminds me of the movie, 'Kindergarten Cop'--and here I am, living it out! I had to forewarn my relatives, over the Independence holiday, that they may be told which parts they have and why. It is torturing for me to keep a straight face in front of them and to keep from blushing when in the presence of strangers! Oh please, please, when will this end? I have to take it before God and figure out how to address this in healthy, non-shameful way. We are gradually learning how to do this...'what is and should be private is not to be discussed, in public'. That is my mantra to these curious monkeys I love and adore : )

It's a high calling, this parenting job. Quite often, I find myself asking God for wisdom to raise these little ones up. I have no shame in praying this with them, as we tuck them in at night. They need to know that I don't have all the answers and that I often make mistakes. It is humbling, and in a way, we're already teaching them through this simple act of faith. I struggle with what education choice will be best for our kids. For now, we are a part of the public school system and have had many benefits with our son, regarding his developmental needs. He is doing so well and I feel comfortable with his education team. Each year, God will give us the wisdom to know what to really, I don't have to worry about it.

I am thankful that we serve a big God who is sovereign over every circumstance. Yes, He is even in control of my children's "curious questions and body awareness"! One of the hardest things I've begun to realize, about parenting, is the reality that our kids(like their parents)will have experiences that are painful--and despite our best intentions, we can't prevent every bad thing from happening to them. We have to trust God, the Father and let Him take care of the things we have little or no control over. He is the author and finisher of our faith(Heb.12:1-2)...and He continues to write the story of our lives.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Force of July

After a busy summer, we were finally able to get away to the great state of...Nebraska! We spent the 4th of July weekend, in Omaha, visiting family. Driving around that winding, bumpy road, surrounding the lake brings back memories of other trips, over the years. We often get in late at night and the light is always left on(just like Motel 6!), as we're pulling in the driveway.

Walking into the house, this time around, was better for me than on other visits, since the funeral. I would feel such a personal loss, knowing that my mom wouldn't be standing in the doorway or getting up from checking her email, to greet us. While that feeling didn't hit me, initially, just being in the house for a couple of days made me more aware of the feelings that are still there. It's as if I'm getting closer to the awareness of my grief by being inside the walls that she once called home.

Going to church with family and friends is another reminder of this awareness. Maybe because we are in a place of worship that she called home, here on earth. She is no longer on stage singing--well, maybe she is and we can't see her--nor is she standing next to us. I find comfort in talking with some of her friends--women I see only when I come through those doors. It's a healing time for me to be around them and have that connection, even if for just a little while.

On a lighter note, we had a great time on Saturday, playing volleyball and watching the kids splash around in the water. Sand castles--or canals, rather--were built and after it was done it kind of looked like a little town back in biblical times! Too funny. Adrian loved it. He would say, 'No, that tunnel is bumpy' and then he'd grab some wet sand and slap it in place. Future engineer, maybe?

Samantha loves going out to eat. When she hears that we are going to a restaurant, she says, "I get to sit in a highchair!"My little sanguine. So colorful and full of life. She is all curls, brown eyes and well, to be honest, lots of mischief! But I love her for every minute of joy that she brings. Even when she is in trouble--or should be--it's hard not to laugh at her.

On Sunday, it rained most of the day. Perfect day to surf the satellite channels for good movies. Guess what was on? A Star Wars marathon! They called it "The Force of July". Nice play on words there-LOL! They kept replaying all 6 movies, over and over. So that was my Sunday afternoon. It was fun because those that were there all liked the sci-fi, galactic adventure(for the most part) so that made it even more fun. I still like episodes 4-6 the best. The new ones are ok, but there is something nostalgic about being a kid when the original movies came out. Nothing like that had ever been done, in the area of special effects and what not.

It has been said that half the fun of going on a trip is in getting there. That is somewhat true, in my experience. All the work of packing and getting everyone ready to go is worth it for the journey. We enjoy driving(when the kids are quiet!) because it gives us a chance to catch up on each other's thoughts. You could say that we have a captive audience in each other. I like to tease Troy because I never get to take a nap or get through a chapter in a good book, when he is driving. He will initiate conversation when he is at the wheel, more than at any other place. So I don't get much sleep, but I do get inside my husbands' head, which is worth far more than a nap, any day.

And just like that, 3 days goes by. I never like to say good-bye, but I do like getting home and into my own bed! Like I tell my kids' friends, when they don't want to leave our house, "You have to leave so you can come back, again!" I wonder if 4 yr.olds get that? I usually get some strange looks when I say that--LOL--but you know, it holds a lot of truth. All good things must come to an that we can look forward, to the next good thing.