Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Moment of Truth

Here we are, at the end of another year. It was busy, but one that came without incident. The little bumps along the way were welcome in comparison to some of the big boulders we've climbed, over the years.

I don't know about you, but it takes me awhile to make sense of crisis and loss, when it comes. There is a sort of ripple effect, like in an earthquake. The tremors can be felt miles away, reaching beyond the initial point of impact. That's kind of how I tend to process life. When stuff hits me, I often don't realize how bad it is until later on.

Maybe God does that on purpose, to protect the innocent--who knows. Dealing with my mom's death continues to be a process for me. At different times of the year, it can be harder...or not. But God has and will continue to carry me through. The song 'Thrive', from the Newsboys, has been especially meaningful to me over the holiday season. Check out the lyrics sometime and you'll see why its such a powerful song.

Been thinking about people, relationships, life, God...and what I'd like to change, going into 2012. Do you ever get frustrated with yourself? Sick and tired of you? Unable to fix the mess? Yeah, I think we all can say we've been there. That's me right now. I have no good, logical reason for feeling that way--I just do. I'm done--had enough of me--ready to move on. Looking in the mirror, I do not like the reflection I see. And I'm not talking about the newly emerged crow's feet(LOL-the hallmark of turning 35),but more the 'wrinkles of the heart' staring me in the face.

Guess what? I can't fix it. My resolve to do so will maybe last through the month of January, as do many resolutions. This one is too big for me. But I can trust. I can take the time to get to know God better and hear Him speak. I don't know how that will all turn out. I will most certainly fail, time and time again--but then what: I'll just get back up. Doesn't matter if I'm barefoot, wearing slippers, or mud boots--just have to keep on walking the walk.

Here's what I want for 2012. To simply love God and others, better than in 2011. Sounds so basic and easy to do, but I think it is one of the hardest commands: Loving the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself. The golden rule, right? It requires a relationship in Christ, that will fuel the ability to carry this out. Our own power and strength will not be enough. Dying to self, surrendering our desires and plans, allowing God to take the reigns. For without the death of a seed, there can be no substantial growth. *I'm definitely not there yet, but many times when I write--I do so to encourage not only others, but to remind myself of where I want to someday be.

God promises us that if we seek after Him, first, everything else will be added(Matt. 6:33-34). It may not be what I had in mind, but it will be so much more than I could ever dream up on my own. I will not settle for just getting by--I want more than that. Life is short, and every thing here is temporary in nature. Whatever I do, I want to send it on ahead, into eternity. Ready for some adventure? I know I am. I hope your Christmas season contained some unspeakable joy--have a blessed and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eyes to See

What a beautiful November day on which to be thankful. No matter what life has brought to my table lately, today we had turkey--and good times with the family. The sun was out, and the temperature was unseasonably warm--how delightful for a girl whose mood seems to change with the weather!

Life is full of surprises. Today I learned that my step-dad, Jim, is newly engaged to a lovely lady--her name is Linda. (For those who do not know, Jim was married to my mother for nearly 17 years--she passed away from cancer, 3-1/2 years ago). It is good to see two people so happy together. New chapters, new beginnings...two story lines, merging together as one.

I'm glad to know that God is always doing something new. Even if I can't yet see it, He is. Watching my kids play together, they have great fun acting out scenes from the adventures dancing around in their little heads. Just this afternoon, Adrian was throwing Samantha the rope, begging her 'my little ponies' to catch it and pull him out of the water--it was hilarious. She kept saying, "but they can't get the rope--their feet aren't sticky enough." LOL

From their vantage point, the possibilities are endless. Children have the unique ability to look out, and up. They also look down, but not in the way adults do: what they see is different. Ask any 3yr old girl, searching for lost barbie shoes--and you know she may as well found lost treasure, when one turns up!

I envy the innocence of childhood. It goes away all too quickly, when you have to think about life stuff, bills, providing, nurturing, time with your spouse, and on and on. Sometimes its easy to feel like nothing good is coming back in, to replace all the giving out you do. And if you work full-time, its that job...or maybe its being that friend that continually supports, but doesn't feel supported when your time of need arises.

Yes, being an adult is a different vantage point. We may look into our past too often, or we may worry about our future security, missing the present moments of joy, all around us. Truth be told, my name would be on every one of those lists. I can get myself into such a funk, that I don't know how I got there...or how long it will last.

The other day, I was reading Adrian some bedtime stories. One of them was out of his Adventure Bible book. It was a story about the man who sold all that he had to buy a field that he knew contained buried treasure. And he kept digging and digging, pressing on--knowing that once he found it, all the sweat and effort would be worth it. Jesus was sharing this parable, from Matthew 13, to remind us that searching for God is like searching for that treasure.

Once again, I could hear that little voice, whispering to me. It was such a rough day. Lots of tears, grief, frustrations, regrets. Too much to tell, here and now. But I knew it was God. "Keep going, keep on looking for Me, keep on reading my letters, keep on praying, keep on enduring...because one day, it will all be worth it--you will find me, know me better, you will do great things, you are doing the most important thing, now...and I love you." I was amazed, once again, by that children's version of stories of old.

It's kind of funny, really. It's like God is saying, "well, if she won't spend time with me, then I'll have to send her a message during the bedtime routine--again." Oops. I'm so glad that God is always present, even when I'm not. He speaks in many ways, and as a parent, I find that my answer of the day often comes at night, in those stories.

Ever come to the end of yourself? You're out of answers, out of solutions, full of problems? I think that's right where I need to be so I can get a fresh perspective, a new vantage point. God is doing something new, even if I can't yet see it. He is. I'm learning to trust in that promise and allow him to shape my life however he sees fit, to accomplish his purposes. It is so hard to surrender, because I can tell you that I have lots of ideas on what I think my life should look like.

But God sees the big picture. He has the ultimate view, from the beginning of time to the end of the age. So I have to agree that my 'tiny little window' of space is no match for what will someday be revealed. (Isaiah 55:6-13)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Time in a Bottle

I love October so much that I'm posting twice this month. Ha, ha--no really, its for my own sanity. I desperately need time to reflect. And just sitting down doesn't work well for me. So I'm going to write about how I should not be so busy and slow down a bit...kind of ironic, isn't it?

Turning 35 has made me realize how fast the time has gone by. I don't mind that I'm only five years away from the big one, however, it feels like being 20 was only yesterday. I think about how different my life was then. Quite carefree, and for the most part, completely naive to the world around me. And yet, there are parts of my life that were already too grown up, even at that age.

Sometimes children have to grow up too fast. Their circumstances command them to take charge and survive whatever it is that may be robbing them of just being a kid. As a young adult, I did not understand the whys or the hows of what came to be, in my own life. But now that I'm a parent, there is a sharper perspective from where it once appeared blurry. Like the children, the parents are also trying to survive. And hopefully, there is a support system in place to help them through the 'life stuff'.

My mom has been gone for just over 3 years now. Celebrating another birthday, without her, was easier than I thought it might be. I thought about where she was at, when she turned 35. And it gives me joy to know that she was happy, beginning a new life for herself--and in some ways, for her children, too. I'd like to think that she knows that I'm happy, as well. To see all that has changed since she was here--and maybe God did grant her request for a 'news feed' of sorts. Wouldn't that be the coolest thing? To have social network up there, keeping tabs on earth-bound loved ones. But then I hear that Heaven is so grand--a place where time stands still. So it may be such that when I arrive and see my mom, it will seem as if no time at all has passed, for her.

I wish I could put time in a bottle. Not to save it up, or spend it later. What I want to put in that bottle are the memories of my kids when they were little. They still are kinda little, but I'm painfully aware of how fast it all has gone by. This kindergarten chapter, this going to school every day has hit me that the time I have with them gets shorter, each year. My daughter will go to preschool, next year. The comments I hear the most, about that milestone, is all the extra time I will have. And that is something--time to do all the stuff that is hard to do when they are at home.

Lately, I've been convicted of how more often than not, I will find things to do other than play with my kids. It makes me sad, partly because my mind is always thinking of the next thing I have to do...and all the while, the days go by, the months, the years..."cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man and the moon..." Just like that old song, I'll wish that I would have said 'no' to the list, and got on the floor with them, instead.

My dad has a unique propensity for remaining somewhat child-like, even at his grandfatherly age. I have many memories of bike rides, going to the parks, wrestling on the stinky floor(yes, there was 'gas' involved), playing softball, board games and cards. Those happy times are good filters against the unpleasant circumstance of life. I think that somewhere in there, I'm a lot like him. I need to remind myself of what it means 'to play'.

Kids are so creative. I love that about them. Cardboard boxes are turned into doghouses for stuffed animals--complete with an attached doggie door, made out of a paper bag. Scotch tape is a commodity used for securing all kinds of things to the back of little tractors. The grill tongs are barracudas that eat squeaky bath-toy fishies. Spoons are dog bones, pillows and bean bags are rocks for the plastic snakes to hide under. Yarn and name-tag holders have now become dog leashes. Oh, another favorite: those metal holders for steeping loose tea? They are sharks that enjoy eating coins. The barbies go to parties--riding my little pony's and giant stuffed cats--as their coaches and carriages. Cinderella has gone lots of places, at our house! And then there is all the nature stuff on the kitchen island: tree bark, rocks, pine cones, and the glass jars with the 'bug of the day' catch. The fridge is covered in artwork...

Note to self: play with your kids today. The to-do list can wait 15 minutes...or maybe half an hour. We can't bottle up time for later, but the memories we choose to make will always be with us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Captive Audience

We've returned from our end of summer trek out west: ten days away, 3,712 miles logged, 8 states crossed...loads of laundry later, it still feels like I've been home only a few days. With school starting, 30 hours after pulling into our driveway, I feel caught up in a whirlwind of fall activities--kind of like those dust storms we saw rolling across the interstate as we made our way home. Now that its October, the frenzy of activity hasn't stopped. Just shifted--now we're into harvest season. I'm enjoying this warm weather and the deepening of fall colors in our area.

Back to our adventure. Was it long enough? Nope. Did the time go by fast. Yep. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely. I can't tell you how good it was to leave our house in good hands, so we could put our hands on the wheel and see new places. Taking two small children on such a journey seemed daunting. I wondered, as the days lead up to our departure, was I crazy for wanting to do this now? Maybe we should wait a few more years.

I'm glad that we didn't wait. Our life as we know it has a lot of inertia at the change of seasons. We miss seeing each other when the long hours at work--and in our fields--take us away from just being together. When that happens, subtle changes in behavior become noticeable--not only in our kids, but with us a well. We all get a little cranky, you know? And we had our cranky moments on the road. Mostly on the long night drives, trying to get our hotel in that next town, only to do more driving the next day.

I lost track of the number of times Adrian asked, "Can we climb that mountain? How 'bout that one, over there?" Poor little guy. I had to tell him no, every time, because our schedule didn't allow for long hikes...and those cliffs were asking for trouble with our adventurous kids. But we did have our stops: Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and some great rest areas for grilling out at lunch time. It was fun to do that and hang out together. At one stop, we heard a strange clicking sound...apparantly, they have clicking grasshoppers out west. The kids were having a great time catching them. I discovered that one of Samantha's love languages is touch. She didn't quite meet her daily 'touch quota' while we traveled. She constantly asked, "Mom, can you hold me?" I kept telling her 'no', as I reached back my arm to hold onto her leg...sorry honey, gotta keep those confining seatbelts on...don't you wish we could travel like we did, as kids? It wasn't as safe, but it sure was more comfortable! My favorite place was the Grand Prismatic Spring, in Yellowstone. We stopped at dusk, just as the sun was setting. The steam from the geysers was rolling upwards, catching the rays as the sun went down. I've never seen anything more beautiful than those pools of water, teeming with microbes that somehow survive those hot temps. Those microscopic critters are what give the water its amazing hues of orange and turquoise. Adrian and I had a great time, tromping along the boardwalk--resisting the urge to run and reach over the boundary lines. The pictures were quite good, coming from an ordinary point and shoot camera. Soon they will be canvased on the wall in my house: a visual reminder of a place that made me feel so alive.

We had a great time visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins--in their home state of Oregon. We saw many different landscapes: desert-like trails along the gorge, the falls at Multnomah with so much greenery and moss, to the Japanese Gardens in Portland. I loved every part of it and was glad they took us around to some of their favorite places. The kids liked the Bonneville Fish Hatchery the best. They got to feed Rainbow Trout--schools of them! It was fun to watch. There were also Salmon and some enormous Sturgeon kept there--one of them was like 8 feet long--wow.

I didn't buy much for souvenirs. Just took lots of pictures of mountains and the changes in scenery along the way. The kids picked out toys from the Fish hatchery--a plastic snake and a stuffed-fish(I guess it isn't really a 'stuffed animal' is it?). But there was one thing that I did buy. Something that will be forever treasured and personal: a canvased painting from my aunt. She is quite the artist, with over 30 years experience in her field. It was fun to see her artwork displayed on the walls of her house. When my eyes locked on "Sky Blue", I knew it had to make its way back to Minnesota...and hang on my wall. The colors, the water, the rocks--yep, that resonates somewhere deep inside me. Probably has something to do with an important family vacation we took. I was about five when we went up to Thunder Bay, way up by Canada. I remember skipping along the rocky shore, jumping over the water--I just wanted to keep on poor, pregnant mother, chasing me down--probably certain that I would slip and fall into the frigid water below. I can't help myself: got my dad's spirit of adventure, and it is alive and well. Both my kids have it too: it was hard to contain them on our trip. There was no path they wouldn't get off of and try to explore! So when I saw my aunt's painting...I just knew it would come home with me. Mary and Dale were kind enough to ship it out so it wouldn't get damaged in our jam-packed van on the way home. Every time I look at it, I think of her--and how happy I am to have inherited adventure and appreciation for beauty: from both sides of my family.

Another aspect of our trip that was great: windshield time with Troy. We talk the most when we drive together. The joke is that I can never sleep when he drives because he won't let me. It never fails: I close my eyes and he's saying, "Hey, look at that." Or, he starts engaging in deeper conversation. Here's the interesting flip side of that: so when I talk to him--like at home, on the couch--he falls asleep. Go figure! This has been the situation for 15 years. Maybe its genetic...or maybe I am that boring(LOL). In reality, there is little time left at the end of the day, just to share. But when behind the wheel, its a different story. I get to hear what's going on with Troy. We talk about our hopes, dreams, frustrations. I wouldn't trade cheap airfare for the time we got on the road that week. It was priceless.

Here's to travel: maybe you've got some gravel in it, maybe its on the paved road. The Spirit of Adventure is out there(yes, we watched 'UP' on the way back). Can't wait to do it again and get away from what is too often a hectic, over-scheduled life. I'm glad for our little jaunts, too--like up to the cabin for a weekend. It's a lot of work to prepare for, but its always worth the trip. Lately, my "travel" has consisted of driving a new kindergartener to school, back and forth, each day. We take the paved road in, and the dirt road home--looking for combines, in the fields along the way. And in between, my brave little man is slowly telling me about his day. My little girl is also happy to have some 'mom-time', all to herself, as we run errands together in the morning. I know the day will come when they both will grow up and fly away. I'm learning to treasure our daily travels together in this busy season of life. For it is also priceless.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Casting a Line

It was morning, and as I opened my eyes, turning over, I remembered why I had worked so hard to get ready for this weekend. We were finally 'up north' as we like to call it in Minnesota. The sun was streaming in through the windows in the camper. The kids were starting to stir on the pull out couch below. You would think I had unloaded my burdens on the way up here, but in reality, they were still very much upon my shoulders.

We arrived on a Thursday evening. Our extended family trickling in with vehicles of many sizes: cars, vans, SUVS...our brother-in-law took the cake with his truck, camper, and boat--all in tow. Quite an entourage, and he manages it well on the road! The kids were running around in circles with their cousins, flash lights whirling about. It was all fun and games until our daughter was smacked flat on her back, in the dark, with a bump on her head. She was no longer a 'happy camper'...but she got over it--Arnica gel to the rescue! These things happen in the excitement of getting away.

While driving up, I got a call about a produce order that I had tried to pick up before we left. Long story short, there was a miscommunication between me and the contact site. So here I was, on vacation, and stuck with 30 lbs of perishable food, waiting to be picked up in a humid outdoor storage shed. I called everyone I could think of that might want to drive the 30 minutes and pick up my order. It wasn't looking good. I was envisioning the possibility of paying $80 for something that I wouldn't get to enjoy. Not cool.

My husband Troy, a lover of fishing, was itching to get out on the lake. Only problem was the gas line to the boat motor was shot. So he had to make a trip into town and get that fixed. When he got back, he was ready to go. However, no one else seemed to be in any hurry, so his patience was starting to wear a bit thin. The kids and I decided to join him, although I could sense this may not be a peaceful time together. It's hard to enjoy fishing when you have to keep a curious little girl from leaning too far over the side of the boat. It's hard to relax when you're trying to explain to an eager little guy how to cast a line, and yet not hook his sisters' eye out, in the process. Question after question, the frustration was mounting. It seemed like all we were catching was a lot of hot air as we sat in that metal boat, under the noonday sun.

Adrian had told us, before we left, that he was going to catch a big northern while we were up here. I sincerely hoped that he would, but you never know how hungry the fish might be on any given day. As we sat in the boat, I had a moment of silence in my heart, praying that he would catch that fish. It sure would make our time together more enjoyable. The boat motor started to sputter, and suddenly the oars we brought along seemed way more important than the net we had forgotten at the dock. "Oh no, please God...don't let us get stranded out in the middle of this lake!" We started drifting towards the cattails and cabbage weeds...this was not looking good at all.

We dropped anchor and decided to stay where we were. It was time to cast our line and see what came back to us. We waited awhile...and then casted, again and again. It was getting warm. The bag of necessities was worth running back up the long stairs for. Out came the snack bars and flavored water. Yep, we might be here for awhile. There sat Adrian, with his dad behind him. Both sets of hands on the pole, casting and reeling. It was a beautiful moment for the both of them. I got the camera out and started filming, not yet knowing what would be on the end of that line.

And then it happened. Adrian's pole was no longer straight and light on the fingers. It was now bending under the weight of something really big! Took awhile, but the two of them managed to reel in that northern pike. Now how to get it in the boat, since we had no net. It was a struggle, but we got that thrashing lake shark into the boat and eventually, unhooked and restrung in the water, towing behind us as we made our way back to shore. Thankfully, the motor had enough umpf to get us completely gave out when we got back: bad water pump.

Our son was the proud angler of a 27", 4lb northern! As we pulled into the dock, we yelled out, "Adrian caught a fish!" Soon, everyone came running down the steps, with cameras in hand. My normally photo-shy kid was happy to oblige his relatives by smiling and holding up his fish that was over half his height in length. We quickly forgot about our momentary trials out on that boat and celebrated with a 5-yr olds' fulfilled dream.

Getting back to that Friday morning...when I had opened my eyes, the first words to pop into my head were these: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." I Peter 5: 6-7

I felt some of my burden lighten up as I pondered these words. I didn't know at that time what we would catch, but I felt better than I did while traveling up here. God did provide for us in many ways this weekend. He brought to my mind a certain friend who was able to pick up my produce order. That was huge for me. Now I could enjoy our weekend.

Sometimes we work so hard just to 'get away' from our reality. It's ironic how stressed out I can become, just preparing to leave my hectic life. But the flip side of that is in those quiet moments, in the beauty of creation, I seem to hear God's voice more clearly: "Just cast me your burdens, and I'll send something back to you that you can handle." And in the form of a fighting fish, it brought a lot joy--and a good meal, too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Beautiful Occurence

You've maybe heard the rhetorical cliche': has it ever occurred to you that nothing occurs to God? Last night, the kids and I were outside, enjoying the end to a rather perfect day. I was working in my landscape when it hit me: this has been a good day. Took me to the end of it to realize how peaceful and content I had felt...a feeling I haven't experience in weeks, I must say.

Our summer has been quite busy. My husband has had an interesting season at his job and in farming--among other projects--making the time that we have with him seem so short. We have missed him. Adrian said,"I want Daddy home. I miss him." So we dialed him on the phone and were both surprised at how chatty he was(normally, my son refuses any phone conversations!). Samantha also had her turn, and in her usual display of charm--talked to her Daddy, smiling all the while, until he was wrapped even tighter around her little finger.

It was one of those moments you don't want to forget. Even though Troy was gone last night, we felt like we were blessed beyond understanding. I enjoyed riding bikes with the kids on the dirt road, bordered by trees and wide open spaces. The air was fresh, the wind blowing the grasses in breeze. We didn't want to go inside. But even the longer days unfold into bedtime routines, albeit much later. Kids were tucked in and then the house needed some serious attention. Troy walked through the door, earlier than expected, so we did have some time before the day came to a close. These are the moments that we live for...the moments that we often miss because we're too busy.

Not many days before, my attitude looked somewhat different. Thoughts of running away from noisy children, piles of laundry, and a sink that never seems to stay empty was quite attractive. Years ago, when working a full-time job, my nightmares consisted of angry customers and plants--chasing me I wake up with little people lying on the floor, a near miss under my foot...or, staring me in the face, asking me for juice. Who needs an alarm clock?

Thank you God, for the people in my life who do grant me a break from time to time. They are like angels to me! Thank you God, for reminding me that true contentment comes from knowing You. Thank you God, for the gift of life and learning to live it out more fully. To enjoy what You have given us and to not strive for more than is enough for me. Thank you that nothing occurs to You and that you make all things beautiful(my heart, continually), in its time.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

(Thank you, Pastor Derrick Skoglund, for this reminder and for sharing this text on July 10th, 2011.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Powerful Words

It's been a busy month. I was thinking about how long it has been since I posted. And now, here it is the last day of June. Don't think I can squeak out anything too profound on short notice. But I do like to post once a month, so I'm going to share something cool that happened to me today. Before I do, bear with me as I set the stage...

Family from my mom's side came to visit us last week. They have now gone home, as of yesterday. This afternoon, I was putting bedding away, rolling up deflated air mattresses, and keeping our washer humming, with swirls of clothing from my kid's empty drawers. It was a great time together. Good conversations, reconnecting and getting to know each better, now that all of us are grown-ups(LOL).

I was kind of sad to see it come to an end. Bittersweet, you know? The kids have commented that they miss playing with their big cousins--I'm sure they are more fun than their mother, who is with them all the time! My favorite time was meal times: my aunt is a rocking chef who has incredible recipes. Everyone is together, eating, hanging out. Much more inviting than an empty house can be, at times. Ok(segue): back to the story...

During the quiet of nap time, with westerly drapes drawn, I started to pick up piles of music that came in tow with my mom's piano. It was great to have family that were willing to help load up the gigantic instrument, as well as drive it the six hours up here, and then unload it into my living room. I wasn't much help, but I watched as the guys lifted and unwrapped it, like a special gift.

I have fond memories of my mom's piano, hearing a song and then figuring out the chords, playing it awhile later. So much fun. I was honored to have it given to me when she died. Now seemed like the right time to get it up here to it's new home. Although I didn't hear my mom play much, when she was alive, she was very talented--not only in classical playing but in singing as well.

In the midst of her illness, I recall her telling me, over the phone, that she had written some lyrics that might possibly be set to music at some point in time. I don't remember reading the words or even knowing the name of the song. And then today, as I was picking up music books, a folded sheet of white paper slipped out onto the floor. It was simply white printer paper, with words on it. I opened it up and at first glance, thought it was a song I might have copied off to learn the chords.

Looking again, I realized the names: there was my mom's, and the composer. This was it, the song she had written, back in 2006. Wow. I'd like to share it the lyrics with you. Someday, maybe I'll be able to attach the actual song onto my FB page--but I still have slow Internet, so not today.

Savior, Redeemer and King
Christa Bender and Sean Keith

My precious Savior, Redeemer and King

I bow before You and gratefully sing

You're my Protector, Sustainer of life

Each breath You give me affirms Your great might

You are my refuge, of whom shall I fear

Though darkness surrounds, me, I know You are near

The cross before me in powerful love

It's comfort flows through me, content from above

I will stand strong regardless of night

You will guide me by Your perfect light

I will hold fast no matter what comes

Savior, Redeemer and King

My Precious Savior, Redeemer and King

I come before You with praises I sing

Oh how I love You, I praise and adore

Your name is all glorious forevermore!

Copyright 2006 Sean Keith/DeepEcho Music/SESAC

Monday, May 2, 2011

Food for Thought

It's May, but you wouldn't know it by the chilly temps and weird weather patterns. Who ordered 35 degrees, the other day? The clouds, hovering over us, have blocked out much needed sunlight and disrupted our steady reliance on children's public television--my kids have become a broken record: "Mommy, the TV is scratching, again!" That's what we call it when the DVD's start pixelating on the big screen. Yes, we've had some better days, but who's complaining?

Then there is my least favorite time of the day: meal times. I have run out of ideas on what my children might refuse to eat, on any given day. Both are very different in their tastes and dislikes, making it hard to come up with choices that work for everyone. I refuse to be a short order cook, however. So this morning, I covered up my daughter's rejected peanut butter sandwich and orange slices, with a big bowl--vowing that she would have to eat it later, if she was, indeed, hungry. And sure enough, a few hours later, she reluctantly ate her sandwich--and then devoured two whole pears, cut in slices.

Yesterday, there was discussion on the color of water bottles and flatware. My son wanted the blue cup with the hammerhead sharks, swirling about. My daughter agreed to switch, since her brother had the orange cup: her favorite color. But then she took it a step further: "Mommy, I want the green fork. See, it matches the stripes on my shirt!" Oh bother...not only do we have to find the perfect food, but we also have to color-coordinate our utensils and dinnerware with our outfits! I hate to admit it, but I understand why McDonald's is just easier than arguing with them.

We are so ready for warm weather and a change of pace. I'm coming off the heels of a cyclical depression, from grief stuff. So glad that I decided to see someone about that, this time around. It has been good for me, and will continue to provide clarity to my situation. In the mean time, I just keep going with my routine, not allowing myself to wallow in the emotions of it all, for too long. I take the time I need, and then keep going. Some days, just crossing errands off my list is all I can do to feel like I accomplished something good, you know?

Aside from that, I keep dreaming. I know there are bigger things out there for me. It's a struggle to sort out the difference between enjoying the life you have from knowing that God has more in store for you. I suppose it depends on how you react to where you're at. Do I covet another person's success or complain about where I'm at? And then there's the fact that a depressed person will have a hard time enjoying much of anything, especially activities that normally do bring joy. This, no doubt, comes out of the grieving process(for me).

I love being a mom to my kids. I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity to be here, with them, for the majority of their days, thus far. I like cooking. I don't like cooking, for them(LOL).I love writing. I do it for the pure pleasure that it brings, and because I need to do it, to feel alive. I love music. It is the avenue that lead me to God, and it is what I offer back up, to Him, in leading worship. I love the outdoors. I enjoy the creation that is all around us and marvel at the wonders of God's handiwork. I like that I can use plant material, through designs, to make a person's outdoor space, a beautiful one.

These are some of the things I love. I have to remind myself, because sometimes I forget. I'm learning how to love people better(aren't we all). How to better show love to my husband, my family. When I think of the blessings in my life, I don't have much to complain about. I'm thankful for the support I've received to carry me through this sadness. Isn't it amazing that we can always love better when we've spent some time with God? We love Him by taking that time--and then we, in turn, have the energy to love each other well. It's the kind of circulation I want in my life, keeping me from becoming indifferent and stagnant.

At night, when we pray with our kids, the one thing that we ask God for(above all else)is that our kids will love God and follow hard after Him. That they will give Him their hearts and lead a life that would be honoring to Him. We know that if they do this, everything else will fall into place--not a life of perfection or one that is free from trouble, but a life that is "in place".

I can learn something from the very prayers I cover my children with: if I love God, everything else will fall into place. I will hear his voice, discern his will, and have the courage to take some risks, discovering what the next chapter holds in this short life.

I guess maybe I need to trust Him more, like a child trusts their parents to take care of them. Even if kids don't like what is set before them, if they're hungry enough, they will eat--sooner or later. And when we've eaten all "the good stuff" that we're supposed to, there is always dessert: my personal favorite, being dark chocolate.

Friday, April 8, 2011


As I'm sitting here, writing, it has occurred to me that its been about a year since I began this blog journey. I want to thank all of you who have supported me along the way. Thank you for taking the time to read some very real thoughts, regarding losses in my life. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. It means a lot to me!

Going forward, I want to shift my focus toward more present day circumstances, and also toward the future. Our past is what it is. I feel that I've done the best that I could to present that in a way that would be honoring, and not overtly negative or 'a downer'. But now its time to move ahead. For those who are new to my story, here is a quick recap of where I've been and where I am now:

Last spring brought me through a season of depression that began in April, lasting until the end of June. I didn't see it coming. It started out with physical manifestations of anxiety: tightness in the chest, the feeling that something big was coming...but what it was, I didn't know, at the time. I began to realize the time of year that it was and the important dates that were coming: my son's birthday, Mother's Day, my daughter's birthday, then mom's anniversary. It began to make sense. I wasn't developing asthma,(which is how it felt most of the time), I was grieving, again.

Long story short, there was nothing seriously wrong with me, in medical terms. My body was trying to process these emotions out. It's rather strange when this happens without being consciously aware of it. These symptoms were present, and I wasn't thinking much about anything stressful, let alone my mom and her passing. But our minds and bodies are connected in such a way that everything works together. If I wasn't yet ready to deal with it mentally, I guess my body would find another way to get rid of the sadness.

When I look back on all that has happened, I am so glad that I was on 'emotional Novocaine' at the time. I'm trying to get my head around the scenario: my mom is diagnosed with cancer, shortly before I carried my son. She is still recovering, when he is born. Then it appears that she will make it, when he is about 5 months old...only to have a relapse and more cancer, 1 month later. She goes through intense treatments, radiation therapy, her body trying desperately to hold up under the pressures. Meanwhile, life continues to go on. I eventually carry my daughter, only to find out days before her delivery that my mom is terminally ill. There was nothing more, short of a miracle, that could be done. She meets our second child, and then passes away when my daughter was 4 weeks old, my son age two. What a whirlwind it was, and has been.

There was no way, physically speaking, that I could grieve what had happened until recently. My deliveries were both C-sections, my kids 2 years apart. You can imagine how much I needed my mom to be there for much I had wanted her to be more connected to me, years before this season of parenthood began. Not that I didn't have support elsewhere, with amazing family and friends, but there is something about a mother and daughter that is special. I was so looking forward to redeeming that time, for us, with my own children coming into the world. But it was not meant to be. I may not know, until eternity, the answer to the question: why? But I trust the sovereignty of God in matters like these. I want to know God better, not run away further. So I choose to live, no matter how hard it can be at times.

I started this blog as a means to process out my emotions, my thoughts about what I was going through. It has served me well in that regard. The beauty of having this outlet is the transparency it lends to the lives of other people, who may very well find themselves in a similar situation. It is my hope that the pain our lives bring may not be wasted, but recycled into something beautiful...and useful.

Today, I am in another season of grief. I have experienced the physical affects, once again, although they are somewhat different this time around. I cry easily when watching sad movies--yes, even kids' movies! I've had 'heart flutters', tightness in the chest, and the general malaise that is associated with feeling depressed: kind of like you're walking around in fog, not able to think clearly or enjoy life.

It is not much fun. But what is different this time is I'm doing something about it. I've decided to start therapy(*applause*). I had my first session this week and to my surprise, I cried a lot. I guess that's what you do when you go to a session! No, but seriously, I'm glad to be moving in this direction. I'm keeping an open mind to the options I have for getting better. My goal is to have happy memories of my mom, and be present as the best mom I can be...the best woman that God has created me to be. I need to do that for my family, and for myself. I don't want to miss out on living life to its fullest. A friend once said, 'Choose to be better, not bitter.' So true.

Again, thank you, readers and listeners! May you live each day, reflecting the love that has been given to you. Mom, if you are listening, I love you and look forward to seeing you again someday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Than I Can Chew

Coming off the heels of February, I've been left with lingering thoughts of love on my mind. Not to mention, bags of candy and chocolate, safely tucked away from eager little hands. Although that doesn't stop little feet from climbing on counter tops to reach sweet treats. And we still have loads of snow, blanketing the countryside...its hard to believe that we are in March, with spring just around the bend.

It's been a long winter. We've watched more movies than I care to count. I've cried more times than I care to admit: how many times can one break down, when seeing the character 'Andy', play with his toys, one last time? I can't bear to watch it again. And then there's the floating house, carried to paradise by a bunch of balloons...who knew animation could create a love story that would go to such lengths to keep a promise. It gets you right in the chest, when you least expect it.

The anticipation of spring has me looking forward to getting outside, starting seeds for the garden, feeling the color green beneath my toes(no socks necessary!). It also has me gearing up for what could be another wave of grieving...for it will be 3 years now that my mom was beginning to exit this life for a better one. It's hard to believe that amount of time has gone by. So much has happened, and yet it seems like just yesterday that we were made aware of how sick she really was...and then just days later, our baby daughter entered this world.

Love has been on my mind. I'm learning about how much God loves me. It sounds rather trite, but I can't begin to put it into words...because I am human--and I cannot humanize a love as great as God Himself, embodies. There is much evidence around me to prove that I am cared for. Even in the midst of pain, I can see His hands, holding me--carrying me through. One of my struggles, in grieving my mom's loss, has been accepting her love for me. For many years, I didn't believe it. Too much had happened, and enough didn't happen--so that I felt otherwise.

We often give love in the way we'd like to receive it. When it doesn't come packaged the way we like it, sometimes we don't see it as love. There is a great book out there: 'The Five Love Languages'(by Gary Smalley) that goes into more detail about this concept. I've found it to be helpful in understanding the different ways people give and receive love. Reading through the scriptures, there is so much evidence of God's love for us. Even in crisis and loss, He is there. He has compassion on us and I do believe that all things work together for good if we love God and accept the purpose that He has for our lives. Even if I have yet to fully understand that purpose(Romans 8:28).

Sometimes all we can do is speak out loud what we know to be true. My favorite way to do this is through singing. Last Sunday, I was leading worship, along with several of the young at heart. We were all tired out from skiing the night before. (Troy and I like to tag along with the youth group and pretend our bodies are 15 years younger, as we navigate the slopes. The event has now been renamed 'NEFC Family Ski' instead of 'Youth Ski'. I guess there are others who also feel as young as we do!). Truly, we are excited to have many of the young people, at our church, share their talents with us. It is so much fun to play and sing with them. No matter how our practice time goes, early in the week, I am amazed at how God meets with us on Sunday morning. He can take a tired group of instruments(including vocals) and create such an amazing sound and energy!

While we were up there, a normally shy little boy was making his way up the main isle. He climbed up the steps, onto the stage, looking up at me with eyes that needed something. What could I do, with microphone in hand, except gesture him to sit down? Friends in the congregation started to gather around, trying to coax him away. Finally, his daddy saw what was happening, exited the sound booth, and retrieved our distraught son! It was cute. After we were done, I went back to our seat to sit with Adrian. I asked him what it was he needed: 'I want a piece of gum, mom!' *LAUGHTER* Every Sunday, after the singing is done, he gets a piece to keep him busy during the message. I guess he didn't want to wait this time.

There is a lesson here for me. I need to come boldly, before God. Not afraid to ask of Him what He already knows I need(Hebrews 4:16). I may not get it right away, but I know that He loves me and welcomes me as a parent would any child--open arms and all. And many times, what I need is not what I ask for. I'm learning to trust God, to walk with Him, and better understand His ways.

I received an amazing confirmation of love this morning. As I was having my coffee and some quiet time, my son wheeled through the room, on his 'motorcycle'. As he passed me by, I heard him say, "Mom, I love you." What was that? He passed by again..."Mommy, I love you." And followed that up with a smile...and a hug. I was already crying, before this--thinking about God's love, working through some stuff. And there He was, giving me a perfect demonstration of it. We have an awesome God, don't we?

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's All About Love

A friend once told me something quite profound: "There is no love like that between a parent and child." At the time, I didn't have children and could not comprehend what that might feel or look like. The only person I had to take care of was myself. Life sure does change. Now that I'm a mom, I have a better understanding of love--especially the sacrificial kind. We go out of our way to protect, nurture, and give our family what they need and want, don't we?

Then there are family members, friends, coworkers, a spouse or significant other. The way we love the people in our life is different, depending on how we know them. The deeper we go, the more difficult it can be, at times, to love them well. When you find yourself in the middle of a conflict with another, you might ask, "How do I show this person love?" Even when you think you've done it right, there can be misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

It is then that we have to go back to the source of love: our God. I might have some strength in me to love others, but that will eventually run out unless I tap into a greater power; a reality that I cannot get my head around. When I fall on my face, it is then that I realize my inability to do anything apart from Him. I think back to difficult times in my marriage, and remember wise friends telling me how I would only be able to love my husband, the way he needed me to, when I learned how to love God, first.

When we hold fast to God and his perfect love for us(as His children),we are then able to love each other better. There is a natural pull that is created, an attractiveness that comes from within. Have you noticed the magnetism a person can have, when they've spent some serious time with God? They have a radiance not to be rivaled by any beauty product out there. You want to be around them because they are enjoyable to be with. You want to know what they know.

Therein lies the mystery of love: tapping in to the One who will fill us up, only to be poured out, again and again. That love will draw people in and eventually point them to the Source who will never run out. I have to admit that at times, I feel burned out...spent, tired, ready to quit. That is a wake up call for me to get with God and be refilled. I'm glad that I do have those moments because it reminds me of my daily dependence on a person greater than me. I guess no matter how 'grown up' I become, I'll always be some body's kid, right?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


On my way to the blog, I stopped by the kitchen for a treat. I love those little dark chocolates, wrapped in foil, with a message inside. I don't buy them for the thoughts, but sometimes its fun to see what great wisdom can come out of added calories. Tonight's treat read this: 'Discover how much your heart can hold.' I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean, but in my experience you can find that out when your heart gets broken.

As mentioned previously, I've been attending a large group study for women. We're going through the book of Isaiah, finding out what it means to be free. This past week we studied heartbreak. Not my favorite reality to dive into, but one that all of us can relate to at some point in our lives. There were times that I had to stop, because the lesson book was getting wet. I thought to myself, "Really? This is still bothering me?" It seemed like I should be over this, by now. But I wasn't. I had let go; but it still hurts.

It would be more bearable, if it weren't for the fact that I've been experiencing several strained relationships, all at the same time. When I think about it too much, I feel the brokenness settling, right in the pit of my stomach. Not a good feeling. Could I have said this or that differently? What more can I do to reach out--when that person refuses to reach back? I've what? I try to get in touch with another friend...and they won't call back. I still don't know what happened or why. These are the scenarios in my life lately.

And then, there is that one person who you are sure will never be replaced by another friend, no matter how great they are. It was a special relationship, a great connection. Life circumstances changed, and now its been several years since you've seen them. They are the kind of friend that you can pick up right where you left off...if only, you had the opportunity to see them again. These are heart-breaking moments. We don't get over them easily. We hold a special place in our hearts for these people who mean so much. Even if it means they will never reciprocate in the way we would like.

I believe that I'm entering into a new season these days. One called silence. It is rather odd to find oneself, sitting in a group, not having anything to say. Yes, I did the homework...all of it. Yes, I am processing the information. But I can't utter the words. They won't come. It's a good thing that I'm not called on, to say something. There are plenty of other people there, eager to share their thoughts...I used to be one of them. Now, I'm slowly becoming one of the quiet ones. How strange that is, for me. I am so much the extrovert, when in good company. I love people. They energize me, for the most part. But here, in this environment...I must be still.

For those who know me well, or maybe didn't want to put forth the effort--a quiet' me' may come as a relief to you. Humor me by laughing out loud *LOL* Yes, I can make fun of myself, too! It is incredibly hard for me sit still...and be quiet. At home, I am mostly quiet, but always moving, doing something. The closest I get to sitting still--while my eyes are opened--is when I'm having my computer time. Otherwise, it's a very hard thing for me to do. Having this study has forced me to carve out time to be still. And for that, I am grateful. I didn't realize how much I missed that until I picked up the habit, again.

Back to the heartbreak. I won't elaborate on the details of my own. It is what it is. I can't fix it, but I know who can. Anytime you've gone through a situation, there is always that person who tries to sympathize with you, make you feel better. But there's one problem: they haven't experienced the same hurt. They try, but the words they utter don't help, and they cannot truly understand what you've been through. How sweet it is when you find a friend who does know what it's like to go through this loss or that. Because they've been there, too.

My consolation in experiencing multiple heartbreaks, in my life, is that it may be used to cultivate a compassion for others like myself. And when I feel that there is no one who understands what I'm going through, I am aware that this is an opportunity to fellowship in the sufferings of the One who has experienced every hurt and rejection known to humanity. It sounds far-fetched, but just maybe--I might get to know God better through these difficult times. He is also the one who binds up the broken-hearted--bandaging the hurt, until it has the time it needs, to heal(Isaiah 61:1-3). How great it is that we can have someone who not only understands our hurts, but heals them, as well.

"Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no one has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him." (Isaiah 64:4)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

No Expiration Date

Here we are, fresh into a new year! My tree is already taken down, ornaments gently put away for another 11 months. Looking back(over the last 6 weeks),Christmas is a special time of year. Once we get past eating our turkey and giving thanks, then I'm onto the decorating, with holiday CD's, playing in the background. The buzz of the music and glow of the lights, puts me in good spirits.

I enjoy every bit of this time of year. But a few days ago, I decided that I couldn't stand looking at those red stockings another minute: it all had to go. I normally wait until after New Year's Day, but since last Thursday was so rainy, I was home all day and thought, what the heck: might as well get a jump on it. It felt so good to have my living room back...well, almost. What I really did was make more room for all the new toys the kids have been playing with. They like them so much that they never get put away at the days' end.

As I was putting all the stuff away, it occurred to me why tradition is celebrated for a short time: it has limited shelf life. Kind of like that box from the store with a date stamped on the top: best if used by...the end of the year. I love Christmas and every thing it stands for. Yes, even Santa, and stockings hung adds a little sweetness to the mix. But in the aftermath of wrapping paper, and boxes that I can't throw away(because my son thinks they make good sheds for his tractors), I realize--once again--that all of this is temporary.

Maybe I'm one of those people who need the contrast of routine vs. celebration, to fully embrace what it means. How boring would life be if we never took a break from the dailies, and celebrated the reason we have life, in the first place? And yet, if we left our tree up all year long, it would cease to be special, lose its sparkle, and annoy me. Oh, but leaving outdoor lights up, through winter, is ok in Minnesota...if it isn't, then I'm one of those houses that will annoy drivers, passing by.

While we may grow tired of the holiday scene, it serves to remind us of what we have access to, every day of the year. It reminds us of the temporary nature of this earth, and the eternal satisfaction that comes with knowing the One who came to give us life. He is the only presence that has no expiration date. He always has been and always will be. He is the Everlasting One. And He is always more than enough. I cannot comprehend the nature of God, how He can be 3 persons, and yet one. But I've decided to get up, each day, and trust Him. No matter what comes, or how miserably I might fail, He is still God...and He is still here, every single day.

On the lighter side, Happy New Year, 2011! Isn't it great that we get to start a new length of time, putting a calendar in place, for all that will come? We don't know what the days ahead will bring, but I like that we are always changing, and co-authoring new chapters in our stories. Enjoy the year ahead, and make it a good one, one day at a time.