12.17.2012

"I'll see you later."


There are no words.  

That moment you hear a beautiful, godly woman, age 39, wife, mother of 2 boys ages 9 & 7 - a woman who has been your mentor, your friend, who has played a huge role in your life by allowing her then 3 year old son to be in your wedding and whom you have worked with for your own sister's bridal shower - is dying.  "...perhaps a month (and probably not that long)", according to her husband's CarePage post.  

She's fought hard for 2.5 years, for her husband, for her sons.  

The Lord has positively shone, brightly, through this dear woman and her husband throughout the last few years.  

She and her husband told their two sons the latest update and, in her own words, via facebook, "that was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life".  That, after fighting 2.5 years of cancer.  After hospital stays.  After physical and emotional pain and suffering.  In her last weeks of life.  

God, why?

...For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. (Habakkuk 1:5b)

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)

Trusting Him.

Before the boys knew their mother was nearing the welcoming arms of the Lord, within hours of learning her life here on earth was coming to an end, fast, she posted on facebook:

"The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He wakes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He Restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names' sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enenmies. You annoint my head with oil. Surely my cup overflowes. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23

The Lord continued to shine through her.

After she told her sons that she was going Home, she posted:

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home!

Isaac Watts 1719 (Ps 90)


She was released from the hospital to be treated with hospice care at home during what became her final days.  I don't know exactly how much longer she was lucid, but I do know it was only a few days.  She became extremely tired and slept peacefully most of the time. Yet, she was still fighting.  

She was fighting to bring glory to the Lord.  With each of the final breaths she took.  I can only pray the Lord gives me a similar grace - that He will shine so strongly through me, in my final days.

Final days... to those who are united in the Lord... those "last days" aren't really last days.  It may be many, many years before we see them again. Yet, when one is a child of God, what are 60, more or less, years of physical separation when all eternity, in the presence of God stands before you?

When my dear, godly grandmother passed away, Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, 2003 - the grandmother who's ring I now wear daily with remembrance of her testimony - I was with a college friend's family in Philly, Pa. for the holiday.  I called my grandmother (who had apparently been relatively unaware of her surroundings prior to my call) to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving and to tell her I loved her once more.  We knew she had only days left here on earth.  She, by His grace, perked up, sounded like the grandmother I always remember - (she was tired that time, of course, yet) joyful.  We talked for a few minutes.  As our conversation drew to a close, my last words to her were, "I love you, Grandma.  I'll see you later."

I'll see you later.  

Yes, as believers, we will see those believers who have gone before us later.  In the midst of physical grief, appropriate grief, for those who are sons or daughters of the King who have gone Home, there is comfort that we will see them later!  

I.can't.wait!

Life here on earth is a mere season.  When one thinks in terms of eternity, life - no matter how long or how short - is a season.  Our spirits are eternal.  For believers, life hear on earth is the spiritual pregnancy/gestation in preparation for the birth of our souls into Heaven.

This is a hard concept to grasp, yet, I know it is true.  

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep... For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16-17)

While many of us know these Words from Scripture to be true, as sinful, frail human beings, we can still struggle to make sense of suffering.  Ann Voskamp, in a recent blog post, (please visit the link and watch the video!), addresses this very issue.  Please take time to watch the video on her blog - SO worth the 15 minutes!



12.01.2012

The Small Things

Oh, childhood discovery and imagination!

Recently, I collected a large Kroger bag full of CDs, along with two short reams of CDs from my parents house...  I've been enjoying muddling through them, reminiscing my beautiful high school and college years with genuine fondness for those years and thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for the growth I experienced during those years.  

The thin plastic Kroger bag contained a smattering of loose CDs and many albums in their original cases.  

I can't believe how far digital media has changed already in my lifetime.  From vinyl (I actually owned a Big Bird record player as a child!), to 8-tracks, to cassettes (and the walk-man), to CD's (the personal CD player), to mp3s (the mp3 player), to iPhones/smartphones, hold stinkin' everything!

My kids are growing up in a world where the world, literally, is at their fingertips.  On facebook alone, I have friends in Texas, California, Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Hordaland.  I follow the daily life of a beautiful, godly  woman in Western Canada.  I can be in communication with any one of them easily, cheaply and relatively quickly, by merely logging onto facebook or email and hitting a few keys on a keyboard, followed by a single click from my mouse - or by hitting carefully calculated spots on the touch screen of an iPhone!

Childhood.  Beautiful childhood.  That season of physical, emotional, and spiritual growth (though the latter two don't ever end here on earth).  That season of seeing life, the world around us with fresh eyes.  Those moments of self-instigated environmental discovery.  They are beautiful.


The small things in life; those are the moments I love - the moments I deeply cherish.  

Patrick had a moment of discovery today.  He somehow got hold of the clear lid of a CD case and discovered the joy of reflection.  The smile, the joy, the genuine enthrallment of such a small facet of Creation.  He turned the clear piece of plastic into his own "flashlight".  (I picture a child, hundreds of years ago, finding similar fascination with the reflection of themselves in a pool of water.)

He was mesmerized for at least 15 minutes.



Beauty.  Eucharisteo.  Watching my son discover creation on his own initiative was incredible.  That, and the awe I saw in his eyes.  In the picture directly above, note the light spot on the carpet between the green train (lower right quadrant of the photo) and the pink sock (directly by the bottom of the sofa, near the center segment).

Patrick experimented with shining his reflection on the ceiling, the wall, the floor.  Erin frequently chased after it.

Awe in Creation.  Isn't that how life is supposed to be?  Joy and thanksgiving, praising Him from Whom all blessings flow.

In those minutes watching Patrick in his moment of discovery, I longed for Home.  I can't even fathom how beautiful, how mind-blowing, how overwhelmingly joyous eternity will be and I can.not.wait.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a refreshing view of the world YOU made.  Thank You for my son.  Thank You for the ability to find joy in the small things.

To me: small = mindblowingly massive

Thank You, Jesus.

11.04.2012

Fully Living in the Moment

Today has been a day full of the little blessings.  Little blessings.  Every second of every day is a gift from God.  Every breath, every smile, every hug, every cloud, every rain drop. They are all blessings.


I often struggle with not slowing down long enough to be genuinely interested in the things my children want to talk to me about or the things they want to show me.  When Erin wants to tell me about her "Baby Bunny" or Patrick wants to show me a map he has found in a book, it is a genuine challenge for me to stop.  To remember that relationships are more important than taking a nap when I'm exhausted or checking an item off of a to-do list.  
Patrick has loved books for as long as I can remember.  When he was little, he would often sit and look at the same book, over and over and over again, studying it intently.  In many ways, he hasn't changed.  He still loves books.  And he loves to share the excitement he experiences from his books with me.

One thing I've noticed, particularly since we've started doing Glory Hunts, is that Patrick asks me to take a picture of something he likes.  Prior to Glory Hunts, he had perhaps asked Daniel once or twice to take a picture of a stick or pine cone when they have gone on mini-hikes together.  But, since then, his requests for photos are much more frequent.  He is learning to find joy - to see the gifts - in the small things.

"Three Planets."

The same precious face he made as a young toddler, mesmerized by books.

Today it sort of hit me, when I spent 15+ minutes with Patrick while he showed me the things he loved from his book, that you don't have to go outdoors to have a Glory Hunt.  If you are fully living where you are each moment of each day, you clearly see the glory of the Father.  Today, I tried to go on a glory hunt wherever I was, specifically inside my home.  Oh, how many blessings have I missed because I just wasn't paying attention?!  I am truly surrounded by His blessings.

 This, taken from a window at the top of our stairs.

The cactus in my kitchen.  I've had him since my college years and his name is "Pete".

The warm glow of a homemade candle.

My dear Erin and her already-strong nurturing instinct.  I have no doubt she will be a fantastic mother one day. 

My baby, Cammon MacKenzie, who woke up around 10p for no obvious reason.  I brought her down for a few minutes of play before giving her a 2nd bottle and putting her back to bed.  She's my little dancer.

Cammon, like Patrick and Erin, also loves books.

The photos, specifically of the kiddos, in this post are generally blurry - they are active and move a lot!  That is part of what I love about them.  :)

Then, there are the moments I was not able to capture in photos...  

At church - 
  • Worship with the body of believers.
  • Erin, who sat in the row behind us with my parents, coming around to me, just to give me a hug and to say, "I love you, Mommy.".  
  • Holding a young baby - a baby I witnessed enter the world - during the sermon so his mom could have an opportunity to take notes.  The beautiful spit-up-babywash smell of tiny ones.

Outdoors - 
  • Rays of sunshine peeking through thick clouds, and the bright edges it highlighted in the clouds

More from home - 
  • A hug from my mom, who popped in on her way home from church small group, just to say "goodnight.".  
  • A visit from a friend and her son and the sometimes overwhelming noise generated by three 4-5 year olds having fun.  
  • Sitting on the sofa with Daniel while he ate lunch.
By His grace, I am slowly learning to live in the moment.  My calling as a wife and mother is to nurture my family - the people God has entrusted to me.  Sure, the toilets need to be cleaned, the dishes washed, the clothes folded and put away, but stewardship over my children, taking time to nurture them, taking them on Glory Hunts, pointing them to Jesus and helping them understand their need of Him - those are the things that really matter.

Everywhere I look, I see that I am blessed.  Thank you, Lord, for today.  All is grace!

10.31.2012

Beauty


Daniel thought of me this morning when he saw the sunrise from the church office where he had gone for a mens' Bible study.  Though it is a little blurry, this is a truly beautiful shot. Thankful for Daniel who thought of me and captured a moment he knew I would have stood in awe, looking on, had I been there with him.

On a different note of beauty, I was tucking Erin into bed tonight.  (Most nights, I give Patrick a back rub and Erin a nose kiss.)   I told her how much I love her - "all the way to the moon and back" - and that "I will always love you.".  

Erin is all into "when I'm bigger like you..." right now.  

So, she goes off on, "When I'm bigger, I'll be a mommy like you.  And Daddy (I had to explain that it would be her own husband, not daddy!) will go downstairs and get me coffee and give it to me in bed.  And, when my eyes are itching, I'll wear glasses just like you!"

It was precious.  

And, I was amazed by how observant she was by our morning routine!  Kids don't miss a thing.  

10.30.2012

Thanks-giving leads to Thanks-living

In the midst of the terrible hurricane that has hit the Northeast last night and today, we personally have only experienced high wind gusts and much cooler temperatures; thankfully most of the people in our area have not experienced power loss.  Our CC group was cancelled for the day as a result of the storm, so we've spent the day at home.  

In today's multi-media, fast pace, gotta.be.involved.in.everything.all.the.time world, it is easy to become discontent with staying home for a day.  Even my kids frequently ask first thing in the morning, "Mommy, where are we going today?".  Much of the time, we are going somewhere.  

Recently, I've cut a weekly event from my schedule because I'm a wife, a mother, a runner, and a doula; going out every day was just too much.  Taking the kids to a morning-long activity is often exhausting and all I can do when I get home is get the kids fed, the kitchen tidied, eat lunch myself (I often forget), and put them down for rest time.  

My work can sometimes pull me out of the house at odd hours of the day, for long periods of time.  

I'm training for a 1/2 marathon (which is in 18 days), and truth be told, that takes a LOT of my time.  On Saturdays after long training runs, I'm usually exhausted - both physically and mentally (seriously, 11 miles, while great, will do you in!).  

Generally, I like to rest for at least an hour in the afternoons just to give me the energy to carry on through the evening hours after Daniel gets home.  

Given the above, in my house, laundry is often piled in mounds, cobwebs have appeared out of nowhere overnight, toilets are in dire need of cleaning...  you get the idea.

Today, we are home. All day. 

Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts"  has it written right on the front: "A dare to live fully right where you are."  To live fully.  Right where you are.  

Much of the time, living fully where you are is hard.  

Cleaning toilets, folding laundry, wiping grody-nosed baby faces (or cleaning poopy bums for the 3rd time in a day!), cleaning up last night's crumbs in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, wiping down the counter tops, sweeping the floor, etc. can get mundane.  

It is exhausting.

One of the best bits of encouragement my mom has ever given me (paraphrased): Remember: when you are folding those socks {or that mountain of laundry!}, that you have those socks because you have a husband and children. {Thanksgiving right there!} Be thankful for those socks, that mountain of laundry!

That I have those socks, little and big, that positive Mount Everest of laundry, is the representation of my blessings.




Today, we stayed home.  We started the day off slow.  

I texted my sister and dear friends to be sure they survived the wind-storm. (They were all okay, Praise Him!)

I drank my spiced chai - it burned my already raw throat.  ;)  Daniel and I read 1st Kings 3 together before he left for work.  We talked it through.

I climbed out of my warm bed into a cool room and cleaned the positively snot-crusted face of my baby while singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to my sweet Cammon (her favorite song).  I donned 3 running shirts to ward off the chill in the air before I poured dry cereal for Patrick and Erin.  I dawdled on facebook, checking in on many friends in the Northeast. I made a cup of coffee or two (or three...).  

I laughed with Patrick and Erin as the wrestled, tangled amid the blue hand-knitted blanket I made years ago.  I intervened and moderated fights between the best-friend-siblings.  I protected the little one from these spats.  

Laundry was thrown into the dryer and the washer filled to the brim with dirty clothes.  

I talked with my mom on the phone, interrupted by a spontaneous visit by my dear friend, 22 weeks pregnant (for the first time) with twin boys, as she stopped by to drop off a fuel belt (water bottle belt, literally) for me to borrow during the next few weeks as I gear up for my 1/2 marathon.  

I rejoiced with Hannah at her beautiful baby belly, knowing how many years she has longed for that belly.  I felt the movements of her sons.  I gave her shirts.  She left and I called my mom back and we talked until Daniel called during his lunch break.  Daniel and I talked and shared eucharisteos for the day.

Nap time came.  Children were put in bed to rest.  I was tired.  I checked facebook once more to check in on dear friends.  I went to rest.  I, nearly asleep, was interrupted by Patrick who came to my room, two tin whistles in hand, wanting a quick lesson on the things we practiced last night.  Exhausted though I was and through His grace, I knew the tin whistle lesson was worth far more than a few moments rest.

We practiced for 3 minutes.  Patrick performed beautifully and was satisfied with his lesson.  He gladly left the room, closed my door and headed to the playroom, tin whistle in hand.  I tried to rest.  It was 5pm.

Needless to say, I didn't get much rest.  I am tired now as I write, yet, today was beautiful. Beautiful truly doesn't even begin to explain it.  

Today was a mundane day by many people's standards.  

Yet, I was blessed by time in the Word with my husband, nurturing my children, finding out all my dear friends survived the hurricane OK, washing a mound of laundry, drying a mountain of laundry, fellowship over the phone with my mom, video chat with my sister, a short visit with a dear friend, cooking dinner, rest-time interrupted by a child eager to learn...

Seriously, what more could I ask for?  I am thankful.  Truly, deeply, thankful to my Father for the blessings of an ordinary day at home.  

Thanks be to Him, I was able to fully live where I was.  I look forward to tomorrow and the blessings in store.

10.28.2012

Grandparents, Pumpkin Patches and Glory Hunts

Wow - we've had quite the busy week or so since my last post.  I'm hoping to post about once a week, but truth be told, that may be a bit ambitious for this season of life.  I might have to settle for once or twice a month for now.  (Forewarning - this post has a LOT of pictures!)

That having been said, we have been so thankful for the many blessings this past weekish.  Last weekend we were able to attend a marriage conference on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  It was an incredible time of laughter, encouragement and growth in the Lord.  Many of our friends attended the conference as well, and it was a blessing to visit with them during the break sessions.

My parents-in-law came into town from Michigan to attend the conference as well, so we were able to spend the weekend with them while also attending the marriage conference.  Since Daniel and I have been married (almost 6.5 years), I can't remember a time when just Doug and Jane have come without any of Daniel's sisters.  While we always enjoy spending time with his sisters, it was an unusual treat to just have time with them.  Patrick, Erin and Cammon were especially delighted to have time with "Opa and Oma"  as we only get to see then a handfull of times per year.

After the marriage conference on Saturday, Daniel and I went out to lunch at Panera and had a wonderful time reflecting on some of the points from the conference.  We cherish those one-on-one moments out together knowing that the kiddos are being well taken care of.  It was also a blessing because I had to run 10 miles with a friend that afternoon (it took all afternoon, too!), so our opportunity to reflect on the conference together was limited.

Sunday, we all attended church together.  My parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece also attend the same church.  It was positively delightful to all sit together - Erin sat between my mom and Jane and was in granddaughter heaven with a grandmother on each side.  :)  After church, the weather was beautiful, so we decided to go to a local pumpkin patch.  The kids had never been before, so this was a new experience AND their grandparents, and Aunty Sarah, Uncle John and Carol were there, too.


Patrick and Erin climbing the huge pile of pumpkins as we waited in line for the 1st hayride.


Poor Cammon - this whole waiting in line thing during naptime is exhausting!

Oma (Jane), Erin, Patrick and Gramma (my mom) on the hayride.



They had a great corn maze to explore as we made our way to the actual pumpkin patch.




  

 Erin was quite taken with the corn - she collected a handfull and was trying to stash them in her skirt pocket.  ;)  I think she eventually decided it made more sense to feed the corn to the cows.









 The pumpkin patch had this awesome tractor-drawn train for the kids to ride.  Both Patrick and Erin wanted to ride in the first car, so it took 2 rounds for each of them to enjoy the train.  Patrick had a grand time occupying himself on a hay bale while Erin rode the train.

Cammon finally woke up and Daniel took a turn carrying her in the Ergo.  She seemed to enjoy looking at the cows, and the beautiful scenery.


The patch had this seriously nifty slide - I guess it was some kind of heavy-duty plastic or rubber or something, but it was long and the kids loved it.

Picking pumpkins.  



The hayride back to the parking lot and a short visit to see the rabbits.  Erin adores animals and particularly enjoyed this facet of the exploration.


We were also able to use this exploration as a Glory Hunt as well - the opportunities to seek out His glory are endless just about anywhere.  We enjoyed pointing out the color contrast of the green grass, the mountains covered in fall-colored leaves, the blue sky, the remains of the corn stalks.  All of it was stunning.


10.17.2012

"Do you like it?"


It has been a l.o.n.g. time since I've posted.  I was nearly 8 months pregnant when I wrote last - she is now nearly 19 months old!  Perhaps not an excuse for my extended blogging absence, but it at least provides an explanation.  ;)

(During this time, life has changed loads.  I am the mother of 3 children, I have taken up soapmaking as a hobby, and I work part-time as a doula.  Our older two children are now school age - we are homeschooling them. A good friend dared me to try running as both a means of staying active without a gym membership and a tool to help as I slowly shed the baby weight - I'm now training for a 1/2 marathon.)

So, why do I write now?

In the last 15 months, I purchased and read Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts". And wow.  Voskamp's wisdom, humility and insights to fully living where you are, to seeking the Joy of the Lord has had a huge impact on me as I strive to serve God as a wife, mother, new-homeschooling mom, and doula.  (Voskamp's blog is superb - be sure to check it out!)

In the book, Voskamp talks about writing down thanksgivings in a journal as a reminder of the many ways the Lord has blessed her.  A task that promoted seeing His hand in the big and the small.

I love writing and took to heart the task of journaling thanks - eucharisteo.   What better way to document that 1st step, the twinkle in Daniel's eye, a grin or giggle from Patrick or Erin?  What better way to find joy - to see the Lord's gifts - in the sometimes beautiful-stressful days of mothering 3?

Like many others, I become concerned - worried even - when an election draws near.  The older I get, the more seriously I view elections and the far-reaching impact a "bad" choice can have on generations to come - how freedom can slowly be chipped away.  This year is no different.  In fact, I feel more strongly about the upcoming election than ever.

This election, like so many events in life, pulls me to my knees before the Lord, in prayer and petition.  Some days, I physically nearly feel sick as I consider the possible outcome of the election and the repercussions for the years to come.  Yet, in those moments of jaw-clenching tension, or flat out fear and worry, I'm reminded that, for those who are alive in the Lord, "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39)

I am comforted.  



I look at the sky, and I see His hand. "I am here."  The sky proclaims His glory.  I half-expect to see the Lord coming again to bring His children home to the eternal presence of the Father.



 











    


I see His love, His beauty in the autumn leaves.  In the rays of sunshine streaming through.  

Today was beautiful.  His majesty through creation was everywhere the eye could reach.  It was the perfect day to go on an exploration - a Glory Hunt - with the kids into creation to seek out beauty in His handiwork.  We drove on the parkway and I, 1/2 on a whim, pulled into the parking lot of an overlook trail with an estimated 30 minutes of walking time.  Thankful that I always wear Cammon - our nearly 19 month old daughter - in the Ergo out to the car so I can be hands-free locking the door, etc, I proclaimed to Patrick and Erin that we were going on a hike, got out of the car and donned the Ergo, Cammon in it, on my back.

















Thank you, Jesus for the fall colors, the open trail, the flowers, the leaves, the moss, a stump to sit on, a tree to climb, a pinecone stick, space to run, flowers to wear.  Ann Voskamp said near the end of a recent blog post, "When you slow is when you hear, 'Do you like it?  I made it just for you.'"

Lord, I love it.  Thank you.