Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When you get a chance to see the world...

One of the highlights of the last couple of weeks was an amazing trip I got to take with Gwen.  It was really a trip of a lifetime to visit Paris. One of Gwen's friends is currently living (temporarily) in Spain and wanted to see Paris.  So Gwen made this trip happen - she did all the research, found really great plane fare, got a hotel and figured out the logistics of the entire trip.  Ken encouraged me to go, after Gwen suggested it would be a great opportunity for me.  I figured if you are going to go to France it is best to go with a French speaker (Gwen speaks French), so I jumped on board.  I am so thankful that I listened to Ken!  It was an experience that I will not soon forget.

Gwen had arranged a sort of "itinerary" of places that we just needed to go.  And she was great at finding our way through their "Metro" system.  I rode more subways during this trip than I have in my entire life!  No kidding!
Our first stop was, of course, the Eifel Tower.  This was one of the most crowed places we visited.  And because of the crowds, we didn't even attempt to go up to the viewing area.  There was a very long line just for security to actually get near the tower and then another very long line to purchase tickets.  And then another very long line to actually go up the tower.  We opted for an outdoor cafe with a stunning view of the tower, instead of waiting in all of those long lines.  A funny side note about this picture that Steph took is that it was raining!  Looking at the blue sky you would never know that we were getting rained on.  In some of the pictures you can see other people with umbrellas, but it was seriously just a very light mist that actually felt good!  And that was the only short (the rain lasted less than 15 minutes) bad weather we had the entire trip.

On our last day in Paris, Gwen asked me my favorite thing about the trip.  It didn't take me long to answer.  It was Sainte-Chapelle, which is in the courtyard of the royal palace (which now houses administrative offices).  
The original building was built in 1250 and is mostly now "restored".  But the 1100 stained glass panels that depict Bible stories are simply fantastic.  I could have stood there for hours just looking at each individual pane of glass.  It was a holy place and you could almost feel the generations of people who had stood in that room and prayed and worshiped.   We also visited Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur.  Somehow we managed to visit  both of these while Mass was being held.  Again, these were holy places that have been places of worship for many years.  Notre-Dame was actually built in 1163!  We visited so many other buildings and museums and it was awe inspiring to put your hand on a pillar that was from 40ad.  To see evidence of the Roman presence at Musee de Cluny as you are surrounded by Roman baths which were built around 200ad.    For me, one of the biggest take-aways from this trip is that there is nothing OLD in the United States!  

And then there was all of the art.  And statues everywhere (even in the subway!).  So wonderful, so amazing.  Again, we saw so much in a few days that it is hard to actually comprehend it all.  And the gardens are amazing.  We took a boat tour on the Seine, viewing most of the famous sites from the vantage point of the river.  The bridges are fantastic also.  Each one seems to be just a bit different.  We found the bridge famous for the "Love Locks" which was totally cleared of locks in 2015 and is now almost full again.  
We ate every meal at outdoor cafes or in the gardens and usually had a spectacular view along with amazing food.  We ate lots of breads (which were fantastic) and crepes made right in front of us, that were just heavenly.  

Our last day in Paris was just Gwen and I since Steph had to fly back to Spain.  We didn't have much to see on that day (with the exception of one art museum) and we spent the entire day in Gwen's favorite spot - Tuileries Garden.  In a way, it reminds me of Central Park in New York City.  It is right in the heart of Paris, surrounded by all that you want to see when you visit.  The garden is filled with small fountains and there are rows of chairs lining every walkway.  People sitting and chatting or eating (which we did often) and the most obedient dogs I have ever seen!  Most dogs were not on a leash and there were no dogs running away or chasing other dogs or causing any problems at all!  It was wonderful to see families greeting each other - even the little children - with kisses on both cheeks. Wonderful to just sit and look over the Seine at the Eifel Tower.  

Yes there were stark differences between Paris and Chicago.  But there were also so many times that I felt totally at home.  Walking through a church and seeing a women with her hands raised in worship.  And seeing another young lady with a journal, filling the pages with her thoughts and prayers. The presence of God was clear and strong.  

It was fitting to visit Paris in November.  I came home feeling so thankful for the the opportunity to share this experience with Gwen and Steph.  I am thankful for the newest aircraft that made a long trip really not so bad.  I am so thankful for the preservation of these old structures and the many, many artifacts that they contain.  And I am also grateful for home, for family and friends.   It was a great way to count my many blessings in the month of Thanksgiving.  

Jesus, thank you for your abiding presence with us, wherever we go.  Holy Spirit, help us all to see our similarities more than our differences.  Keep our eyes open to ways that we can relate to others, even when we are far out of our comfort zones.  Thank you Jesus for opportunities to see another culture first hand.  Keep us all aware of your presence.  Amen

Friday, November 9, 2018

A time to celebrate Lucas....

Our family always chooses to gather together on Lucas' birthday to celebrate his life.  Each year that passes has been filled with everything you might expect.  There has been sadness and grief.  There have been questions with no answers.  And also times of great joy.  I have been asked many times over, why our family can't just "put this behind us" or "move on and let it be in the past".  My answer to those questions is simply that there is no right or wrong way to handle to death of a child in your family.  This is truly a club that no one wants to join and unless you have been there, you can not understand or know how you might react.  This year I was especially watching Grace during our time at the cemetery...
It was a truly beautiful day.  The trees were just rustling with the leaves that had not yet fallen.  At times, there was a shower of fall foliage.  It was quiet and comforting.  Grace was so happy to have all of her favorite people around her.  She seemed to just know that this was a special time.  I loved her gaze into the heavens that I happened to catch in this photo.  It was a sacred moment for sure. 

Back at Doug and Susie's house, we took pictures of all of the kids.  These pictures of all of our grandchildren together are always so special to me. 
This year we also took pictures of just Grace with Lucas bear and with Lucas' picture.  There were so many good shots of Grace, who is always willing to say "cheese" for pictures!  But this picture just took my breath away.....
Yes, Grace will know all about Lucas.  And I almost felt as if she was having her own conversation with him!  At one point Grace put her hand on the picture, as if she was connecting with him.  And she leaned over and gave Lucas bear a kiss and hug.  These are healing moments for this grandma.  There is peace in knowing that ALL of us, including Grace, will remember Lucas.  

So I want to say thank you to all of our friends and family, who give us room to celebrate and remember Lucas in whatever way we find comforting.  I encourage you to reach out to those you  might know who have lost a child.  Don't be afraid of causing pain or heartache by mentioning that lost child.  I can assure you, the family does not forgot!  

Four years seems like forever when standing at the cemetery.  Yet, in the timeline of eternity, it is just a small passing blib.  Looking back at Grace's face, turned up to heaven, with a look of pure bliss, reminds me to keep on looking at Jesus.  It is fitting that the seasons are changing and winter is upon us.  But one thing is certain, spring is just around the corner.  What a blessing it is to have the assurance that one day, we will all see Lucas again.  

Jesus, thank you for the joy and wonder of children.  Wrap your loving arms around all the families who have children that are gone too soon.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to be sensitive to those who are grieving in ways that seem unusual to us.  Give us all the comfort and peace of your promises and your presence.  Amen

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Moments captured in clay....

I've been thinking about Lucas - and Doug and Susie - more than usual these last weeks, since October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. All you have to do is be on Social Media a short time and you will see dozens of stories of families impacted by this.   It seems everyone either personally or in their immediate family has had a loss.  Or they have friends or coworkers that have been touched by this tragedy.  Trust me, this is a club no one ever wants to join. When I was a just married young adult, we never heard about anyone losing babies.  It was a subject not shared or talked about.  How much better it is that now these families don't have to endure this loss alone.  

We are  coming up to Lucas' birthday on November 1st.  It is hard to believe that he would be four years old.  The years have slipped by but Lucas remains so much a part of our family.

Every time I am at Doug and Susie's house watching Grace, I pass by this shadow box, hanging in the stairwell of their home.  Each time I glance at it, I am taken back to some of the hardest, darkest moments I think I have ever experienced.  Those white very faint hand and foot prints in the middle of this frame are from Lucas Jacob.  And they remind me of one of those phone calls you never think you will ever make.  But then when the situation arises, you make that phone call.  Actually, this was just one of those calls in the long list of calls that must be made. 

Lucas was only 10 days old when he died.  Doug and Susie's house were filled with flowers, cards and gifts from his birth.  There were stacks of baby items from the showers that had not even been opened.  Among those items was a frame and clay packages to make foot prints of your baby.  Not something that you would have done in the first 10 days with a newborn.  When I looked at that package I knew that I needed to make that phone call.  So I took that package and called the funeral home and asked them to preserve these pressed in clay memories of Lucas for Doug and Susie.  I know that I didn't imagine the importance of that call.  Even today I can remember the kindness of the funeral director who greeted me when I brought the package over.  Everyone was so gracious and willing to complete this task for me.  What a blessing they were in this difficult time.

Susie completed this frame after Lucas' first birthday.  Those hand prints of Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna were made for that occasion.  It is such a fitting place for those small faint hand and footprints.  Lucas is surrounded by his cousins.  They are holding on to his memory.  Lucas will not be forgotten.  Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna have a part in bringing Lucas into the future along with our family.  They will help to share memories and stories of Lucas with Grace.  There is nothing better than seeing these cousins, loving being together. 
So this month is a bit bittersweet.  There is certainly remembering and sadness.  But there is also so much gratitude and joy.  I am thankful for Lucas and his place in our family.  I know that God has a destiny for our family and Lucas has a place in that destiny.  Even though we may not understand and still be filled with "why" questions, one thing is certain.  Jesus loves us all. No matter what the situation, no matter what the tragedy, nothing - not even death- can erase the love.  We can walk on, growing and changing, leaving a legacy of love in our footprints, holding memories in our hearts and sharing them in the years ahead.

Jesus, thank you for your great love for us.  Holy Spirit, help us to love even the most unlovable around us.  Keep us mindful of those that may need a helping hand today.  Jesus, touch those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or infant or child. Thank you for family and friends who surround us with love.  Amen

Saturday, October 6, 2018

From the smallest things to the biggest - through the eyes of children.

Earlier this week, Gwen and kids came to our house so that we could visit the Morton Arboretum to see a really fun exhibit of giant trolls.  The day BEFORE our planned trip was 80 and sunny.  Sadly, the summer like weather ended overnight and the day we visited it was in the 60's, breezy but at least the sun was shining.  Here is yet another perk of home school - you can visit amazing places during the week when they are not so crowded!   We had such a great time walking through the woods, finding all six of these amazing giant trolls.  Along the way, we saw many squirrels collecting nuts and acorns for the winter months, many birds and also saw scarecrows created by area children.  Watching those squirrels I couldn't help but think of our own little Gracie, who spent hours over the last weeks collecting acorns from the oak trees in Doug and Susie's yard.
The kids favorite scarecrow was this smore's creation that featured a really neat fire.  Ellie was especially interested in these scarecrows since she just joined girl scouts last week!  I see many hours of creative fun ahead for her.
There is something so refreshing about being outside, walking through the woods.  It was a perfect day for it.  We ended our day at Ken's favorite Pizza place.  He had a wonderful time showing the kids around the arboretum.  It was good food for the soul.

I was thinking about the contrast of those little acorns and those GIANT trolls!  Isn't it interesting how so many of our problems seem like those really big giant things?   Usually, it is fairly simple to see that most of those problems - no all of those problems - are no big deal to God.  I love that at the same time I have been looking at those little acorns.  It always amazes me that those big giant Oak trees grew from that little acorn.  What an interesting picture of the importance of sowing seeds into good soil.  Most of those acorns end up just getting eaten by the wildlife or they rot on the top of the ground.  It takes good black dirt and lots of water to cause that acorn to sprout.  And then the weather has to cooperate for it to be favorable for a tree to begin to grow.  

I had an interesting discussion with Ellie, Zeke and Anna today.  They are thinking a lot about giants since their visit to the trolls.  At first they didn't think that giants were real!  But then we talked about David and Goliath.  I reminded them that David was just a little boy when he went to fight the giant.  He was not worried because he knew that God would always be with him.  Plus he had a great idea to use the things that he knew he was good at!  His sling and a stone.  So we got to talk about all the things that each of them are good at and how God might use those talents.  I love when you can link a good biblical lesson with current events!

While doing my homework for my Bible Study, we had to make a list of my talents and how I use them to glorify God.  It was far more difficult than it should have been.   It is always much easier to see the gifts and talents of others rather than your own.  So my challenge this week is to look for those small talents that God can use to accomplish those impossible things.  Each of us has the ability to be kind and to offer a smile to those around us.  With all the nasty stuff floating around these days, that is one small talent that I plan to use more often.  How many "giants" can we bring down with a kind word and a smile?  

Jesus, thank you for the wonder and curiosity of children.  Help us all to consider Your Kingdom through the eyes of children.  Thank you for big trees and small acorns.  Holy Spirit, remind us all to step into the challenge to bring down the giants of fear, hate and anger in our world through kind words and a smile.   Thank you Jesus for blue sky and white clouds and sunshine.  Amen

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Call to keep writing....

I just love how creation speaks to us if we only take a moment to stop and notice!  Just this week I noticed this stray flower that somehow managed to plant itself in the crack of the step up to our front door.  The silly thing is that we had these flowers in hanging baskets several feet away from this spot.  Somehow, in spite of the distance and the the unlikely self seeding of this plant, it has managed to find some "good soil" and sprout, grow and even flower!  The extra interesting thing about this is the fact that Ken treated all of these areas with grass/weed killer that should have made this impossible.  There is clearly no good explanation for this beauty. 

Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible" Matthew 19:26

Last weekend I was at a wonderful conference that filled up my spirit.  The worship was amazing, the speakers were intense, the fellowship was great.  There was one thing..... I totally lost my voice.  I had laryngitis - like totally no voice.  So I was not able to SING during that amazing worship.  And I chewed lots of cough drops during those intense sessions with those top speakers, and most of my fellowship with others was LISTENING to them!  But in the midst of those seemingly bad things, I heard a very clear word from the Lord to keep on writing.  As a matter of fact, one of the key speakers, Patricia King, actually spent two sessions talking about writing.  She called for all those who had felt called to write to stand and receive prayer.  It was just a further confirmation of something that I have been feeling for years.  

During the second session, Patricia talked about the use of the Internet to reach the nations.  Here you are, reading my blog.  I have spent the last five years writing this blog, and wondering why I have been doing so!  There have been 739 blogs written that have reached 176 countries (the last "new" country is simply called "unknown regions").  I have never understood exactly why people read my blog and more, why they come back over and over.  The only conclusion is that God has made this impossible thing, possible.  

And so I must believe that another "impossible" thing might actually be possible.  There is so much more to write and I have always felt that it was impossible.  You know the excuses.  There is not enough time.  I really don't know where to begin. I'm too old to begin something like this. Nothing will ever come of it.  Who would even care to read what I write?  Somehow, now, it feels possible.  

I came home and then saw this flower.  I studied my notes from the conference.  And I considered those impossible ideas that I have. It is time to put aside the excuses and begin.  I don't believe it is the end of this blog.  So I guess my new charge is to accomplish TWO seemingly impossible tasks!  

Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible"  Matthew 19:26

If there is anything that seems impossible in your life, know that Jesus is the God of the impossible.  Whatever it is, something you need, something that has to be accomplished,  if it feels like a task that you can not do, then it just might be God.  I encourage you to stop, pray and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit.  You might just join me in beginning that impossible task!  

Jesus, thank you for showing us who you are through creation.  Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of your presence with us and your power to accomplish your plans.  Give us all grace to see and know that even though our plans might not seem doable in our own strength, you are able.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Home school reality.... the Truth

 Last week I snapped these three quick photos of Lia, Zeke and Ellie doing their home school work while Gwen and Anna were off at preschool.  There is so much reality in these photos!  First Lia...

Yes, this is pretty much how most 7th graders feel about school work.  Actually, she was not happy that I was taking her picture.  Most of her work is done independently with only a few subjects with mom.  I watched her go through her check list and complete each assignment.  
Ellie also does her work by herself.  She does have some of her work on the computer and while listening to her lessons, she usually does jigsaw puzzles.  I am amazed at how much she retains being able to listen while also keeping her hands busy.  On this day, I actually helped her find her new book to read (listen to) from the on line library and managed to get it set up for her.  I have to tell you this was a real accomplishment for me! 

Because Zeke is only in second grade, he needs a bit more help to complete his work.  So there were directions to explain and some sorting out of exactly which pages needed completion.  

Here is the "reality" of home school!  Zeke is doing his work on the floor.  Ellie is laying on the couch covered with a quilt.  Lia is sitting at the counter.  And this is just one day's reality..  The point is, they can be totally comfortable working at their own pace.  Lia pushes through her work and is often waiting for Ellie to finish her work, so that she can use the computer to do math.  Zeke has less work than his sisters and is glad for more play time.  I was thinking about all that happened during the four hours that Gwen and Anna were out of the house.  And I call this a win for home school. 

First of all, the kids were all up and dressed and had breakfast before Gwen left.  They all started their school work immediately (since nothing else happens until their school is done).  Zeke finished his work and then completed his chore for the day.  His job was to clean the loft and put away all the toys.  He then played for a good hour in his room.  Lia finished her school work and then cleaned the bathroom.  Ellie had to finish a book she was reading before the start of co-op the next day,  practiced piano and put away all of her "stuff" from downstairs. Lia helped me put away some of the folded laundry and we started new loads in the washer/dryer.  We all had lunch and cleaned up before Gwen and Anna got home.  During that time, I also got to have some eye-opening conversations with the kids.  

This week included one of those dates that will always cause you to stop and think.  It was September 11th.   The seventeenth anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers in New York, the plane crash in Pennsylvania, and the damage to the Pentagon.....the terrorist attacks on United States soil.  Given that Lia is 12, Ellie is 9 and Zeke is 7, I knew that they might not really have much information about the significance of the date.  Lia remembered hearing about the event during the past years.  Ellie and Zeke didn't know anything about it.  I gave some very general information about the attacks.  My thoughts were on all of the families who had been so effected by this tragedy.  Thankfully, we had no one close to us that was lost on that day.   I was thankful that our conversation about  9/11 took place at home.  

There are so many thoughts about home school versus public school.  This week brought me to yet another positive about home school for my family.  I am so thankful when hard topics come up, they can hear the truth from their family. 

I love that Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me".  Our culture can be very confusing.  There seems to be a lot of "facts" that just are NOT the truth.   I am so thankful that my children and grandchildren know WHO is the truth.  And that Jesus is the only truth you can always believe and trust.  There is so much in that one little Bible verse.  You could spend hours just meditating on that verse (which is John 14:16 by the way).  And this is just another reminder to me how blessed we are to have easy access to the TRUTH - to the Bible and to Jesus. This is a great place to be when you are remembering just how shaken we were, seventeen years ago, when we faced terrorism in our own land. 

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that you ARE the truth and you have left us with the Bible to lead and guide us.  Thank you for the freedom that we have here in the United States to educate our children freely and to have the Bible in our hands.  Holy Spirit, touch those that are still suffering from the effects of that attack seventeen years ago.  Give us all compassion for those that grieve.  Amen

Saturday, September 1, 2018

All the stages of being a grandma....

There is just something so special and so amazing about being a grandma.  I never thought much about what an important stage of my life "grandma-ing" would be.  I loved that my mom was such an amazing grandma (and great grandma).  She just excelled at making each one of her grandchildren feel special and loved.  I do remember thinking that it would be difficult to fill her shoes as a grandma.  This sweet picture has me thinking about just how blessed I was when Lia made me a grandma twelve years ago!  Okay, Gwen and Tim did have something to do with it.  I will never forget the first time I held this precious child in my arms.  It was like holding a (very) tiny piece of heaven! Lately, this growing so quickly young lady, has taken her place in the "photography" line of the family. 

Ken recently set her up with a camera, an instruction book and a bit of hands on learning.  And she was off to the races.  She seems to always have that camera in her hands now!  Here is one of her first (and can I proudly say) very impressive shots of a sunset. and "her" dog (that she shares with the rest of us).....

The time watching her grow and change has just seemed to fly by.  Suddenly she is taking wonderful pictures, being a mother's helper and earning her own money and (gasp) talking about driving and going to college!  At least she will still consent to hugs from Grandma Lyn!

While Lia was off taking pictures, I had the pleasure of watching Ellie, Zeke and Anna playing at a splash pad. Seeing them run through the water, chasing bursts of cascading streams from pop up fountains had me wishing I was more than a few years younger!   

And watching Grace, growing from baby into a toddler, has seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly she is not only walking but running and climbing and even walking in these play "high heels"! 

This week, I was reading a new bunch of books to Grace that Susie had brought out from the book shelf in Grace's room.  Grace went back, over and over to this book.....

As a matter of fact, as she was turning the pages, I heard her say "Baby" and "Moon"!  So I took Grace on my lap and we read this book together.  It is a touching story that you have to read to appreciate.  By the time I got to the last page, I was in tears.  
Now, the book itself is enough to get you chocked up.  But it was the fact that this particular book has a handwritten note dated 2014 in the front cover.  This book was gifted to Doug and Susie at her baby shower before Lucas was born.  The note reads... "This is the start of your sweet little story.  No matter where your tale takes you, we hope it is filled with lots of  love!"    I can tell you that this grandma knows Lucas was celebrated in heaven the day he was born and his short life was filled with an amazing amount of love.  
And just as with Lia and Ellie and Zeke and Anna and Grace, I will never forgot the moment I held this sweet little one in my arms.  Lucas' story was very short.  Just ten days.  But those ten days were filled with so much love. Now Lucas is bathed in the amazing love of Jesus in heaven.  

 Each stage of "Grandma-ing" is just as precious as the next.  So much joy, so much laughter, so much fun and also, so many tears.  Every moment is meaningful and every hug is a gift.  Whether a newborn baby or a teenager or an adult- each grandchild is special and loved.  I truly believe that Jesus created a special connection between grandparents and grandchildren.  It is a spiritual tie and is theirs and theirs alone, that somehow passes by the parents.  I can't explain it, but I can assure you it is a real thing.  It is an access point to these little ones that allows extra prayers and extra love to just flow unhindered and God is in it.  I don't want to waste a moment of the time I have with my grandchildren!  It is a time to sow blessings and destiny and purpose into their lives.  Along with lots of hugs.  

Jesus, thank you for your great love for us.  Thank you for all of the stages of grand parenting.  Holy Spirit, remind us to look for those special connections between the generations.  Help us to celebrate each other no matter what stage of life we are in.  Give us courage and boldness to share our love with each other.  Thank you Jesus for your grace when grief and loss are a part of our family.  Amen