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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A family is many things.... beautiful together

Last weekend, Ken and I went with all of the kids and grand kids to a nearby water park.  We have made this a yearly event and it is always eagerly anticipated.  We took a bit of a risk this year because we planned the event for the last day this park was open for the season.  So we were ready to go - no matter what the weather forecast was!  It was a happy day with bright sun and warm temperatures.  All of us had a great time, in the pool, in the lazy river, under the sprinklers and/or on the tube slides.  We ended the day having dinner at one our all time favorite pizza places.  There is nothing better than making reservations for 11 people!  Other than some really tired kids and a bit of sunburn, we were a happy bunch. 

I was reflecting on the previous day together during my time with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna on Monday.  While Gwen was tutoring (no rest for her over the summer. She takes on extra teaching!)
the kids and I walked to the nearby park.  It was actually so hot that all of the playground equipment was burning their hands, so we set about having a little scavenger hunt. 
This mash up of stuff was the result of their hunt for treasures around the park.  We have pine cones, bark from the trees, rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, berries from a tree, and even clover.   Anna made a little bouquet with the flowers and berries and leaves wrapped in some of the bark.  It was not how we intended to spend the hour, but it was very enjoyable. 

As I was thinking about this picture of the collage of our park finds, the thought of the 11 of us around the table the day before came to my mind.  I know that this might seem like a real stretch, but let me explain.  All of these items were actually at home in the small park.  They were, indeed a type of family!  They had all been living together.  Each item, so different, yet connected to the others. 
Isn't that exactly what a family is?  Some of us share similar interests, others are very different.  Each person in our family is amazing and beautiful, some look similar to each other, but each is unique.  I love that I can see that unique characteristic in each of the kids.  Lia is a friend to all and a careful rule follower who is interested in photography.  Ellie is a powerhouse of creative energy who is always coloring or drawing.  Zeke is a dare devil who looks for a mountain (or a tree or something) to climb.  Anna is a confident and independent girl who can play by herself for hours.  Grace is happiest outside, loves all animals and has smiles for everyone.  Gwen is a passionate follower of Jesus, a leader who loves to teach, mentor and sing.  Tim is happiest with a project to complete and would help everyone if he could.  Susie has a passion for the environment and loves hiking and camping, Doug loves to fish and camp but also loves making music.  Ken has a passion for and a desire to share photography.  And my passion is sharing about my family and my faith through this blog and through scrapbooking.   This is just a small snapshot of the uniqueness of each person in my family.  And we do have so many overlapping interests and passions.  Both Susie and Gwen love photography (shared with Ken) and both of the girls also scrapbook with me.  All of the kids and grand kids love camping and often go camping together. Ken and I much prefer the "hotel" camping.  I am sure that each one of you could make this kind of a list for your family.  I just love how the plans of God are revealed all around us in nature.  Each of those items in our nature collage are interesting, but together they paint a beautiful picture.  That is the way families are.  Each member different and unique, yet together they paint a beautiful picture. 

Make this a day for your own family collage.  Think about each member and the things that make them unique.  Celebrate those things,  And then find the ways you all overlap and share interests.  Rejoice in the connections that are special in your family.  Take a few minutes and look around your neighborhood.  Find items to make your own collection of beauty.   Be thankful! 

I love to see the relationship between the members of my family as they grow and change over the years. I especially love those times when we are all together.  The smiles, the laughing, the joy and the celebration of just being a family are food for the soul.  So much to be thankful for in this blog.  For those smiling faces, for the beauty of nature. For all that makes us a family.

Jesus, thank you for revealing who you are through your creation.  Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see the unique beauty around us - in nature and in people.  Keep us open to those shared connections that help bind us together in your love.  Give us all space to create collages when we feel so far apart from those we should be closest to.  Thank you for loving each of us - just how you made us.  Amen

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Even AFTER a vacation, a get-away is nice!

Last weekend, Ken and I spent a short get-away at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Doug and Susie gifted us this time away in thanks for watching Grace while they took time away.  While totally unnecessary, it was so much appreciated.  Here we are, just a couple of weeks home from a big vacation.  Yet, this time away, close to home was really nice.  We had such a relaxing enjoyable time!
We spent the first day on the beach.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the water!  And this beach was wonderful.  The water temperature was just perfect.  The weather was warm and not too hot.  While there were lots of people, it was not over crowded.  We even found a parking place somewhat close to the beach entrance! (No small thing if you knew just how popular this place is.)  After our long beach time, we found a small local diner for a late lunch.  We always try to find local places to eat and this one did not disappoint!  We actually liked it so much that we had breakfast the next day at the same diner.  Ken really wanted to get some sunset pictures, so we checked in to our hotel, rested for bit and then took a driving tour around the lake.  We had to drive by the hotel where we honeymooned.  It was a long, long time ago (44 years!)  
This picture was taken as we were leaving our wedding, headed to our honeymoon!  Things have really changed around that resort and it was fun thinking back and remembering.   We had scoped out a couple of potential spots to get some sunset pictures, so we headed to those spots.  Thankfully, there was a restaurant, across from the lake with outside seating.  So we opted to have dinner there with the plan to walk across the street to take sunset pictures.  We were surprised to actually get seated outside with a marvelous view of the lake.  That picture of Ken above was taken there.  If you look carefully at the picture, you can see the reflection of the sun in the window as it was dropping to the horizon.  We had perfect timing, finished our meal and then strolled across the street to get some amazing pictures.  
After spending about an hour at the sunset, we started back to the hotel.  But not before we stopped for some delicious Wisconsin Ice Cream.  I don't eat a lot of ice cream, but I had a strawberry milk shake that contained more fresh berries than you can imagine.  Ken said he was watching it being made and about half the cup was berries.  It was amazing.  

After breakfast at the diner, we headed to  Yerkes Observatory   Yerkes Observatory says they are the birthplace of "Astro Physics".  If you take a moment to look at the web page, you will be amazed.  I certainly was.  Ken has been there a number of times and we have driven by, but I never realized the significant discoveries made at this place. 
The tour was amazing.  This is the largest telescope of its type IN THE WORLD!!  And the building has the largest elevator in the world (the elevator actually lifts the entire floor around the telescope from the basement to the height needed to view from the telescope.  Sadly, the University of Chicago, who owns and runs this facility has decided to close it in September, due to funding issues.   Right now there is a move to privately fund and keep it open.  Given the long history (it was built in 1893) and the telescope and other items in the museum, I am praying that they find a way to keep it open.  
Yes, Ken and I love to find these museums and unusual places to visit.  But I am just so thankful that we do.  It is really sad to think about the many people who live in the Chicago area, who do not visit the many important sites that are close by.  

We managed to pack quite a bit into a short time away.  I had so much time away from the usual distractions.  I spent a lot of the beach time just people watching.  I had several good conversations with kids who were swimming near me.  Somehow, I am always identified as a safe "grandma" and the kids always talk to me.  We had peaceful car rides, mostly free of traffic and noise.  Our hotel was quiet and calm.  The time we spent watching the sunset was just what I needed.  Watching the boats skim across the water and seeing the small waves tickle the beach.  The time with this telescope, trained at the heavens was just the perfect ending to our trip.  This whole "retirement" season is new to us.  We are making adjustments in so many ways.  Sometimes it seems like we are entering into that "awaiting the sunset" period of our life.  But as I was sitting on the beach, soaking up that view of the sparkling colors on the water, I was reminded that the sunset is actually the BEGINNING of the new day!  There is a new day for Ken and I now.  Free of the responsibilities of 40 hour a week work.  And now there is time to train our eyes on the heavenlies.  Looking up and seeing the plans, and designs that Jesus has for us in the years ahead.  While the purpose of that telescope is to view the stars, all I could think about was He who created the stars!  

Psalm 147:4-5 -  He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few hours on a beach, a couple hours waiting for the sun to set and a couple hours touring a really old building, to hear the Lord's gentle reminder that there is more ahead and it is a new day dawning!

Jesus, thank you so much for these wonderful opportunities that you provide.  Thank you for Ken and his willingness to explore new places.  Holy Spirit, help us all to remember that the sunset is the beginning of a new day.  Keep our eyes trained on you Lord and keep our thoughts on your greatness and power.  Amen