Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Looking back.....to help me look ahead

I spent some time in the last couple of days, looking at my journals and working to assemble all of the words that I have journaled for 2015.  One of the most interesting things that I found was the paper that is in the front in the picture above.  I am really glad that this paper is actually dated (5/13/07).  It was yet another "rainbow" word.  Yes, there have been many, many rainbows showing up for us.  This revelation has all "R" words that describe the colors of the rainbow...

RED -   Redeemer  (also had PINK - Romance)
ORANGE - Radiance
YELLOW - Reflection
GREEN - Restoration
BLUE - Reward
PURPLE - Royalty

I also saw a particular gifting associated with each color's "R" description.

Redeemer ....Evangelism
Radiance .....Hospitality
Royalty....... Giving

Most of these make really good sense, on lots of levels.  Red, another symbol for blood, is also often used for Jesus, our redeemer.  And Jesus is the heart of all evangelism.  I love that green is restoration and usually you think of eternal life.  And healing is certainly a big part of the restoration that happens for each of us as we grow in our relationship with Jesus.  I think you can go through each of these "R" words and see the connection to the color and then also understand the tie to the gifting.  I remember that this came to me very suddenly, at night, and I grabbed whatever was on my nightstand to jot these down.  I am so surprised that I didn't rewrite these into a journal.  Or if I DID rewrite this, I am surprised that I kept this paper!  I know that this "Rainbow" word will be on my heart and in my spirit a lot in the next months.  And there is much, much more that I have to share about what is ahead in 2015.  Watch for future blogs!

Today I did a very normal thing....I took down the Christmas decorations.  I had not put up very much so the putting away was really simple.  I have to admit, usually this is one of my least favorite activities.  I love the holidays (usually) and I hate to see the time end.  This year, not so much.  All I can say is that our family walked through this season.  We counted off the days.  There were some really sad times, but there were also some very joyful times.  Today I sighed a big sigh of relief when I moved the last box to the garage.  I am looking forward to moving ahead into January.

Another interesting thing happened today.  I actually got a one day a week nanny job that begins in January!  So it will be good for me to be back in the work force, as well as some extra income.  It was such a blessing that I have been off of work in the last months.  I know that it would have been very difficult for me to keep up with a work schedule.  But I am now looking forward to getting back into a work routine.  And I am so thankful for three days off each week.  Yes, this is a blessing.

Jesus, thank you for revelation.  Mostly, thank you for revelation about rainbows!  Holy Spirit, I love how you work in all things.  Thank you for provision of work and income.  Thank you for helping our family walk through the holidays.  Continue to give us grace and courage to walk on into 2015.  Amen

Sunday, December 28, 2014

An unexpected break in the clouds

This morning when I left the house, I looked up and saw these amazing clouds.  It sure doesn't look like a typical "December" sky in Chicago.  Not that I am complaining.......   Even though it is more or less normal temperatures, we have not really had any snow to speak of.  And there have been many really warm days.  Today, I enjoyed the clear blue sky and the sun shining.  I think we all needed to see the sun shine.

Yesterday was NOT like today.  It was rainy and cloudy and cold.  Yes, a grey and sunless day.  Gwen texted that Zeke was very much under the weather.  He had been sick all night and was not doing well.  Unfortunately, Gwen and Tim had plans to attend a wedding and were planning on leaving the kids with a babysitter.  But with one kid down and the possibility of more to follow, this was out of the question.  So I volunteered to be "grandma to the rescue" and watch the kids so that they could attend this wedding.  It was a good day.  Zeke was more or less back to his normal self.  And no one else seemed to have caught that nasty stomach stuff.
Anna played happily with these "new to her" toys that first belonged to Lia!  Lia and Ellie spent several hours making "tutus" (which is just their name for skirts/dresses) out of bubble wrap and copier paper held together with tape.  I did take pictures of these creations, but decided it was not a great idea to put those pictures on this blog!  (Someday they will thank me for that!)  There was then a "fashion/talent show" that was very entertaining.  Zeke played with his trains from Christmas.  He got two large bins of GeoTracks with remote control trains.  After dinner, all four kids took a bath and got ready for bed.  Anna was asleep before I turned around.  After some interesting conversations with Zeke, bedtime prayers, and tucking in, he fell asleep immediately.  I don't think he even moved! By this time, Ellie was all set and ready for her bedtime story.  This was the book she presented to me..... and I am not kidding you!
I did not set this up.... It was on her bookcase in her room and she selected it!  And yes, it says (in Gwen's very early handwriting "Gwen Rowley and Doug".  This is MY book!).  I also read from Ellie's new princess storybook. Ellie played for a bit, but she also was asleep soon.  Lia was patiently waiting.  She wanted me to paint her nails.  So she has some not very well done rainbows painted on her nails.  Gwen is much better at this than I am.  I had some wonderful conversations and prayer with Lia that was a nice end to this day.  This was an unexpected way to spend the day...and it was very enjoyable.  Yes, the time yesterday was a lot like that blue sky this morning.  It was a break in the clouds of grey rain that brought some warmth into my spirit. 

I was thinking about the day yesterday and also today.   I remembered how much I don't like gray raining days and how much I love blue sky and sun.  I learned that shipping supplies and office supplies can be wonderful (and creative) imaginative play things.  I watched a small child be so excited when a door opened and something popped out....what fun it is to discover new things.  I saw determination and joy when a train traveled on a track constructed with three year old hands.  I was filled with love and warmth by hugs and kisses from sweet little ones, fresh out of the bathtub.  Is there anything better than those warm, wet hugs?  Nothing is as sweet as the prayers of children.  The icing on the cake was holding that special book in my hands, once again. 

The year is winding down.  I can tell you that I am not sorry to see 2014 end.  This has been a very hard couple of months.  But during these days of sorrow and grief, I have been receiving many, many words of encouragement and hope for 2015.  I have been collecting these and have been pondering them.  So many seem to have been sent specifically for me and my family.  If there has ever been a time that I felt so in need of these words, it is now.  Over the coming days I will be sharing some of what has been working into my spirit through these words.  As is always the case, I know that these words are not just for me and I am praying that many will be blessed through them.  So watch for future blogs!

Jesus, thank you for providing much needed breaks of joy and warmth in the times of cold sadness.  Holy Spirit, thank you for words of encouragement and hope that you send to us in so many different ways.  Give me strength and wisdom to sort through these messages and courage to share.  Thank you for the joy and delight of playing children.  Help us all to be like little children.  Amen

Friday, December 26, 2014

A quiet and reflective Christmas day....

This year included some more new ornaments.  Ken and I got one from Lia and one from Ellie.

Both of these were made with love by the girls.  Ellie told me that the snowflake was pink and purple because those are her favorite colors.  And it has a star in the middle, because she loves stars.  Lia said she made a rainbow angel because she loves rainbows.  

This has been the year of the angel.  And the rainbow.   And hope in the promises of Jesus.  I love that the girls decided exactly what these ornaments should look like.  I love when Jesus speaks to me through children.  When I hold that rainbow ornament in my hand, I can feel the sorrow lift from my spirit, and sense the joy and hope that the promises hold.  And that sparkly star in the center of the snowflake reminds me of the star of Bethlehem.... that draws people to the miracle of Jesus.  

Our Christmas Day was very quiet.  Ken and I actually went out for breakfast.  I know this may seem really silly on such a day, but our little local diner was open, so we decided to go.  It was very pleasant.  I was thinking about the year I nearly burned our house down!  It is sort of a "family legend"!  I was cooking breakfast in the kitchen and the rest of the family was in the living room.  I had lit the Advent wreath that was sitting on top of our entertainment unit.  I glanced into the room and saw flames coming from the wreath.  There was a burn mark on top of that piece of furniture as a reminder of that event!  Needless to say, I never quite lived that  down.  I believe that was the last real Advent wreath that we had that had regular candles.  I switched to jar candles after that!  Yes, I love all the memories of past Christmas'.   Later in the day my oldest brother called me.  I have to admit that we don't talk often.  In fact, I don't remember the last time we chatted. We tend to stay in touch via email.  So this was a surprise.  For many years, I saw my brother several times each year when I visited my mom.  Since she died in 2011, I haven't seen him!  
In fact, I looked through my pictures and this picture is the last shot I have with my sister and brother with my mom.  It was taken in August of 2010.  After our conversation I was thinking about some Christmas memories I have of my brother Jerry.  I don't think that Jerry would even know this story.  The first present that I received from someone other than my parents (or Santa) that created a memory came from Jerry.  I was 6 and in first grade.  He was getting ready to leave for a tour of duty in the Army.  He gave me "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" book and a Stadium Checkers game.  I believe that this book is now on the book shelf at Gwen's house.  I kept that book and read it over and over.  I remember reading it to both of my children.  It was the first book that was actually mine - that I did not have to return to the library!  And I loved getting a game that was a "real" game. As a matter of fact, this is one of my best memories of Christmas from my childhood..  Even typing this makes me a bit sad that I have never shared this with Jerry!  I guess I will have to remedy this by giving him a call!   

So my day included some thoughts of times long past.  I am so thankful that it also included hanging these special new ornaments on my tree.  This has been such a difficult year, yet in the midst of it all, there are the angels.....and the rainbows.....and the star.  And there have been phone calls and memories.  And there has been time together.  And there is hope.  

Yes, it was a Christmas day unlike any we have had in the past.  It was quiet.  But in that time of quiet, there was the  presence of Jesus.  I felt the love of Jesus over breakfast with Ken.  I felt the promises of Jesus as I hung that angel ornament.  I felt the hope and joy of Jesus in that star glistening on my tree.  I felt connected to my family tree and all that Jesus has sown into my generations in the phone calls with my sister and brother.  It was a full day.  And it was good.  

Jesus, thank you for speaking to me through my grandchildren.  Help me to be open to hear your voice over all the sorrow and pain.  Holy Spirit, give me grace to walk through changes.  Help us all to know your very real presence with us.   Amen

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A very different Christmas Eve....

Yes, we are having a very different Christmas.  There are so many things that have changed and so many things that are different.  But there have also been some that have remained the same.  Ken and I spent the day yesterday with Gwen, Tim and the children.  This was a new thing for us - we were missing Doug and Susie very much.  And we were missing Lucas.  Even this low key celebration was just to hard for them. We understood.  It was a much quieter day than usual.  Each of the kids seemed to appreciate every present.  As expected, Anna loved the paper and ribbon as much as the present inside.  There were presents for the children and a few presents for us.  Including this really amazing tree.
Gwen's family got this sculpted tree from their church.  It was created in Haiti and is made out of a steel oil drum.  

Just holding this in my hand is quite an experience.  To imagine that it was once a steel oil drum that someone spent hours hammering and working....well that is really something.  And it is truly a thing of beauty.  I am so thankful for the heart of Gwen and Tim to support these ministries.  And for Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna who decided to gift this to us.   It will grace our wall for a long time.  

We snacked on some wonderful food that Tim had made and got ready to go to church.  Gwen was singing and playing at the service so she left early.  Ken and I (and Tim and the kids) left a bit later.  
With the kids dressed in their Christmas best, we headed out to church.  There had been a prediction of snow for the afternoon, but it was just a light rain.  Not really very "Christmasy".  The service was really nice.  It was so good to hear Gwen singing some of my favorite carols.  And during the worship service she played flute.  This was especially a treat for Ken (who always laments that Gwen did not decide to play flute professionally!)   Then there was the traditional candle lighting during Silent Night.  

Even Zeke held his own candle this year (with a little help from me). There is something about seeing the faces of the kids reflected in that candle light that brings the familiar story to life.  By the time the service was over, everyone was ready to return home.   Ken and I got home around dinner time.  In the evening, we decided to watch the old movie "A Christmas Story".  It was good to laugh while munching a Christmas cookie.  

Yes, it was a very different kind of Christmas Eve for us.  The thought of all that has changed in our family was very near the surface in everything that we did. But also very present was the hope of Christmas.  Everything that Jesus brought to us when he came to the world as a tiny baby.  He is the rescuer who came to bring us the assurance of an eternity with him in heaven.  Knowing that Lucas is safe with Jesus makes this Christmas more bearable.  And it reminds us how necessary it is for us to share the good news with all those we meet.  It seems so important to be like the shepherds and go out praising God and telling everyone about Jesus.  There will be much to ponder in the days ahead.

Jesus, thank you for the traditions that help us keep Christmas focused on you.  Thank you for family and friends that stand with us.  Help us to hear the message of the angels to the shepherds.  Let us be free from fear and boldly tell the world about your amazing birth.  Thank you Jesus for being our savior, our ever present friend and our strength.  Bless those workers in Haiti who labor over oil drums and bring forth beauty.  What a powerful reminder of your work in our lives.  Bless all who struggle with lose during this season.  Help us to hold on to hope!  Amen

Monday, December 22, 2014

Remembering the story.....

I spent today with Susie and Gwen (and Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna).  As I was giving Lia a hug, I was thinking about this particular picture.  This is Gwen and I when she was just about the same age as Lia is right now.  And I remember that this picture was most likely the first picture that Doug ever took!  This was long before digital photos and you really were careful with those 24 pictures on a roll of film!  Honestly it just seems like yesterday in so many ways.  But, the years have passed....lots of years.  And here we are in this difficult year.  We spent the day mainly just chatting and watching some television with the kids.  Even that is difficult with all the commercials with children and families, babies and pregnant women.  It seems at every turn there is another reminder for our family that we are missing a very important member.  Yes, Lucas is missed.

This morning I was reading from The Passion Translation Luke and Acts.  I loved this version of the angels appearing to the shepherds....

"That night, in a field near Bethlehem. there were shepherds watching over their flocks.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! But the angel reassured them saying, "Don't be afraid for I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone, everywhere!  For today, in Bethlehem, a rescuer was born for you.  He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah! You will recognize him by this miracle sign; you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and laying in a feeding trough."  Then all at once, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven!  And they all praised God singing
"Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men"

Yes, there is that word....again.....hope.  And not just hope, but a GOOD HOPE.  Christmas is really about that hope.  Last Saturday night, at the Christmas concert at Gwen's church, we saw this really funny video...... The Truth about Christmas - funny.  This is worth a watch.  You see, in the midst of our very hard year and this time of struggle to just walk through this season, in missing Lucas so much, we need to laugh.  And we also need to focus on what is really important.  Please take a moment and watch this link.  And laugh with me.  And remember that the HOPE of Christmas - the truth of Christmas - Jesus is what is really important.    I will be watching this more than one time.  Today it feels good to laugh.

Jesus, thank you for time together with family and friends.  Thank you for speaking into our situations with your Word.  Holy Spirit, thank you for using new translations and videos and Facebook and blogs to touch us and to share the Good News of the birth of Jesus.  Thank you for your love and care and for your presence with us, especially in the hard times.   Thank you for GOOD HOPE!  Amen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

keeping on....keeping on

Last night Ken and I went to Gwen's church for their yearly Christmas concert.  It is always good to sit back and listen to some Christmas music, to see the grandchildren and to focus on the season.  An added bonus was getting to hear Gwen sing and play.  Honestly, this has been a very tough couple of days.  Over and over you hear how hard holidays are for those who have lost loved ones.  Living it is just something else.  Hard just doesn't describe it.  And the bad thing is, everyone in our family is going through this and we all have our own struggles.  Yet we have to try to get through this season together.  What each of us needs sometimes conflicts with what someone else is able to do.  And so there is another layer of sorrow and grief with this season.  That is why every opportunity to turn my eyes to the reason for the season, is so important.  I seem to need lots and lots of reminders to just keep on.  So this event last night was much more than just a concert.  It was necessary.

There are so many on my Facebook feed who are ill, who have family members who are sick, those who have lost family members, or are facing terrible financial troubles or many other problems.  So my family has lots of company on this journey of keeping on during this Holiday.  Yet even though there are many, many on this path, it is so terribly lonely.  In years past I know that I was completely unaware of those who were not so happy during Christmas.  And I am feeling sorry and ashamed at my lack of compassion towards them.  It is amazing to me that so many people expect that our family should just be okay.  But the truth is, there is no time table to grieving.  And what is easy for some, is impossible for others.  I have said that we need to be gentle with ourselves and with each other.  But sometimes even that is hard.

This morning I woke up singing this Advent hymn.  I first learned this hymn when I taught it to a group of children.  I couldn't image why I was thinking of this hymn.  Until I looked closely at the words.  Advent is a time of waiting and anticipating the amazing wonder and miracle of the birth of Jesus.  This hymn starts off with the encouragement to us to rejoice.  And the rest of the hymn is our reason for hope.  And hope has been my "key word" this year.  I love the third verse.  The reminder - the hope - that we will live and reign forever in a place with no sorrow.  There we will be with Jesus and before the throne of glory.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
By: Laurentius Laurentii, 1660-1722

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing, And darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle; At midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountain Proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting; The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory; The bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience Their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever When sorrow is no more.

Around the throne of glory The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him Their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for, Over this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption That sets Your people free!

Yes, I needed to see these words today and focus on that hope more than my own stress.  This is a great reminder that we all need to "let our lights appear".  We need to shine during these dark times.   And we need to pray and watch and wrestle our way through this life.  I love the last verse...... with hearts and hands uplifted, WE PLEAD for Jesus to come.   Yes, I have been doing quite a bit of wrestling in the last weeks.  And more than my share of pleading.  And the good news is that in just a couple of days we will be celebrating that our Emmanuel has come to dwell with us.  So I will continue to hum this old hymn and feel my spirit actually begin to rejoice just a little. Join me and lets shine our lights brightly!

Jesus, thank you for music and giving us all reminders of our great hope.  Holy Spirit, thank you for putting this song on my heart today.  Help all of us to rejoice in spite of the darkness.  Thank you for reminding me to hold on to hope and to be more gentle with myself in the midst of sorrow.  Jesus, thank you for the promise of an eternity with no sorrow or grief and the joy of your presence.  Thank you for your grace and power to just keep on.  Amen

Friday, December 19, 2014

Another dose of hope....

It has been an interesting couple of days.  I was so grateful to gather with my prayer group friends for fellowship and prayer.  This sweet ornament was a gift from that occasion.  An angel of hope.  Yes, I really needed that message.  And now I can see that reminder each time that I look at my tree. This prayer group is such a gift to me.  I just don't know what I would do without their support and encouragement.  And of course, their prayers.

You know, it is very difficult to walk through a family crisis during a time of celebration - for everyone else.  I have been feeling this even more intensely as Christmas approaches.  Quite frankly, tonight, I would rather it just jump ahead to January.  But then, as I reflect on that thought, I realize that the last thing that I need right now is to skip the most important event in history.  The birth of Jesus - Emmanuel - God with us.  For never has there been a time that I personally, so needed Jesus with me as right now.

So this blog did not get finished last night, since my computer completely locked up.  Ken received notification that we had "malicious mal ware" on one of our computers....guess which one!  So thankfully, Ken spent many hours last night, scanning and deleting and doing all those "techy" kind of things so that I can have a working system.  And finish this blog.  Yes, I am so thankful for a husband that can step in and help make things right for me (and my computer!)

Yes, Christmas is a time to gather as family.  To worship and praise with the angels.  But it is also a time when the losses are much more apparent.  When that chair is empty at the family dinner, or there are no presents for that person.  So sometimes, it is just to difficult to gather.  And it is a time to consider making NEW traditions and letting go of some of the old ones.  Sometimes that is just what you need.....a new thing.

There have been many prophetic words about 2015.  All of them focus on the great blessings that 2015 will hold.  Some even talk of the repayment in double of the losses that have been suffered in the last year.  All of them proclaim that 2015 will be a New Year of Great Grace.  So, yes, I am looking forward to stepping into 2015.  There is great hope in a new year.  Hope for fulfilled promises.  Hope for new beginnings.  Hope for blessing and love.  And I am anticipating, with great hope, that new thing.  Yes, Christmas is difficult.  But the spirit of Christmas is love.  So great a love that God sent his son to live among us.  And because of Jesus' death and resurrection, there is great HOPE!   I will purpose to walk through Christmas with that spirit of love bathed in the hope of the new year.

"For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

Thank you for knowing and accepting us right where we are.  Jesus, you never ask us to be anything but true to ourselves.  Thank you for loving me and caring for me, even when things are difficult.  Thank you for family - for the closeness and the love.  Thank you for friends and the prayers that sustain us.  Thank you for wisdom and knowledge to repair computers. Thank you for the amazing gift of a tiny baby that brought heaven to earth.  Thank you for your great promises and the new things that bring us hope.    Amen

Monday, December 15, 2014

When the holy invades the secular......

So today I was really taken aback by a commercial on TV.  It began with a family around a Christmas tree, the house is all decorated for the holiday.  There are stockings hanging, presents under the tree and then the doorbell rings... the little girl says "IT MUST BE SANTA!"  She runs to the door and flings it open.  In walk three scantily clad "Elves" and Santa.  (And here comes the part that really got to me)  This was what they said....
And then the next line was..... of all things..... some wrestling stuff that will be on television next week.  Really???   I couldn't decide if it was better or worse that it was SANTA saying those words.  I guess I would have been much more offended if they had used people dressed up like angels.  But those Biblical words just kept swirling around in my head.  I was thinking about this.....
This was Lia's Christmas program in 2011.  She is that sweet little angel on the right.  I am sure that there are many, many Christmas programs around the world, with sweet little ones who are reciting that Biblical verse.... sharing the good news that will be of great joy to ALL people. The proclamation of the birth of Jesus.  

Isn't it interesting how the HOLY invaded the secular?  At first I was thinking that the secular was invading the Holy.  But it really is the other way around.  This is exactly the way that the Holy Spirit works.  There might be some who think this is just "making fun" of that Biblical passage.  But Jesus knows better.  I am sure that there are many people who will see that commercial, and like me, remember the TRUTH about that line from Luke 2.  Maybe some who only heard that phrase in some long ago Christmas pageant, or possibly from a Christmas Carol.  That is the really amazing thing about the Holy Spirit.  He can use the littlest thing to remind, to convict, to comfort, to encourage.  

So I am thankful tonight for that commercial.  And I will be praying that every time that the commercial airs, the Holy Spirit will be at work.  I know that Jesus can accomplish His work through any means....even a television commercial.  And for me, today, it was good to be reminded of all of the Christmas programs that have brought those verses to life for me.  It has been very difficult to really enter into this season.  To think about that precious baby boy that is the central focus of Christmas.  And then to think about our sweet baby boy that we are missing so much.  But today, I was able to shift my focus to the powerful impact of those important words, and feel a bit of that great joy in my spirit.  

Jesus, thank you for stopping me in my tracks and letting me really hear and see this television commercial today.  Thank you for using it powerfully in my heart today.  Holy Spirit, please reach and touch the many, many others who will see that advertisement.  Let them all be impacted by the Holy that is invading homes all over the country.  Thank you for working in the most unusual ways.  Amen

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A present that really lasts.......and anger turned into peace

When I saw this bag sitting on the kitchen table tonight, the first thing I thought was "I need to call my mom!".   Now this is silly on so many levels.... since my mom has been gone since 2011.  But here's the reason.... it was one of those "Black Friday" shopping trips, oh so long ago.  I really don't think that my mom had any idea that this bag that she got for Doug would still be in use 25 years later!  Gwen got a pink bag and Doug got an orange bag.  I can't remember exactly what store we purchased these at (wish I knew, I'd be tempted to go back and buy something there!).  Even the zipper still works on this bag.  It isn't like these never got used.  For a long time these bags were the only suitcases that Gwen and Doug owned.  They went on camp outs, sleepovers, mission trips, and vacations. They flew with us to California and Florida and went back and forth to Minnesota more times than I can count.  Yes, these were a first rate Christmas presents that were given in love by my mother.  Yes, tonight I was missing my mom!

The bag is on my kitchen table because we are "doggy sitting" for Sammy and Kylie.
Doug and Susie are getting away for a few days.  They really need this time away and alone.  It is so good to be able to DO something that makes a difference for them.  We love these doggies!  They are very at home in our house.  And they are not much trouble.  Mostly they sleep in their beds.  And I must admit, I was quite thankful this evening when I took them for a walk and it was pleasantly WARM outside (I think it is in the upper 30's).   I don't know if I would have been so willing to let them leisurely sniff around if it had been 20 degrees colder.  But, tonight we had a nice walk.  

While I was letting the dogs just investigate our neighborhood, I had a chance to look up and appreciate the night sky.  And I took some great deep breaths of cool air.  And it was a great time to talk to Jesus.  Sometimes doing something different really lets you break out of the routine prayers and just have a great conversation.  Tonight was like that for me.  I was surprised that I was really angry today. Angry that I can't call my mom.  Just angry that Lucas is not here.  Angry that our family is so upset.  Angry that Doug and Susie are going through this.  And the thing is, it was okay that I was so angry.  I felt so much love and peace from Jesus that it really almost took my breath away.  Even though I expressed all these bad feelings.  In spite of the anger, Jesus knows and he loves me anyway.  Isn't that amazing? And not only does he cover me with his love, he brings me another measure of peace.  So that walk did more for me than it did for Sammy and Kylie.  And in that I am so thankful.

Jesus, thank you for letting it be totally okay for me to be angry!  Thank you for reminding me that your love is so much bigger than my feelings.   Holy Spirit, thank you for showing me that no matter where my feelings go, I can express them to Jesus.  Jesus, bless Doug and Susie and give them rest, peace and love during this time away.  Thank you for your care and protection for my entire family.  Amen

Friday, December 12, 2014

Memories from Christmas' past.....

Today I had coffee with a friend.  We were talking about Christmas and both of us will have very different Christmas celebrations this year.  My friend's children are no longer living in this area and can't come home for the holiday.  So they are trying to work out some kind of meeting time/place.  Our holiday will be very different this year as we are all missing Lucas.  Yes, we will be together.  And there will be presents for the kids.  But it will not be anything like the celebrations we have had in the past.  I am very thankful that we will be remembering exactly WHY we even celebrate Christmas......Jesus birth.

This got me thinking about different Christmas celebrations from my childhood. Here is one year that I remember well....
This was Christmas 1962.  I was in Third Grade (which is exactly the same age as Lia is this year).  That little cutie sitting on the floor next to me is my very first niece Amy, who was about 1.5 years old.  I remember this Christmas because my brother Jerry was in the Army and not with us.  I also remember how much fun it was to have Amy there with us.  She loved opening those presents.  You can see my sister Karen and brother-in-law Roy in the background (if you look carefully).  They lived in South Dakota and we lived in St. Paul, Minnesota.  So it was very special to have them visit.  And I especially remember the dress I have on in this picture.  It was a blue corduroy jumper and the blouse was really silky.  I loved that dress and it was only for "special occasions" like Christmas.  I also am wearing a cross necklace.  I am sure that this was my mom's and she let me wear it for Christmas Eve.  And Amy was wearing a red velvet dress and black patent leather shoes.  When I look back at these pictures, I realize that church and the reason for Christmas were not very evident in our celebrations during my grade school years.  My mom was working full time and often worked on Christmas Eve.  Things were very different for me than the rest of my siblings.  It was always interesting to listen to my mom talk about Christmas celebrations because she never talked about the Christmas' in the 1960's.  She always talked about the 40's and 50's.  She would forget that it was very different for me.  I never had a children's Christmas program that was on Christmas Eve. (All of my siblings did!).  We never went to church on Christmas Eve (all of my siblings did!).  In fact it wasn't until I was in high school that we went to Christmas Eve church (this was actually in 1969). Yes there were memorable celebrations, but in looking back, I wish that church had been on the agenda for us during those years.  

I am very thankful that Ken and I made sure that church was always a very important part of our Christmas celebrations.  In fact during most of my kids growing up years we went to church on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  And I am so thankful that this year our Christmas celebration will include church.  If there is one thing that has been so clear to me in the last weeks, it is my great need to draw closer to Jesus.  At these times when the missing and the sorrow seem so big, the reality of Christmas.... the baby in the manger.....the angels in the sky......the star.....well it seems to bring Jesus that much nearer.  The wonder and joy and excitement help.  It doesn't change anything.  It doesn't stop the missing or the sadness, but it is there.  And it is good.  And I am grateful.  

Jesus, thank you for memories and for reminders that your story is what matters most.  Thank you for this season and the reminder that you came and made your home with us.  Thank you for meeting us exactly where we are and bringing us your love and your comfort.  Holy Spirit, help us all to find joy in the celebration of Christmas, no matter what our circumstances are.  Jesus, draw us closer to you!  Amen

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Christmas Gift.....to myself!

Today I was thrilled to open my mailbox and find this group of books.  I have posted and quoted from these amazing books....and now I own them all.  These are The Passion Translation by Brian Simmons.   There was a Christmas special for the entire set and then one day they actually had 20% off of that price.  So now I have them all at my fingertips.  I have been pouring over them.  Just picking them up and going from favorite verse to favorite verse.  And seeing new and different revelation on every page.  Isn't it funny how something like this can just change your whole attitude?

I was reading my very favorite Psalm.... Psalm 40.... I call it my Slimy Pit Psalm.  In the Passion Translation is reads like this....
"I waited and waited and waited some more; patiently knowing God would come through for me. Then at last, He bent down and listened to my cry.  He stooped down to lift me out of danger from the desolate pit I was in, out of the muddy mess I had fallen into. Now he has lifted me up into a secure place, and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path. A new song for a new day rises up in me because of all the great things He has done. Ecstatic praise pours out of me until everyone hears how God has set me free.  They will see His miracles and stand in awe of God and fall in love with Him!"

Needless to say, this translation has a "desolate pit" rather than a "slimy pit" but the idea is still the same.  The thing I love about this particular Psalm is the ending of this passage!  Because of my reaction to whatever the desolate pit is that I have been freed from, OTHER PEOPLE WILL UNDERSTAND JUST HOW AMAZING AND WONDERFUL MY JESUS IS!  Doesn't this just put a different spin on the terrible things going on in our life?  Just knowing that in some way, some how, Jesus will use these things to His glory.   And I love that there is also a new song that rises up in us.  Don't we all need a new song from time to time?  I am waiting for my new song to rise up in me right now.

Today I spent part of my day with Doug and Susie.  It is so good to be together.  There is something that just feels better being with people who understand exactly where you are at.  For me, it is good to be reassured that we are all holding on.  There are ups and downs.  There are waves of grief that sometimes just pour over us. We are calling out to Jesus and He has lifted us up.  And we are walking on.  It does seem to be an uphill path (an ascending path).  But we are not walking alone.   Jesus is with us.

I am very thankful for the assurance that Jesus is with us all.  I am so grateful for the way that the Holy Spirit brings exactly what we need, at exactly the right time.  Just like these books.  Yes, these books are a special, special gift.  One that will bless me greatly in the months ahead.

Jesus, thank you for new revelation from you Word.  Holy Spirit, thank you for knowing how to break into our day with your wisdom and direction.  Please help us all to stay on that ascending path.  Steady our steps as we take small steps on the way.  Remind us that you will be glorified through our praise.  Thank you for that new song!   Amen

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A "make do" kind of a day....

I decided to make some Christmas Cookies today.  It wasn't a quick decision.  In fact I had bought some extra butter at the store on Monday, thinking that I might actually make a batch of my favorite Christmas Cookies....Butter Cookies.  The recipe I use for these cookies is one that I got from my mom.  And she actually got this recipe from my Grandma Johnson.  They are called Butter Butter Cookies - Spritz Cookies.  I am sure that the recipe has been around for a long time, since the late 1800's. I have had my share of cookie presses over the years.  I thought my last one was a really good one.  I loved the way it so evenly pressed the cookies.  And it was easy to use.  So it didn't seem like making cookies would be a big deal today.

I made that batch of cookie dough.  I loaded the first fill of dough into the cookie press, and began to fill the cookie sheet.... that is I actually got 2 cookies on the pan.  Suddenly, the cookie press sort of "exploded"!  There was a loud POP noise and the top flew off of the press in my hand.
You can kind of see the plastic pieces next to the cylinder.  The ring that held the top of the press in place just shattered into lots of little pieces.  Obviously, I need a new cookie press.  But there I was with a batch of dough, ready to go and quite frankly, I was just not ready for a trip to the store.  So I decided to "make do" with these cookies.  I rolled teaspoon sized balls of dough and then flattened them with a small measuring cup.  I then decided to use the press plates as sort of stencil for the colored sugar, that always decorates these cookies.  
Here is the finished products.  I have trees, poinsettias and wreaths....not in the usual way, but, hey, it works!  And they taste pretty good.  

It is kind of interesting that this happened today.  I have had lots of "make do" days lately.  I think it is because nothing seems "normal" anymore.  When you have experienced a loss of a loved one, you know that you have lost your "normal" and everything seems different.  Some of my "make do" days I have spent just more or less sitting on the couch.  I have not wanted to do anything.  Some of the days I have pushed myself to do the things that were already planned for those days.  I have been thankful for those plans that got me out of the house.  I don't remember a time when I have felt so tired.  Even though I am sleeping, I am still tired.  Even with all of this, I have certainly felt the presence and comfort of Jesus.  In fact, there have been many times when I have sensed that these "make do" days are okay.  I just love that Jesus is so gentle with us.  It sure helps me to remember to be gentle with others also.  I have a very different perspective now.  I am very thankful for these "make do" days. 

This morning, long before the cookie making, I was scanning Facebook.  I saw a post from a friend and suddenly I had the strong sense that Jesus was speaking to me about this post.  I was able to pass along this word via "messenger".  When the friend responded with thanks, it really touched me.  It was so good to know that even in these "make do" days, Jesus is still working through me.  

Jesus, thank you for being so present with me.  I don't know how I could do these days, without you.  Holy Spirit, thank you for helping me to walk through the ups and downs of my days.  Thank you for cookies and friends and Facebook!  Jesus, thank you for your great love for all of us.   Amen

Monday, December 8, 2014

My trip to the store today.....

So I followed through on my blog from yesterday.  Here is the Nativity set I got today for $9.00.  The box had been opened and the stable has a bit of a "ding" in the roof.  But I thought it looked just fine.  The figures are actually some kind of breakable material.....not sure what.  But they look very nice.  As an added bonus, something that you don't often see in "inexpensive" sets, the baby Jesus comes out of the manger!  I was very surprised when I saw that.  Now this set doesn't have an angel, a star or a camel, but all things considered, it is a pretty nice set!  I am quite pleased with it.  Sometimes you get the nicest things at the last minute.

I actually picked up this set at the Walmart.  I was there to do my regular grocery shopping and decided to check their Christmas aisle before I went anywhere else.  After adding this set to my cart, I continued on with the remainder of my shopping.  Something interesting that I have discovered in the last couple of months, Monday is not the best day to shop.  At least not at Walmart.  Many of their shelves are very picked over.  Even the cereal aisle looked like a pack of hungry wolves had descended on it.  Thankfully, I was able to complete my list and head to the check out lanes.  I stopped to look in the book section, and then this happened......  There was a young gal with a beautiful little baby boy in a car seat, nestled in a cart right next to my cart.  I couldn't help but stop and admire him.  He was clearly very "newborn".  When the mom noticed me looking at the baby, she smiled at me.  I guess it is the "grandma" thing.  I don't look very threatening and she must have noticed how seeing that baby sort of stopped me in my tracks.  When I could finally breathe, I smiled back and told her what a beautiful baby she had.  And then I walked away as quickly as I could.

Yes, this was one of those unexpected "waves" that just seems to catch me when I least expected it.  I know that when you go to Walmart you can expect to see anything.  And that includes babies.  That cute little baby just brought a flood of sorrow and missing into my heart.  But I was able to take some deep breathes and pull it together.  I went to the check out and completed my shopping trip.   When I got to the car, I realized how surprised I was at the emotion that hit me.  But, I am working on being gentle on myself.... not expecting things to just be okay.  And this was a time that I needed to remember that.

I blasted the Christmas Carols in the car on the way home.  And remembered that I had that new Nativity Set in my trunk.  Yes, changing the focus of my thoughts to Jesus, was certainly helpful. I was able to regain a large measure of peace before I pulled into my driveway.  If I have found out one thing since Lucas died, it is that there is no playbook for grief.  It is a personal and very difficult journey.  It is just a path that each person has to walk on their own.  I have been thinking about Psalm 23 lately...... "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.  Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Yes. this has been a really dark valley.  And I am so thankful that I can rest in the assurance that Jesus is with me.  And I love that he is guiding me along this path that I am on right now.  Just that assurance helps me remember that he is guiding my path....... even during this difficult time.

Jesus, thank you for this season and the time to celebrate your birth.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder to focus on Psalm 23 and the truth that it contains.  Thank you for walking me THROUGH this dark valley and the reminder that I am not staying there.....I am walking through it.  Jesus, thank you for your great love and care that provides all that I need.  Thank you for the provision of this new Nativity set.  Amen

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The powerful memory of a Nativity Set....

I have been feeling very scattered in the last weeks.  It is just another part of the grief process that has filled my life right now.  As you know, I decided to put up our Christmas tree, but it was a long and hard decision.  It was just a couple of days ago that I realized that when I told Ken that all I wanted from the attic was the tree and the ornament boxes, I would NOT have any of my many Nativity sets down from the attic!  I have not been able to get that out of my mind since that realization hit me.  
As a matter of fact (Ken doesn't know this yet....) I have planned to run out to Hobby Lobby tomorrow and purchase another Nativity set!  If you are wondering why we don't just go into the attic and retrieve one of the sets, well.... it is a really big deal to go into our attic!  Right now we have a car stored in the garage.  And that car would need to be moved out in order to access the attic.  It is not easy.  So, I just might have a NEW Nativity set this year!  Yes, that will make five I think!

All of this has reminded me of this Nativity set.  When we first purchased our house, several years before Gwen was born, we started collecting this set.  Our first purchase was Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the manger.  Over the next years we gradually added Shepherds and sheep, cows and donkey, and the wise men and camels.  Eventually Ken built a stable that could collapse and fit along the wall of the garage for storage.  We added an angel in the tree one year.  We also added a very large star.  Ken managed to fix that star onto a long pole which we suspended in our tree, over the manger. It was a very large display for our very small yard.  We didn't have to give our address to the pizza delivery people.  We just told them to find the house with the big nativity set on our street.  It was always a big deal to set this up and get everything to light up properly.  The kids were always a part of this set up.  We tried to find a warmer day in late November to put this up.  There was more than one year that the set got covered with snow and/or frozen to the ground.  When the kids got to be high school aged, and no longer interested in helping with this, we stopped putting it out.  After a couple of years, we donated the set, hoping it would be used once again.  By the time we did this,it was pretty beat up from going in and out of our attic. Just seeing this picture brings a smile to my face.  These are precious and good memories.

We actually had a small plastic set that had been Ken's when he was little.  I carefully preserved this set and made a stable from a box covered with fabric.  It was precious but not something that the kids could touch.  The figures were falling apart.  One of the best purchases I ever made was the year that I bought the rubber nativity sets.  The figures were designed to be used by children.  Each piece was less than twenty five cents each.  I got two full sets that included all the animals.  Gwen and Doug each had their own set and we used a shoe box for the stable.  Both of these sets ended up in their beds more than once.  It was so good to have a set that they could really play with.  I was never able to put these sets away.  They stayed out year around.

Yes, I needed this tonight.  There is some powerful healing in these memories. This memory has brought me peace.  There is something about this remembering exactly what Christmas is all about that calms all that is scattered in me.  I am glad that I didn't miss this.  I do need to get a new nativity set for my house.  It will keep my focus right where it needs to be.  On the amazing birth of Jesus so long ago.  I will be remembering the whole story and in that, I will be able to celebrate this Christmas.

Jesus, thank you for this special touch tonight and the reminder that your story is cause for great celebration.  Holy Spirit, thank you for peace that passes understanding.  Thank you for helping me find joy during this season that seems so filled with sorrow.  Thank you for the fact that I can just run out and get another Nativity set, not something everyone can do.  Jesus, break through the storm of commercialism that bombards us during these weeks.  And thank you for Christmas Carols that touch our hearts.  Amen

Saturday, December 6, 2014

When it just isn't enough......but it is good.

Today our families got together at Doug and Susie's house to complete some very necessary tasks.  We helped Doug and Susie go through cards and write many, many thank you notes.  It was what seemed like a daunting task to Doug and Susie.  But, as the old adage says, "many hands make light work".  With several of us doing the writing and even Lia helped by stuffing the cards into the envelopes, we completed this task rather quickly.  The sign in book from the funeral was nearly full.  There were that many people there.  And then there were the stacks and stacks of cards.  They were so beautiful and so heartfelt.  Most contained hand written notes.  All I could think was how much Doug and Susie are loved and how many people loved Lucas.

After we completed that task, we had one more thing to do.
We made ornaments to honor Lucas.  Susie and Doug had saved and dried the many, many flowers that they had received, both from his birth and from the funeral.  Each of us selected items to create exactly the ornament we wanted.  This picture doesn't capture well the ornament that I made.  I selected some white and blue flowers, as well as some golden colored flowers.  I also used white feathers and some very sparkly blue balls.  And then finished it with two different shades of blue feathers.  When I look at the completed ornament, I see reminders that are so important.  I see the colors......white, blue, gold that remind me of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.   And I think of Lucas and heaven and the hope and promise of seeing Lucas again one day and I was remembering his sweet face. As I was making the ornament, it felt good and comforting and right. Yet, when the task was completed, and I was hanging that ornament on our Christmas tree, it just wasn't enough.  I just miss him so much.  And I am sure that my missing is just a drop in the bucket to Doug and Susie's missing.   It feels good and right to have this on our tree.  It's not that we need to be reminded of Lucas.  He is always with us and in our thoughts.  We will  always have him in our hearts. This ornament just gives us something to touch and hold.  But sadly, nothing can fix the missing.  

Our tree is covered with ornaments filled with memories.  Last year in December, I blogged about a different ornament each day.  When I added this ornament to the tree, it was adding it to the years and years of memories.  Those memory filled ornaments made putting up the tree this year, feel okay.  And putting this ornament for Lucas on the tree, was good.  It may not be enough.  But it is good.

I never really understood Romans 8:28  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him."  This is certainly one of those ALL THINGS times.  And I know that God is at work.  I also know that I love him.  It is the working for the good part that seems hard to understand.  As I was writing that last paragraph, that verse came to mind.   In this awful situation, when nothing seems to help, there are some things that are good.  That ornament is good.  But more than that, I am so thankful that Jesus has reminded me that He is continuing to work for my good.  Right now that doesn't seem possible.  But I can trust that Jesus is working for the best "good" for me.  Even in this terrible, terrible BAD of losing Lucas, I am trusting that Jesus is still at work.  Because He loves me.  Because he loves ALL of us.  That IS enough.  And it is good.

Jesus, thank you for bringing me to a deeper understanding of your work in my life.  Thank you for reminding me that you are enough.  Holy Spirit, help me to hold on to the promises of the Bible.  Give us all comfort and peace when we are empty and missing Lucas so much.  Help us to hold fast to your love as you continue to fill all those empty places.  Amen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Memorable events...........including this post!

Yesterday was a memorable day.  Lia and Ellie were both in a play "Aladdin - Disney Junior".  Lia has already been in two plays and several dance recitals.  But for little Ellie, this was her first experience on the stage.  Really quite amazing for a kindergarten kid!  Lia is quite the natural singer and dancer on the stage.  You can sure tell that she is in her 6th year of dance lessons when you watch her sing and dance on stage.  Her ballet training carries over to her acting.  And considering that she is only 8 and in 3rd grade, it is quite amazing.  Ellie did exactly what she was supposed to do.  She knew all of her parts and did so well with the singing and dancing.  Yes, I was one proud grandma!

Tonight I was invited to a wonderful women's Christmas celebration at a friend's church.  It was good to just be in a room (with around 300 other women) and look at beautiful Christmas decorations, listen to Christmas music and even sing some carols, and hear a message that resonated with my heart.  The message was that it isn't "Home is where the heart is" the most important thing  is "Who is home in your heart?"  And we are always home with Jesus in our heart.  Yes, that is a very good message that needs repeating and thinking about and remembering.

I realized sometime last week that I was approaching 400 posts on this blog.  In fact THIS IS MY 400TH POST!  Yes, that is memorable.  Considering that I wasn't even sure why I was doing this blog.  Or how long I would continue to do this blog.  Or what the purpose really was for this blog.
Yet, here I am, still blogging and still a bit unsure exactly what Jesus has in mind through my ramblings.  I have mentioned in the past, a couple of statistics about this blog (and I can assure you that I am probably the most surprised about these facts).....I have had readers in 47 countries.  What?  Really?  Yes, that is unbelievable.  And then these people come back, over and over, and continue to read what I put out there.  And they go back and read posts from 2013 or last April.  And I don't get it.  And the numbers of people who read what I write after I post is sometimes in the hundreds.  What? Really?  All this just convinces me that the Holy Spirit is the spreader of this blog.   That is the only explanation.  I began this blog to share the things that Jesus was putting on my heart.  I felt that people needed to hear the messages I was receiving.  So I started writing. With honesty.  And shared exactly where I was in each post.  You have read the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You have shared the high, high times and the extreme low times in my life.  There have been positive comments and there have been negative comments.  And in this writing, I have been blessed.  I have felt the presence of Jesus with every tap of the keyboard.  Sometimes I go back and look at a post from the week before, or the month before and I am amazed at the words.  They don't feel like my words and in that, I know that Jesus is speaking through this blog.  

Thank you for being a part of my life, through this blog.  For reading and considering and meditating on the thoughts on these pages.  Yes, I will be continuing to share, as long as there are words and people reading them.  This is a memorable day.

Jesus, thank you for all you have done in my life through this blog.  Thank you for reminding me that honesty is the hallmark of integrity and you ARE truth!  Holy Spirit, bless all those reading these words.  Bring Jesus into hearts that are hurting and empty and lonely so that they can come home!  And help all of us remember to celebrate the amazing gift of Jesus in our hearts!  Amen

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Realizing the importance of the small things...

Today I brought a couple of things to Gwen's house that I had bought last year on the day after Christmas.  Included in that group was a package of 4 foam planes.  I think I paid $,50 for the package.  Needless to say, these planes were a big hit.  Zeke and I played with his plane the entire morning.  They are surprisingly sturdy (made out of a paper covered foam) that included a propeller that actually spins.  This was a great reminder that you don't need all of those expensive toys to have a whole lot of fun.  As a matter of fact, Gwen's kids are really expert at having great fun with boxes, old papers, a few crayons and markers and lots of imagination.

Yesterday I happened to find my Christmas Cards that I had purchased after Christmas last year, intending to use them this year.  Honestly, it seems like a daunting task to consider doing these cards.  So I confess, as of right now, I am not sure if anyone will be getting a Christmas Card from us this year.  Unfortunately, there are many, many of our family and friends that are not on Facebook and do not read this blog.  So it seems wrong to not send cards.  We will just have to see what the next days bring. Possibly this is one small thing that is NOT that important?

For sure, these last weeks have reminded us over and over what is really important.  I can assure you that we have needed each other more than anything else.  I have always appreciated my family.  We really love each other and have a great time when we are together.  I have learned that the most important thing is just being WITH each other.  There is nothing that we can do or say or express that will make Doug and Susie any better.  For that matter there is also nothing that anyone can do or say or express to me that will make ME feel any better.  But when we are together, just siting in a room, not really saying anything, there is comfort.  It may seem like a small thing, but it is so important.

I am so thankful for the presence of Jesus that seems to come forth at exactly the moment that it is most needed.  I don't know how I would have gone on these weeks without that very real comfort and assurance of Jesus with me.  This past weekend someone asked me how I have gotten through these days.  My answer was, "you just do what you have to do".  But the truth is, without Jesus, I don't know how I would have walked through this.  And without each other, all of our family, it would have been so difficult.  I have felt that covering of the many, many who are praying for me and our family. Every text, message, phone call or card has been so important to me.  You might think that these are just small things, but a text saying that you are praying for me....well, that is a BIG and IMPORTANT thing.  I want to be sure that everyone reading this, understands exactly what I mean.  YOUR PRAYERS REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  When you think that all you are doing is praying and that is just a small thing, you are making a huge difference!  And I would pray that you all understand the importance of these small things!

Jesus, thank you for your presence with us and the comfort that you bring.  Holy Spirit thank you for your comfort.  Bless all who have reached out to pray for us and stand with us during this difficult time.  Thank you for the reminder about the importance of little things.  Give us wisdom to know what things are necessary and what things we can let go of during this time.  Amen

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On to Christmas.....

It was really hard to think about preparing for Christmas.  I spent a great deal of time considering if I wanted to put a tree up this year.  We most likely will not have anyone at our house during this season.  We are planning to be at Gwen's for our family's Christmas this year.  And quite honestly, everything just seems sort of pointless this year.  It is hard to "celebrate" when you are grieving such an important loss.

I was thinking, once again, about my mom.
I know I have blogged about my mom and her Aunt Anna.  This picture was actually in my mom's photo album from her childhood.  I think my mom was high school age in this picture of her and Aunt Anna.  The reason that I was thinking about this picture, is that my Aunt Anna died on December 14, 1956.   I was just 2 years old.  My mom always told the story of Aunt Anna getting sick, being in the hospital around Christmas.  She always felt so sad that Aunt Anna had sent her home to be with me, and while she was gone, Aunt Anna died.  The funeral was in St. Paul, Minnesota (which was quite a long drive from Watertown, South Dakota).  My mom and dad left all of us kids at home (Jerry was in high school and I think that Karen was home from college for Christmas break) to go to the funeral.  Remember that this woman was really my mom's mother.  She was the only mother that my mom had known.  When my mom and dad returned from the funeral, they had to "do Christmas".  My mom had not done any shopping at all and she always said how very difficult it was that year.  Aunt Anna had purchased a very special coo-coo clock for my mom and dad that year for their Christmas present.  It was actually made in Germany, near the family's home.  That coo-coo clock was one of my mom's most treasured possessions.  For as many times as I heard my mom re-tell this story, I don't think I ever really appreciated it, until this year.  I really didn't understand how hard it is to be so sad when everyone else is so excited and happy.   In fact, when I was thinking about this, I remembered another day with my mom.  It was a hot summer day in Minnesota.  I was visiting my mom with Gwen and Doug (who were grade school aged).  We got to talking about the "family burial plot" in a large cemetery right in downtown St. Paul.  So we decided to drive there to visit that cemetery.  Needless to say, this was before GPS and internet directions.  My mom knew that it was in the shadow of the Minnesota Capitol.  And she knew that the church was across the street.  Off we went toward the Capitol.  I drove around up and down several streets, and then we saw a sign for the Cemetery.  It is one of those MASSIVE city cemeteries that covers blocks and blocks.  As we drove into the cemetery, I saw a change come over my mom's face.  It was as if suddenly, those funerals had just happened.  I had no idea where to go, so I just started driving.  My mom said, "go over there, by that fence.... no further up that hill..... yes....right there."  I parked the car and my mom got out.  She looked out over the fence at the steeple of the church and walked up the grassy hill.  She stopped and looked down, and yes, there were the markers of all of her family that are buried there.  I later realized just how surprising it was that we drove right up to this spot.  It is a maze of twisting and turning roads that all look very similar.  When I told my mom just how amazing this was, she said, "I will never forget standing by that fence, with the icy winter wind whipping my scarf and coat, during Aunt Anna's funeral.  I was keeping my eyes on that church steeple, and also looking at my mom's grave (she is buried close to Aunt Anna) and thinking about seeing them in heaven one day."  And just 8 months after Aunt Anna's funeral, my mom and dad would be back in that cemetery when my grandfather died.  I saw my mom actually shed tears that day in the cemetery.  Something that really never happened.  She was usually very stoic and rarely cried.  And I was thinking about that today.  

This is me with my sisters and brothers that Christmas in 1956.  Of course there was still Christmas in our house that year.  But I am sure it was different for my mom.  And I am sure it was very difficult for my grandfather (who had lost the sister who had rescued him and helped raise his children).  

So, I put up our Christmas tree yesterday.  And I placed all of those special ornaments on that tree. And I thought about Lucas, who is being lovingly cared for in heaven and missed so much here. My heart hurts and I feel helpless when I see the pain and emptiness in Doug and Susie's eyes.  But, like my mom, I will look up and hold on to hope, and think about seeing them all in heaven one day.  For now, that has to be enough.  

Jesus, thank you for helping me connect the past to the present.  You are my hope and my help during these times of great sadness.  Holy Spirit, help all of us to celebrate the amazing gift of Jesus, during this holiday season.  Comfort Susie and Doug as only you can, Holy Spirit. Help me keep my eyes on you, Jesus.   Amen

Friday, November 28, 2014

going forward....through Thanksgiving

So here it is, the evening of "Black Friday".  And what I am feeling right now is an odd mixture of tired, glad that the holiday is over, with a bit of thankfulness thrown in.  This was a very different and extremely tough holiday for our family.  It was not one of those unexpected "waves" that I've been talking about.  No, it was an EXPECTED hard event that could not be avoided or just forgotten.  As a family, we did what we have been doing..... we put one foot in front of the other and walked through Thanksgiving.  As difficult as it was for me, I really can't imagine what Susie and Doug were experiencing.  For the last few years, Gwen and Tim and the kids have been staying overnight at our house a couple of nights.   Gwen and Tim have run a 5K race early on Thanksgiving morning a couple of years now, so it has worked out that we can watch the kids while they run the race.  Gwen and I have been "Black Friday" shopping together for at least 13 years (we aren't sure exactly when my mom stopped visiting us at Thanksgiving, which is when Gwen started shopping with me).  For Gwen's family this yearly shopping trip is an important money saving event.  The purchases always include birthday gifts for each of the kids for the next year, as well as a supply of "random birthday gifts" for all of those invitations that arrive home from school for friend's birthdays.  There really are many great money saving deals on this day.  So we proceeded with our "normal" plans.  The kids really look forward to having a "sleepover" at Grandma Lyn and Grandpa's house.  And I admit it is a very special time for me also.  In spite of the bitter cold (like single digits!) Gwen and Tim ran the 5K.  And the kids and I stayed in the nice warm house and did this....
Really, is there anything better than Play Do Therapy?  We had a great time.  I even let the kids mix the colors!  Who cares when you have 8 cans of stuff that only cost $2.00?  (Thanks 5 Below).  When Gwen and Tim got home from the race, the planning began for our big shopping trip.
Don't you just love that Anna was giving her mommy and daddy some help reading the ads?  Gwen is calling out the items to put on the list, and Tim is dutifully typing them into the computer.  Yes, we are VERY organized.  We take this shopping event seriously.  I know that there is a LOT of controversy about shopping on Thanksgiving, but for Gwen and I, it is really a Godsend.  It is so much easier to leave the house at 3:30 in the afternoon, hit 5 or 6 stores and be home by 9:30pm.  That way we can easily get up at 5:30am to begin "Black Friday" shopping at the remaining 3 or 4 stores.  Let me tell you that going out at 11:30pm when the stores opened at Midnight was HARD!  And even worse was getting up at 3:30am or 4:00am  when the stores were opening in the middle of the night.  The current set up is just so much better.  Thankfully, Gwen and I made good choices on the order of the stores and we were able to purchase almost all of the items on her list.  We made the choice to stand in a line (outside, in the cold and it was snowing!) at Toys R Us for about an hour before they opened.  But this strategy allowed us to be in the first group of shoppers in the door.  We got EVERYTHING on Gwen's long list, and were checked out and in the car heading to our next stop in 15 minutes.  Yes... 15 minutes!  For the most part, people were friendly, helpful and kind. This morning, at our first stop we actually stayed in the car until the doors were open.  And we STILL got everything on our lists.  The only negative to this stop was the lack of a shopping cart!  It is really amazing how much stuff you can carry if you have to!   We were home by 9:30 this morning with our shopping complete.

To complete our "normal" Thanksgiving, we all went to Doug and Susie's house for our turkey dinner.  Usually Doug and Susie do the bulk of the cooking with Doug smoking the turkey.  This year, Doug still wanted to make the turkey (inside) but we brought the rest of the meal.  I am sure this was still quite difficult for Doug and Susie, but as I said, we are all moving forward.  It was good to sit around their table and share this wonderful meal.  I think we all needed this time together.  It was important to all of us to pray together our family mealtime grace....

"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen"

If there was ever a time that we all needed Jesus to be there with us, it was today as we were so missing precious Lucas.  We also needed to express - out loud - that we have been given so many gifts that are a blessing to us.  Usually we talk about all that we are thankful for during this meal.  But this year it was enough that we were sitting together, in a warm house, eating good food.  I know that Jesus was sitting with us at that table.  I could feel His presence so clearly.  After we finished eating, we all went back to the family room to let our food settle a bit before desert.  Anna had been fussy all day and had not slept well at all.  Gwen discovered the reason.....her first tooth had popped through! Susie picked up Anna and to distract her, gave her a set of keys that were on the table.  Anna just relaxed in Susie's arms and laid back to look up at Doug, who was sitting next to Susie.  Within a few moments, Anna was peacefully sleeping.  Anna rarely will sleep in someone's arms.  She just doesn't do this.  I was sitting next to Susie on the couch and realized that I was holding my breath.  Only Jesus could have arranged this sequence of events.  I can't imagine who difficult this was for Susie and Doug.  But Anna is their niece, and they love her dearly. And in that moment, I felt the peace of the presence of Jesus again so clearly.  This time was a gift.  And we were so blessed.

Jesus, thank you for your presence with us that is so healing.  Thank you for helping us walk on through difficult times. Thank you for guidance and direction in all things, even shopping.  Holy Spirit, help us all to welcome Jesus into every part of our daily life.  Thank you for pouring out your blessings on us.  Please continue to comfort Susie and Doug, and help us all to know your presence
with us. Thank you for your great love.  Amen

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When songs say it all......

So this song Blessed Be the Name of the Lord brought me to tears this morning.  This grief thing is taking me by surprise at so many turns.  All of a sudden I will just be hit with one of those waves of sadness that just seems overwhelming.  And then this song Who I Am was the next song up and there it was again.  This morning, it was these songs that just brought to the surface all the feelings that are swimming around in my spirit.

I was on my way to Gwen's house to watch her kids while she worked.   And I was so thankful to be able to hug Anna and Zeke this morning.

I had plenty of time to reflect on the way these songs had touched me this morning while Anna took a break for a snack.. Both of those songs are worth listening to, maybe even more than one time.  The messages that they contain are so important....not just for me...but for every one of us.  Blessed Be the Name of the Lord ends with these lyrics...
Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
You give and take away
You give and take away

My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name

Yes, my heart has been making a choice to say, "Lord Blessed be your name."  It has not been easy, but there has been grace to do that.  And then as I listened to Who Am I, these lyrics touched me..
 Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

So I am just going to leave this blog tonight, with these two songs.  I am praying that as you listen to them (just click on the song titles above) you will be blessed.  It is hard to continue to be honest on this blog when honest is being undone by a couple of songs.  But I am thankful for music and lyrics that express the feelings that are in my spirit that I can't find the words to say.   And I am thankful for hugs and kisses from family members.  And I am thankful for knowing who I am.... I belong to Jesus.

Thank you Jesus for music that exposes and expresses my true feelings.  Thank you for the reminder of your great love and care for me.   Holy Spirit, reach and touch all who stop and listen to these songs and read this blog.  Jesus, thank you for hearing me when I call out to you.,  Amen