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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Enough for tonight.....

I don't know why, but this has been a bit of a tough day.  Nothing specific....just sort of a blah day.  It doesn't help that it has been grey and rainy all day. I went to my worship meeting tonight, and even that was sort of hard for me.  I drove home in foggy, down pouring rain.  When I turned on my computer to check my email, facebook and do this blog, I saw this post....

Good night KISS from Heaven:
I hear Him whisper... "I am enough."
"I am enough for you. When you face difficulties and limitations I will whisper into your heart, 'I am enough.' I will not shield you from every hardship, but I am enough as you walk through them with your eyes set on Me. I am enough. I will be your wrap-around-Shield in the midst of your...
"When you are lonely and seek companionship, I am enough. When your heart is troubled over many things, you must bring your soul before Me, for I am enough. When the lies of men have spoken and brought disturbance into your mind, I will wash them away, for My Word is enough.

"Your thoughts cannot contain the love I have for you. And you will never be able to comprehend with your mind the plans that I have for you. Yet I am enough and all you need to know, is I will be there for you."
"My Spirit longs to satisfy every part of you, your mind, your soul, your desires, your longings. I am enough when there is no one else near you. When darkness comes I am enough to see you through the night. Many have found in the deepest pain, that I am enough. Come and learn the secrets of satisfying grace.
"I am about to bring you into a place you have never been to before. A place of contentment and peace that the world cannot impart. You will see how I have prepared you all your life for this day of destiny. The coming season will be extraordinary and filled with delight. Answers to your prayers that were prayed long ago will be soon in coming. What looked like delay after delay will make sense to you as the clouds part and the light of glory shines through. You must know, My child, that I am enough. I am greater than your dreams, greater than your plans, and greater than your thoughts could ever be. Come and learn the secret that all My lovers learn, that I am enough for you."
John 14:5-7 The Passion Translation
⁵Thomas said to him, “Master, we don’t know where you’re going, so how could we know the way there?” ⁶Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too. ⁷And from now on you will realize that you have seen him and experienced him.”

For tonight, this is enough.  I don't need anything else.  I am just grateful that it showed up on my wall.  I knew that there will be days like this.  But I just didn't expect it to hit me so hard.  And I am choosing to be honest about this day.  I loved this sentence..' I will not shield you from every hardship, but I am enough as you walk through them with your eyes set on Me. I am enough. I will be your wrap-around-Shield.  Today I felt like I needed that wrap-around Shield.  And I am so grateful that Jesus was there to be that for me.

Jesus, thank you.  Thank you for who you are, for the peace that you bring, for being that wrap around shield.  Thank you for the Passion Translation that has enriched my life and brought me comfort and peace.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your encouragement to reach out to others.  Bless all those who continue to surround our family with prayer.   Amen

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Time together....the most important thing

Yes, I am a "Black Friday" shopper.  Gwen and I have been power shopping for good deals for the last 10 years or so.  This year there have been so many "PRE-Black Friday" sales and I have been checking them out.  Given where our family has been in the last weeks, I haven't been looking very hard.  But yesterday something caught my eye.  I have been considering a tablet - something small enough that I could bring it with me for note taking (I'm getting a bit tired of trying to type on my Iphone).  And there, in the ad, was a tablet that seemed almost to good to be true.  So early this morning, I bought a tablet.   And before noon, Ken went out and bought a second one for himself.  I am proud to say that I managed to get the entire tablet set up by myself.  Now this is quite a feat for me.  And I am very pleased with this detachable keyboard.  I can use the tablet alone or with the keyboard.  So my Black Friday shopping began a bit earlier than usual.

The loss of Lucas has really been sort of a wake up call for me as far as "What is really important?".  I have been looking at the upcoming holidays from a very different perspective.  We have always had Jesus' birth as the central part of our celebrations.  But it suddenly seems much more important to find gifts for our family that are "event" type activities.  Things that we can do together.  If I have felt one thing over the last week, it is the importance of just being there for one another.  Being together and doing fun things together seems like exactly what we need right now.  I have the feeling that my Black Friday shopping will be a bit lighter than usual!

I have been thinking about our holiday traditions.   I loved celebrating Advent with my kids.  We always had Advent calendars and often other activities for every day during Advent.  For many years, I facilitated Advent Events for the families of our church.  Some of my favorite memories of these events center around my mom and her enjoyment and pure pleasure being able to attend with us.  She always visited us for Thanksgiving so her stays overlapped with the beginning of Advent.  As I was thinking about this today I realized that it wasn't the event that she loved so much, it was being able to be WITH us - the experience - with our family.  She loved all of the preparations that I had to do.  The cutting and planning and tracing and sorting.  Again, because she was doing this all with me.  I don't know how I have missed seeing this, but suddenly it seems very clear.   The most important thing is being together.  It doesn't matter what you are doing..... it is just having those you love close by.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom with Gwen and Doug.  We all loved when my mom came to visit.  It was one of the highlights of our year.  Of course, mom and I also did our share of Black Friday shopping.  There was one year we nearly froze in a bitter wind, waiting outside of a Sears store for a big buy one get one free sale.  And there was also the year that we went to Zayre's at midnight for a special big sale (those sleeping bags my mom got for Doug and Gwen were used for many, many years).  So I guess that I can now appreciate my Black Friday shopping with Gwen since we are loving it together!

Let's face it.  Relationships are what really matters.   Really being with people matters more than anything else.   And the same is especially true about Jesus.  Having a bunch of head knowledge about Jesus, knowing facts from the Bible, understanding who Jesus is, are all important things.  But without really KNOWING Jesus, you are missing out.  Yesterday I talked about prayer and how important it is.  Actually, prayer should be like talking to a good friend on the phone.  Spending time talking and listening to Jesus is really important.   Just spending time together, that is the most important thing.   Being together and feeling the love. And the good news is that Jesus is always available to be with us and He will always surround you with his love.  There is nothing better.

I realize that the beginning of this blog doesn't seem to connect with the rest!  What I mean is that I started off talking about a THING that I bought - while shopping! And I know that this seems contrary to the ending of this blog.  But it is not about the shopping, it is about the AMOUNT of shopping and the REASON for shopping that matters.   I don't think this year will be about more stuff at great prices. I will be thinking about how thankful I am to be spending time with Gwen.  I will be giving more hugs to every family member.  I will be grateful for warmth and comfort in our home.  There will be joy in just being together.  And I will be thankful for new, advanced technology that allows me to journal and blog on my new tablet.   Most of all, I am thankful for a God that wants a personal relationship with each one of us.  There is simply no better gift.

Jesus, thank you for helping me to understand what is really important.  Thank you for memories of shared times with my mom.  Holy Spirit, help us all to cherish times with family and friends.  Keep our eyes focused on what is really important.  Holy Spirit thank you for reminding me that relationships are what counts.   Amen

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful for prayers....and eagles

Today as I was driving around doing some errands, I saw an Eagle flying right over the ditch next to the road.  This was one of those times I would love to have had a camera at the ready to capture the sight.  At first I thought it was just a hawk, but as it flew upwards towards the pole that it landed on, I could see it more clearly.  It was certainly a bald eagle.  I have seen eagles around here, especially near the rivers.  And there have been some nesting pairs seen in the area.  But today, I felt like that eagle appeared for me.

I love the reminder that is on this picture above.....  when we love Jesus, our hearts are healed.  But what came to my mind was Isaiah 40:31......

"But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Yes, there it is again.  HOPE!  And not just any hope, but HOPE in the Lord.  Over the last week I have loved all the reminders about hope.  Today as I watched that eagle and the effortless way it just flew to that pole, I realized that is what true strength is.  Effortless soaring.  And tireless running, And endless walking.   It's times like these that I am more and more amazed by the Bible. Each day it seems that whatever section of the Bible I read, it applies to my life right now.  I blogged about being weak and needing the strength of Jesus.  I have been blogging about hope and then today, the eagle appears right in my line of sight.

At my small group, my friends prayed that I would feel the love of Jesus.  I have to admit that this week I have felt so loved by Jesus.  In the midst of loss and grief and sorrow and feeling so scattered, I have felt loved by Jesus.  It is really beyond explanation.  And it is so good. It is certainly an answer to prayer.

Sometimes we kind of take prayer for granted.  We say "I'll pray about that".  Or "please pray for me".  But I am not sure that we really DO pray or that we really expect anything to happen.  This week has been a time when I have really FELT the prayers of so many.  I know that our family has been covered and carried on the prayers of so many.   We are moving ahead. Things are getting accomplished.  Life is going on.  And even though it is hard, we are feeling your prayers.  And we are thankful.

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that my hope in you gives me strength.  Thank you for eagles and verses that speak right into us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for prompting us to pray....for ourselves and for others.   Jesus, thank you for your great love.   Amen

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The question that I can't answer....

I have discovered that I don't really know how to the answer the question "How are you?"  I don't really know how I am.  I guess I am okay.  I think I may be fine.  Okay, I am not really that okay or fine.  Right now I just am.  And that is about all I can tell you.  

Here is my story from today, that will give you a bit of an insight into my state of mind.  This morning I turned on the TV but then didn't really watch it.  I set about the various tasks that I needed to accomplish this morning.   I started some laundry, loaded and ran the dishwasher, made my grocery list and checked the ads to "price match", took some items to the recycle bin that was already at the curb for today's pickup, straightened up the living room, checked my bank balance and recorded some online payments.  It was at this point that I got ready to leave the house.  So I went to shut off the TV (which had been on all morning).  I could not find the remote ANYWHERE.  I tore apart the living room looking for it.  I looked under and in every piece of furniture.  I moved everything.  I knew that I had just had that remote to turn the TV ON!  It had to be somewhere.  Well, I spent the next 40 minutes looking for the remote.  I even shut off the dishwasher and looked inside to make sure that I didn't put it in there.  I checked the garbage can (thankfully it was basically empty since today is trash day). And then I remembered that I had taken some grocery ads to the recycle bin at the curb.  I ran outside and yes, there was the remote mixed in with the papers.  That is how absent minded and distracted I feel right now.  Ken said the worst part of losing the remote would have been having to reprogram the new one!  I agree.

Yes, grief and loss is a very odd thing to deal with.  There are times that I say I am okay, but then I realized just how scattered I really am.  It is hard to concentrate on much of anything right now.  Today I picked up one of my "old favorite" devotional books... "Psalms Now".  And I turned to Psalm 56.  I love the way it reads in this version....

"Even as I groan in complaint, O Lord, I know that this is your course for me. Truly O God I have nothing to lose, for it is in losing that I truly find that which is of everlasting value.

You are aware of my frustrations, my feelings of emptiness, and loneliness, You have promised to replenish my vessel, to make me a channel of your everlasting springs.  I am in debt, O Lord, to suffering humanity around me. 

I must be emptied again and again only to be filled from your boundless resources and then to pour out once more your blessings upon those who need.

You have delivered me from the wasteland of need.  Therefore I dedicate myself anew to the task of channeling your gifts to the parched lives of others."

I especially like the bolded part.  Jesus knows my frustrations, my emptiness and my loneliness.  I needed to remember that this morning.   When I can't express how I am doing, I am so glad that I don't have to explain how I am to Jesus.  He just knows.  And the amazing part of this Psalm reading is that reminder that Jesus is filling me up.  Not just so I don't feel empty anymore, but so His presence and power can flow out of me to those around me.

That really puts a different spin on everything doesn't it?  I don't have to know how I am right now.  I don't have to explain.  What I do know is that Jesus is filling me up with his presence and his power and his love, so that I can let that flow out of me to those around me.  And we all need to have more of Jesus right now.  So if you have asked me "how are you?" and I have given you a puzzled look, I hope you understand a bit better.  My new answer to that question is going to be  "I am getting filled up with Jesus!"

Jesus, thank you for understanding exactly where I am right now.  Thank you for your great love and care.  Holy Spirit, thank you for filling me up each and every day.   Help us to be patient with ourselves as we walk through this time of grief and help others to understand.  Amen

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hope for today.....

This morning a dear friend gifted this statue to me.  She said that it reminded her of my blog about Lucas.  And I confess, it is so special. I love that hope is seen rising from the hand of a child.  As a matter of fact, it almost looks like the hope will actually pick him up and send him soaring.  I love this image.  It does remind me of Lucas.  And it reminds me that there is enough hope to help me rise above everything right now.

You know, I really needed this visual image of "hope" today.  I can talk about hope.  I can believe in hope.  But it is really hard to hang on to hope.  I love this image!  Because I need hope that is big enough to carry me right now.  I am so glad that this friend stepped out and took a chance on a special gift for me.  This will be a cherished reminder on my mantel for a long time.

Later in the day, I had an interesting phone call that was the culmination of a few weeks of internet searches.  I have blogged before about these people.... My four times great grandparents.
As a matter of fact, when I blogged about them, I found the book with the information that started my recent search.  You can read their story in my blog post from September 22, 2014.  I actually began looking for the cemetery where Lars Rockne may be buried.  Since he died in 1852 it was not an easy find.  I ended up at the McHenry County Historical Society.  They have volunteer researchers who dig through their records to try to find the information that you need.  I gave him all of the information that I had (all contained in the family record book of the Rockne family) and really hoped that we would find something.  There is a very old "Scandinavian Cemetery" that dates to around that era, but there was no record of Lars Rockne.  My conversation today, sadly confirmed my fears that there is no record of Lars in the township or county records.  Considering that there were only several hundred people in the area, and the records were not very well maintained, this is no surprise.  The Norwegian Lutheran Church where Lars was buried was gone in the early 1900's.  The cemetery that was near the church was "moved" to the Scandinavian Cemetery.  However, it is extremely possible that Lars grave was never marked or recorded.   And he died of Cholera during an epidemic.  So he may have been buried away from the actual cemetery.  I will be receiving some pictures and documents from the Historical Society that will show me the location of the old church. I will be visiting that location at some time in the future.  

This couple journeyed across an ocean, and half way across a continent in the HOPE of a new and better life for themselves and their children.  And even though he only lived 2 years in America and she only lived 7 years, their descendants fill a very large family tree.  They trusted that Jesus would take care of them and lead them.  They experienced much loss and hardship.  But they held on to hope.  I love that this reminder came today.  

Jesus, thank you for good friends that find the exact right way to touch our heart.  Your hope, Jesus, is what sustains us during this time of sadness and grief.  Thank you for hope that rises over us and lifts us out of heaviness and darkness.   Thank you for volunteers who help us make sense out of our history.  What an important reminder that our past generations moved forward with hope.  Holy Spirit, thank you for helping me hold on to hope.  Amen

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Certainly at my weakest......

Yes, this showed up in my email.  I can tell you that there is no question, I AM AT MY WEAKEST.  As a matter of fact, I can't think of any time when I have felt more empty and lost.  I know that I blogged about the hope that I have in Jesus.  And that hasn't changed.  But here's the thing.  Honestly, where I am right now is so hard to explain.  One minute I think that things are okay.  And then the next minute I feel as if the bottom has dropped out of my life.   I have never known more clearly that I can not "do" my life right now on my own.  If it were not for Jesus and HIS strength, I know that I would be simply flattened.  

The thing about grief is that it comes in waves.  You just never know when you will be hit by a big one.  I love the ocean.  As a matter of fact, the ocean is really my special place.  So thinking about these feelings being waves, is a bit hard.  
But the truth is, that it does feel like waves washing over you.  There are times that you can feel the sand start to shift under your feet and you know that there is a wave coming.  You can prepare a bit for that grief to hit you.  But just as likely to happen are the waves that take you by surprise.  You might have your back turned slightly.  Or you are looking at the sky.  And suddenly you over bowled over by the power and strength of that wave.  Sometimes it is like that when a wave of overwhelming sadness and sorrow just strike.  I am so glad that Jesus is collecting my tears in a bottle.  And I am equally as glad that the bottle does not have a finite size.  Anytime I get hit by one of those waves, I remind myself that Susie and Doug are facing much bigger waves.  And that allows me to stop and ask Jesus to be with them. To surround them with his love and peace and strength.  

Yes, this is an impossible situation.  There is nothing that anyone can say or do to make the situation any different or better.  It just IS.  The good news is that when those waves come, it is good to have a lot of friends and family standing around you who will help you withstand those waves.  I am so thankful for friends who have been calling and listening to me share and cry.  And I am so grateful for their prayers.  I am so thankful for our family that drew up close together.  It was encircled in those loving arms that we each had the ability to walk through these days.  Lucas will be with us always.  And so we will remember and honor him.  And we will grieve and cry.  But we will also celebrate his place in our family.  There is no correct way to walk this road.  There are ups and downs and twists and turns. There are lots of waves and lots of tears.  But we are walking forward with hope not in our own strength, but in the strength of Jesus.  

So today I am thankful that when I am weak, He is strong.  And that is enough for today.  

Jesus, thank you for being gentle and kind to us as we are navigating this unfamiliar road.  Thank you for all who are pressing in to our family to be that support when those waves hit.  Help us all to be kind to each other and understanding when others don't know what to say or do.   Give us more of your strength since we are all at our weakest.  Thank you for reminding me today that your strength is enough.  Amen

Sunday, November 16, 2014

From joy to sorrow to hope.....

Lucas Jacob Rowley   
November 1, 2014 - November 11, 2014

This morning I re-read my last blog post.  Looking at it this morning, I couldn't believe how Jesus was preparing me for the week ahead.  Little Lucas went to heaven on November 11, 2014.  Our family had been basking in joy and wonder of this new little sweetheart, and our hearts were broken by his unexplained passing.  There are no words to say.  There is no way to understand or believe that this happened.  He was perfect..... he IS perfect.  Perfect in the arms of Jesus.  

I had blogged about time and eternity.  Lucas' destiny WAS eternity.  The wonderful peaceful presence of Jesus.  Yes, as I had blogged, Lucas means light.  And now he is sharing his light with the light of Jesus.  But we are empty and wondering how we had so little time with him.  As a mom, my heart breaks for my son and daughter-in-law.  I would rather have this pain myself than to see my children experience it.   Our family was stunned by the outpouring of love and support that has been shown to us.  There were more people at the funeral than we ever imagined.  So many people came to stand with us as we walked through this awful time.  In ten short days, this little boy impacted hundreds of people.  And even as you read this blog, you will also be touched by his life.  

Let me tell you a bit about the funeral service.   Pastor Damian McCrink is an amazing man.  He took this horrible situation and spoke hope into us all.  Pastor Damian married Doug and Susie three years ago and had really gotten to know them.  His presence at the hospital and through out this experience certainly brought me comfort and peace.  Susie had chosen Psalm 56:8 for the service...

"You have seen me tossing and turning through the night.  You have collected all my tears and preserved them in a bottle!  You have recorded every one in your book."  

Pastor Damian reminded us all that Jesus is with us in our sorrow.  As he said, "Jesus will need a really big bottle after this event".  And he also reminded us that Jesus has not only collected and saved the tears, he has recorded every one in His book. God is not the author of this terrible event.  Death entered the world through the fall in the garden of Eden.   And he reminded us over and over again that, those that believe in Jesus, will see Lucas again.  We will be with him one day.  And in that, there is hope.   Lucas had a life filled with love and hugs and joy, held in the arms of family and friends.  He was secure in the warm embrace of his mommy and daddy.  He was wanted and loved.  
Many people reminded me that when Lucas arrived in heaven, my mom - Great Grandma Nona - was there to welcome him.  And he is now resting in her arms.  She loved those little babies so much!  Yes, there were many, many in our "great cloud of witnesses" there to greet Lucas.  Most of all, Jesus took him on his lap and blessed him.  Yes, there is great hope in that.

The earthly body of Lucas was laid to rest in a small, country cemetery.  It is on a quiet winding road not far from Doug and Susie's house.  There are tall old trees and lovely open views of the sky.  It is peaceful and beautiful.  It will be a place to pause and remember and honor Lucas.  

On the day after Lucas died, I told Ken that this was a good time to stop blogging.  It seemed....well just too much to consider having to tell this story.  And then an amazing thing happened.  In the last week my blog has had more hits than I have ever seen. Not just from people who may have heard of the passing of Lucas.  But from all over the world.  There were people in China and Turkey, and Ukraine, France, Malaysia and many others.  In fact over 3,000 times people read my blogs.  I am just speechless. There is no reason why all of a sudden, this happened.  Usually when I miss a day or two of blogging, the number of people reading it drops to the single digits. The only explanation is that the Holy Spirit is at work in this. There is a plan for this blog. So I will continue to write. 

For those of us who loved Lucas so much, he will always be in our hearts and in our thoughts.  I am convinced that every life is precious to Jesus.  The length of the life doesn't matter.  Ten days is just not enough.  Not enough for this grandma.   So, as I look at the picture above of that perfect baby, I go from joy to sorrow and then hope.  And I am so grateful that all of those emotions are okay with Jesus.  He gets it - he understands.  And for today, that is enough.  

Jesus thank you for being there, for making your presence so real in the last few days.  Please be with Doug and Susie and give them peace that passes understanding.   Help us all to spend more time in the hope that you give to us and less in the sorrow that seems so dark and looming.  Soften hearts to your wonderful message of love and peace and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  And Jesus, please give Lucas a hug and a kiss from Grandma Lyn.  Amen

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A few odds and ends from today.....

First of all, here is a sweet picture of our little Lucas!  Isn't he just the cutest!  I know that I am the grandma and that skews my judgement, but he is really a cute little pumpkin!  I picked out this little outfit right after Lucas was born.  I just loved the little penguin and the bib that went with this says "My family loves me"!  Yep, we sure do!  Again, thanks for all the prayers for him.  When you have any kind of issues in your own family, you really appreciate all of the people who stand with you and cover you in prayer.  

As I said in my last blog, we finally decided that Ken would create the numbers and letter that we needed since we couldn't find them anywhere.  So yesterday Ken cut them out and today he finished them up.  This was more than a couple of hours of work!  Each of these had to be sanded before they were ready to be installed. Of course this also required more than one trip to the hardware store.  Does anyone ever finish a project without multiple trips to the store?  That never happens in our house.

So here is our finished - finally - house!  With all of the trim installed and the address clearly shown.  I feel like we can finally breathe out that this project is done.  Now we have to move on to all of the interior work that needs doing!  Sigh..... all in good time.

Time.... that brings me to tonight.  And another little bit that is swirling around in my head after an incredible worship time at a meeting tonight.  Here are the words I wrote down from the worship...

Your destiny is eternity.  Don't be afraid to step into eternity.
It's a new thing...your can't avoid or escape it, its all around you. 
Move with the lamb into the realm of eternity.
You were created for the realm of eternity...step into eternity

Finally home.  You are my eternity.
Looking into your eyes Jesus...  eternity is in your eyes.
Looking into your eyes.  You and me, me and you.
Could it really be this close?  Inside of me?  
Eternity. We can touch eternity.  

Wow.  That puts time into another place.  Doesn't it make you just stop and think?  I have to admit that I got stuck on that first line.  Here I've been in a big struggle, trying to figure out what my destiny is, when all along it is so simple.  My destiny is ETERNITY!  It is all about my relationship with Jesus.  Being with Him and seeing from his perspective.  Just moving into the realm of eternity. And then stopping and thinking about the fact that we have been CREATED for the realm of eternity.  Doesn't that make good sense.  If we are made in the image of God, then we HAVE to be created for eternity.  He IS ETERNITY!

Yes, I will be thinking about this and spending time looking into the eyes of Jesus. So that is the few odds and ends that have been on my heart and mind today.  I am so thankful today!  Thankful for a big house project complete!  Thankful for a sweet baby joining our family!  And thankful for the revelation that our destiny is eternity.  Yep, quite a good day!

Jesus, thank you for working so many things out for me today.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder that you bring eternity into me!  What an amazing gift!  Thank you for showing me how to let go of deadlines, calendars and schedules so that I can focus on eternity.  Help us all to grow in understanding of our true destiny.   Amen

Friday, November 7, 2014

Putting some finishing touches on our house..... and today's revelation!

I've blogged many times about scrapbooking.  Yes, it is my passion.  I love this hobby.  This amazing device above is my trusty Cricut machine.  It is a die cutting wonder that I don't think I could get by without!  Tonight I actually used it for a very different purpose.  I cut numbers and a letter for our house numbers.

Now I know that sounds just silly.  But here's the thing.  We have been looking and looking for house numbers and we just can not find them.  EVEN ON LINE!  You see, in our county, the address also includes LETTERS with numbers.  And there are no stores around here that carry letters.  Isn't that just nuts?  I mean, wouldn't you think that someone would figure this out and corner the market on house numbers with letters that match?  So Ken decided that he would cut out the numbers and letters himself from a piece of black plastic.  So I cut out the perfect templates for him.... on my Cricut machine!  Picture will follow, after the job is actually completed.  We are still waiting for the trim pieces to be installed above the door (which is where the numbering will go), so it will be a while!

I was thinking about this "unusual" use of my machine.  And that led me to think about the many times that I have used objects in ways that they might not have been designed.  I don't think I am the only cook that has used large wooden spoons as "turkey lifters".  And I've been known to use paper clips to hold up a hem that has come down.  Or even taken a stapler to that same hem.  Here is an amazing thing in the Kingdom of God.  Each one of us can be one of those used in "unusual" ways!

Most people are pretty aware of the various ways that Jesus has gifted his people.  Some are pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, apostles.  And some have wisdom, faith, or discernment. Some have a knack for hospitality, serving, or giving or leading.   No matter what your "primary" place of service may be in the body of Christ, Jesus can use ALL of us in ANY of these ways.  I know that this has been something that I have to always think about.  We tend to think that only some people can tell others about Jesus.  You know, those "evangelist" types, or the pastors.  I honestly once thought that only pastors could really pray for people.  It is amazing and wonderful when we learn that Jesus doesn't care at all about titles or labels.   He will use anyone who is available to accomplish His plans and purposes.  Isn't it funny how we want to limit the ability of the Holy Spirit to use us?  We get so stuck in our own little boxes that we miss what Jesus is doing.  I am not downplaying the very real "call" that we may have to one specific area or type of ministry.  This is very real.  But I have learned that most people are used in many different ways at different times and in different places.

I think I have shared this tonight because I needed to be reminded. We all have times when we feel that little nudge of the Holy Spirit to talk to a stranger, to reach out to a neighbor, or to call someone we haven't spoken to in a long time.  Or maybe we are prompted to send a donation to a cause that has shown up on our facebook feed.  Or we have seen on TV or on the news.  Or when a friend is sick or in some crisis we just KNOW that we should pray, but we are afraid to step out and just do it!  And then we convince ourselves that it is not "our calling"or "our gifting", so we miss the opportunity.
Imagine for a minute, how many more people would hear about Jesus if we all knew we might be the one to tell them.  Or how many more people may get healed if we all saw ourselves as people who CAN pray and let Jesus do that healing.  This list could go on and on.

So I will be more available in the days ahead, as I remember this lesson about "unusual" ways we might be used by Jesus!

Jesus, thank you so much for this reminder today.  Forgive me for all the times I discounted MYSELF and did not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.   Thank you for all those who DO follow your prompt and walk "outside of the box", doing your work in unusual ways.  Help us all to grow in confidence that when you call us to a task, you will empower us to complete it!  Amen

PS.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS FOR LUCAS!  His jaundice is resolving and his weight is going up!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Staying in the LIGHT of the SON!

This is sweet Lucas, who looks like he is waving hello!  He is also "catching some rays" - that is laying on a "Bili Blanket"!  This is an amazing newer invention (which has been around for at least 8 years since Lia had one of these) that allows you to be at home with your baby that needs photo therapy for an elevated Bilirubin level that causes jaundice in newborns.
And here is Doug (daddy of Lucas) also catching some an incubator in the NICU.  Yes, this was 32 years ago and things were a bit different then.  When I took the picture of Lucas this morning, Doug and I were just laughing at his pose.  We have a "professional" picture of Doug in that exact pose!  It was his official hospital picture (which they do not even do any more).  And it was taken on the day that he finally went home from the hospital.  So he was NOT newborn, but several weeks old.  And we always laughed at that picture, wondering why the photographer left his arm like that.  Well, just try and get little Lucas to put his arm down!  As quickly as we moved it down, he put it right back up like that. Isn't it interesting how many different little things we actually inherit from our parents?  Apparently this is a very comfortable position!

Yes, Lucas has jaundice.  All of my children and grandchildren have had this.  It is not that uncommon.  But it is still no fun, when you are the mommy and daddy (or grandma).  You worry about your little one.  And the bad news is that this jaundice makes these babies sleepy and the lights just add to that.  So they don't want to eat very well.  So life with these newborns can be very challenging.  Doug and Susie are doing well with this.  As did Gwen and Tim.  It is so amazing to see your children really "all grown up" as parents themselves.

I stopped over to visit Lucas (and Doug and Susie) this morning after my Women's small group.  I had asked my friends to pray for Lucas (and his mommy and daddy) for this jaundice issue.  It was so good to get a report later today, that his level had actually dropped slightly, and most importantly had not gone UP!  As they were praying I kept thinking about his name - Lucas.   Lucas means illumination or light!  Yes, he is a child of THE light! I love that today, as he is getting some extra light from that blanket, he was also getting covered by the light of Jesus through those prayers.  Jesus is THE light and I know that Jesus will take care of that Jaundice.   Just as Jesus is taking care of Lucas.  There is nothing better to a Grandma than knowing that Jesus is in charge!

Once again, I just need to add that there is really something amazing about gathering together with a small group of people to just worship and pray.  In just a short time, my little group has seen some amazing answers to prayers.  There have been jobs found, healings, other "suddenlys" that have surprised us all.  We have been able to encourage and support one another through some very difficult situations.  There have been weddings, births, sickness and even deaths, but in it all, Jesus has been there. I can't think of anything that is more important to me than this group of people.

So my encouragement to you today, is to find your group if you do not have one now!  It is so worth the time commitment to join this kind of a group.   I will be praying for each person reading this blog to find a place (or start a group yourself!),   You will be blessed!

Jesus, thank you for reminding me that you are taking care of Lucas.   Thank you for my friends who stand with me in difficult situations and celebrate with me in joyful times.   Holy Spirit, help us all to draw closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we can be built up and support each other.   Thank you for my children and grandchildren.   Jesus, you are the Light of the World!  Thank you for your light!   Amen

Monday, November 3, 2014

Assurance that my weekend was important!

 I was so surprised when I saw this come on my email today!  It just made me chuckle!

This is what I have been doing for the last couple of days!  I have been dog sitting for Doug and Susie, who are occupied at the hospital with their brand new baby!  So yes, I have been noticing the joy that Sammy and Kylie have on a walk, outside playing with a ball, or just running around the yard.  Given that we have a wonderful new baby (who looks very much like his daddy!), and then these two sweet doggies, there has been lots of joy!

Yesterday when I was visiting with new baby Lucas, I took his blanket and hat home with me.  I presented these "gifts" to Sammy and Kylie so they could get acquainted with the new baby "smell".  Kylie took the hat and would not let it go.  Sammy was quite happy to claim the blanket, which he added to his bed.  Later in the evening the dogs switched places (which they often do) and Sammy moved the hat onto his favorite blue blanket that he had rolled into a bed.  When I woke up this morning both dogs had their baby objects with them.  Doug and Susie are bringing little Lucas home tonight, and I am praying that Sammy and Kylie have been calm and welcoming on their arrival!

All day today this email from the morning just kept coming to mind.  It is sure worth a chuckle or two.  I felt as if Jesus was speaking right into my exact situation through this!  I just love it when this happens.  How can you not know the wonder of Jesus' care and concern when something like this comes up that exactly meets the situation that you are in!   I was so happy to be able to watch Sammy and Kylie for Doug and Susie. So it was my pleasure and joy to be able to relieve their worry about the dogs during this happy time.  Yes, it was a busy, happy weekend.  But right now, I am so thankful to be home, in my own bed.  And I am thankful for the safe, healthy delivery of baby Lucas.  While I was snuggling little Lucas this afternoon, Doug and Susie and I were talking about the upcoming holidays.  It was so much fun to anticipate Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with 5 kids!  Last year we only had 3 kids (Anna was born in January)!  Yes, there will be much fun and lots of noise this year!  Lets face it, 6 adults, 5 kids and 3 dogs is quite a bunch! But we are a big happy bunch!  And just as suggested in the email above, we will be "letting our wild spirit run free and not be stuck in a rut!"   

Jesus, thank you so much for the reminder of what is really important.  Thank you so much for children and animals that show us the pure joy and wonder you want for us.  Thank you for your creation that stops us in our tracks! 
Thank you for this amazing sunset from Doug and Susie's backyard.  I would have missed seeing this if I had not been outside with Sammy and Kylie!  What an amazing gift!   Help us all stop to see the amazing things that are right under our noses!    Amen

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adding to the family circle......

This picture is Ken with Gwen and Doug, just after Doug came home from the hospital.  I couldn't help but think of this picture today, after I took this photo!  
This is Ken with Doug and his new son, Lucas Jacob Rowley!  He was born on November 1, 2014, 7lbs 6oz and 19.5".   Susie and Lucas are both happy and healthy!

What a wonderful day this has been!  I was pretty sure that Doug and Susie were having a boy, but they had not found out the gender of the baby before he was born.  I have to say it is a bit funny to think of "Lucas Rowley" since that was our boys name when I was pregnant with Gwen!  A few weeks before Doug was born, Ken suddenly announced that he did not like the name Lucas!  So there was a mad rush to come up with a boys name that he would agree to.  Needless to say, we ended up with Douglas and I have always been happy with that name.  But hearing Lucas Rowley, just brought back that memory.  It is really interesting to see Doug as a dad.  I just can't wait to get to know Lucas.

Just yesterday I saw a post about the increasing awareness of our destiny.     I loved this post!  I believe that in the days ahead I will be seeing a bit more of the destiny for this new little one!

Awaken to Destiny!
by Veronica Kilrain
You’ve heard the voice of the Lord calling you into destiny. Dreams placed in your heart have laid dormant becoming a distant memory of the past. Destiny seems delayed and you’ve near on given up believing those dreams.

Hope is here! Holy Spirit says, “I am re-kindling and re-firing the hopes and dreams of your past! Are you prepared to trust Me and walk with Me like a child? I have great plans for you, plans to prosper you and to work through you in ways to date you’ve not yet seen! I am breaking off disappointment as the Word goes forth from my prophetic voices in this hour! My Holy Spirit of fire is burning away thoughts of old which have hindered the revealing of My Glory in your life. Heaven’s heart beat will be heard in yours as you wait upon Me with expectation!”

I saw the number 60 which represents completion of the flesh. You’re at the end of yourself -it’s a beautiful place to be. Surrender is key! Refreshment and hope are yours as you open your heart again and dare to dream big!

God dreams are always big dreams! They need to be in order for him to fulfill them in you. He’s the God of more than enough and he’s ever increasing! Dormant for decades- the dust is being blown off dreams!  Now is the time for re-fire! He is refueling and rekindling dreams in you.

Deep calls unto deep!  God is calling you into his presence in greater intimacy.  Wholly focused and yearning for him. No longer satisfied with a little taste. Hungry for a feast! Filled to overflowing with Holy Spirit power! He’s calling you into a deep encounter with His presence. In his presence is the fullness of joy and at his right hand pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) As you wait and rest there will be a supernatural strengthening. The Holy Spirit will breathe life on those past dreams as you pick them up in your hand and give them back to Him.

There is a fresh awakening of past mantles to be picked up in this hour. Those of 100 years ago. Inquire of him what he has for you to operate in this fresh season.

Esther’s are coming forth in this hour! Women and children who are sold out to Jesus and not afraid to say so! They will release freedom with holy ghost power in this hour. The goodness and kindness of God will be demonstrated and the true nature of God’s heart will be revealed in this hour. Millions of hearts will be radically saved as their eyes are opened and they receive the gift of Salvation. Jesus will be revealed in all His majesty and all His splendor and there will be a great awakening as the global harvest is pulled in by faithful hearts. Multi -faceted colors will shine off the people of God revealing Christ as the light of the world. The transforming power of the  love of God will be a splendid display of the Glory of God.

There’s a great invitation to feast at the table of God. To be wined and dined with him. From this intimacy you will release the sound of Heaven that will awaken millions of lives to destiny!

What a great thing that we can be awakened to our destiny!  I am praying that each of you reading this will take a minute to think about the post above.   I plan to meditate on this, and then see what the Holy Spirit brings to me for Lucas!  

Jesus, thank you for your care and presence during the birth of Lucas.  Thank you for blessing Doug and Susie with this new precious boy.  Holy Spirit, I know that there is a destiny and plan already in place for Lucas.  Thank you for helping us all grow in understanding of our own destiny.  Thank you for joy and hope that comes with a new baby!  Amen