Life Changes

I haven’t written in what seems like forever. I have gone MIA from the blog for a very long time.

Why? Truly, no good reasons, just life complicated with more life. Somewhere along the way, I just quit writing. I don’t think that was a good thing, either. Writing has a way of clarifying thoughts. Making sense of the non-sensical. Helping to understand the reality through a different mode of reasoning almost.

Superman and I have been living through some very challenging days, months, even years. We have spent nearly 36 years married to each other. That is pretty spectacular–at least I think it is! During the course of those 36 years, we have traveled into some very dark valleys of sorrow only to be lifted up to the heights of light and joy.

This past year has held it all. Some days, I have felt as though I was being held under water and couldn’t push my way to the surface. I found my strength to be so very weak. But then, in that fearful desperation, I felt my heavenly Father reach down and pull me to safety. Too many times I caught myself resting in my own strength rather than resting in HIM.

THAT  is the struggle. Day by day. Moment by moment. Trusting and resting in Him. Especially when you see no way out of the valley and the mountaintop is hidden from view. The mountain is still there. It’s just my view that is hampered.

I am so thankful when the Word of God touches me right where I need it…

2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (Phillips)

 We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (ESV)

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

It is very hard for me to classify my trials as “little troubles” or “momentary affliction”–today these trials may feel as though they are absolutely insurmountable challenges that will push me back under. But if I step back and look at them through HIS eyes and with His lenses, then I see that they truly are light, little, momentary, transitory challenges.

For today, I am going to begin the day with an attempt to have His perspective. To see His plan and trust it. And these verses will be freshly in my heart as a ready encouragement if I begin to falter.

Weeping

Do you ever struggle with you earth-bound view in light of an eternal perspective?

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Please Stand By…

Don’t you hate it when you experience technical difficulties? I do. Probably more because it reveals how easily annoyed I can be…by the most insignificant things.

Like…cleaning the bathroom thoroughly on a Saturday morning as a kid, only to have your dad come in and wash his hands after mowing the lawn and changing the oil in the car…Can you imagine? All the hard work, literally down the drain. You think I jest? Oh no, just ask my dad…

Or what about mopping your floors, getting a mirror-like shine and then have your dearly beloved children or grandchildren or most loved husband walk through with mucky shoes? No? Never happened? I believe you lie…

For me, the bigger annoyances are sitting down to write my post, that my readers are truly panting to read, only to be kicked off the internet. Over. And over. And over…

My need to save money is pretty deep. But my need for consistent internet access is deeper. So I fired my provider, and switched to a new provider. And you know what? I haven’t been kicked off all week. And I have been able to upload pictures SUPER FAST…So I am giving my blog a new try.

I had to make a sacrifice, though. Because I still had to save some money. So…I got rid of cable tv…No more extra channels. No more tv shopping…(yeah, never did those anyway)…no more DIY channels…Somehow, I think I will survive. Maybe.

Now I have a Roku device…Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora…and a bunch of “channels” I have yet to explore. And you know what? I didn’t turn on the tv for viewing at all for a few days…I chose to just to listen to my purely customized radio stations on Pandora. I missed watching the FIFA World Cup, but…honestly I think we will manage JUST FINE without those channels. After all, I can catch up on Monarch of the Glen…or the English version of Sherlock…all those old movies…

But all those internet problems did get me thinking about technical difficulties, bad connections and other things that can frustrate us, and it made me think about what happens when I don’t have a clear connection in my relationships. If you have ever experienced technical problems, you probably checked the cables to assure that they were properly connected. You also probably checked the batteries, or the power button or a host of other possibilities. And then you checked the manual or called customer service to speak with an “expert” to “troubleshoot.” (I always like the “check to make sure the power is on” tip.)

So if my relationship with God is not what it should be, where do I turn? Interesting that there is an expert and a manual to address the problems I  experience. I can almost always connect my problems in my spiritual life to a common source…Me. I may ignore the relationship, perhaps I do not feed it a healthy diet, or maybe I have covered up sin rather than confess it…Basically, I disconnect myself from the Source.

It’s not that God abandons ME, but rather I abandon Him. I live my life unplugged (NOT like music) and do things on my own power rather than relying on His power. He offers me a static-free, always ON connection to an endless and abundant source. So why do I fail to use that Source? Why, after so many examples and assurances of His presence and faithfulness do I so easily forget? I do not have an answer to the question that is revolutionary. But, when I am withdrawn and cold, I know that it is worth checking on how secure my connection is to avoid more connectivity issues. And that means getting in an uncomfortable position…on my knees.

Tell me, are YOU plugged in securely to the true Source of life?

I Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

Shhhhhhhh…they’re sleeping

We are in the throes of Winter. And I LOVE it! We live in the part of the Midwest that is usually just too far South for the real snows but too far North for the icy weather.

Most of the time. But this year, we are enjoying what I like to call Real Winter.

You know, cold temps, frozen precip, MEASURABLE snowfall???

And I really do love it. Being a girl from the North (Wisconsin and North Dakota) married to a guy from Alaska, somehow our variable weather here in Missouri does not generate much of a Winter.

Generally speaking.

But this year is looking a whole lot better for those of us who are partial to the white, fluffy stuff.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, we enjoyed a single snowfall of over 12 inches. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

My sweet husband, who has a modified version of shoveling (let’s just say I am a bit more thorough and particular), agreed that since we were expecting so much snowfall, it might actually be worth shoveling the ENTIRE driveway and front porch midway through the storm, as opposed to merely removing a walking path to the street…

I know. Seriously. Why would anyone need more than a single, narrow path to the street when your driveway slopes 45º toward the house…

Maybe to GET THE CAR  OUT OF THE GARAGE and UP THE HILL???

But I digress…he had to fully shovel twice, and still the snow came down. The weight of the snow would not have been safe to shovel for people like him who are blessed with a tiny, metal screen-like straw inserted to hold the major coronary artery open…you know, shoveling and heart attacks and all that.

Midway through the snowfall,  after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

Midway through the snowfall,
after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

A greater portion of the day was spent cooking and watching the snow fall and hearing absolutely nothing.

Our massive Newfoundland/Lab/Chow mix dog, Joe Bear, did not want to come inside. Or STAY inside. Between the snow and the smells from the kitchen, he made numerous trips in and out to check on the progress.

Joe Bear: Why'd you make me come inside???

Joe Bear: Why’d you make me come inside???

But the next morning, the beauty of the fallen snow was an amazing sight. And the winds that followed the snowfall made the landscape look as though a sculptor had been at work. A divine Sculptor, indeed.

Wind carved drifting

Wind carved drifting

Ripples in the snow

Ripples in the snow

Our entire world was covered in a very thick blanket of white. St. Louis was totally shut down. Most schools did not reopen until Friday, using many snow days with that single snowfall. Buses could not make it through the streets and most side streets in many municipalities went without benefit of a snowplow for days.

But I was very nearly entranced by the beauty of the snow.

And the ice crystals on the windows.

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

More crystal formations on the glass

More crystal formations on the glass

It had been so long since I had seen that kind of beauty. I just stood at my door and looked out the window. Little Froglegs came and stood with me. Just looking silently.

Then he said softly, “Nana, I am so sorry all your flowers died.”

I was surprised. Here I was, reveling in the beauty of my covered yard, under that fluffy blanket of snow, and my little tender hearted guy was sad about my dead flowers.

“Oh, it’s all right, buddy. It’s like a picture. You know how Jesus died for us on the cross, but then He came back to life and now He lives in heaven? My garden will come back to life in the Spring,” I explained.

Froglegs was quiet for several minutes, just looking out the door with me. Then he said, “I understand, Nana. I really do! I get it!”

In spite of the frigid temperature outside, my heart was warm standing there with my Froglegs. It was a beautiful moment to share. And the reminder of the Spring yet to come. My garden will enjoy the benefit of that blanket of snow, and Froglegs will have a memory of that important lesson learned from that big snowstorm of 2014.

My Winter Paradise

My Winter Paradise

Jaimie/Jamie–Lost and Found

This year has been full of surprises and reminders. Many so sweet and wonderful. Others are reminders of very painful periods in my life.

It is interesting to confront pain that is so very old. Pain that still has the power to hurt and ache. Not that physical pain, but the soulful pain of real loss and sorrow.

I don’t know how you deal with your heartbreaks and heartaches. Depending on the source of the pain, you may squash it down, or roll around in it or allow it to overwhelm you to the point of breaking you.

I have struggled with so many types of sorrow through the years. Probably one of the longest running painful things was seeing my daughter going through her own pain and grief as the consequence of misplaced hope and trust. Defiance that led her to a very dark period in her life, that defiance could do nothing less than envelope my husband and me, as well.

Lessons learned are like the new growth in the Spring…dead seeds sprouting and bringing forth new life. THAT is the period we live in with our daughter these days, and it is such a wonderful place to be living right now.

I don’t borrow tomorrow’s sorrows or joys, but I truly try to live THIS day savoring the joys that God grants each day. But even as long-running as the struggles with our daughter, there is a sorrow that life could not remedy for me.

As a young wife and mother, barely into my twenties, I saw my hopes and dreams dashed to pieces. Much like Humpty Dumpty, there was no one who could put my broken pieces back together. I suffered a massively destructive ectopic tubal pregnancy. With that loss, we didn’t just lose a little life, but all those hopes and dreams that parents have for their children. Gone was that little baby. Gone were all the birthdays and first teeth and first steps and first days of school…

And gone was my ability to bear any more children. So many people, well-meaning but ignorant, said things that honestly just didn’t help. That I had a child already did not erase my pain at losing another child. It also didn’t fill the void of a large family I had dreamed of having. It didn’t fill that empty place in the pit of my heart or replace the yearning for another baby. No one, no matter who they were, could guarantee that a miracle child would just come if I relaxed. And those comments came from well-meaning people. Others were just heartless.

When I think about the pain of those months and early years, it still cuts me in a place nothing else has ever touched. Thirty years later, that pain lingers.

There have been occasions when I have allowed myself to ask the what ifs. To wonder what my life would have been like if our little baby had lived. If I could have borne more children, how many would I have had? What would they have been like? Who would they take after? What if…

We named that little one Jaimie. Not knowing if that baby was a boy or a girl, we chose a name that carried the desire we had had…in French, Je t’aime means I love you. We wanted to have a name that conveyed our love for that child. It was the best name we could think of that worked. Jaimie.

Later, we adopted two children. Such blessings to all of us. We struggled through difficult adoptions and then the naturalization procedure. So much red tape, but so worth it. But our family size was limited to what we could afford in paper work, so our family was then complete. Dad, mom, two daughters and a son.

You wonder why I am bringing this up now, at Thanksgiving?

Well, let me tell you about the miracle we have found this year. It will have to be the Cliff Notes version because the story is almost 50 years old.

I had an uncle named Jimmy. He died when I was twelve. So almost 42 years ago, my mother’s younger brother died and that closed a chapter of her life story. Uncle Jimmy was a bit of a rascal…some would say that he was more than just a bit of one. My mom tells a lot of stories about their years growing up. And she has scars that accompany a lot of those stories.

My mom says that her brothers and sisters used to make fun of her for being the only white sheep in the family. That should give you a bit of understanding about the life she knew growing up. As my mother got older and the internet became readily available, she started looking for information. There were some large gaps in her genealogy and she had an incredible inner need to answer the questions about her ancestors so that she could know who she really was…in many ways like our daughter wishing she knew about her birth family because she just wants to know more about who she is and where she came from.

My mother researched cemeteries, public libraries, churches and any place that she could to find more records. She published her findings on Ancestry.com and went to family reunions with other branches of the family she had never met. Over the course of many years, she got a lot of answers to those questions that had been her own struggle for such a long time.

When she developed breast cancer, the research sort of stopped. Her chemo treatments were terrible, but she went through it with grace and strength. I am still amazed at the way she battled back. The after effects have been lingering. Maybe if she had been younger, her body would have rallied back. But she remained very weak. Of course, aging coupled with the chemo effects have taken their toll.

But she eventually began plugging away more slowly at her research. And then, her younger sister, Delilah, died suddenly. It was a terrible loss that I can’t even begin to describe. But out of that loss has come an incredible surprise.

Remember Uncle Jimmy? Well, while he was stationed overseas in England, he apparently had a son. And this son had been looking for his father’s family for years. He had hired private investigators and done all he could to track down his U.S. family. But with a last name like Johnson…well, there are a lot of Johnsons out there.

But this cousin, who I didn’t know existed, was researching while my mother was researching. And he stumbled across Aunt Dee’s obituary. And guess what that obituary contained? ALL THE NAMES OF THE FAMILY MEMBERS, along with their spouses’ names! AND the cities where they all lived.

In this year, I have “met” (not face to face yet) my cousin–JAMIE. It has been such a blessing to get to know him. To talk with him and hear him tell his stories, in that wonderful English accent. To find this out, so many years later, words fail me. Jamie is five years younger than I am. He doesn’t know about my little Jaimie. (Well, he will now…).

I cannot tell you how much joy finding him has meant to the whole family. My mother is just overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed. It is a blessing that goes beyond the superficial. It hits you down deep, in that tenderest place that holds your most painful and most wonderful thoughts.

That his name is Jamie. Well, all I can say is that I love him and am grateful that God has given me an answer that I wasn’t even looking for. It is very much like having something that was lost returned to you. He is not my Jaimie. But he is Jamie–so loved and such an answer to prayer, on both sides of the Atlantic. And the astonishing thing is that he and one of my daughters resemble each other very much. I just cannot adequately put this all into a short blog post. Trust me. There has to be a book out of this somewhere.

But for now, can I just share from my very thankful heart, my prayer for you all to have a very happy Thanksgiving. Treasure the blessings and recognize them for what they are. Blessings so undeserved, yet so treasured.

Vim, Vigor and Vinegar

I spent my Saturday washing clothes. Not just clothes, but towels, bedding and assorted textiles.

For those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning, you will maybe remember that doing the laundry is actually one of my favorites among the mundane chores. There is a certain pleasure in getting the stains out of clothes. In seeing crumpled, smelly things come out clean and fresh.

Even the folding holds a distinct joy. Seeing those hard-to-fold undershirts folded neatly and carefully.

What? You don’t fold them?

Or the fitted sheets…It’s like a personal challenge to see how perfectly I can fold one so that you can’t tell it isn’t the flat sheet.

I know. I am strange that way. But honestly. I enjoy such a sense of completion when the piles of dirty laundry are systematically tackled and put away, leaving a clean floor with nothing left to wash.

For at least a few hours.

But Superman took over the laundry for the last few years while our daughter and her three children lived with us. He is a very smart man, recognizing that awful compulsion I have for forging through the mounds of laundry generated by four very active people. And I do not include Superman or myself in that category.

It’s not that we aren’t active. We just don’t attract dirt, or the same kind of dirt, the way they did. We were potty trained long ago, so we are able to make it through the night without an accident. And, well, let’s face it. We generally don’t roll in the dirt, rummage through the trash, throw disgusting stuff at each other and spill everything all over ourselves. I hope we have a few more years left before we return to that in our second childhood.

But one thing that happened while Superman and our daughter handled the laundry was very annoying.

They didn’t keep the washing machine clean. And it is one of those front loaders. You know, the HE kind that uses less water and is prone to developing a stink.

Last summer I noticed my clean clothes had a stench. Ewwww.

I went down to investigate. OH MY GOODNESS. There was MOLD growing in the gasket. (Mind you, I am allergic to mold. It aggravates my asthma. THAT is a MAJOR PROBLEM.)

I googled replacements for the gasket. Over $100. Yikes. I decided that once our active bunch moved, I would order a new gasket.

Superman, who has honestly done his very best to do the laundry the right way (read MY way) has faithfully used vinegar in the rinse. We both like the way it keeps the dispenser free of build up and minimizes how much cleaning of residue we have to do. Note: Daughter does not like using vinegar. She seems to smell the vinegar after the cycle is completed. Apparently, Superman and I do NOT have that super-sensitive sense of smell.

So the active ones moved into a new home about a month ago, and I resumed my favored chore with renewed vim and vigor. (Is that grammatically correct?)

Vinegar and those awesome little pre-measured pods, along with a scoop of OxiClean in each load…

AND GUESS WHAT???

After one month, the mold is GONE! I kid you not. There is no trace of the nasty black stuff on the gasket and the machine smells great.

So for all of you Vinegar doubters out there, take my word for it–the stuff is awesome. And CHEAP.

 

Beware the little mouth…

Every day I am surprised by the continuing development of the kids around my house.

I know I should never be surprised by it, but I am.

Bam Bam has been testing the boundaries lately. Something so very normal for a child of two and a half.

It’s a bit of humor that I get to share with his parents when I give them the daily report.

The other day, I had to correct Bam Bam. He likes to play in the doorways, but with pinched fingers…well, I try to discourage playing with the doors.

So I first told him not to play in the doors. He proceeded to play in the doors.

I told him a second time not to play in the doors. He continued playing in the doors.

Finally, I used my stern voice and made myself undeniably clear in what my expectation was regarding him playing in the doors.

“Nana,” said Bam Bam, “you don’t tell me ‘no’. You say ‘yes’ to me.”

At that moment, we enjoyed a very up-close and personal “eye to eye” conversation about who says yes, no and makes the rules and who listens and obeys.

We settled the issue of the doors…and have now moved on to the next one…sharing. Sort of a revolving door around these parts, if you will pardon the cheesy play on words.

Don’t you love it when a child instructs you, the adult, to share?

Yes. I share all my toys with everyone. But when the turn taking gets out of control and the midgets forget who OWNS the toys…well, they shouldn’t tell ME to share MY toys.

Cookie has come into her own in terms of fighting, and I truly mean fighting, for what she decides is hers. She and Bam Bam had a number of issues sharing the toys today.

I frequently had to remind the kiddos that I share all of my toys. They always look at me the same way.

“These are YOUR toys, Nana?” Why they say it so incredulously still amazes me. We have this same discussion each and every day.

“Yes. They are MY toys, and I SHARE.”

“You share with me, Nana?” asked Bam Bam.

“I share with ALL of you.”

“You share with ALL of US, Nana?”

“Yes. I share with ALL of you. But when you aren’t nice and don’t share My toys, then I have to put the toys away.”

“That’s not nice, Nana. You have to SHARE. Sharing is nice.”

Ummmmm, that sort of was the point. All that repeating our conversation to each other a gazillion times…

“Nana, if you put the toys away and don’t share, you will need a time out.”

Sigh. Will someone PLEASE give me a time out?

Playing Favorites

I refuse to post any pictures.

I don’t want to take any and I don’t want to share any.

BUT, I do want to know if any of you are guilty of playing favorites. Come on. Be honest…

Do you try to give the impression that all of your children or grandchildren are equally loved? That none is more lovable than another? Uh huh…

Well, today I have a confession to make.

The plumber is my favorite.

He comes when he is called. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty work. (And I do mean dirty…). He doesn’t leave his tools out…when he is done, he leaves.

And I don’t even regret the exorbitant price I have to pay to get rid of the toilet paper clogging the pipe.

I know. Couldn’t it have been a toy? Or…rag or something? Did it really have to be toilet paper?

I told him we use Scott tissue. We even use the kind that is suitable for septic systems. He nodded. Complimented me on our choice of tissue. (Yay for me…)

When you have a bunch of little people…well, let’s just say that the plumbing can take a beating. I told our friendly plumber that I have had to call for de-clogging services at least three times since January.

Sigh…he told me that the roots are generating a separation in the sewer line…and that will need to be repaired…ugh…

I can now anticipate the digging up of my front yard. (Hopefully, my garden that wraps and winds around the yard will be spared…but who knows?)

But there IS a silver lining…since we live in St. Louis County, the repair is covered.

See why the plumber is my favorite?