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.

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I have not disappeared from the face of the earth…yet

For those who follow my blog, you will notice that I have been MIA for the last few weeks.

It is not writer’s block.

Nor is it due to a lack of live writing material taking place before my very eyes.

It really isn’t even because of the chaos of the holidays (although there was a LOT of chaos).

No. The reason is actually quite mundane.

My laptop screen fried.

Again.

For the second time in one year. (And no, it is not under warranty.)

I managed to cobble together a system that worked…sort of. By hooking up the laptop to a traditional (old)  monitor, I was able to use the laptop.

Yea, yea, yea.

But…there is always a “but”, isn’t there?

The contraption was set up in my so-called sewing/craft room (that in itself is a topic for another day). The room also serves as sleeping quarters for a napping toddler.

Hmmmm…access was an issue.

(And at this point, I will digress momentarily.)

Yesterday, we took down the Christmas tree and packed away the decorations inside the house. This freed up a wee bit of space in our not-so-spacious living room.

As a person who strives for perfection, this defect also applies to the positioning of furniture. Somehow I keep thinking I will find the perfect configuration for all the necessary pieces…if I just keep trying.

So, Superman helped me. With a smile, I might add. (Those of you who know him have never seen him without one, so it won’t carry the same effect as those who don’t. So don’t tell them, ok?)

Given all the things that go on in my house (gymnastics, battles for the highest spot in the room, trapeze flying, fort building, building block olympics, camping, dance competitions, along with an assortment of other activities that should probably not be enumerated), a good flow and jumping capabilities from sofa to love seat to whatever is essential.

I should probably add that I have long since given up on the “no more monkeys jumping” rule…enforcement became a full-time job. I know, I failed.

Sooooooo, we shifted our furniture around. And lo, and behold, there was just the perfect spot to move a desk that could house my laptop contraption in the living room!

Joy, joy, joy!!!

So, I am back. I bet you were all just holding your breath!

Today would be a great day if…

Remember this? Just give it a listen…

Do you have an ear worm now?

Well…that is how this day has been. It just has gone on and on and on…

Even now, it’s still dragging on. This will be one of those nights when I will ask if it’s late enough for me to go to bed. (And there will be a unanimous “Yes” from my family…)

Some days are like that…

Kids that just won’t cooperate…

A calendar that is just too full of “stuff”…

And a whole lot of “holiday cheer”… that really isn’t so cheery…

It is one of those days that a career change comes to mind…RETIREMENT in a seniors only community! Or living off the grid in an RV…

But then I think about it…do I really want to understand shuffleboard? Am I ready for my husband to wear white leather walking shoes? Do I want blue hair? (Actually, my son-in-law has a blue mohawk, so maybe blue hair isn’t so bad???)

But in all honesty, some days are just a huge reminder of the glorious future awaiting me in the presence of my King and Redeemer…far away from the trivial and irritating things that sneak into my day and try to steal my hope for the future and joy for THIS day.

I am hoping that I can correct my course now and try to end the day well…kind of the way I would like to see my life’s course at its end…ending well. Achieving that “well done, good and faithful servant”…

How do YOU handle those not-so-great days?

 

We Are the Champions (at least in our division…)

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! (ESPN Sports Center photograph)

For all you baseball fans in the world, you have to be stunned at the Cardinals upset over the Nationals last night to send the St. Louis Cardinals to the National League Championship series with the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals seem to have that special ability to take a hopeless situation, in which there appears to be NO CHANCE of winning, and turn it into something really special. And last night, our Cardinals did it again! And the hunt for a St. Louis red October is continuing to surge.

I confess I do NOT like “nail biting, cliff hanging, could go either way” situations. I much prefer a sound and solid win, determined early on in the game, followed by an amazing series great defensive plays to assure the win.

Yes, I admit that I am one of those “faint of heart” fans that gets so emotionally engaged that I can’t stand that back and forth dizziness that makes fans go crazy.

Personally, I believe I achieve my sense of craziness without adding “do or die” sporting results into the mix!

But once my victor is determined, I celebrate wholly–loudly, jumping up and down like a wild maniac. And we will decide right now NOT to discuss my reactions to those tough losses. It isn’t pretty.

So last night at midnight, my house was noisy. The neighborhood was noisy. Fireworks were going off all around the city. And this was an Away Game win. I could not wind down to go to sleep. I was struggling to find a great way to alleviate that emotional energy. If I had been AT the game, I would have had a more naturally crazy outlet for self-expression. But, we were not AT the game. And this morning, I am still shaking my head.

Initially, when I sat down just to write it was going to be about the stunning upset of the Washington Nationals, the team with the best baseball record in the regular season of ALL TEAMS, both American and National Leagues. But my thoughts were scattered (normal for me) and my mind was firing on a few extra cylinders. Random images and thoughts were racing through my head.

Out of nowhere came a mental picture, more like a video clip, straight out of Revelation–thousands and thousands of angels and people gathered around the throne of God, cheering and singing because Jesus was crowned the Victor over sin and death.

Revelation 5

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Scroll and the Lamb

…I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll … And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  And no one … was able to open the scroll … because no one was found worthy… And one of the elders said, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…”

And … I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain … And he took the scroll … and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb … And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God …”

I looked, and I heard around the throne … the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Can you picture a scene like that? It would be like the Cardinals winning the World Series, with all of heaven in attendance and all of creation cheering. In my mind, that is what Heaven will be like…a HUGE Game winning celebration that lasts forever because the final game was won, and the victory is eternal.

The Cardinals have survived the Wild Card playoff game. They have now survived the divisional series. But there are more games to be played. More victories are required for them to be the Champions of Baseball. And even then, that title only lasts until the next season begins. Yes, it is really exciting. But it really pales by comparison when putting it in a balance with Jesus, Victorious Lamb on an Eternal throne.

Another of the random thoughts that whizzed through my head was an old song from the 1980s by Carman. (Where is he now, anyway?) It is a long piece, but it is like the emotional game won last night. All seemed lost for the Cards…the other side was celebrating. And THEN, the Cards surged back to life…spine tingling excitement for one side. Horror and dismay for the other side. Check out The Champion.

I am grateful to be on the side of the Champion…are you?

Changes

The season is changing here in the midwest. And I am very thankful, let me tell you! After the Winter that wasn’t, we had such an awesome Spring that changed into half of a great Summer. Unfortunately, Summer turned into the Drought/Heat Wave of 2012.

But NOW, the air is brisk. Leaves are changing color and beginning to fall off the branches. Acorns and black walnuts are falling off the trees. Squirrels are scurrying. I have enjoyed seeing several large flocks of migrating birds visiting my bird feeders here and there. It also means that the hummingbirds and butterflies have journeyed to their Winter homes down South.

I continue to coax a bit of life out of the garden…hoping for some color for a few more weeks. And am still awaiting the opening of the mums.

Yesterday…FROST on the windshields! It was so wonderful!

There is something about this season that I find absolutely INVIGORATING! Coffee is especially great on those cold mornings. Snuggling under the blankets (and not suffering from heat flashes) and actually having a fire in the fireplace. I love this weather.

It isn’t just the weather that is changing.

Froglegs has learned to READ! It is a special experience now at bedtime to hear him reading to his brother and sister. There are times that childhood changes are mixed with sadness at the loss of that baby sweetness, but I must say hearing a child learning to put letters and words together is something very, very special for this Nana.

I remember when my oldest child learned to read. Shopping for groceries suddenly took A LOT LONGER because she wanted to read every. single. sign. On each and every aisle, every time we went into the store. You could see the smiles on other parents’ faces…they knew exactly what was happening. Such pride in those first successes at reading.

And pretty soon we were struggling to keep up with her. She read every book she could lay her hands on. She sacrificed recess to work on her school work. It had to be PERFECT in her mind. You know how those perfectionists are, don’t you?

Eventually, all three of my children were reading. Some enjoyed it, others tolerated it. Even my oldest one eventually began to HATE it because reading changed from something almost magical into the whole “read a book, write a report” scenario, and the joy of reading was temporarily lost. For about 15 years…

But now, she is a mommy and reads to her own baby…continuing to see those developmental changes for herself. They live so far away, but it was so much fun to get to hear her when they visited us over Labor Day.

And every day, I now get to enjoy listening to Froglegs reading his stories to me, and trying to sound out the words. And even better, trying to read his original stories that he writes out on his fabulous drawings.

I guess, for me, this season of Fall/Autumn has always meant “school”…memories of learning and playing with friends and reading contests at school and gold stars on worksheets… The awesome changes that came from LEARNING new things…

And…since it is Fall, I am reminded that I continue to learn…just how awesome God is, how very blessed I am, and how thankful I should be…

I hope I never get tired of learning. Are you still learning?

Do you believe in miracles? (David Hanson Update #2)

I always struggle with the title. I want it to be catchy…you know? Grab your attention and get a bunch of likes and a new badge and more gold stars as a blogger?

Well, let’s just say that I don’t really need those likes, badges and gold stars. Readers??? Yes, would definitely like more of those.

But for today, I have some amazing news to share and I wanted a REALLY AWESOME TITLE…And when I typed out “Do you believe in miracles?” all I could think of was this –you know, Do You Believe in Miracles by Hot Chocolate…NOT what I was going for, I assure you.

So, you will have to deal with the title, because I DO believe in miracles. And it is absolutely the most thrilling thing to see, (even if it is only in print and without pictures).

So many of you have been praying for David and Rachel Hanson. And I am grateful. Thousands of people all around the globe, daily praying for this young couple and their families as they go through a Goliath-sized struggle.

David, who suffered such a devastating fall, leaving doctors with little hope for his recovery. A young wife thrown headlong into a test that marriages decades-old might not survive. And yet, she went forward with the most grace and peace I have ever seen. Her updates are thrilling, encouraging, hopeful…real.

There is no trace of bitterness. Love? Most assuredly. Joy? Yes. Pain? Yes. Peace? Astonishingly, yes. What a witness for the Lord whom she faithfully serves!

So many of us go to the David Hanson Update page on facebook each day looking for news (or if you are me, every 15 minutes). Anything that will give us an inkling of what is happening. Some days, there are no new reports. Other days, we gasp with amazement and are thrilled to the core as we read of God’s answers to our prayers.

Currently, David’s parents are visiting their son and daughter-in-law. They were with him just after his fall, but then had to return home. So, after several weeks’ absence they were able to see first hand how their son was progressing.

Annette L Hanson

Just a quick note to say that our first full day with David has been a blessing, and we thank the Lord for His lovingkindness! The OTs, PTs and nurses are educating us on how we can work with David’s arms, hands, legs and feet to help keep him “limber.” He is still very strong and it is definitely work! We are also trying to help increase his awareness by talking with him, asking for responses, reading to him, singing, and praying with him. Sometimes he looks right in our eyes, and today he seemed like he was trying to smile and talk. He also moves his head back and forth from Joel to me, when we stand on either side of him. Rachel had to work today, and we are looking forward to some time learning from her tomorrow. 🙂

I am a mom. I love my children dearly. (Of course they probably would not appreciate being called children since they are almost 31, 29 and 28.) But…as a mom, I can make a decent attempt at putting myself in Annette’s shoes and imagine all the emotions I would feel being so far away from my child who was hurt so badly, and then the joy at seeing how improved he was in just a matter of a few short weeks. I have read and re-read her posts several times, visualizing the scene as best I could, and have shed many tears of joy on her behalf.

Her subsequent post brought a smile and more tears.

Annette L Hanson

Wow – what an overwhelming blessing to see so much love shared and prayers brought before the Lord from many believers we know and many we look forward to meeting! What a great day that will be when we are all together bowing in thankfulness and worship to our Savior!

Yesterday was a happy time, to see David smiling for us (and more than that for Rachel), and to have him move his thumb and finger upon request! This morning he was pretty sleepy.

Do you remember how exciting it was to see your baby smile at you for the first time and you knew it wasn’t gas? Thrilling, wasn’t it? Now can you imagine your child is a grown man, has suffered a very serious, life-threatening brain injury and then seeing him smile? Somehow, I just think that would be even more precious than that baby smile. At least for ME it would be.

Annette’s next post was a very practical one–

Annette L Hanson

As a medical precaution, Joel and I have been asked to post a message about visiting David. We are very grateful for all of the love shown for our son and daughter in law, but have been advised that too many visitors can be stressful and overly agitating to David, and we need to limit his company to immediate family. Again, we thank you all for your love and understanding as we try to do what is best for David.

This is directly from the heart of Mama-Bear, protecting her cub from danger. Anyone who has any knowledge of brain trauma and coma understands the importance of allowing the brain to regain its function in a controlled environment. And anyone who has been faithfully praying for this young man is hoping to get to visit and see how well he is doing. Sort of like our faith being made sight–believing and then seeing. But not so fast…now is not the time to bombard that healing brain with a lot of interaction with multitudes of grateful and faithful pray-ers.

And then her post today almost had me jumping up and down…

Annette L Hanson

David was able to hold some “burts bees” lip balm between his thumb and forefinger this morning and apply it to his lips … and chin. 🙂 he was also able to wash his face with a wet cloth. So fun to see! Thank the Lord for this progress!

Wow. Wow. Wow!!! How wonderful!!! Amazing!!! Miraculous, even!!! Who would have thought David would have progressed so rapidly?

As I was beginning to write this post, I heard a Third Day song (new to me) playing in the background, titled “I Need a Miracle“…

You know, I DO believe in miracles. And I know there are so many people who DO need a miracle. The story of David and Rachel Hanson is not finished. It has barely started to unfold…but they will have a tremendous and miraculous story to tell of how God moved in their lives in a way that made strangers into family. That made the ends of the earth just a breath away. And THAT is amazing to me.

Keep praying! God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.