"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Monday, December 26, 2016

When Christmas is NOT What We Hope

Christmas was not what I had hoped.

It was rushed and abbreviated.

And plain old hard work.  All the gifts and meals and wrapping and cleaning and re-cleaning.  Not to mention the piles and piles of dishes. . .

But even in the crazy, my heart was calm.  Until it wasn't.

I worked so hard this month to slow the pace of my heart.  I did so well.  Until about 11 am on Christmas Day.  And then I just stopped.  I allowed hurt and disappointment and fatigue to take over.

What a waste the last 36 hours were.


The good news?  Christmas break is far from over.  The kids and I will likely be snowed in for another day or two.  (Chad left at dusk on Christmas Day to begin preparing to move snow from our epic ND Christmas blizzard.  He will probably not be home for another day or two.)

Tomorrow is a new day.  A new chance.  His mercies will be new and in Him, my heart will be too.

We had a short family celebration on the 23rd.  The littlest three (Mataya, Wyatt, and Sophia) took turns napping so we didn't get many photos - but I did get this one snap of these six all in one place at the same time.  What a blessing those moments are, no matter how brief!

 Sophia Jean Marie was snuggled by us all.
Jamison and Wyatt bonded over trucks in Joshua's room.  It is the first time they have really played.  Jay prefers little ones that talk and walk and use a toilet.  Wyatt does two of the three, so they are well on their way to being forever friends!

On Christmas Eve, we were able to attend an 11 am church service with the youngest 5 kids and my parents.  It has been a very, very long time since we have attended church with my parents.  I am very thankful for that hour together.  Sierra, Brenna, and I chose nearly identical outfits for church - so I insisted on a couple of pictures.

 Mataya was feeling quite left out, so we added her into a few!

Mataya LOVES being in the center of it all.

She has a mind of her own, my TayTay girl.  She pushes the limits like only the baby of the family can.  She hates shoes, not to mention socks.  Always has wild and crazy hair.  Insists on the most outlandish outfits.  Throws a tantrum that makes me dread her teen years.  And yet - is the sweetest little thing in the universe.  She says, "Mommy we are best friends."  Is happiest on my lap.  Knows my every thought and emotion just by the position of my shoulders.  And makes every day a million times better and ten times harder all wrapped into one.  She is our delight, and boy, oh boy does she keep us on our toes!

It is not Christmas without a picture of Chad and I in front of the tree.  Many traditions were skipped, but not this one!  I am happiest with my head tucked into that very spot between his shoulder and chin.

We DID spend a couple of wild and crazy hours with Chad's mom's side of the family.  It was intense and noisy and chaotic and very precious.  Chad's grandpa is struggling.  That is very hard.  Chad's grandpa has been one of his most trusted friends and mentors.  Chad adores him as no other.  Spending a bit of time with him, some of Chad's siblings, and all of Chad's cousins was very special.  As Cal (Chad's grandpa) prepared to leave, he wanted hugs from everyone.  Chad hugged him - but before Cal left asked Chad one more hug.  Chad hugged him again and told him he loved him.  Cal responded, "I love you, too." And then looked around the room at all the generations of noise and activity and said, "We have some family."  That right there.  That 7 seconds IS Christmas.

(I will also always remember overhearing Sierra tell him that she had gotten a tattoo.  Cal has a typical navy veteran tattoo of scantily dressed girl on his arm. He asked what she got and where it was.  She told him it was on her foot.  He asked if it hurt.  She said it did!  The she asked if his had hurt.  He responded, "I don't know.  I was drunk!"  Oh, we laughed.  Cal's memory is not what it once was - but his innocent truthfulness is such a treasure.  He is a very special man.  I am so thankful my kids have such wonderful memories with him.)

Christmas Day included stockings, brunch, a quick trip stop to say Merry Christmas to my mom and dad (think 20 minutes), and then naps and movies before we packed Chad up to fight another blizzard.  Yet another blizzard will help to pay the bills, and for that we choose to give thanks. (Even when we are irked by the timing and exhausted by the hours.)

Christmas may not have been all I hoped - but tomorrow is a new day.

A fresh new gift.

A day in which I will slow the pace of my heart and savor the chaos that surrounds me.  By His grace and for His glory.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent 2016

It has been (perhaps) the most difficult year of my life.  This past year has been filled with really amazing highs - Jamison's graduation, Krissy and Devin's wedding, and Sophia's birth.  Much has been accomplished.  Much has been gained.  Simultaneously, much has been lost.  Losing my grandparents was so very difficult.  The rush and emotional turmoil of their passing along with planning and celebrating Krissy's wedding and Jamison's graduation was totally exhausting.  (Although the distraction was probably a gift.)  Losing Chads's grandma was yet another blow.  Work has been equally up and down.  Chad has been gone more than he has been gone in many years.  Every aspect of my life has been chaotic and filled with rapid changes.  And rush.  All was busy.  There seemed to be no rest.  NO place to process, grieve, rejoice, heal, etc. . .  In all honesty, by mid-November I was emotionally and physically exhausted to a degree greater than I can remember being exhausted before.

And then I read this, "anyone else SO READY for settling in to a slower pace of heart this advent (despite the outside pace of life)?!"

And I thought, "YES! Me, Me, Me!"

I knew the circumstances of life would not change.   My life is just busy.  That is where I am at.  It is not a curse, it is a blessing.  However, it stretches me.  I definitely crave spaces and down time.  Busy, busy, busy can crush me, if I allow it to.

But I DO have a choice.

I can choose to settle into a slower pace of heart.  (Huge, deep, beautiful exhale here)

SO - this past month, I have chosen acceptance.  I am not fighting our busy schedule but embracing it.  I am choosing to find the hidden moments in my chaos to savor.  Really noticing the great conversation I (sometimes) have with Brenna on the way to her 7:20 AM choir practices makes the fact that I am out the door that early (along with a very unhappy Mataya) so much more rewarding. Focusing on the extra time I have to pour into my kids when Chad is working crazy hours turns my moments of lonely into blessing.  Remembering how quickly my oldest children have grown and changed has transformed Mataya's needy moments into treasured gifts.

Carefully choosing my thoughts is very helpful - but more than anything else, dragging my exhausted body and mind out of bed at 5 am every day to spend some time reading scripture and journaling has quieted my soul and caused my very heartbeat to slow.  There have been days that my eyes can barely focus.  There have been days that my mind is wandering a thousand different directions.  There have been days that I am more grumpy than worshipful.  BUT - even on those days He meets me.

And because of Him, it has been a beautiful Advent.  He has calmed the rush around me.

I have been thinking much this Advent about how I spent weeks after I each of my babies entered our family.   Those weeks were a blur of new.  There was so much to do.  So much to learn.  So much healing and growth that needed to take place.

And yet, those weeks are some of my most treasured memories.  Time stood still.  While many tasks had to be done, when my tiny one had a need, nothing else mattered.  And the love and awe and gratitude I felt each time I gazed at each of  my babes was all consuming.

That has been my goal this Advent - to treat Jesus' birth like I treated the arrival  of my children.  To gaze at Him.  To be in awe over the miracle that He is,  To adore Him.

Christmas is just one week away.  My to-do list is beside me as I type.  There are gifts yet to be bought.  A pile of office work to complete.  Meals to prepare.  Housework.  Laundry.  Shopping.  It can steal my joy. . . if I let it. And while there are moments that I have allowed that to happen, all in all, it has been one of the most beautiful Advent seasons that my heart has experienced.

This is so miraculous because I have faced many challenges.  My work load has doubled for various reasons.  I had to cancel a very precious and long awaited trip.  I miss my grandma so much as Christmas and our birthdays approach.  And as we all know, the "work" that comes along with Christmas is daunting.  It has not been a "silent night" - but that just makes all the ways He has met me in the crazy that much more miraculous.

I encourage you to do whatever you need to do this week to draw nearer to Him.  Get up earlier.  Skip  workout or lunch or FaceBook or TV or scrubbing the floor.  Don't do something so that you can do that which is most important.  Choose to allow him to slow the pace of your heart.  The calm and adoration that follows will be worth whatever sacrifice you make.

PS - Have you ever pondered the fact that the God of the universe CHOSE to subject Himself to a mother?  I can't even explain why - but that thought has knocked my socks off this month.  Think on it.  It really IS amazing.

PPS - My friends, I am praying for you.  Right now.  I know your fatigue and anxiety and frustration.  I, too, turn Christmas into something hard.  May He be your peace.  May His holiness be the center of your celebration.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bleeding Blue on his Birthday

Yesterday, we were able to watch Jamison run his very first collegiate race. . . on his 19th birthday!  As we were roadtripping to the race Mataya wanted to know where Jay's birthday party would be held.  We tried to explain that to Jamison, racing is a party.  It is his passion, and we all want to do that which we are most passionate about on our birthday - right?  (Mataya was not convinced.  She figured a birthday required candles!)

 Joshua (who is hiding from the camera), Mataya, Wyatt, Chad and I made the trip.  Krissy had her wisdom teeth pulled on Thursday, so we volunteered to take Wyatt with us so she could rest a bit more easily.  The kids did fairly well on the drive.  And they were ummmm age appropriate?!? at the meet.  (They were totally bonkers.  Climbing and jumping all over the bleachers.  But after a three hour drive and no place to play, what could we expect?  We are just thankful to report no one got hurt - bleachers and toddlers are scary!)

 Getting to this race has been a long, hard road.  I am always in awe of Jamison's patience, perseverance, and determination.  He has been working hard to rehab his stress reactions for almost a year.  In all honesty, it is still an up and down battle.  He raced awesome yesterday, but he also admitted to me that he is taking some time off and then will cross train because running on the treadmill (when the weather got nasty) caused some shin pain.  Some days I want to have a major melt down for him - but he never does.  He just keeps working hard, talking to experts, and doing all he can to heal.
 He ran in the open 800.  He had a great race and looked strong and relaxed.

 His time was a PR (personal record)!  That is pretty impressive considering his former PR was run outside on a full size track.  (This indoor track was 200 meters.)  I am excited to see what this season brings.

He also ran in a 1600 meter relay.  He was pumped about his time in that event as well.

So - it was a very successful event.  A superb beginning.

We all woke up tired and a bit grumpy this morning.  We arrived home just before midnight.  The little ones slept in their clothes and had car snacks smeared on their faces even after a full night's sleep.  It was a wild and crazy trip, however we were there! That is what family does, right?!?  We show up.  We cheer loud.  I felt a little guilty when I pulled my grandson from his crib this morning and kissed his Cheeto stained cheeks, but only for a moment.  What he learned about his grandpa and I yesterday was much more important than going to bed in clean jammies.  He learned that we will always do our darndest to be present and to care for all our kids to the best of our ability.  Even when it is not easy.  He learned that LaLa will sing "Old McDonald" and "The Wheels on the Bus" for hours if that is what it takes to keep him happy in the car.  He learned that grandpa snores. . . loudly. . . when he is really, really tired.  He learned to yell, "GO! GO! GO!" and clap his hands, just like Auntie TayTay.  It was not idyllic, but it was real.  In the end, a long bath, some yummy breakfast, and an early nap cured the grumpies, but did not erase one single memory.  

I'm embracing the crazy and treasuring each memory that comes from it.  It was chaotic, but I am SO thankful I was there.  So very thankful.  

Blue looks good on you, Jamison!  What a pleasure it is to watch you do that which you love.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pushing Pause

After months of busy, busy, busy God surprised me with an unexpected "vacation" this week.  He sent a HUGE snowstorm.  It was not forecast in advance.  It was much worse than anyone anticipated.  And to me, it was a HUGE blessing.

For the last two days, I have worn pajamas.  I have napped.  I have watched movies.  I feel rested for the first time in a loooong while.  What an amazing blessing.

Between Sophia's birth and today a lot of busy occurred.

*We traveled to Minneapolis to celebrate the life of Chad's grandma.  We enjoyed a bit of time with extended family.  We helped pack up his grandparent's home.
 Joshua and cousin Kaden helping pack.
Joshua being silly in front of our hotel.

*Sierra turned 17.  We were in Minneapolis for the funeral on her birthday, which was a bit of a bummer.  The high point was spending a few hours at the Mall of America just us girls.
Mataya literally shopped until she dropped!

*Sierra and I got tattoos.
Mine is on top.  I never really wanted a tatoo - but it was a fun experience.  Sierra, Krissy, and I all have the same cross.  (Krissy had it first, and she allowed us to mimic her.  Mine is scaled down from the girls' because my tat is smaller.)  Bonding with my daughters is painful sometimes.  HA!

*Jamison came home for his four day Thanksgiving break.  This was the first time he had stayed here since August.  The highlight of the weekend was watching him run races with Mataya.  Mataya is always racing.  She starts in the kitchen and races to the living room window and back.  My job is to cheer.  When Jay say her favorite game, he joined in.  They were too fast to photograph, however they are hidden in my heart forever.

*We celebrated Thanksgiving.  I cooked everything from scratch - including stuffing, pie crusts, and homemade whipped cream.  And even more shockingly - I loved every minute.

*We had Chad's family over for a potluck meal.

*Joshua turned 9.

No cake for my kids.  Joshua wanted pizza and do-nuts instead!

*We went to the Regner Farm for a gorgeous open house jewelry party.  It was very special to see my Grandparent's home decorated for Christmas and spend a bit of time there.  I miss them so very much.  Being in their home, and seeing the beautiful ways their children have honored them in this season of grief is really special.

*I have worked weekly shifts with the teens.  I am loving the time I spend with the kids.  I am starting to feel like I understand them and the program a bit.  Connections are forming.  It has been much harder balancing home and this little job than I expected.  I often feel torn about where my time is most needed - but I do love the time I have with these teens.

*I got to babysit my grandkids and give Sophia her first bottle.  Oh, how I love them!

*We got all our Christmas decorations up.  I love the transformation of this holiday.

*I have almost all of my Christmas shopping done and I have not entered one store.  Once FedEx and UPS drop it off, it will be wrapped and ready.  I LOVE online shopping!

*I played in the snow with Mataya.  We made her very first snowman.  Unfortunately, it snowed so much that the snowman is now buried under a snow pile!  Poor Mataya was not happy when she woke up and her snowman had gone away!

I know that this storm has not been a blessing for everyone.  Chad has only slept 10 hours in the last 4 days because moving snow is part of his occupation.  He is exhausted.  But for me, it has been a reprieve.  Being literally stuck at home has brought rest and peace for which I am so very thankful.

Simultaneously, I am thankful for the joy and peace I had found in the midst of crazy.  The weeks of the funeral and Thanksgiving were so full.  At times that fullness brings me anxiety and frustration.  I allow it to steal my joy.  However, this year I found joy in the chaos.  Chad was in awe.  He commented many times on the joy radiating through me as I cooked and entertained for hours and hours.

Perhaps I am learning.  This season of our family is going to be FULL.  We have children and grandchildren at absolutely every age and stage.  It has been a year in which we have lost many precious to us.  We have also been blessed to gain family members.  There will not be many days in which I can rest and savor.  I must learn to treasure up moments in my heart and embrace the chaos or I will miss the joy and beauty that surrounds me.

I think often of these verses.  And I long to celebrate each season, each time, for each and every moment the Lord gives is a gift.

Ecclesiastes 3New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Welcome Baby Sophia

On November 9 at 1:40 pm, our first granddaughter entered the world.  Krissy and Devin named her Sophia Jean Marie.  She was 7 lbs 6 oz and 20.5 inches long.  As her daddy said, "She is perfect."  (Sophia was my great grandmother's name - my dad's, dad's mom.  Jean is both my mom's and Krissy's middle name.  And as far as I know, Marie is Sophia's and Sophia's alone.  I think her name is as precious as she is.)

Thank you, Jesus.

I am ridiculously thrilled to have a granddaughter.  You see, I was so blessed by the relationship I had with both of my grandmothers.  They were my safe place to land, who I want to be when I grow up, my most significant mentors, and my deepest sources of encouragement and reassurance.  They loved me, accepted me, and believed in me.  Each woman was very different from the other, however they had some significant things in common - they loved and served the Lord,  they loved and served their families, and they made me feel safe to an extent that no one else has ever made me feel safe.

It is my hope that I pour out all they poured in as I love my own precious granddaughter.

As I have confessed, grandmothering has not come easily to me.  It is and will remain clumsy because of the closeness in age between Mataya, Wyatt, and Sophia.  My home is still full and active and needy.  It is also fun and noisy and full joy, toys, and laughter.  I can not be the grandma I always envisioned myself being - but I can be the one God has designed me to be. He has placed each of these tiny ones in my family, and I am so humbly grateful.

So humbly grateful.

Completely overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Anyway - enough typing.  Here she is!!!!

 Chad was is working out of town - but he drove home to meet this little peanut, only to drive back to the jobsite an hour later.  I am thankful he chooses to love us so well!
 I can not express how thrilled and proud Mataya was to meet and hold her tiny niece.  She was amazed at every tiny feature.  When we left she told me, "I love baby Sophia SO MUCH.  She is beautiful.  She is my favorite baby ever!  I have to hold her again.  She will miss me.  She will cry for me!" and then she proceeded to demonstrate just how Sophia would be crying.

 Newborns are Brenna's favorite.
 I am certain Joshua will be an amazing father one day.  He is so tender and gentle with tiny ones.  His ability to nurture always amazes me.  He proudly brought a picture of his new niece to school and delighted in showing her off all day long.

 How beautiful does Krissy look just half a day after her second child was born?
She amazes me in so many ways.

I do not have any pictures of Sierra with baby Sophia  - but they are sure to have a very special relationship.  Krissy and Devin allowed Sierra to be present when Sophia was born!  She had the privilege of watching her take her first breath and heard her very first cry.

Life is such a gift.  It is such a miracle.  The freshness of a brand new baby always fills my heart with awe and gratitude.

Oh darling baby Sophia, I am so thrilled that God sent you to us.  You are a treasured gift.  I am so excited to know all about you.  Lala loves you, Sophia Jean Marie, so very much.  Always and forever.  No matter what.