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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

She's Home

Very recently, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.  From the very first moment I heard his news. I felt an urgency.  I knew in my very soul that this ruthless disease was attacking very aggressively.

I listened and waited as each of his children took their turn visiting him.  They helped him get to doctor appointments and radiation treatments.  He says it felt like a party.  He and Grandma got to spend time with each of their four children, and they stopped for lots of treats along the way.  Food is our family love language, so stopping for pie makes even the worst news a bit sweeter.

About 2 or 3 weeks after he was diagnosed, on March 13, I received a text from my mom that grandpas was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  Tears flowed.  I had not seen him since his diagnosis.  Though I had visited often over the years, it was very important to me that I had at least one more hug from my grandpa.

I asked my mom if I could please go to visit the following day, and hurriedly made arrangements for my kids and job.  I felt a complete sense of urgency to get to my grandparents.

By the grace of God my grandfather was doing a bit better by the time I arrived the next morning.   Though he had gained an astronomical amount of weight due to fluid build-up and was clearly uncomfortable and exhausted, he was in good spirits.  He was kind, compassionate, and always-joking - which is the essence of my grandma.  He and Grandma and I had a wonderful day just sitting together.  We spoke some, but I mostly just soaked in their presence.  I thought often that I should snap a photo of the day because it was so beautiful to me.  It was filling a longing deep in my soul, and I was so very grateful.

Grandma and I left Grandpa for a while in the afternoon so he could rest.  We headed to lunch and then bought some groceries.  She told me about a new recipe she was planning to try.  She explained why she used distilled water in her iron.  (Embarrassing truth, I rarely iron anything.)

We headed back to the hospital with a little ice cream treat for Grandpa.

After he ate supper, Grandma gave him two kisses and wished him a good night.  I gave him a hug and told him I would be back with Grandma in the morning.

We went through a fast food joint on our way to their farm.

When we arrived at the farm the evidence of their new limitations was clear.  There were wheel tracks leading across their front lawn, right up to the front door.  My grandparents have always had a beautifully kept yard.  The fact that they had ruined the grass to save some steps spoke volumes to me.

I followed the path, parked just feet from the door, and helped my grandma inside.

She checked messages and returned phone calls.  I unloaded groceries.

We each settled into a glider in the office and chatted and read before bed.  She told me all the news about her siblings and my cousins.  I told her details about Krissy's upcoming wedding, silly stories about Mataya and Wyatt, and we discussed menu ideas for Jamison's graduation party.

We went to bed early.

I woke up the next morning in a panic.  I could hear her alarm clock playing, but I could not hear her moving around.  My grandma was the strongest frail woman you have ever seen - but she was frail.  She had had congestive heart failure for almost 17 years (when diagnosed the doctor expected her to only survive 2 years).  She had had blood cancer for over a decade as well.  It had become active again recently so she was taking chemo pills.  Through it all she cooked and cleaned.  She quilted and gardened.  She sold Avon and went to Circle.  She moved  more slowly, but she never stopped moving.  With Grandpa so sick, and her health history, I had been terrified every moment she was under my care.  The thought of anything happening to her brought panic to my heart.  So, when I heard her get up and head to the bathroom, I was so relieved.

I got up and dressed.  I headed to the kitchen to start coffee.  She headed back to bed for a bit.  I could hear her softly snoring, and I was so thankful she was getting some rest.

It did not take long and she rushed into the kitchen, worrying about my coffee.  I told her it was taken care of.  She headed to her bedroom to pack up a few things.

A bit later I had breakfast ready - scrambled eggs, bagels, and oranges.  We ate together.  We chatted comfortably.  We decided we should pick up her taxes from their accountant before heading up to the hospital.  She seemed so good.  I was so relieved.

She headed to get dressed and fix her hair.  I set about cleaning up the kitchen.

I finished the kitchen clean-up and sat down in the silent kitchen to do my devotions.  I considered carrying things out to the car, but decided I did not want to leave Grandma in the house alone.

After a bit more time, I started to feel uneasy.  She had become much more slow in her movements, but maybe I should check on her. . . just in case.  Or not?  There is nothing I hate more than someone pounding on my bathroom door when I am preparing for my day.  I debated for a few moments, and finally decided to ask through the door if I could get her a bit more coffee.

I called through the door, but there was no response.  With my heart pounding, I opened the door.

The moments that followed were some of the hardest, most helpless, and emotionally painful of my life.  Much of it is a blur.

But as I look back on it, one thing is crystal clear.  My grandma's face was completely at rest.  Her eyes were closed, her face was relaxed.  She was not in pain or suffering in any way.  There was no struggle, only peace.  Though clinically speaking she died in the ambulance heading to the hospital, in my heart I know she was already home with Jesus when I found her.  The only pain and panic in the room belonged to me, thank you Jesus.

Though I am absolutely heartbroken, I am also so very thankful.  She slipped silently and painlessly from her earthly home to heaven.  It was, as my grandpa said, "about as good as it gets."  And though being there was hard, it was also a gift.  The peace I witnessed will never leave me.  I will hide it in my heart and cling to it the rest of my days.


We celebrated my grandma's life these past two days.

It was a fantastic party.

She would have been amazed at the attendance.  And the flowers, oh the flowers were magnificent.  Nearly as magnificent as her yard in July.

I count myself very lucky.  My grandma knew each of my children.  The oldest ones spent some of the best days of their childhood climbing her tickle tree (weeping willow), building forts in the trees, and chewing unlimited pieces of Big Red gum.  I was even able to introduce her to my first grandson.  Not many grandmas are able to ask their own grandmother for advice on being a grandma!

I am greedy though.  I would have preferred a few more decades.

The last day I spent with her. . . the last day of her life, she told me "There really is not anything I would change about my life.  It has been a good life.  We didn't have everything - but we had all we need.  I guess it might not seem like much to someone else, but to me it was just about perfect."

She was such a gift.

My only regret, though he would not want me to have it, is that I did not keep my promise and return my grandma to grandpa.  I know he is so thankful I was there.  He holds no malice - and I know it is an irrational regret.  But I am grieving.  I don't have to be rational.


My grandparents would have been married 63 years on April 17.

They loved each other well.  (to say the least)

My grandfather is currently very ill.  So ill, he was not able to attend grandma's service.  Very soon he will be joining her in heaven.  And although I hate that thought, I feel too emotionally drained to even consider it, my deepest prayer is that he will have just as peaceful a transition from this world to that as my grandma did.

I would appreciate your prayers for my family as we grieve the loss of my grandma and do our best to serve my grandfather well in these his final days.

My grandparents gave me many gifts over the years, but without a doubt, the greatest gift they have ever given me is the assurance that we will meet again someday.  I will miss her, and I grieve for all of us left behind.  But to her I say, "Congratulations!  Welcome Home!"

"Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere."
Psalm 84:10

I look forward to the day when we are forever reunited in heaven.

Thank you Jesus.  In You, we always have hope.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Senior Prom 2016






Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Come and Rest at My Feet.

I slept terribly last night. The chaos of life was closing in fast causing me to be far from peaceful.

My mind was racing from topic to topic.  Wedding plans.  Graduation plans.  Work tasks that need attention.  Finances.  Parenting.  Some hard needs of friends and family members.  Some sticky relationship issues.  Feelings of failure, doubt, loneliness.  You know the drill.  Middle of the night anxiety may have a different list of topics in your life, but no matter the topic list the overwhelming feelings are similar.

As my mind raced, I kept hearing bits of a song creep through.  It was similar to when a radio is not quite in tune.  I could hear a lot of static combined with a burst of song every now and again.

This chorus was what my heart was dying to hear.

"Breathe.

Just Breathe.

Come and rest at My feet."

It was surreal because although I knew the words, I listen to this song all of the time,  I could not quite grasp them.  A battle was taking place.  A spiritual battle.  To whom would I listen?

One voice shouted I was not enough.

The other whispered come and rest at My feet.

In the light of day the choice is obvious.  But in those dark, quiet hours, that evil voice of failure and condemnation was so very convincing.

By 3:30 am I had had enough.  I climbed out of bed and googled that chorus.  Choosing to allow His voice volume.

What I did not know in those wee hours is that God was preparing me for a very difficult day.  I had expected busy, busy busy.  I had a work meeting to attend with both babies in tow.  Brenna had a track meet, and the babies and I would go there as well. We would squeeze a nap time and some house work in the middle.  What I did not expect is that I would also receive very tough news in regards to the health of several people I deeply love and admire.  I did not expect this morning to have phrases like "hospice" and "quality of life" enter into my day.

But He knew.

And He loved me enough to battle for me in the middle of the night.  He sang over me the very words I would need in order to survive this day.  He prepared the way.

Yep, I am still shocked.  I am sad and angry and frustrated and sooo not ready for any of this.

The pain is there - but the promise is, too.

I do not know what you faced today or what you will face tomorrow.  I don't know what chaos and busy, busy, busy look like in your life - but I know you are dealing with some version of it.  We all are.

In those moments that are too much, know there is a safe place.

Breathe.  Just Breathe.  Come and rest at His feet.

Collapse.  Cry.  Tantrum.  Sob.  Sleep.  Do whatever you need to do.

And as you do, know that "chaos calls, but all you really need is to just breathe."

"Breathe"

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Want to make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
So let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

Sunday, April 10, 2016

bekka

"Bekka" means stop it or enough in Amharic.  When things are way over the top we tend to use this word in our home.  And in all reality it is the best way I can describe the last few weeks.

Bekka.

Too busy.  Too noisy.  Too scheduled.  Too much rush.

Bekka.

I end this weekend more tired than I began it, and it is making me angry.  (How is that for honest!)

This rush will not end any time soon.  That is the reality of it, so I am just going to have to figure out how to handle it better.

So where I am very tempted to whine, I will instead choose to give thanks.  A lot of exciting things happened this past week.  I have much in which to be thankful.

Brenna turned 13!
We had a wonderful party with family, and I anticipate a fun night with her friends this week.
 Mataya is naughty and busy and into everything!
She is crazy smart.
She exhausts us all with her endless two-year-old testing, and at the same time she brings so very much laughter into our home.  
 Friday morning Mataya and I stayed home and played.  Sigh.  It was divine.

Watching her love her babies as she has been loved helps me know that even though she tests every single boundary we set she knows how to give and receive love.  She is definitely feisty.  Thankfully she loves with the same tenacity.
 Jamison was recognized as an honor student.
 I spent many, many hours with Mataya snuggled up on my lap reading, singing songs, and tickling.  I am so very thankful that it is my lap in which she receives comfort, even on the loudest, crankiest, most exhausting days.
Wyatt, our precious grandson, is the definition of sweetness.  He is nearly always happy.  He loves food more than I can even explain.  He also loves balls.  He plays like a champ.  I am so very thankful for his good nature.  

I am also thankful because he and Mataya are (finally) starting to play together just a bit.  Having them both has been one of the largest challenges of my parenting/child care/grandparenting "career."  Mataya did not handle his presence well.  And he was not accustomed to the structure that his Lala lives by.  It was a rough few months, but at long last, we are all doing just a bit better together!

I am also thankful that:

- I found a dress for the wedding.

-I was able to enjoy both a track meet and a music contest with Brenna this week.

-Chad finished the wagon for the wedding.

-Event planning is going well.  All major details for the wedding are proceeding on schedule.  We ordered Jamison's graduation announcements Saturday.  It is A LOT of planning, but it is going well.

-Our taxes will be filed on time.

-My mother-in-law will stay with Mataya and Wyatt one day this coming week so that I can get a huge report done at work and check it off my list.

-Sierra is plugging into church in this beautiful, inspiring courageous way.


You know what?!?  I feel better now.  Truly.  I really, really wanted to focus on all I had yet to do.  I wanted to focus on the crummy of temper tantrums, laundry piles, and pressure.  But that still small voice called me to greater things.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you." 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thankfully, I am being dragged down by rush.  Mundane rush.  Beautiful rush of exciting events.  Typical rush of work and family life.  There is nothing tragic going on in my home.  Even still, I have a choice to make: be grateful or be overwhelmed.  

I choose gratitude.

Deliberate gratitude.

And when I do, the rush is replaced by peace and focus.

He always has the best plan.

Always.

Be glorified, Lord Jesus, in this season of rush.  Be glorified.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jamison's Senior Pics

I know baby pictures are the ones that get all the likes on Facebook, but in my momma heart, senior photos are just as sweet.  They represent the finale.  The finish.  Not of parenting, but of the season in which I have at least a bit of parental control.  They are a celebration of accomplishments and of impending freedom.  Looking through these amazing pictures of my son as a man wipes me out.  I am so proud of him.  I am so grateful to be his mom.  I am so thankful for the man of character, determination, integrity, kindness, confidence, and intelligence he has become.  He is solid, and I am totally confident of his readiness to fly the coop.  That is an incredible gift.

So, I invite you to enjoy this finale with me.
It has been a glorious ride.

 Jamison has saved every pair of shoes he has trained in since the start of his high school running career.  Each pair of shoes in this pile represents 300 miles of sweat, pain, laughter, and growth.  This pile represents his most treasured high school memories.  He can tell you stories about events that occurred while running in each and every pair of these shoes.  This may be my favorite of his senior pictures because it most clearly represents him, and I could not love him more.

 If you look closely at these two photos they represent his passage from high school into college.  He is wearing his high school uniform while his college colors are slung over his shoulder.  I wanted a photo of him walking away from high school and toward his future.  When you ask my son what he is doing next year he says, "I am running cross country and track and the University of Mary.  And I will major in exercise science and then go to PT school."  It is always the running that comes first.  While he is an awesome student, he will graduate with a 3.7 GPA, his greatest sense of pride and accomplishment comes from running.  I am thankful he has the opportunity to follow both his athletic and educational dreams.


 20 pairs of shoes X 300 miles per pair = 6000 miles run in training to date

This does not include racing.

Success comes through hard work.
He is proof.









 Just for the record, I love his tattoo.



Last week Joshua said to me, "Mom.  I really do not think Jay is ready to go to college.  I think we better keep him home at least one more year."  I laughed.  And I get it.  I will miss Jamison like crazy, too.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Great-Great Grandma Verduin's Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes technology is the coolest thing.

Yesterday I was missing my grandma like crazy.  She has been a resident of heaven for almost 12 years, but I will miss her until the day I join her there.  However, yesterday I missed her a bit more than usual.  

So when Brenna wished to bake something the first thing that entered my mind, not to mention my taste buds, was my grandma's peanut butter cookies.  Unfortunately I did not have the recipe.  So I messaged my Auntie Pat. . .

and less than 2 minutes later I had this!
 Seeing my grandma's perfect handwriting always takes my breath away.  Even my handsome husband says he would recognize it anywhere.  

I learned that my grandma's peanut butter cookies were actually her mother's!  Brenna was super excited to make a recipe that came from her Great-Great Grandmother, Ralphine Verduin.



Mataya made sure she got in on the baking action, too.  She loves to stir and taste!
It was so sweet to have a little taste of my grandma yesterday.
Sometimes the simple things are the sweetest gifts.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Savoring the Rush?

These last weeks have been a crazy rush of rush.

Nothing stretches me like rushing.  I have learned that although I am capable of multitasking and packing my schedule fuller than full, in seasons of "too much" I do not thrive, I merely endure.  I have learned to avoid rush.  To choose my activities carefully.  To make space, create boundaries, and allow myself to savor.

Unfortunately, right now rushing feels like my only option.

I had a plan for this Spring.  It was mostly about Jamison and enjoying all the end of high school events - Prom, senior photos, track meets, hosting his open house.  But there was to be a generous sprinkling of the other kids as well.  Brenna turns 13 next week, which means a party is in order.  Wyatt and Mataya keep me on my toes.  End of the year concerts are always a highlight of spring.  Brenna is running track, so we will have twice the meets to attend.  Business is busier than ever before.  It was sure to be BUSY - but I was ready.

And then Krissy and Devin threw a BIG, exciting monkey wrench into my master plan.  They got engaged on March 5.  On March 29, she asked if she could stop over and talk wedding.  When we started talking she blew me out of the water when she asked if we could plan a wedding for April. . . as in THIS April.  (Insert panic here.)

All I told her is that I would try.  And then I texted some of my most trusted prayer warriors and asked them to pray that if this wedding was the Lord's will that I would find a venue.

So at 8 am Monday morning I started calling the list of venues I had created in the hopes of finding a location in which to host the event.  She probably would have preferred to elope.  He wanted a ceremony, dinner, and dance.  She bowed to what he wanted, which meant they were hoping I could plan a big ole party within the next 44 days. (Insert more panic here.)

By 10:30 I had a place.  And it was the exact place the kids had hoped for.

By mid afternoon I had booked the venue, a cake, and a DJ.  All while caring for Wyatt and Mataya.  (Insert exhaustion here.)

Operation wedding had officially begun.

Today, 13 days later, Krissy has chosen her dress, and it is currently being altered.  She also chose Sierra's dress.  (Sierra will be her only bridesmaid.)  We have purchased their shoes as well.  Mataya will be flower girl and her dress should arrive tomorrow.  Invitations are addressed and will be mailed in the morning; table decorations are chosen and the materials are on order.  I have consulted with the hotel as to room arrangement, food choices, times, etc...  The cake is sketched and the deposit made.  Chad is constructing a custom wagon for the babies to ride in.  Krissy and Devin have met with a pastor.  We have a pre-planning meeting with the photographer tomorrow.  And my credit card is melting.

I'm exhausted people, as much from the lack of space to process as from the physicality of it all. These are the days I once dreamed of.  My daughter is getting married!  We are planing her wedding. And it is NOTHING like I had expected.

Does that not define motherhood!

I have learned in the last 13 days that one of the most precious gifts my mom and dad gave me was the wedding of my dreams.  I had a wedding.  It was beautiful.  It was precious.  It was everything I wished it to be.  I have often said it was the most perfect day of my life.  Because I had my "fairy tale," I am now capable of stepping back and (hopefully) giving Krissy hers.

I follow her lead.  If she wants to rush, we will rush.  When she chooses things opposite of what I would choose for myself, I (try to) marvel at how uniquely we are each made.  "It is her day", has become my mantra.  It will truly be one of the most interesting weddings I have ever attended, marked by an amount of tradition along with a huge dash of surprising and original.  Krissy is bold, untamed, and unique; and, I am proud that she is being herself even when it would be easier to cave to cultural norms.

So pray for me people!  Pray that relationships would not be harmed, and even, God-willing, strengthened during this time of crazy.  Pray that God would allow me moments to savor even in this rush.  Pray that I would have the ability to attend to the needs of each of the people dear to me during this busy season and that I would be able to ignore those details that do not matter (like vacuuming) in order to invest in the things that do.

Most importantly, pray that God would break the hearts of Krissy and Devin for Him.  Marriage is hard.  I do not know how you can succeed at it without Christ at the center.  As they step into this holy covenant, my heart and soul long for them to bend their will not just to each other but to Him as well.