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

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.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Be Lifted High

In the last 6-8 weeks I have been parenting solo more than I have parented on my own in years and years.  For the most part, the kids and I have taken it in stride.  It has gone very well.  We miss Chad. . . A LOT!  But, we have managed to function well without him.

However, yesterday I was DONE.

I was exhausted and grumpy and very easily overwhelmed.  Had you been a fly on the wall you would have heard me mutter, "I am SO OVER PARENTING!" right after sorting out fight number 587 between Joshua and Mataya.

I knew I did not have the emotional energy to load up those two tired tyrants and head to church, so I brewed a cup of coffee and turned on the live feed instead.  I think my "get my head in the worship game" prayer went something like this.  "God.  You know what these last weeks have been like.  You know that watching church is not the same as being there.  You know I will be interrupted about 27 times.  It's crummy - but this is the best I have to give today.  Forgive me and meet me here please."

And as only God can.  He met me and changed me within the first 30 seconds of the service.  The opening worship song went like this. . .

I only want to sing, if I sing with everything.
If, I sing to you my King.

I can't imagine why I would do this all for hype.
It's all to lift you high. 

Those words pierced my heart.

He whispered, "I know this is your desire.  You are tired.  You are weary.  You should be.  BUT - I know that you want to live for me.  I know you want to parent for me.  I know you want to give it your everything."

That gracious reminder calmed my soul and re-invigorated my will.

The rest of the day was not completely blissful.  It had many moody ups and downs - but that is how parenting many children works.  My circumstances did not change, but my heart did.

Thank you Jesus.

Thank you that You meet me in the crummy and the grumpy and the weary.  And You do not leave me there to wallow.  You gently listen and respond.  You inspire.  Be lifted high in my parenting this week.  Be lifted high in my workplace this week.  Be lifted high in my conversations this week.  Be lifted high in my spirit this week.  I long to joyfully give You my everything.

This week the saga continues - Chad got home about 2 yesterday and leaves again tomorrow morning.  It is a mad rush of laundry and instructions and organization - but it will be OK.  I am not alone.  I am never alone.

PS - Here are a few shots of the little ones I snapped over the weekend.  In retrospect the reason I was so overwhelmed on Sunday was because I packed too much into the rest of the weekend.  We played outside, rented movies, went out to lunch, explored the zoo, jumped on the trampoline, went for a walk in the neighborhood, and went to a movie in the theater.  In between, I cleaned out the pantry, wiped down my kitchen cupboards, caught up the laundry, deciphered some important paperwork, and cleaned all the bathrooms.  I was happy to get all that stuff done - but my emotional state on Sunday proved that I did not make wise choices.  Margin is so important.

 This walk ended with Mataya falling and skinning her knee.  Momma carried Mataya and the dolly cart about .25 miles.  But - it started out cute!  
  Mataya's hair defines her personality!  She is so much fun, totally unpredictable, and always full of energy!

Wishing you a week lived carefully inside the margins.  Wishing you rest along with accomplishments.  But mostly wishing you a week lived in His service.  May He be lifted high in all we do.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Tradition Continues

(I know what I was supposed to notice, when Chad sent me this picture, was that Jamison harvested a very nice deer.  Instead, I was completely blown away by how OLD my son looks!  Seriously. . . he is only 18 people!  18!)


Chad was thrilled when Jamison decided to hunt this year.  The last several years, Jamison has been racing during deer hunting season.  If all goes as he hopes, he will be racing during hunting for the next four years as well.  However, since injuries prevented him from racing at all this fall, he decided to skip going to the regional meet (as a fan of his team) and spend the time with family instead.  That made for one VERY happy dad.

And a proud one, as well.  After Jamison dropped this deer, Chad texted me, "Jay made a long shot.  He was standing.  He's got my blood running through him."

That is high praise, especially considering the source!

It is the first year that Chad's grandpa, and biggest hunting mentor, has not been able to hunt - so having Jamison walking the fields by his side has been reassuring.  The hunting tradition will continue - from grandfather, to daughter, to grandson, to great grandson and great granddaughters.  (Sierra has been a "deer dog" this weekend, since she was not drawn for a tag this year.  Brenna hunted during youth season.)  Loss, it seems, makes the stability of tradition that much more special.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Give us THIS day our DAILY bread

These last few months have been full - like a cup filled to the brim.  Imagine it. . .   When a cup is filled to the brim it appears that the liquid is suspended in a dome just the tiniest amount over the top of the cup.  The slightest wiggle and a spill happens.  There is no room for error.

THAT image describes our life lately.

We have pushed to the margins, stretching limits absolutely as far as they can be stretched, in many areas.

Our schedules have been intense.  Chad and I have been exchanging a few quick updates and instructions as we as we pass in the garage, as one of us leaves and the other returns.

Finances have been tighter than usual as well, as one job was pushed back and another job was slower to pay than expected.  (Nothing catastrophic. . . just annoying.)

We have traveled more than usual.  This is the first weekend in ages in which I have been home and NOT working.  (Chad, however, is gone.)

Routine has been impossible.  Each day, I have needed to make decisions as to what MUST be done and what must wait.

One day I was feeling particularly weary.  I was whining to God about it all.  I actually said, "Lord, I am so tired of needing You so much.  I thank you that You have provided enough every day - enough money, enough time, enough patience - but I could use a little margin here. I want to relax and know I have it under control."

He let me sit in my own thoughts for a bit - like a naughty child in time out.  My own words seemed suspended in air, echoing in my mind.

I had the AUDACITY to complain to my Lord and Savior that He had provided enough.  Enough was not good enough for me.  Like a spoiled brat, I wanted excess.  I wanted to feel powerful and in control, rather than needy, humble, and submissive.

His silent grace and understanding washed over me.  It corrected me with such a kindness and love.  It is mind boggling really, just how incredibly free I felt as I recognized my sin combined with His grace.

Since that day, when I am tempted to be overwhelmed or anxious or ungrateful, I take a deep breathe and thank Him instead.  I thank Him for His faithfulness.  I thank Him that although I have had very little excess, I have had enough.

And enough IS enough.

His prayer says, "give us this day our daily bread."

Jesus taught us to ask for and expect enough for the day, and not to worry about the next day.  When I choose to live as He taught, everything changes.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October. . .

Around here lately. . . well, it's been a blur.  Chad has been working out of town quite a bit.  I have worked more than usual, as well.  Combine that with the usual pace of our household AND some extra extended-family obligations, and you get CRAZY.

So here is the condensed version of the last couple of weeks:

 Having been given this precious peanut, and the opportunity to work (mostly) from home, is something I NEVER take for granted. Many of my most cherished moments happen with her snuggled up under my chin.

 The garage at the lake is DONE!

Mataya loves to be surrounded by all her favorites.  Her bed is PILED high with toys, books, blankets, and stuffed animals every night. She rarely leaves the house without her arms full of  treasures.  On the day above, she insisted ALL her dollies come with us to run errands.  AND each one needed to be buckled.  Oh, my heart.  She cracks me up!

 Chad and I, along with these three, went on an impromptu road trip to visit Chad's grandparents.  Both were being hospitalized at the time we visited.  Chad was able to spend some very precious time with them at the hospital, while I kept the kids entertained at the hotel pool and at an amusement park.

 These kids LOVE to swim.  I do not.  I was totally ecstatic when I realized that Mataya is now capable of swimming without me.  She is very happy to swim all by herself, while I watched from a chair nearby.  However, I am certain that I was even more excited about this milestone than she was!

 Likewise, all of the kids had a BLAST on the rides at the amusement park.  The trio was fearless.  They had so much fun. and did such a good job taking turns.  Mataya was not able to go on many of the rides, but the older two joyfully went on all the kiddie rides in between the thrillers. 

Unfortunately, this is the final photo we will have with Chad's grandmother.  She headed to heaven just a few short days after this photo was taken.  For many reasons, I was not able to know her well.  I will tell my kids and grandkids a few things about her.  One, she was TINY.  Tiny!!! She weighed less than 90 lbs in this photo and was inches under five feet tall.  Two, she was mighty.  She was a whirl of energy, always.  Three, though she did not see any of us often, she did try to stay in contact through email.  She often forwarded emails that inspired her.  When she was with my kids, her eyes sparkled with joy.  Her love for her family was deep.  She was an incredibly dedicated wife, caring for her husband was her top priority her entire life.

 And. . . yesterday we celebrated Halloween.
 Mataya was thrilled to be allowed to wear her princess costume all day.  This glimpse of her helping me clean the toilets, in full Cinderella garb, made my entire day.  
 Our grandson, Wyatt, dressed as a puppy.  He hated the hat - but hat or no hat, he was a sweet, snugly puppy!

I can not even explain how much fun Mataya had.  She was such a hoot!  She loved her costume.  She loved her silver sparkly shoes.  She loved that Sierra did her makeup.  She loved ringing doorbells, with Joshua at her side.  She delighted in every treat she was given.  Watching her joy filled me up.
 Joshua loves to dress up.  He plays in costume all the time.  So, an excuse to wear one out of the house, is most welcome.  It is so fun to watch him be confident and bold.
 He was the kindest, sweetest, most considerate big brother last night.  He chose to hold her hand.  He made sure she made it safely up and down stairs with her long dress.  He let her ring the doorbells.  He reminded her to say thank you.  He was meant to be a big brother, I tell you.  I am so thankful he was given the chance!

Krissy even allowed me to snap a picture of her and her babies.  

I know pregnancy goes WAY faster and is WAY cuter when you are not the one pregnant, but I think she is so beautiful. And I am so very proud of her. At 39 weeks pregnant, Krissy is still on her feet 9+ hours a day, working hard at The Hair Academy. Just last week she cut my hair and Mataya's. While she was working one of her instructors came over and said, "I just want you to know that she has been such a trooper during this pregnacy. She has never complained. She is such a hard worker. A real role model. Not many students have her work ethic anymore." As her momma, there are no words that would make me more proud. I love you, Krissy, and your beautiful family. I am praying for you as you anxiously await the arrival of this precious gift.