Friday, July 29, 2016

Shower the people...

I was looking thru pictures the other day, and I came across some that I had taken for a friend and her business.  It was a bright, sun shining, beautiful day. Her and I spent the afternoon working on things for our upcoming festivals. Her wrapping soaps and me cutting out puppet parts while our gaggle of kids spent hours playing together on an amazingly hot PNW summer day. For me, seeing those pictures was a reminder of the last day I felt normal... the next day I would get a phone call that would change my world and change me forever...

I've always known that I wanted to speak at my Gram's funeral. I didn't know how I would ever be able to but I knew that God would hold me up and give me the words when I needed Him to. It's been a year today that we lost one of the greatest women I have ever known. It's been a year of feeling lost and empty at times, but it's also been a year of love and focus... 

If I learned anything from my Gram it was to LOVE in the little things and to LOVE in the big things... to focus on what's important like God, and family and friends... and to love unconditionally...

I've been asked a number of times to share the words that I spoke the day we buried her but I just haven't been able to push send. Those words were the last thing that were just mine for her. But she wouldn't want me to keep it to myself so I am sharing them now, for anyone that knew her to take a moment to remember her and for anyone that didn't get the priveledge of knowing her to at least have a moment to hear about how great she was and to somehow take a little bit of goodness from it and pass it on out into the world....

 Proverbs 31 verse 10-31 reads

[b]Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
    She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
    and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She finds wool and flax
    and busily spins it.
14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
    and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
    with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is energetic and strong,
    a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
    her lamp burns late into the night.
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
    her fingers twisting fiber.
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
    and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
    for everyone has warm[c] clothes.
22 She makes her own bedspreads.
    She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
    where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24 She makes belted linen garments
    and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
    Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
    but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
    but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
    Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

As a Christian wife and mother, this scripture is acts as much of a blue print for the woman I am aiming to be. It defines the woman or wife of noble character. For a number of years now, I have been studying about this scripture and learning how to be a better wife and mother through the eyes of God. What I didn’t realize until recently was what an amazing example of this I have been living with and loving my entire life. It wasn’t until recently that I got a clearer image in my mind of what that kind of woman would look like and I realized that it was my Gram through and through.

My relationship with my gram hasn’t just been that of some elderly distant figure like most people I know. It’s been more like that of a second mom. When I was little and we lived with Grammy and Papa, I spent my early years at home with Gram while my mom was at work. I didn’t realize until I was older and starting a family of my own, just how important that time in my life was and how lucky I was to have spent it with her instead of in the care of strangers. I think back on how their home was really that house that built me… her and my papa (along with my mom of course) gave me the best foundation for life that I person could ask for…

One of my earliest memories in life, are of her in the kitchen, and really a lot of my memories focused around that room. She was always baking…. Baking bread and cookies and meals for my Papa to take to camp. I can remember her skilled hands rolling out pie dough and making them with such precision that you would have thought they were store bought ( only hers were better!)  She would cut off the excess crust and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar before rolling it into a circle and baking it for a special treat for me… it was in those everyday tasks, the tiny insignificant gestures that she showed me how to love, and to feel important. Looking back and being a mom it was probably just a way to get me out from under her feet but to me it made me feel so special.

Gram would get up every morning and make Papa’s lunches and then she would have the oven going with the door propped open and my school clothes draped over a chair so they would be warm in the morning when I came down to get ready for school…. Her love shone thru in the everyday simple details. She was showing me how to love, how to be a great mom and how to dedicate my life to my husband and God.

It is my belief that the greatest testimony to Christ is to live our lives loving each other... my Gram did that with every breath she ever took. The greatest thankyou we can ever give those we love here on earth is to take what they gave us, not in money but in love and pass that on to the next generation. I knew for my entire life that when I grew up, I wanted boy or girl to name my kids after Grammy and Papa. And today, I can look out into the faces of Janie and Rori and know that they are the greatest legacy I could ever leave for a woman that was everything to me.

I didn’t know if I would be able to stand up and speak, but my Papa asked me the other day if I really thought I’d be able to and I told him that I was just  trusting in God to give me a few minutes of calm. A friend of mine mentioned that his grandma was the pattern for his life too and I loved the thought of that…. My gram is that pattern of everything good that I am…. She was with me when my babies were little and I’d kiss  the bottom of their feet like she used to mine, and she is with me in every meal I make and serve on the dishes I now have that were hers…. She will continue to be with me every morning when I get up to make my husband coffee and lunch because she lead by example by being the kind of 31 wife I want to be…. And she will be with me with every dough I kneed or pie I roll out….or orange cookie that someday I will make for my grandchildren…

When most people want to celebrate a person they will gesture to raise a glass…. But I want celebrate by raising a cookie instead because last week heaven got a little bit sweeter….

Friday, January 29, 2016

Words that change you

It's funny how fast our outlook on a day can change in the blink of an eye. It could be both for the good or the bad, it all depends on if we let it. Our day could change course from something as simple as a glass of spilled milk putting us in a bad mood, or it could be something as whimsy as getting a card in the mail from a friend to completely turn our day around. Why is it that we as humans can be so fickle and easily controlled?

For a number of years now, I have been part of a group of Christian ladies on Facebook that chose a word to focus on for the year. A friend of mine set this group up and I felt honored to be included in a group of ladies focused on giving God the glory in our lives and using the fruits of the spirit   ( love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) one word at a time, to really get to know Him better.

It has been amazing to me how the words that the group chose to focus on really seemed to fit our particular lives that year. In 2013, we found out about my father's cancer and  unexpectedly around the same time, we were forced to move to a new house....finding PEACE in those situations was sometimes challenging but just having that word as a reminder of HIS timing was sometimes the only thing getting me thru...

And then in 2014, we found ourselves having to be PATIENT father had many set backs that put him in the hospital. Living on the opposite side of the country made it almost unbearable... sitting by the phone waiting for news was a new way of life there for awhile and the day he had his stroke I decided to take the phone and go outside... I wasn't feeling the patience to just be still and so I spent much of that spring with a phone in my pocket and work gloves on my hands. I was finding my patience more in action that anything. I spent a LOT of time in my garden talking to God.That year was something I would have never chosen to have to go thru but looking back I learned so much and found a stronger connection to God than I ever thought possible.

After the great year of loss we'd had, I was going into 2015 with very much  of a wounded heart. The online group I'd been part of was using the word KINDNESS but to be completely honest, I just wasn't feeling it. I had to find my own JOY again... It sounds silly to say that I needed to find joy when I know that it was all around me in so many things that I loved that truly did bring me joy but I was so numb from the losses we had in 2014, I needed to really feel the joy again. I tried to focus on the little things, I put that word around my house in every way I could. We would randomly find things at stores and in books or movies that really screamed JOY and my family all rallied around me and reminded me every chance they had that "JOY" was my word!  Little did I know, that a purse I had specially made with the word embroidered on it would come in the mail the day my Gram died. God was really putting it on my heart to not forget the joy. That one three little letter word would change my outlook on even my darkest days.

Our lives are not our own, No matter how much we think we can control them. There will always be ups and downs in our days and weeks and months that we have absolutely no control over but we will always have the choice of how we react to them.  Our lives would take another turn in 2015 that I haven't shared here on this blog. Our family welcomed in my 17 yr old step son and the dynamics of the life we had would be forever changed. Once again, there are good days and bad days when dealing with the life of a teenager but I hope that we welcomed him in a way that he could see God working in our lives and that he came to our home feeling loved and safe...

As we entered into 2016, it was really a mess of emotions and a lot of exhaustion. The fb group that I have been part of moved on to a new word for the year and chose GOODNESS. I kept waiting for God to really lead me to embrace a word but the direction just isn't coming so for now I will just wait for His quiet whisper ...

Friday, January 1, 2016

A hand of memories not cards...

I know it's going to sound dumb but new years eve just didn't have the same excitement as it usually does. It didn't have the same anticipation of something new coming but rather a feel of wanting to hold on to something that isn't possible to hold on to. The strange thing about grief is that is shows up in the strangest places and at the most unexpected times. Movies you have watched a hundred times will suddenly trigger a memory or emotion that you didn't see coming, songs that you used to love will have parts that pop out to you and stir up feelings that you've never had when listing to that particular lyric before. Grief also hits you when you see a person's handwriting somewhere and you take a deep breath in as if all the air has been sucked out of your lungs...

Last night, my hubby and three kiddos spent the evening eating yummy food and playing a card game that I used to play with my Gram called Groups and Runs. It's a game that her and I would play for hours, every visit we had together. There would be a year or more in between that I wouldn't play it but when we were together for visits in the summer ,we pulled out those cards and it was like it was the new best thing! Sometimes my Papa or Mom would play but really it was just something between Gram and I. The game has 10 hands of cards to it, so we'd find a pad of paper or sometimes just a scratch piece of paper and start keeping score. Occasionally we wouldn't finish the whole 10 hands, the paper would get lost or we'd run out of time on the trip but you could always be sure we'd pick up those cards on our next visit. After my husband and I married, my gram and I welcomed him into our card playing tradition. I treasure the memories of playing with both of them together and I know my husband does too. When Gram passed, there was lots of cleaning things out at the request of my papa and they kept trying to include my husband in the process of giving out sentimental things that had been hers. For me it was over whelming  the things that made me feel closer to her, but for him it was pretty straight forward. If no one minded, he would like to have a deck of her cards....I don't know why I hadn't thought of it myself actually. It had been years since she had been able to play with us, and the last few times were rather upsetting for me as she was having trouble remembering the rules and you could tell it left her flustered to try. But for my husband, he was able to just think of the good times, sitting at the table and the heckling that was sure to bounce back and forth between the two of them. He got her humor and she thought the world of him.

So, as I sat at my own kitchen table with my husband and three kids gathered around me last night, it was uplifting to me that we'd spend the last evening of 2015 doing something that she had once loved to do with me. I know that none of them probably realized how much that meant to me, especially my daughter who was having an off night of cards and ended up with a horrible score in the end....those special moments spent around a table TOGETHER are the ones that someday we'll look back on. It's not the time spent chatting on our phones or the hours spent playing shoot'em up games on the computer that make memories, it's the time we spend engaged in each other and making each other a priority that builds relationships. Kids of this generations don't get that. They think that socializing has to be done at a computer with headsets on, not face to face hanging out with friends.

As I sat snuggled with my oldest daughter on the couch watching the ball drop in Time Square on tv, I had this sudden panic feeling and tears started streaming down my face.... I know that we can't stop our lives from moving on and I wouldn't want to. My Gram wouldn't want us to either. But for a few moments the tears over came me and I suddenly just hated the thought that I was entering into a new year without her....After the kids were tucked in bed, I went digging into my closet for a box that I was pretty sure was there but until now I hadn't been able to find. Then I remembered that I had transferred it into a new box. I went right in, found it and sat down on the floor. I sat crossed legged in my closet and opened a box full of letters and cards I've been saving for as long as I can remember and in that box I found a stack of letters addressed to me over the years and at many different addresses....all having the same steady, constant and comforting return address and name of my Gram on them. And so I welcomed the new year in by reading letters that were once written to me from my gram. In the wee hours of the night, I was reminded that she will always be with me. She is with me in the very fibers of my being, in the way I love my kids, and the way I love and care for my husband. She is with me in the way treat my friends and the way I try to stay connected with people far away. I was amazed at the detail in the letters and the memories they brought back. She wasn't some eloquent writer, she just wrote from the heart.

In reading those letters about the mundane daily things she was doing and the questions she was asking me about school, and my new dog and how I was liking my new was liking having a long lost conversation with her. It was an unexpected treasure I'd discovered and for once I felt glad instead of sad. As I woke up this morning, not only is it a new year by number but it is also a new year for opportunities...and that makes me feel hopeful. I woke up reminded how very much she loved me and how lucky I am to have these unexpected "conversations" tucked away in my closet. It left me feeling inspired to push myself and my family to be more present in the day to day and to hopefully instill in them the need for keeping in touch with those we care about. In a world of technology, and instant gratification with snap chat, twitter, facebook and texting or better yet, mass emailing... where is the  personal connection of seeing someone's handwriting, or the funny card they picked out just for you? Where is the personal touch of drawing out a picture or sending someone a clipping from a magazine?

Today I woke up challenged to reconnect. I want someone else to feel the way I did last night reading those letters. I want someone else to come across an envelope from me, to see the return address on the envelope and have it make them smile. I want someone else to receive a piece of mail that isn't junk or bills and know that someone is thinking of them. I want my letters to make someone feel loved...

Won't you join me in sending some love out into the world this new year's day?