Grief and Hope.

Last night I went to the viewing of my friend’s daughter. She was only eight months old. Eight months. Seeing that miniature casket topped with flowers and a framed picture of her bright, baby face……That is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Harder even than visiting her in the hospital just a short week and a half ago and seeing her hooked up to a ventilator and tubes and wires, her body still swollen from the aftermath of open heart surgery. Only eight months and yet she touched hundreds of people from all over. Brought them together in the hopes of a miracle for sweet Maddie.

I’ve been praying for Maddie since before she was born. Her parents found out only about a month before she was born that she had a congenital heart defect. The “what-ifs” were enormous and unlimited. No one knew. That’s when I first became bold enough to tell this friend of mine, who doesn’t profess a faith in Jesus, that I was praying for her baby and for her. I asked my mom and grandpa to pray too.

You know what happens when you lift someone up in prayer month after month? You grow to love them. You hold them in your heart and you lift them up into the heart of God. How can they not become dear to you? How can you not want the best for them?

So I took Maddie into my heart and I prayed and I wept and I touched her little unresponsive hand in the ICU and begged God to touch this little body and heal her. So that her mommy and daddy could see her bright blue eyes again and be warmed by her light-up smile. Up and down, up and down, for 3 weeks.

And then the unthinkable happened. I got the phone call that they were going to let her go, that there was no more hope, nothing more for the doctors to do. My friend (another friend, not Maddie’s mom) and I wept together. There were no words to say. Our hearts were broken for Maddie and all that she had suffered these past 3 weeks and for her mom, our friend, who would now have to face life without her little girl.

At 10:20pm that night, Maddie passed from her mommy’s arms into the arms of Jesus. I say “into the arms of Jesus” because I really truly believe that’s what happened. In one instant we are here on earth and the next, we are with Jesus. And I’m more than willing to bet that He wept, too. For all that she had suffered and for those she left behind. And He rejoiced. Because she was Home.

But what about the rest of us? What about her mama? Her daddy? Her teenaged brother and sister? Her grandma? Her aunt? All the people here on earth faced with life without her and the question, “Why?”

I’ve wrestled this week. I haven’t lost people very close to me to physical death. Yet. I know it’s coming and I dread it. I’ve seen grief, I’ve read about grief but this is probably the closest it has touched me in a human form. What do I mean by that?

I’ve experienced grief in a different way, which is why I imagine I can understand this mourning grief of a child or a loved one so well. I have experienced the grief of lost dreams, lost expectations, unanswered prayers, lost hope. And, that, my friends, is some of the deepest grief you can experience. Loss of Hope. It sucks all the light out of your eyes, your present, your future. It is a dark, dark prison. Sometime, maybe, I’ll tell you some more about that.

But for now, as I’ve wrestled this week with grief, I’ve been learning a few things. One, I am learning that even though Maddie wasn’t mine, it’s okay for me to grieve the loss of her. I have felt guilt over that this week, that I shouldn’t receive any sort of sympathy or nod to my grief because what is my grief compared to my friend’s? My grief is very real, too. Not the same, no definitely not the same but it is real. Maddie was precious to me and she will be missed.

I am also learning that sometimes the question of “why” will never, ever get answered on this earth. And what possible answer would really make that “why” okay? Is it really going to lessen the hurt and heartache to know why? So we can package things up in our neat boxes and move on with our life? Maybe God lets us ask these questions and feel the brokenness so deeply to show us Himself in it. With us.

I have been learning very, very slowly this year, that even amidst brokenness and grief, there IS hope. It is Immanuel. God with us.

I was chosen to be on the launch team to promote a new book that will be coming out this year. It’s called “Daring to Hope” and even in the first couple of chapters, I have already begun to hear God speaking to me. As Katie Majors, the author says, “God sees you and me in our pain and our brokenness. He sees you walking a difficult path when the sun goes down and your life is a far cry from that which you expected or dreamed up. He sees you when the ending of the story is not the one that you yearned for and your prayers seem unanswered and it all just feels like a bit of a mess……….His deep desire is for us-that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true Hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us…..”

God does not promise this world will not be broken or dreams won’t be shattered or sickness and disease won’t happen or that we get to hold on tight to our loved ones all the days of our life. What He does promise is that He will be with us. In the shattered, broken dreams and expectations, in the ugly mess of life. And He will be more than enough.

So for me, I want to learn to pay attention to Him reaching out to me and not to get hung up on the, “why’s,” as it’s been so easy to do these past 5 years or so. I want to see Him and hear Him in my everyday mess.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your grief or your pain isn’t as bad, as valid or as deep as someone else’s. I have been told that and it hurts very badly. We all have pain and brokenness and to look at someone else and say, “Well, at least…..” At least, you’re not like so and so. At least this other terrible thing didn’t happen to you. At least you haven’t suffered like so-and-so. At least he/she isn’t suffering anymore. At least you have a child/ children. At least you have a job. At least you’re healthy. At least…….

I have felt so much guilt these past few years, having been told, “at least” and having believed it. But you know what? Something stands out to me as I write. I’ve never heard God say that to me. He has never told me “at least.” He has held me, wept with me, begun to heal some very raw places in my heart and has given me the courage to face one more day, one day at a time.

So I just want to say this to you, if you’re reading this: It’s not to late to experience hope. Whether you’re in the grief or hurt or brokenness or on the other side of it but still feel the scars from it. God wants to touch that hurt and be with you in it.

Immanuel. God with us.

 

 

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Summer Ends~Yikes! lots of pictures!

Howdy! We are having a really hard time believing that summer is OVER. How did it happen? It feels like we blinked and it was over. Baseball seemed to take over a lot of our summer. In July, after baseball ended (thankfully!) we celebrated Samuel’s 12th birthday!

We did lots of swimming at our local pool and met up with friends for playing and hanging out. I also had the kids do a project, due towards the end of July. They each did research and came up with their own projects!

Samuel did the rainforest and built and rainforest out of Legos! Very cool.

Eliana did Oceans and made a very nice poster with only a little help from me! I was really proud of her first effort:)

Zakkai did the Ozone Layer and had a really, really impressive Power Point presentation on the computer! I can’t find a picture of it but it was complete with pictures and videos and he really learned his subject!!

At the end of July/beginning of August, we went camping with some friends in Pennsylvania! It was a beautiful campsite and a much-needed respite for us, after a really rough couple of weeks.

We laughed out loud when we met up with our friends to travel to PA! They had 2 kayaks and 2 canoes on their truck, which was pulling a pop-up camper!

There was a chance of rain while we were there, so we borrowed my mom’s shelter tent and set it up right in front of our tent! It was really nice for shade:)

Our friends brought a hammock, which Eliana promptly commandeered! She LOVED it and stayed in as much as she could:)

The scenery was gorgeous!

I found a secret spot where I would walk by myself in the mornings and just sit and pray and soak up the quiet beauty.

I took my friend and E and Z to my secret spot and we explored the river!

Ben forgot his hat so he and Drew (the other dad) took a trip to the local Wal-mart to pick up a couple of things and THIS is the hat they chose:) It kind of grew on us!

We went canoeing and kayaking 2 days in a row and we LOVED it!

It was our first time in canoes so it was an adventure! We did 3 mile trips both days.

The boys in a kayak together:)

They had a blast!!

We made E wear her puddle jumper when we were in the river, just to be on the safe side. She LOVED being in the river!

Just hangin’ in the river:)

We raced back into town to help celebrate my grandparent’s 65th wedding anniversary! It was really nice to connect, albeit briefly, with family who live out of town. I only wish we would’ve had some more time to catch up!

My wonderful grandparents! They dearly love their family and it gave them so much joy to have as many of us as could come to their celebration:)

Eliana and her two favorite cousins! They are the three musketeers!

Our last couple of weeks have been spent catching up on the “business” side of life and getting ready for school. One change to our school year this year is that Samuel is taking some electives at the local Junior High. He’s in 7th grade this year! He is currently taking Pre-engineering and an Applied Computer Science class. Next semester he will at least be taking Art and we are hoping to talk him into joining a school sport. like track.

This is a big change for him, going to school. He was pretty nervous but God really answered our prayers and he has a few kids he knows from baseball and youth group in his classes and on the bus. (he rides the bus home in the afternoon!) I think he will enjoy his classes once he settles in. This will be his first full week this week.

S’s first day of Junior High!

We are officially starting our homeschooling year this week, too. It will be an adjustment, trying to balance that plus taking S to school each day after lunch. I will have to manage my time really well! It means I have to be really good about planning meals ahead of time and making sure we get up early and get cracking with school. I’m a little nervous! I feel like it’s also a big step up with Eliana being a 1st grader this year. She really needs to be challenged so I am trying to bump up her curriculum but also trying to figure out how to give her her own time with me since the boys are so much older. It will take lots of prayer, grace and planning!

 

More soon!

School in the Summer? And Father’s Day Fun!

Today the boys had their testing for school. When you homeschool, you have to show proof to the schools that you haven’t been letting your kids laze around watching movies and drawing with sidewalk chalk all year. There are a few different ways to do the testing and the one we chose is to have them tested by a certified teacher who administers questions from the Woodcock Johnson test.

It’s so nice for the boys AND for me to see visual proof that they are learning, despite all complaining and doubts of their abilities! We get a special signed paper to send into the school district and we get a sheet with all of the scores and percentiles of each category for our own records. The boys did fantastic! Last year we chose not to show them their test scores but just reassured them that they did well. This year we did show them, each individually, with promises not to talk to the other about them.

I don’t want it to go to their heads that they are doing so well but I DO want them to feel encouraged and they were! We were all very happy tonight and are trying to think of how to celebrate!

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I try to think of ways to keep the kids learning throughout the summer and not forgetting all that they worked so hard for in the year! I don’t want it to feel like school and to be a little bit fun for them. This summer we are doing a few things.

  1. We joined a book club! There is a book written by Jamie C Martin called “Give Your Child the World” in which she compiled a huge list of books about various countries. The books are broken down into age ranges so I got a few from each age range to entice all 3 kiddos! We are behind the “schedule” but we need a break from schedules so we are okay with that! This week is “Multi-cultural” week and next week is Africa. The kids seem pretty excited about this!
  2. All 3 kids are doing a project about a different subject and they have to present it to the rest of us and “teach” us. Samuel is doing Rain Forests, Zakkai is doing the Ozone Layer and Eliana is doing the Ocean (mostly the creatures in the ocean!) They have to read several books, fill out a bibliography (obv all of this ranges according to their capabilities) and present all of the info in some way. S and E want to do posters and Z wants to do a slide show on the computer:) It should be fun!
  3. And lastly, I got them each a summer workbook so they can do a page or two a day, prob 20 minutes to keep their brains working and hopefully have fun doing it.

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We have a family of skunks living under the nasty old shed in our backyard! B, Oliver and I were out one evening a few days ago watching the beautiful sunset when Oliver tensed up. I looked in that direction and froze. I had no idea what I was looking at at first! We hurried inside once we figured it out!

The next night, I went out late to cover up our grill and heard rustling noises. I turned around and saw several little black shapes with tails slinking along the side of the shed and disappearing under the step. And last night, we got home late from a baseball cookout and within minutes we counted SEVEN skunks!! They walk in a little huddle and sometimes walk in a single file. We watched them slip under the fence and go foraging for dinner.

I read that they can destroy gardens, which would explain some of the damage to our new plants so they are being evicted! Phase one started today with our landlord drilling some holes in the floor of the shed and putting in drops of racoon urine (yuck!) and drizzling it around the outside of the shed and step. Once they leave, they will board up the step openings and hopefully they will leave.

We want them to leave but still…..they are kind of cute!

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And lastly, we celebrated Father’s Day with a trip to the newly opened “Giordano’s” restaurant! It turned out to be a 2 hour wait but Ben insisted we stick it out:) He’s been looking forward to our favorite Chicago pizza ever since we heard the rumors of it opening! The wait only turned out to be about 1 hr 20 minutes but then when we sat down, they said it would take 1 hr 10 minutes to make the pizza! We were there with Ben’s mom and stepdad so we had fun eating salads and chatting while we waited.

The manager came out and helped serve the pizza and told us that they have been so busy since they opened less than a week ago, that they have reached full capacity for being able to make the amount of pizzas ordered for carryouts and in the restaurant! They have people ordering carryouts for 2 and 3 days in advance! Smart people:)

Ben was very happy all day and we were happy to make him feel special!

 

Ballet and Baseball!

Our heads are spinning with business over here! We are knee deep in baseball~either a game or practice 5-6 days out of the week!

Samuel’s team got off to a very rough start this year. A “rough around the edges” sort of bunch. He wasn’t enjoying his team and neither were we~especially when one of the games ended with kids getting ejected out of the game, parents screaming obscenities at the umpire and each other (across the teams) and the catcher from the opposing team getting injured so badly, he required surgery!

I became “that mom” and contacted the president of our baseball league. Long story short, he read my email and called me and we talked for a good 45 minutes, in which he asked lots of questions and really listened to my concerns. Two of our players got penalized with sitting out a second game and one has been ejected for the season. It was rough for a bit with so many missing players. Then Samuel had someone on the team say some pretty cruel stuff to him (but that is the player that is gone now.) We took care of that really quickly!

The GOOD that has come out of it is that his team is really starting to come together. They are being kinder to each other, encouraging one another and playing well. Samuel is enjoying baseball again and we are so relieved!

Zakkai is just loving baseball!! He has such a good attitude and is picking up skills quickly! I told him I need to take his picture tonight before his game to post here:)

Eliana had her big ballet/tap recital this weekend! She was SO excited that she bounded into our room at 6am on Saturday:) She got to do two dances this year, one ballet and one tap and changed skirts for each one. She did so well!!

Looking so pretty in her ballet skirt before the recital! (It was SOO fluffy! They gave us tips to “de-fluff” them but nothing worked:) The kids got to hang out with their grandma right afterwards for a couple of hours before S’s baseball game. She was very tired and refused to take any more pictures at first!

I shamelessly bribed her by telling her she could take silly pictures on my ipad for 10 minutes if she smiled and posed for us:) It worked!

And last but not least, I just wanted to share a picture of our butterfly releasing! All the butterflies except one flew away so quickly we couldn’t even get a picture! But the last one came out slowly and stayed on E’s hand for several minutes. She loved it! We all went through butterfly-withdrawal for awhile and are hoping to do it again soon:)

 

April Good Weather Brings May Showers?

We had gorgeous weather for awhile over here….and now we have rain and went back to cool temperatures and coats! Just in time for baseball:)

Speaking of baseball, BOTH boys are playing this year. I got the schedules for the games last week and about hyperventilated! We have 3-4 games a week plus 2 or more practices a week for the next 7 weeks. Plus ballet recitals, weddings, homeschooling, cleaning jobs and regular life.

Some people really thrive off of being busy but we do not! Ben and I are both introverts (I have some of both) and we get worn out by busyness and really need downtime. This will be a stretch for us but it does make us happy that the boys are enjoying it. Zakkai, especially! He has only watched S up to this point and has minimally practiced with S and Ben but he is picking baseball up very naturally! His team won their game last night and he was very happy about that!

 

Zakkai is on the “Indians” team (in the picture, he’s up to bat at his first game. He got a hit!) and Samuel is on the “Blue Jays.” Eliana has decided she wants to do t-ball next year;) Here is a video of her practicing batting!

We got outside last Sunday and took advantage of the sun that we hadn’t seen in so long! Here are the kids resting on a bench for a minute, grudgingly posing for a picture for their dear old mom;)

Eliana got a butterfly garden kit for her birthday and we finally sent in for the caterpillars! It was pretty amazing to watch them grow so quickly, turn into chrysalides and hang themselves upside down on the lid of the container and then a week and a half later, turn into butterflies! We currently have 5 Painted Lady butterflies:) We are going to set them free in the next couple of days. Oliver finally discovered them and we’ve had to keep them way up high because he wants them SOOO bad! He is such a predator:)

Hopefully I’ll find time in our busyness to write again soon!

Birthdays, Marriage and Getaway!

It’s been a busy last month! 6 days after Ben’s birthday was Zakkai’s 10th birthday! Can’t believe both my boys are double digits now. On his actual birthday, we had a pretty normal day and I made him a dinner he likes and a chocolate brownie/cake. (one of the ways to his heart is definitely chocolate!)

He also got the surprise of his life when we ushered him out the door minutes after dinner for a ride in a Mustang convertible!! He was sooooo happy!

The kids had been sick for awhile and then I got really sick for awhile so we postponed a party until a couple of weeks ago. He invited 3 friends over and we took them all bowling and then to our house to make pizzas and have cupcakes. Then one of them spent the night! (the other two had basketball games the next morning so they couldn’t.) They all seemed to have a good time!

Then last week, Ben and I celebrated our 14th anniversary! We celebrated by getting away for 2 days…..the first time we’ve done that since 2009! So needless to say, it was long overdue:) We had a really good time. We tossed around a few ideas but in the end, decided to get to know Columbus so we went downtown and got a good deal on a nice hotel. We did things we never get to do or normally wouldn’t do like going to a Blue Jackets game ( Columbus hockey), the Art Museum, a nice dinner out, a movie, etc. It was a really great weekend and the kids had a blast with my mom and Ben’s mom!

 

100th Day of School, Valentine’s Day and a Burn!

The kids and I celebrated 100 days of school last Monday. We did lots of different “100” day activities,which they thought was great fun, including learning about what life was like 100 years ago (WWI!) and imagining what life will be like in 100 years (according to Z there will be solar cars that fly!)

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One of the activities was that I created 3 piles of 100 Legos and they had to build something using all 100 pieces and it had to have a function. Enter the “Blue Blueberry Machine,” the “Red Rocket Machine” and the “Wicked White Machine.” They shot blue blueberries, rockets and toilet bowl lids at people! Ah, such imaginations!

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A week and a half ago, my shortness got the best of me! I was taking a glass bowl out of the microwave filled with scalding hot water and baby potatoes. The microwave is above the stove so I have to lift it down from above my head. I lost my grip and dropped it on the stove and the scalding hot water sloshed all over my arm! Oh boy, it HURT! I ran to the sink and ran it under cold water for a few minutes and then slathered it with aloe.

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Once the redness started going away, I could see where the worst of the burn was. It hurt SO bad. I could not bear for even air to touch it and all I could think was how horrific it must be for people who get bad burns all over their bodies.

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This was a couple of days later. The worst spot where I blistered was just past my wrist bone. I walked around for days with one rolled up sleeve!

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Then a few days ago, I started having a reaction to the Vitamin E oil I was slathering all over and my arm got extra red and itched SO bad, on top of the already itching skin!! I had no idea healing burns itched so bad.

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Here it is today; healing well. It’s feeling so much better, the skin is just tender and I still have these awful itchy times each day where I have to put vaseline or aloe all over it to moisturize it. I am incredibly thankful Eliana or Oliver weren’t standing right below me when it happened!

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We celebrated this guy’s 37th birthday this week (Valentine’s Day!) Look how handsome he is! (and skinny!) The kids were just sure that he should’ve had the day off of work. Daddy Thomas from the Lego family that the kids created celebrated his birthday, too, but he did get a day off of work:)

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My silly guy! I am starting to rebuild a good recipe repertoire finally! I felt such discouragement a few months ago about this Paleo business but since then I have armed myself with a few good cookbooks and Pinterest recipes and have found some winners! It feels good to be eating healthy and also to be able to have some baked goods or treats sometimes:) Helps us not miss the oldy but goodies so much. For Ben’s bday, I made a Paleo flourless chocolate cake! Mmmm!

Another birthday coming up in a few days!