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The cost of contentment

It was the second week of my very first bible study. Being a new member of our church, and the body of Christ, I was trying to learn and absorb as much as I possibly could. Last week, Judy, our bible teacher, asked us to write out our favorite verse. Mine was a no brainer.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
 
Apparently, I was not the only one. Four of us wrote that as our life verse. The problem, as a new believer, is that I believed that calling on that verse was a sure sign of prosperity and blessing upon whatever project I was working on. It was my cure all verse to conquering whatever ailed me. Fear in making sales calls. Guaranteed success on whatever business venture I put my mind to. The trick to making me an amazing wife and mom. A sure fired verse that would help me accomplish getting the home of my dreams and a life of accomplishment. My error was when I made this verse all about me and how Jesus would serve me. How Christ could help me achieve my dreams and ambitions. How Christ could take me from the struggles of being a young, insecure wife and mom and transform me into a confident woman who could handle anything with success and ease. A woman that other women longed to be. It was not about Christ at all, but about me and my own selfish desires to succeed. It was a few years later when I discovered the verse in context:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)
 

You could say the Apostle Paul, then Saul, was on the fast track before Christ caught his attention. But on that road to Damascus, everything changed. Paul was willing to sacrifice everything to proclaim the name of Christ. His life work. His good name among peers. His comfort. And he did it all through Christ who strengthened him. He was humble in riches and peaceful in poverty. Oh, that I could achieve Paul’s belief that no matter what, Christ will give me strength.  I challenged myself to rewrite this verse in a way that applies to my own life.  Here is what I came up with:

I am not saying this because I am in need, because you have something I covet or envy. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, even when they don’t make sense to me, or line up with what I think should be the promises of God. I know what it is to be in need. To be empty and lonely in my deepest places. To not have enough to cover all the bills for the month. To be without the wisdom I need for the moment. To feel lacking and incomplete. And, I have known what it is to live in plenty. Moments when I can’t lose. Money in the bank. Time spent well. Everything rolling exactly as I would expect it. Perfection. I have learned the secret to being content in every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I used to think I could use that verse as a magic wand to pull out for a tough situation. Abracadabra- I closed that sale. Abracadabra- Super balanced Super Mom. Abracadabra- selfish plans and motives instantly transformed into God’s will and plan for my life. But that isn’t it at all. It’s a commitment to contentment. It’s me, surrendering my life like a blank page, handing the pen to God and saying, “It’s all yours.” It’s leaning on Christ to step out in faith, intentionally and passionately, to pursue the calling he has for me. Even if I’m stepping into places I don’t want to go. Seeking only God’s face. Letting go of my selfish pride and ambition. At times, making choices that don’t make a lick of sense to those around me. Trusting God to be there when I step. He promises to be the light in my darkness. He promises his power will be made perfect in my weakness. The cost for contentment is death to self and rebirth in the promise of my Savior. Lack of concern for my life, while passionately and intentionally pursuing his purpose in the time he has given me on this earth.
Lord, in this moment, may my life be an open book in which you can write my story. Lord, grant me the strength and courage to pursue my purpose passionately and intentionally. In Jesus name, Amen.

What just happened here?

It’s been a pretty good day! It’s lunchtime. My list of to do ‘s is almost complete. I’m even willing to overlook the fact that today’s prospective move in chose instead to go to glory. My bank account is parched but I have just enough to get my daughter’s PE uniform. It should be officially revived from unexpected car repairs this pay day-just two short days away. I feel like I can finally take a breath. Over the course of the last month, it feels as if the carpet has been pulled out from my feet more often than I can count. I’m seriously ready to catch a break. Physically, emotionally and financially.

(Incoming text): Mom, Mr. Jackley says I need a $20 bill for class tomorrow for my driving permit. I didn’t know about it until today but he says I have to bring it tomorrow.

This is it. The straw that breaks the camels back. I sit in my car drowning in hopelessness. Officially empty. Completely embarrassed and ashamed that I have to tell my kid that the $20 or the PE uniform would have to wait for Friday. And, to be honest, I’m angry. In that moment, I remember King David’s authenticity in his darkest and most desperate moments. David didn’t worry. He authentically went to God with desperate expectation and handed his problems fully to God. I remember my promise to go to God with the same authenticity.

“God”, I prayed aloud, “you want authenticity? Well here it is. I have nothing left. I’m spiritually and emotionally empty. I have no physical resources available and life just so happens to be nickel and diming me every chance it gets. I’m doing everything you have told me to do.  I’m tithing. I’m chasing hard after the dream of writing you have placed on my heart in the midst of my overwhelmed life. I’m taking care of my body-eating right and exercising. What more do you want from me? God, I have nothing left. I need you to meet me here and handle this. I don’t know what else to do. ”

(Incoming text:) Mom. Never mind. Mr. Jackley was confused. I don’t need the $20 since I’m not 15 yet.

Hmph. Well okay. Uh, Thanks? I’m still annoyed but I thank you for taking care of this for me.”

In the moments that follow as I drive back to work, peace about my circumstance begins to settle in. Confidence that God is piecing together each and every thing I need  between now and  pay day.  As I read my devotion this verse stood out as the psalmist describes God’s righteous people:

They will have no fear of bad news; their hopes are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 113:7)

I prayed in that moment for God to help me build up my trust in him. To enhance my belief in his unlimited ability to provide  for my every need. To convince me of his unfailing love for me. An unconditional life changing love. That my focus would be removed  from my own worry and weakness and transferred to his mighty strength and power.  That when bad news comes, and it will, my heart would be steadfast and I would trust in him.

How refreshing!

“Mom!  My kindle free time is frozen and I need you to exit out of it!” Madi exclaimed.  She shoved the device in my hand as I was simultaneously peeling a potato.  I stopped what I was doing and realized that the entire device had frozen.  Madi, in her usual hurry, was ready to get on to her game.  Pronto!  “Madi, your kindle needs shut down.  You have to give it time to think.”  Just like mom, I thought in my head as I went back to finishing preparing our dinner.   How nice would it be to have a button I could push when I needed a break.  A quick little refresh to get me right back on track.

Much like every woman I know, I take on far too much in my day.  It’s like a badge of honor, having all those wonderful balls to juggle in the air.  Perfectly balance and in sync.  Just don’t try to throw anything else in the mix without prior approval or the whole show might come tumbling down!  As much as I hate to admit, my well orchestrated life is often an illusion.  And, like any good magician, only I know all of the tricks to making it appear seamlessly. To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement.

The question I must stop to ask is how.

How do I get myself into this place of overwhelming exhaustion time and time again?

The first thing I have to consider is how much time I have allowed myself to get saturated in the word of God.  Like eating a healthy diet and daily exercise, time in God’s word is a daily essential requirement.  And, often the first thing to go in my routinely busy day.  Daily, I need to be reminded that his grace and mercy are new to me every morning.  Daily, I need to be reminded that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.  Daily, I need to be reminded that I am a loved and cherished child of God.  An heir to his kingdom.  The crown on his head and the royal diadem in his hand.  A symbol of his living power, grace and mercy to a lost world that surrounds me.

Then, I need to trust him with every detail in my life.  Nothing is too minor.  Every worry and concern, every dark & unlovable feeling I am harboring, every circumstance and situation that seems impossible and out of my control need to be laid before the Father’s throne.  And left there! I need to trust that the God of the Universe can handle every detail of my life!

Last, I need to steal time away to sit and listen.  Quiet & uninterrupted.  To do that, I have to intentionally escape the realities of my life.  I personally love lake and pond areas.  However, my back patio will do in a fix.  This is time just to sit and listen for the still, small voice of God.  Time to allow his spirit to resonate my stress and anxiety that he may instead give me a peace that surpasses all understanding.  True refreshment to my parched soul.

I find that it is not the big things that most often overwhelm me.  It is the little day to day stuff.  Limited finances that crash into teens with endless pockets.  Broken car parts. Unmet expectations.  Broken dreams.  The responsibility of saying “yes” to one too many things.  But I have to remember that in these moments of overwhelming exhaustion, I am not alone.  In Psalm 3 it says that God is my glory and my shield.  He lifts my head high.  I picture a loving father, gently placing his hand under the chin of his beloved child.  Lifting gently until their eyes meet and he gently reassures her with the love and compassion in his gaze.   There is no refreshment quite like it.

Just when I think…..

“So we just started Despicable Me and the pyramid just deflated and I automatically saw the old lady in the front.  ARGGGHH!”

This incoming text causes me to smile as I think of the scene my daughter is referencing in this movie.  It brings a little piece of backwards joy to my heart when I envision her laughing at the inside joke we share.  No details needed.  Just a fond memory shared between us.  In this season, it seems like these moments are getting fewer and farther between.

We are in the frustrating season of the teenage years.  Most days, I am stuck dead center between being the proudest mom in the world and wondering why on earth there are teenagers.  Sometimes within moments of each other.  The emotional level is constantly shifting while I witness my child grasping for every ounce of independence she can get her hands on.  We are in crunch time.  At this point, I am her coach.  I have given her basic character building blocks and now I am standing on the sideline position, doing my best to guide her along her final steps to truly being an adult. To tell you the truth, I truly feel like I am failing her.  Even on my best days.

Just when I think I have lost the ability to communicate, she breaks through the alien barriers of the teenage years and my little girl emerges once more.  She says things like, ” I started a new bible reading plan.  I am going to read the bible in a year.  Can I show you how the passages break down?”  She shows me a purity ring she wants that outwardly represents an internal choice she made when entering her freshman year of high school.  Or, she sends me a text reminding me that I pointed out a braless old woman standing in front of a deflating pyramid in a kids movie.

Just when I think I’m getting it all wrong, I realize that I must have done a few things right.  Just when I think she has tuned me out, I realize that she has heard me and I still have positive influence.  Just when I think this season will produce nothing but hopelessness & frustration, a young lady with an authentically beautiful character breaks through the drama and clutter to reveal who she is becoming in these transitional years.  Just when I think I am ready to give up, I realize that I wouldn’t trade being her mom for anything in the world.

A note to my teenage daughter.

High school is a frustrating season to walk through as a child.  I don’t think it even compares to how hard it is to travel through as a parent.  From the first day of school, I have watched my oldest child grasp her independence and hold on to it for all it’s worth. Daily, her father declares that he is gaining more and more gray hair.  There is much we want to tell her.  Much we want her to know and understand.  More we want to control.  And the harder we push, the higher she constructs her walls.  So, I did what every courageous mom does. I drug out our mother daughter notebook from mother daughter camp several years ago and wrote her a letter that I have prayed will reach her, even through the wall constructed of teenage drama and hairspray.  Lots and lots of hairspray.

My motive is not to preach.  I simply want to say the words that she needs to hear as she starts to move through the complicated world of real choices and real consequences.  And did I mention the boy?  Oh my stars.  It starts all too soon.

I want my daughter to experience her teenage years selfishly.  Yes, you heard that right.  I want her to independently discover her hopes and dreams and pursue them with everything she has. I want her to learn how to love herself before she has to figure out how to love another.  I want her to experience life with her friends, try new things and construct her plans for the future.

I want her to understand that abstinence from sex is about more than a religious decision to stay pure. It is about the ability to try a relationship without huge emotional entanglements.  It is an intentional decision she has to make now.  I want her to understand that when she commits to a solid decision, she will be less likely to allow her emotions to change her mind when the opportunity arises.  And it will.

I want her to understand that her friends have an influence over her life, just as her behavior & choices influence over their lives.  I make jokes about the boy, but the truth is that he is someone else’s beloved son.  He has parents that love him as much as I love her.  I don’t take that lightly.  And when her friends come over, you can bet I am in their business, too.  I want our home to be a safe place for my kids and their friends.  A place where they can come for fun, and guidance, if needed.

I want her to understand that she will make mistakes and when she does, her dad & I will be here to help her sort them out. We are a phone call away, no matter what. I want her to understand that nothing she can do will change our love for her.

I want her to understand that when we act like circus freak parents, our actions are stemming from fear.  Fear is rooted in a very deep love.  A very deep longing that wants only the best for her.

Maybe a letter was the easy way out.  But soon,  after she read it, I felt the walls come down a bit.  My daughter emerged from the fog of body spray and once more started to share.    I don’t pretend to have a handle on the teen years.  They are awkward and scary.  My goal for now is to control my inner circus freak response and create a safe zone.  One that fosters conversation in the mundane that will hopefully bridge the gap for the big deal issues that are sure to come.

I am raising my mini me, after all.

Lessons from the sidelines…..

“Mom, I didn’t get much playing time today.”  The heartbreaking words that came from my son as we walked off the field from the season opener game from JFL.  Even more heartbreaking, the tears that were welling up in his eyes while he was trying to be strong.  Be still my breaking heart.  This is one of those precious moments of parent hood when I had to encourage and support while watching my son have to stand and persevere in his own time and his own way.  I truly think these moments in time are harder on me than they are on him.  You see, I am not a sideline kind of girl.  And my man, not a sideline kind of guy.  We like to be right in the heart of the action.  So, when we are watching our kids struggle to find their place, we find we have a choice to make.  We can make excuses, or we can create teachable moments.

My Lucas is a super talented kid.  He is quiet and polite.  A bit of a genius in his own right.  He doesn’t have to work for his grades.  He just gets it.  He loves to read, to build and create.  And in the midst of a middle school growth spurt, he is a bit awkward in trying to figure out how to work the extra couple of inches of body he has acquired in the last few months.  So, there is  part of me that is thankful for football.  It is a team sport.  It does not come easy to him.  It is something that he has to work for to get better. When something does not come easy for him, it teaches him character that can only come through struggle and perseverance.  So I thought I would share a few things I learned as a mom on the sidelines.

Hard work always pays off.  This was a lesson we learned several years ago in Tae Kwon Do.  Lucas was up for a red belt promotion, but could not quite get the steps to the form down.  This meant he was skipped on belt promotion.  But, he took that additional time to keep work, keep growing and when the next belt promotion came to pass, he earned the award of most improved student.  A proud mom moment for sure, but a lifelong lesson for a kid building character.

Respect Authority.  Any time my kids are struggling, I encourage them to go the experts.  That may be their coach or their teacher.  We have an honest conversation about expectations and ways we can improve.  We hold our kids accountable to those standards.

Be Ready.  Know your job and be ready to do it at anytime.  I reminded Lucas, week after week, that Aaron Rodgers stood in the shadow of Brett Favre for five years before getting a chance to go in.  And when his chance came, he stole the show.  You never know when your chance will come, but be ready, because those who do the right thing will eventually reap the rewards.

Attitude is everything.  When you make good choices, good outcomes will occur.  You will always reap what you sew.  Getting mad, playing the blame game and giving up are the easy way out.  Honoring your commitment to your team is the strongest statement you can make, even if you are cheering from the sidelines.  Stay positive. Work hard.  Cultivate Growth.

Encourage their strengths.  While we may not have the next rising star of JFL, we do have a pretty bodacious brainiac.  My son has a good attitude, a cool head and a polite demeanor that causes people to take notice.  By the end of the year, he noticed that his coaches were taking more time to invest in his talent and he was seeing more playing time.  We celebrated every play.  I can’t wait to see how his talent develops next year.

Watching our kids struggle is one of the hardest things we have to endure as parents.  Even when it doesn’t seem like they are getting a fair shake, we can’t intercept for them.  Life is hard and sometimes unfair.  Isn’t it better for them to learn that now?  The sooner they figure out how to stand in the struggle, the more they will learn how to stand positioned for success in their life.  They will learn how to keep their attitudes in check.  They will learn to respect and learn from the authority that they have in their day to day lives.  They will learn that true success takes work, determination, perseverance and the choice to do the right thing each and every time.  Our JFL boys were told that they win each game play by play.  Isn’t that the truth?  The same can surely be said about life.  Choice by choice, we position ourselves for our future consequences.

I have been holding on this blog for quite sometime and I have to say I am glad that I waited for the end of the year to publish it. I am so excited that I can tell you how the story ends.   At the annual football banquet, one to two kids from each grade level are awarded a sportsmanship award for their performance within their team. Not athletic talent, but coachability, dependability, leadership and attitude.  Kids who set the bar for attitude on the team.  And my son and another young man were chosen for their age level by their coaches to receive the award.  What an amazing moment!  All of the sudden, the sweat, frustration and tears were worth it.  He held strong and he was rewarded for his efforts.  But even before receiving this coveted award, he had made his choice to play another year for the breakers.  I can’t wait to see how his story continues in the off season!

Mission: Mexico

When you consider that a procrastinator, like myself, is packed and virtually ready to walk out the door for a week in Mexico- TWO WHOLE DAYS- before we are slated to leave, well, you could call that a miracle.  But not one that has been easily won.

This spring, our church offered a missions trip that was affordable and offered a great variety for those who were “beginners”.   An orphanage in Mexico that additionally provides childcare, school, and even bible college to the children in their community for a very affordable rate.  It ensures that children receive two meals per day, education and an opportunity to know their Lord & Savior.   I knew immediately that I would be a part of the team that would go. This was not a trip that I wanted to miss, even though missions have never even sparked an ounce of interest in my life before now.

Fast forward to today, two days before we take off.  On Saturday, we will drive into a community where third world conditions and poverty exist.  We will get a small water ration for a shower each day.  I’m not sure if  it is heated.  Stay tuned.  Our meals will consist primarily of rice, with some type of protein to accompany it.  There will be not air conditioning, no wireless internet or cell service.  No electricity between the hours of 10:30pm and 5:00am.  We will be working on construction type projects in the morning and outreach in the afternoon.  Sharing our stories in hopes of winning another life to Christ.  So far out of my comfort zone that I will admit to a small case of nerves.  But, I’m excited.  As excited as going on any other trip or vacation away from home.  I have learned so much about God, just in the preparation time, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us while we are away.  Here are just a few of the things I have discovered as I prepare myself to leave.

1.  I am really looking forward to being unplugged.  Allowing myself to get to a place when I can hear from God in the quiet.  A place where I am not going to have a device competing for my attention.  A place where human interaction comes first.  A time to build relationship with God and the team that he is sending me with.  A chance to hear from him in an environment free of the electronic distraction that I have come to be addicted to here at home.

2.  My essentials aren’t so essential anymore.  When we started thinking about packing our number one goal became how we could get maximum impact with the least amount of stuff to take.  When you’re heading out with a missions team, you carry what you pack.  It’s a rule I have raised my kids with, but we still have a pretty incredible man that bails us out sometimes.  There was some issue between Chloe and I on not having enough pants to take.  I don’t know if you have experienced this, but my recreational clothing is extremely limited.  I can dress professionally for about two weeks without doing a load of laundry, but my evening and weekend wear is limited.  Then, add the rule that your shorts have to reach your knees and you just took out a huge portion of my wardrobe and all of hers.  After searching through our Goodwill giveaway bags, we found enough clothing to sustain us through the week.  It isn’t two changes of clothes for each and everyday- there will be some repeat action happening for both of us, but I have to wonder, will the kids we are serving have a brand new and fresh outfit to wear each and every day?  Or is this simply another matter we take for granted in the land of plenty?

3. I am not alone on this journey.  It is said that there are two types of people involved in missions. The go’ers and the senders.  And the senders are pretty darn cool. I posted a mom stress moment on Facebook while I was attempting to help my daughter pack.  She was freaking out about her lack of supplies, including a suitcase.  Within ten minutes of posting, we had several suitcase offers and an opportunity for her to go and shop in Grandma Melissa’s closet for the remaining clothing items she needed.  The words of encouragement that we have received from our family, friends and church family have been overwhelming.  Their excitement for our journey just feeds the fire that is already hot in me to do something for God.  I can’t wait until it is my turn to be a sender.  Senders are proof of God’s limitless ability to supply our every need.  Even if the need includes a suitcase “large enough to carry a body.”  (Jon, you always make me laugh).

I’m heading off to my last day of work before taking off.  The anticipation is building.  I ask for your prayers in our journey.  I ask that you would appeal to God to meet each of us there, right where we are at.  That he would appeal to us in a very personal way.  That we would be open and willing to do the work that he has appointed for us.  That we would have the heart of a servant ready to work on his behalf.  That he would use us in a way that brings a supernatural harvest to these children in Mexico. That, in preparation, we would not be overcome by the details, but that we would lean on him to work all things together for good.

 

 

This little light of mine.

“See! I knew there was something I liked about you! You can’t hide your light!” Wow. What a statement. Isn’t it funny that even in a business meeting, it doesn’t take long to spot a fellow Christian. Her words were such an encouragement to me as we said our final goodbyes. It was something I desperately needed to hear. You see, I almost let my light go out.

But even in darkness, I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. PS 139:12 NIV

A few years ago, I attended my daughter’s Girl Scout camping trip as a chaperone. Part of their badge requirement was to build a fire without a chemical accelerates. Dry grass, leaves and wood were added with a touch of air. Soon their spark turned into a flame large enough to cook lunch. The goal now? To keep the fire alive for dinner. This girl was up to the challenge. In exchange for two quiet, kid free hours, I was in charge of keeping the fire going. No big deal.

A couple of hours and a dead mouse later, the girls were returning and their beautiful fire was almost burned out. Please tell me I am not the only one who has ever been caught sleeping on the job.

A fire requires three basic elements of oxygen, heat and fuel to stay alive. When you remove any one of these elements, the fire extinguishes. I forgot to feed the fire. I found my Christian life in a similar predicament. A number of well choreographed circumstances happened in my life that left me feeling let down and a little disappointed with myself and God. I found myself looking to God for direction that I could no longer hear. Exhausted, tired, anxious and confused about how God could let me fall so far away from him. You have to understand that as I made decisions prior to that season, I consulted with God regularly. I heard his voice clearly. I knew I was right where he wanted me to be, but none of it made sense at the time. How could He be so far away when I knew I was right where he wanted me to be?

I cry out to God most high, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” PS 57:2 NIV

My passion was waning. I was operating on my own strength. The voice of God was almost silent in my life. I found I had a choice to make. I could continue on and expect a different result (hello insanity), or I could stop. Look up. Truly listen to what God was trying to tell me. Up to that moment, every part of my life glorified me. My priorities were out of line. I approached the throne of God with false motives. My ambition, even in ministry was selfish. God had to bring me to a place of humility so I could refocus my life back on him. His plan, his path and his purpose. And in the transition, everything has changed. I no longer spend time in his word looking to justify my actions and plans. I look, instead, with a heart that says, “Show me more of you.” Show me how to balance in your priority order. Lead me to your divine appointment, even if it messes up my day. And in that I find a spark. A new breath of life. With regular focus, regular feeding, regular prayer I hope to feed a fire that cannot be extinguished. Who knows. Maybe it will spread to those who surround me. Baby steps. Imperfect progress. Obedience. Whatever you choose to call it. It’s all I’ve got. Not me, Lord. Only you. May your light continue to shine through me in hopes of reaching others for you.

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. Ecc 11:7. NIV

Dear Grams

Grams,
I just received word that you went home to be well with the Lord tonight.  To be honest, I feel as though you had been taken from us long before now.  I laid in bed tonight, overwhelmed with the memories of who you were and how you touched my life in so many ways.  Yet, had I told you, I don’t know that you would have understood in your final days here.

When I was little, I couldn’t imagine life without you.  The traditions you worked hard to create.  Your home always felt like my respite from the storm.  Even as an adult, I looked forward to just stopping in to spend the day.  It always brought me back to a simpler time. 

I remember the excitement about spending the week with Grandma St. Germain.  Meeting in Champaign to eat at Bob Evans.  Singing Jesus Loves me in the car along with all of the other crazy fun kid songs you had.  The collection was endless.  Walking to the restaurant for pancakes in the morning with your daycare kids.   You always let me have soda while everyone else had to stick to milk or juice.  I remember putting money in my Moola Moola savings account.  Sitting at the drug store and munching on penny candy while you caught up with Ruth at the counter. You introduced me to everyone you knew.  “This is Sam.  Can you believe how big she has gotten?”  I remember driving by the whiskey barrels in Kankakee, shopping at the farmers market and rooting on Jim McMahon and the Bears on their way to the Superbowl.  Darla and I had the Superbowl Shuffle down.  And when Grandpa would fall asleep watching TV, it was always so fun to turn it off on him and hear him proclaim, “Hey, I was watching that!”  It was the thing to do, every evening just after the 10 o’clock news.   You would snooze on the sofa and I would camp out in my sleeping bag on the floor.  And the summer you taught us to stand and walk on a rolling trash barrel down the hill.  Yep, I still can’t believe I came away from that unscathed.  We both know how graceful I am.

At Christmas, I remember Santa delivering my gift.  He would stop to smile for the camera before coming in the front door, a quick pose in the front picture window.  And I remember us running into him at Santa’s Village when I was around 12. It was just as I had stopped believing that we walked into Santa’s house and he called us all by name.  What a funny moment of surprise that was.  He became the National Lampoons Santa.  And he used one of your pictures on his resume.  Yep, that is still my favorite Christmas movie.

At Easter, you hid baskets for kids and adults alike.  I remember wandering through your yard and the neighbors, looking for our Easter treasures.  And then, of course the hunt for the last few eggs that we always hid so well.  But more than anything, I loved to hear the stories around the table. Easter could not pass by without Jello Eggs from Liz or Sugar Cookies from Darla. 

Have I mentioned the cousin’s pictures yet?  Yep, those were a hoot.  You decided to do those shortly after I was married.  It was a bit awkward being the only adult in the cousin’s pic.  I never told you this, but it is next to impossible to find bib overalls for an adult.   My absolute favorite picture is the one we got for free.  No one was posed for the camera, so we all had our relaxed faces on and we were looking in different directions.  That picture hung proudly on my wall for years. Mostly because it is the only one in which I was smiling AND having a good hair day all at the same time. 

I loved that you loved my husband.  I still cherish our corner cabinet and cradle that Gramps made. What pressure you put on David, to get that cabinet home safe.  He has never driven slower on the interstate.  The day you told us about our handmade cradles, I had just started to suspect I was pregnant with Chloe.  I remember telling you a week or so later and you giving me such a hard time about holding back important news.  You felt so guilty about not coming down the day she was born.  Yet, we passed you on the way home in the hospital parking lot.  You and mom had already been by our house and decorated with yard signs and pink balloons.  You were there when I laid Chloe in the cradle for the first time.  And when Lucas was born, you were right there to cradle him on as soon as you could.  He was the first grandson in the family, after all.  I love that you would remind me that I was a good mom.  That David and I were raising our children right.  That God would honor the decisions we were making in regard to our family.

When David went to the guard, and particularly when he was deployed, you were always faithful to check in.  You prayed.  You made sure he got his birthday and Christmas gifts all the way overseas. You sent him a used cellphone because you heard the troops had a way of being able to use them to call back home.  We never actually figured out what that program was, but he brought the phone back home because it had a picture of grandpa on it and he didn’t think you would want to get rid of that quite so easily.  We probably still have the phone tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  I never could bring myself to talk you out of the ideas you had, especially if you thought they were helping the greater good. 

The hard part is that this is just the touch of the iceberg of the memories you have left behind.  I remember you showing me the family bible.  The playhouse in the backyard.  Snuggles, Lokie, Sable and Bailey.  I remember mom and I dognapping Lillie after your mastectomy.  She is doing well, but now has a little sibling rivalry going on with her new brother, Gus.

You have left a legacy of strong women behind.  Daughters,  Granddaughters and a Grandson that will carry on to make a difference in this generation and the one to come.   We will make you proud, I have no doubt.

I love you and miss you.  You took a little part of my heart with you today as you said your final goodbye on this side of Earth.  I am thankful you are healthy and at peace now.  That you have reunited with those whom you have loved so dearly.  I will never forget how you have impacted my life.  Thank you for everything.