Five Christmases

Holidays are a time of year where it’s so easy to reflect on the past.

They are truly memory markers. I can remember where I was last Christmas, but not last month. Well wait, I was in Maui, so I definitely remember that. But you get the point.

Christmas was my mom’s most favorite Holiday. She decorated with such enthusiasm and joy, and carefully shopped, and wrapped presents in such a pretty way.

When I was a teenager, I used to sneak peek at the gifts under the tree (after counting them of course) and then carefully unwrap them when no one was looking, because I just couldn’t contain my excitement while waiting for Christmas Day! My mom was that way too, it was pretty funny.

I remember one year, Mom put “warning notes” in the wrapping of one particularly interestingly shaped gift. Like,as I loosened the tape on the first wrapping flap and carefully pulled it back, there was a “WAIT, DON”T PEEK!” Note. I laughed, and kept on going, under the next flap, another note, “I SAID STOP!” With a cartoon of Mommie Dearest, and then as I opened the next flap, “SLAP! I SAID NO!” She must have thought that this would stop me because that was the final note, and I of course didn’t stop. I got to the prize, then carefully re-wrapped the gift. I don’t even remember what that gift was, but I sure remember those notes.

Christmas isn’t about the gifts, as most of the time they are quickly forgotten. But the memories of traditions last forever. (First Jesus, of course, don’t go freaking out church peeps, but that’s a different blog post). Ask anyone about their Christmas traditions growing up and they’ll recite them.

I have made some of my own traditions with my sons and it’s neat to see that they have noticed. On Sunday, John asked me if he was going to be able to open the traditional Christmas Eve gift that would be PJ bottoms. It warmed my heart that he noticed my “tradition.” And when I sent him a pic of the fudge I was making for him, while he was still at the Marine Base, I got a “YAY!” Response. ❤️ He asked about a few other things as well, and it so warmed my heart that he expected them.

On Christmas Eve, my older son Tom came over and I took him downstairs and showed him the audio book of Pop and Grandma reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” What a treasure that is for me to have now! Tom was clearly moved to hear it. And then I told him something that made him really laugh. I said, you know in your stocking, you will have chocolate covered cherries…(he has had that every year since I can remember.” Then I said, “I know you hate them” and he just burst out laughing. He used to like them, for like a minute when he was 8…but every year he gets them and every year I know he is thinking “I really need to tell mom that i don’t like these..”. But now that he knows I know, he can enjoy them more every year by bursting out in laughter and tossing them in the garbage a week later. (they cost like $1.46 at WalMart).

But, long after I’m gone and his Christmas is lacking the chocolate covered cherries, I hope he will think of me and smile.

My Mom, it’s been Five Christmases since she left us so early. The photo here is from her final Christmas. I still think of her and miss her every day. I can think of past Christmas’ with her and smile. And know that these were good memories, these Christmases, and it was important to her that my sister and I felt special, both as children, and as grown adults. She did that indeed.

Merry Christmas in Heaven, Mom. I love you.

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Marine Recruit Mom: T minus 82 days until Graduation

Last Monday, my son John swore in for the USMC. Dean and I were both present to watch him, take pictures, and give him a kiss and hug and wish him well in Boot Camp.

I am thinking of events just from a week ago and it feels like a year.

OMG John, I miss you so much!!!

I made it out the door of MEPS, one dragging foot after the other, and cried like a baby in the crosswalk. Cried in the car. Cried that night, and the next and the next.

Tears are welling up in my eyes as I write this, and I need to be careful because I’m actually assisting in a training class for new Escrow Officers’ in my company. It’s a weekend gig, so I am also missing my husband and church this weekend. Thank goodness I’m not the instructor! I get to sit at the back of the room and make sure the snacks are replenished and the meals get served on time, and that the students are well supported.

Every day I think about John and wonder how he’s doing. I found a support group on Facebook for Marine Moms and it’s been really helpful. I’ve learned that this deep and overwhelming depression hanging over me is normal. Ok well that’s good. I’m still depressed, I’m still sad. I can’t talk to him.

I consider what John might be experiencing. I hear from other moms that Recruits have good days, and really bad days, during Boot Camp. Days where they want to give up. Distress days. Extreme duress. I can’t bear to think of John feeling hopeless and I let my mind go to this place of tears in his eyes. I imagine him as my baby boy (I know he’s NOT, so just give me this for a minute) and his momma can’t comfort him. This breaks me.

The last week before he left for boot camp was so bittersweet for me. I was trying to drink in every minute of face time with him. Memorize every minute. I would look at him and cry. The nice thing is he must have been given the heads up by his recruiter “be nice to your mom.” Because there were lots of clingy hugs from me and he did not pull back, as he normally does.

This period of new manhood for my youngest, I am having separation anxiety and growing pains that I never anticipated. I want to write to him, I want to hear from him…something. I know I’m not alone in this. I’m just in a bad place.

Yes I am so proud of my son, for his dreams being achieved. He has dreamt of being a Marine for so many years, and now he’s living his dream. He graduated High School just a couple of weeks ago and (oh God here comes the tears again..ugh) had highest honors, So why am I not happy? Why am I not beaming with pride and skipping around all happy? Instead I’m wanting to isolate and be alone.

So this is what it is to be an empty nester? I’m not liking this Season the first week in. When does it get fun?

pondering…things you never get over

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20140518-193737-70657756.jpgLoss.  There is no timeframe.  No period of recovery. So with that,  I think that anyone who makes a statement like “shouldn’t you be over that by now?” has never suffered a true loss of a loved one.  Someday they’ll understand, that is the way of life.

Here’s one of my favorite pics of my mom.  Not necessarily a flattering picture, but her laugher is real and her perseverance to joy in times of difficulty is evident.

In case you can’t tell from the pic, it’s my Mom in the hospital.  This picture was taken on January 1, 2014.  This was the start of frequent hospital stays from lymphoma that led to her returning home to Jesus on April 6, 2014.

So we’re 4 years in, and this time of year is the absolute hardest for me.  Early Spring, and the Cherry Blossoms were just coming alive.  I remember walking the hospital parking lot that last week of Mom’s life and seeing the cherry blossoms everywhere.  So pretty.  They represent all that’s new and beautiful, but now they just remind me of loss.

The other day, I was texting with my Mom’s BFF, Maria  and my sister and was sharing with them about what this week means to me, the pain and heartache, each day counting up (or is it down?) to the anniversary of her death.  My sister Chris is right there with me.  We miss Mom so much.  And Dad, now remarried, he’s just kind of found some comfort.

So Maria said, “what do you think your mom would say about all of this misery surrounding her death?  Do you think she would rather you rejoice in the life she had?”

Wow…yeah mom would be pretty annoyed with me right now. Self pity and all of that.  I can hear her clicking her tongue even, and sighing loudly for effect.  Immediately I thought of a time when my “first love” moved away to Oklahoma and I was inconsolable for a time, at 17 years old.  Mom came home one afternoon to hear me blaring “Who’s crying now?” from Journey.  “Why do you do that to yourself!!???”    Ah Steve Perry could belt out those ballads!

Maria follows this blog so I want to say directly to you Maria, Thank you.  Message received.  You were/are the best friend my mom could have.  I love that you have taken Chris and I under your wing.  I am not yet at the joy of celebrating Mom’s life.  I will probably play “It is Well with my Soul” on Friday, the anniversary of her death, and cry a lot.  Maybe next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus the Rogue Rabbi


Lately and not by coincidence there has been coming under my spriritual radar stories and sermons about the utter uniquness of Jesus.

Not because He is the Son of God, and Word, the Light, everything, no,  but that as a man He was bold and well, might be labeled “obnoxious” by todays’ standards.

Think of some of the things He has said, and I’m totally paraphrasing “hate your family, be poor, let people smack you around,  give up your possessions, don’t bury your dead instead just walk away from them, you better count the cost before you decide to follow Me because it’s really big, you can’t get to heaven if you’re rich, you’re blessed if you’re mourning etc etc  

Oh and those parables!  Seeds falling on rock and in thorns, unforgiving servants, mustard seeds, good samaritans and lost sheep, it goes on.  Casting your pearls among swines etc etc.  

Jesus definitely wasn’t you’re typical feel good sermonizer.  He didn’t talk about warm and fuzzy stuff, and He surely didn’t recite perfection to the written law so He could rub shoulders with the religious elite.

If the man, Jesus, started a church today, and said these types of things, would His congregation grow?  Even if the Apostles Paul and Peter were walking on earth today, would they have a sustaining church?  These men told it like it IS and not like we want to hear! 

This makes me thing about church’s and offenses.  Can you imagine if in todays’ church, Jesus came and spoke the same truth’s that He spoke 2,000 years ago, how many would get offfended and leave the church like they do now.

Imagine, “Jesus changed the services times, I’m out!”  “Jesus’ worship band is too loud, boom, drop that mic I’m done!”  “Jesus didn’t sugar coat my sin and tell me to keep doing it, He just wanted to forgive me and have me stop…as if!  This place bites!”

Seem kind of ridiculous and unlikely but it’s exactly what we’re doing.

Our Pastor today was preaching on Luke, Chaper 14 and referred to Jesus as the Rogue Rabbi, and I think that’s such a great fit.  Pastor Adam’s sermon topic was “It’s my Party” on on this particular Sabbath day on Pharisee had invited Him to His house and you have to know that was a total set up, as the Pharisees were just watching Jesus and judging Him  and waiting for Him to say something that they could totally call Him out for.  Yeah good luck with that guys, going toe to toe with God is not going to gain you a victory.  As out Pastor pointed out, Jesus spoke boldly and wasn’t into the social game of schmoozing etc and He knew they were trying to set Him up, but He didn’t care, He wasn’t there to win a popularity contest by any means.  He told them things like “it’s sometimes ok to break the written law and work on the sabbath, don’t assume you are all that important, don’t invite people to your party if you want them to repay you…”

But this part of the story, that Pastor spoke on in his sermon today I had never got until today and I definitely had to go up to our Pastor afterward to thank him for the clarification, so I thought I would share;

Luke 14:15-24. When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’

What is Jesus really talking about here?  He is talking about God’s Kingdom and how we may presume we’re good enough to get into it because we’re part way there, like we’re kinda quasi-Christian, enough to wear the t-shirt…but it won’t happen.  Either we follow Him or we don’t.  There is no half-way with Jesus.  It’s like saying someone is kinda pregnant or sort-of dead.  You either are or you aren’t.

So my thoughts today are to jump all the way in.  Not to make up half-truths to fit Him into my lifestyle but to fit my lifestyle into His truth.

One thing I want to be able to say at the end of my life is, “Hi Jesus, You know me!” And to have Him say, “yes I do!

Yep, I’m goin’rogue.

Transitions

 

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Transitions…the word can create instant anxiety.

I haven’t done any writing in a long time. Not really on purpose, not really too busy, just not really wanting to, but really wanting to at the same time.  That probably makes sense to some.
I guess I feel like unless I’m going through some big storm and have words of wisdom to share, I should just keep quiet. Because my life, well it’s pretty boring (to some)  now and uneventful  and I’m loving much of it. No one wants to hear about ho hum.

They only want to hear about your misery. Oh evil one, be quiet.

So I had a big transition in my job last year, and the position that I thought I loved went away, the company sold the offices I managed, new folks came in and at first I thought I would be okay. It became pretty apparent very soon in that it was not at all going to be okay and definitely not a good fit and besides, they had no intention of keeping me, except to smooth the way with the staff and customers. They weren’t real slick in their communications and I did come across several items and slips of the tongues that laid it out for me. That’s business, I guess. But it was also my life, or a big part of it.  I had to let that go and my old company created a position for me but it included a substantial cut in salary in the process.
Here’s the thing, early into that transition back to my old company and with the lessor salary, I realized that I didn’t seem to be wanting for anything. God was encouraging me to take a big slice of humble pie and get off of my “I’m a big deal” mountain because friends, I was not that at all. There is only room for ONE who is ALL THAT and the center of it all and it’s NOT ME!
God sometimes needs to strip us of ourselves so we can begin to see Himself. God shows us that there is no way we can fly this life plane with Jesus as our Co-Pilot because we’re going to crash and burn. JESUS is our pilot!



Our identity is never in ourselves but is always rooted in Christ.

So I ate that humble pie and found service to others was pretty rewarding.  Being a support employee instead of a lead employee is incredibly rewarding and a whole lot less stress.

Just recently, in the last several months, my husband and I resumed tithing, which took a sort of hiatus while we were trying to figure out the reduced finances.  Boy was that dumb.  Within 2 weeks of kicking that off, the Lord blessed us with a surprise salary package that allowed for me to obtain that prior salary (and more) with the addition of a bonus package.  I need to work for it, and that’s a good thing.

 

I was watching the National Geographic channel last night and it there was a video of a large brown bear in Alaska, waiting for the summer tide to roll out so she could dig for clams.  She would need to consume 1,000 of them a day to keep up her caloric intake, and during those hours the tide was out she worked hard for every morsel.  What would it be if she just came across a pile of clams ready for her to eat? “Bear Manna?” Well, it would be one lazy bear.  The same for us as people, if God just handed us things, we would be lazy and unappreciative.

I think, at this state in my life, I am finally realizing some wisdom.

Another transition for me, my dad is getting remarried next month.  I’m not at all excited about this.  In fact, the closer it comes, the more dread I feel.  His wife-to-be has moved into the house dad shared with my mom, and moved things around, acquired replacement furniture, and even my moms wedding ring has been re-mastered to be a new ring for her.     This last part, it’s infuriating to me.  My dad shared that with me before the fact, I voiced my objections, and he said “I’m not asking your permission, I’m telling you that I’m doing it.”  Ouch.  I’m not liking this latest transition, but it’s his life and not mine.  I don’t dislike her, I just feel all of this is too “in my face.”  I need to come to acceptance, I love my dad, and my mom is gone forever.  But she will never be replaced.  Dad is 75…did he really need to get remarried?

 

I am angry, confused, depressed….a mess.

There are so many things happening in the world that I have no control over.  I am realizing my powerlessness.  My weakness.  My deep need for God.  My deep need for my own eternal heritage, it’s the only thing that is lasting.  Even though part of me so desperately wants to hide away and become a total hermit, I need to realize that God hasn’t called me to hide myself in shame under a lampstand, but to be His light upon a hill, shining for all to see.  Light in a dark and changing world.

I’m reminded of something here.  God calls the broken, not the perfect.

 

 

 

Ma

“Mother’s Day without my Mom,” take 4.  Ugh, This year it also falls on Mom’s birthday.  I went to the cemetary today to bring some fresh roses.  While at the store, I contemplated buying fake ones, to leave in the little vase by her grave marker.  After all, I reasoned, they will always look fresh and pretty.  There are a lot of grave markers at the little cemetary on Harstene Island that have these fake bouquets.    I’ve looked at them with sadness.  It’s as if to say “here these oughtta last ya awhileI’ll check back in a few years, or not..”  Yeah, I’m not ready to go there yet, I guess.  

Here are the flowers I placed;

I was there a few weeks ago, and placed some roses that we’d bought from the Rotary fund raiser.  As I walked up to the marker, I had expected to see wilted flowers there.  Instead all I saw were stems sticking out of the vase. It was like the whole rose, and every one of them, had been snipped off at the bulb.  Odd,  I thought.  Then it occurred to me that the deer like feasting on roses.  Dang deers, I thought, as I placed the new ones.  I wonder how long these will last?
I considered again why I need to bring fresh flowers to the quiet little cemetary.  It’s like throwing money away.  Then I got to thinking, mom totally wouldn’t mind having deer come to visit her and be nourished.  In fact, she would enjoy it.

So I totally realize that she’s not actually there.  I’ve noticed that over the 38 months since she passed away, that I never feel any closer to her when I visit the cemetary.  I actually feel further away.  I stare at the grave marker, compare the weeds, look at the other grave markers, wonder if a bear will charge at me from the forest, and I do wonder if there is a little window in Heaven where she sees that I’m there.   

The truth is that I can hear her voice telling me to quit purposefully making myself sad.  To take care of myself in the living, and to live life with purpose.  I want to ask her so much about what she thinks about this or that.  The grandkids, Dad and Susan’s future plans, did she really want me to have the piano, on and on. 

I just miss having my own personal cheerleader, mom was like that.  I want to be that kind of mom, that kind of person.  It’s not an easy thing.  Right now I’m realizing I’m kind of cranky for one.  And I like to be a mom on my own terms, which isn’t a great thing.  For instance, John (my 17 year old son) likes to share his life stories with me, but only in the evening, usually as I’m headed to bed, I half-listen, with my eyes on my pillow.  Let’s talk about this in the morning..???   Except John isn’t a morning person.  So I really need to work on priorities.  Next year when he graduates, he’s headed to Marine boot camp for 3 months, then off to college for 4 years, then at least two more years of service in the Marines.  The days of mother/son pajama chat time are slowing coming to an end.  Before long, I will be absolutely dreaming that John would be around to keep me from going to bed with his excited talk about life.  

And I worry about the deer eating the roses.  

As I drove away from the cemetary, I saw 3 deer, patiently waiting in the grass.  Enjoy, little ones.