Thursday, April 12, 2018

Change Can Be Good

When we first moved to Washington, I had never moved this far away from family permanently before.  My family had always been within a few hours driving distances at best, with the exception of ten months spent in Catania, Sicily in 1999.   At first, I was so excited.  There were new things to see, new people, to meet, a whole new area to explore.  Then the excitement wore off.

As time went by, I became homesick.  I knew moving was permanent, but it became more real when I did little things, such as enroll Elizabeth in a school near our apartments.  I remember getting on the elevator and starting to cry.  I grabbed my cell phone and called the first person I knew would understand how I felt, my mom.  She talked to me as I cried and told her how it was hard preparing to enroll Lizzie in a new school, a woman I thought was my friend flaked out on me during a time when I needed her to be there and things just felt out of sorts as the reality began sinking in.  Without missing a beat, Mom started praying with me.  She knew I needed to feel God's presence in my life and I'm sure at that time she had no clue just how more immersed in Him I would become after our move.

I discovered the YouVersion Bible app purely by accident and I quickly downloaded it to my cell phone.   It started as something as simple as sharing the verses I was reading and enjoying interacting more with Christian on Twitter.  Then it inspired me to read the Bible all of the ways through.  I am on my second time of reading God's word from beginning to end now and doing so with other fellow believers.  What began happening is wonderful and I wish I had chosen to do this sooner.  I found as I read the Bible from beginning to end, I began to learn more, more about God, more about my history as a child of God, more about why Jesus needed to come and die for us and it began to soften me, mold me into a kinder, gentler person.  I began to grow in my walk with Christ daily and spend time in prayer.  I found that who I am in Christ is incomplete and that I want to be more complete and see where He takes me on this journey.    I began to realize I was woefully falling short in my prayer life, my devotional life and as a fellow Christian.

Please don't think I am saying I am all done, I am so far from a completed work, but I find that I am growing closer to Christ and as I do, I die more to my own self and deeply yearn to be more of who God created me to be.  Whereas before I could not understand the concept behind James 1 when he writes and tells us to consider it joy brothers when we face trials of many kinds because those trials produce in our perseverance, I would have griped and grumbled.  Now even in my grief over losing Mom, I find that I am resting more in God, striving to let Him shine through me in the midst of this storm.  I miss Mom A LOT, and I'll be honest, I am not up for a lot of company right now.  I don't necessarily want to eat, but I do when I remember, but I do find that I look forward to attending church, meeting with fellow believers.  I look forward to opening my Bibles (yes, I have two different versions I enjoy reading side by side these days my NIV and The Message) and spending time learning more about Christ.  A good example is a today I read Isaiah 50-56 and Chapter 53 really struck me today.  Isaiah prophesied Jesus' beatings, crucifixion and suffering hundreds of years before Jesus came and died for us.  And as I read this, the magnitude of what it would mean for us struck me with awe, wonder, and excitement.  That God loved me so much He sent Jesus to suffer from all of that for ME.  And I don't even deserve it.  I immediately felt humbled and struck at how profound that truly is, and I'm still sure I don't fully understand the entire thing.   Seven years ago, I would never have read all of the ways through Isaiah, much less the entire Old Testament.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, March 26, 2018

Let's Be Honest

Okay, let's be honest. No one will ever have a good day every day of the week.   It's not possible or realistic to expect that, but right now I am having more than my fair share of what Anne Shirley called Jonah Days.  Really and truly I am over it.  Of course, I am also running on a short amount of sleep as well, so maybe after a nap, I'll feel more like my optimistic self.

This morning, I awoke to a Beka in my bed all curled up.  I love moments like these, except she had to get up and go to school and I am short on sleep, as in short by about six hours.  I know, I know intentional.  I swear Satan is doing everything he can to stop that this year.  He's succeeding, except in one area,  I am intentional in my praise even in a crisis.  If I can keep that one going, I will feel somewhat triumphant.  Anyway back to my day, which by the way is still supposed to be only just starting.  I found Beka in my bed, no problem until she got up and copped an attitude.  She is usually all over getting ready and about to head out the door.  But lately, since Mom got worse, and has since passed on, she wants to skip school.  I understood last week and didn't get onto her much because I was too overwhelmed.  But today Lizzie missed her bus and it's a good thing she did, because who was hiding behind the pump organ but a little Miss Rebekah.   She declared repeatedly she hates school - we had done so well.  She was starting to enjoy school and likes Mrs. Forslund her teacher and now we are back to her hating school.

Now if I thought for one moment that I could do her justice as a homeschooling Mom, I would homeschool her next year.  But I know me, I know Beka and she needs this routine and she needs these expectations or she is never going to make it in the real world.  I have never wished for the Rapture to come so soon in my life before, but at this point, I'm hoping Jesus shows up and saves us all from trying to get Beka to adulthood.

After the Nap:

I was correct.  A nap improves so much.  Now to wait for Chris to come home from work and have a chat with Miss Beka.  I wish she enjoyed school.  I enjoyed school and learning so much.  Elizabeth hates missing school.  In fact, all last week and part of the week before Lizzie had remained home from school due to a nasty asthma flare.

For years I thought the author of the book of James was crazy when he wrote "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything."  James 1: 2 and 3 (NIV)  As I grow older though I find that to be true.  Each trial I have faced in life had helped shaped me into the woman I am.  Loss of a parent, abuse for a brief time, I could go on but why?  What happened isn't important so much as the end result and the end result I hope is a young woman who not only knows that God is real because he has walked me through a lot and I have seen his hand on myself and my family through each trial.  Even now, I feel and see His mighty hand at work in our lives.  It is wonderful and exciting and awe-inspiring.  From the pastor, we have at our church now, to how God showed up and provided a home for Pastor Johnson's family I am constantly in awe of God and his mighty works.

Now for an update on how we are all doing.  The girls I think have yet to fully understand death.  So Grammy being gone has yet to sink in for them, especially Elizabeth who has always been a little bit like me in that we are both delayed reaction kind of girls.  I think once we are there for the Memorial services in Wichita, it will sink in for her.  Beka is struggling right now.  Some of it is seeing me sad and upset, some of it is her own mind trying to grasp what is going on and what it means.  She is deeply thinking about what it means to love God and have a relationship with Him.  We are slowly but surely reading through the Bible together.  My goal is to bring our family together every evening for devotional time so we can all grow together.  I have discovered I do not like the voice of the man reading the NIV version of the Bible, I do, however, like the young man reading The Message version and I think it will be easier for the girls to fully understand.  :D I look forward to them learning and growing in Christ.  I pray daily that God will make me up to the task of teaching our girls how to love God, serve him daily and seek his righteousness.

Chris is wonderful, he misses Mom.  And it isn't surprising that he misses her.  From our first date, Mom was on his side and encouraged him.  Even if the time came for her to scold him for something going on, she always did it from a place of love. In missing her, he helps me as I mourn the loss of my one remaining parent and gives me the freedom to feel her loss.  He has taken over the budget for me, which is wonderful, it makes for one less thing I have to worry about and I cannot express how thankful I am to him for helping me in this way. 

Me - how am I doing.  I have moments when I am okay.  I have moments when I miss Mom terribly.  Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry - so basically I am grieving like other people grieve when they experience loss.  I have placed several commitments on hold until after we return from saying goodbye to Mom in Wichita.  A week or so after our return though it is time to rejoin the land of the living and mourn when needed at home.  I will always miss Mom but I cannot wallow in it.  First, because God is with me and He is prodding me to keep moving forward with life so that I am ready for whatever it is he has coming in our future. 

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

1999

The last week of February I sat in the Will Rogers Airport waiting for my plane to take me to Dallas/Fort Worth.  From there I would begin a long day and a half journey to Catania Sicily.  Mom and my friends kept me company (this was pre-9/11 so you could do that) as I waited.  When the time came I walked on to the plane and refused to turn around.  Not out of some stubborn need to prove anything, but because I knew if I turned around I might not move forward and leave and I knew God was calling me.

I had never been away from home for an extended period of time longer than two weeks.  I loved being home with Mom and spending time with her.  I was a homebody even then.  But I knew I was called to go and serve and so I walked on to the plane, trying to keep the tears at bay so no one would know how scared I was.

Flash forward to August 1999 and I had two new flatmates and one of them did her level best to make me miserable.  I had enjoyed my time in Sicily until she had arrived.  So Mom and Ginny made plans and they came at the end of September to come and visit.  I remember when Ginny told me she was coming, I asked if she could please bring Mom because I was so homesick.  As if Ginny would come and not bring Mom - they were best friends.
 So September came and Mom and Ginny stepped off the plane and almost didn't recognize me.  We spent a week visiting Taormina (pronounce Tower - meenah) and seeing Sicily.  It helped so much to ease my homesickness.  I didn't know then I would be home within a months time. 

Mom wasn't disabled yet but needed a cane to walk because her knees had begun to fall apart, but she kept up with me pretty nicely while there.  I walked a lot and had lost 40 pounds.  I would have lost so much more if I had stayed, but God knew I needed to head home.  

Mom was so excited.  This was her first time overseas and she made the most of it.  She did her level best to talk to the natives even though it meant my brain was exhausted at the end.  I finally had to ask her to stop being quite so friendly because my brain was ready to ooze out of my ears with fatigue.  She struggled to comply but she did.  Mom loved adventures and travel.  When she and Bud came together they began traveling all over the country.  She drove and met him in Florida and then Washington D.C.  She was so excited, she called me telling me all of the wonderful sights she had gone to go see.  They traveled to all over and even discovered a love of cruising together.  She loved getting onboard the ship, going to Mexico, and other countries with him, because she was with him.  Even when she couldn't walk as much and finally needed a wheelchair, she would happily wait for him to finish his adventure while she looked around.  Travel and adventure became their life for several years.  I had to remind her in 2007 that she needed to come home because I was due to give birth to Rebekah soon.  So they came home mostly willing because they were about to be grandparents again.  They loved Beka to pieces and still do even now when she's older and ornery. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Little Changes Bring Hope

If you had asked me several days ago if I thought Mom might see Christmas, I would have answered no.  Today though I feel something different entirely.  One little change brings hope.  Just one, it will seem little but it is far from little.

Mom has begun to cough.  It sounds like a small thing I know.  However, if you have never had pneumonia, you don't realize the power of a cough.  And even more so the power of a cough that is producing phlegm.  Before Mom couldn't cough, she just felt like poop and was chronically ill.  But now we have a cough and it's producing stuff.  This is excellent news.  The more she coughs and the more junk she coughs up, the closer she comes to kicking pneumonia to the curb.

The next month or so the fatigue will remain with her, but as it passes, her strength will return.  This is all very good news.  It also means her heart will not be as stress - excellent news.  She has taken off weight during this illness, to the point I didn't quite recognize her.  My hope is she can keep that weight off and we can keep her diabetes under control as well.  Those things right there will make life a little easier for those taking care of her and for herself.  I'm hopeful that maybe as time goes by she can regain some use of her left side.

As I think back to the past, I am chastised by God for my lack of faith.  We weren't certain if Matthew would survive in 1996 and as it hit the darkest time as he lay there with his blood boiling away and new blood being put into his body, but no change coming my mom had no choice but to leave him.  Meg was in a hospital on the other side of Oklahoma City (if you don't realize how big Oklahoma City is, it's like Seattle but more stretched out, it's really really big) going through rehabilitation for her hip which was fractured in the accident.  Mom struggled, Matthew needed her, but Meg needed her and never had the job of being a single parent been more gut-wrenching than in that moment.  What Mom didn't know was that as she walked out to her car, our pastor, Pastor Terry Jones (read his book Venom in My Veins sometime, it is amazing and he is the oldest surviving person with ALS) had walked into the hospital on the opposite side of it knowing Mom wouldn't like Matthew to be left alone.  As he sat with Matthew praying over him, Matthew with tubes down his throat and fighting to live suddenly cried out through all of the machines keeping him alive and Pastor Jones later said that just like that the parade of death left the room and the parade of life entered in and Matthew began to improve.  If God can do that for Matthew, he can do it for Mom!  Forgive me, Lord, for my unbelief.  Help my unbelief.  

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tonight is a Vigil Night

Tonight I am keeping vigil, tonight I am praying, seeking strength, trusting God to work all things out according to his purpose and plan.  Tonight I will stay awake as I await the sense that I can sleep a little, or I need to begin planning a plane trip to say one last goodbye to Mom.  Tonight, I lay my heart at the feet of my Creator and trust that His Will really will be done, even if that means Mom goes to Heaven.

After church, we went to a restaurant to grab lunch.  I had put my phone on silent so I could enjoy the service because no one needs bad news while sitting in church.  I opened it to find multiple text messages.  I'm beginning to absolutely hate text messages and my cell phone.  The instrument I used to love, has become an object of derision and loathing as it holds the key to information about Mom.  I may go to a dumb cell phone after all of this.  The first text I saw was from Sarah asking if I was okay.  I was confused until I opened up other texts from Bud to our group text.  Mom has been sedated and intubated to give her body and lungs time to rest.  At first, it all sounded so dire.  But after a few moments, I called Uncle Ed back and asked some important questions I needed to be answered.  See Uncle Ed, like I can look at things analytically and logically and more objective than those of us in the midst of the storm. He loves Mom, she's his sister-in-law and I know he will be sad when she passes, but I also knew I could count on him to give me a clearer picture of what we were facing at that time.  Mom was awake, Aunt Nina said later she was calm and put on a brave face so that helped, she wanted to be intubated and sedated so she has a fighting chance to win her battle against chronic pneumonia.  As long as she is awake and aware of everything that is happening and wants to fight, I will back her up on that, we fight another day.   She said to keep fighting as long as she wouldn't be a vegetable and she isn't in a vegetative state yet and hopefully never. 

Then there is Texas.  I am also keeping vigil from my friend Heather who tomorrow says goodbye for now to her beautiful girl, Laney.  She fought long and hard but finally, her little body couldn't take anymore and she is healed in Christ with a new body and is truly a new Creation in Christ. 

The truth is I'm a little jealous.  This world is becoming more and more depraved, I worry for my girls, I worry for the children of the world whose parents don't teach them of God's grace, mercy and love and I worry that my girls may fall for the lies of the world and Satan.  I dream of Heaven and being reunited with Dad, Grandma, and those I've been missing for a while now.  I'm kind of hoping for a library in Heaven.  I wouldn't mind being a researcher in Heaven or a professional reader! Or since I won't have TMJ anymore a part of the Heavenly choir.  I find I think of these things often these days with Mom being so sick and because I know so many whose children are still fighting for life or who have lost the battle and gone to Heaven ahead of me. 

So I'm brewing tea, listening to a Left Behind book and once I'm done, I'll most likely knit and pray or sing and pray and read my Bible.  I'll rest when the battle has turned for the better or towards goodbye. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Subtle Changes

Growing up TV was a staple of entertainment in my home.  We couldn't afford sports or a lot of those expensive hobbies,  so we used the TV for entertainment. As I became an adult, I sadly did not always use discernment in what I watched.  Then after a period in the spiritual desert,  God began laying a burden on my heart to clean up what I was watching. 

My watching habits didn't change overnight, it was a slow fading process over a period of time.  Slowly, movies that had swearing began to go, Titanic was a huge one. They say a certain phase five times in 20 minutes, I shut it off and haven't missed it. Subtitles played a huge part in my ability to become more discerning. The written word has always held great significance for me (it explains so much doesn't it) and seeing those words, words I never wanted in my head suddenly became more real to me.  

Then after moving to Washington, I discovered YouVersion Bible app for my cell phone.  It started small, I would read the Bible while waiting in a doctor's office or just waiting for Chris.  Then on Twitter, I began reading through the Bible and sharing each verse I read via Twitter.  It was nice and a good way to remain accountable and almost two years later I had read the Bible.  Then I discovered a Bible reading plan and started it.  I had found things I hadn't known before and I grew up in the church, my dad was a pastor, but suddenly I wanted more!  

Being in Everett, where I hated living felt as if I needed God more than before.  While not everyone in Everett was this way, the majority of the people I met were hostile and rude.  I felt as if I was deep in the den of the enemy - with a Lovers and topless coffee bars everywhere, it's easy to understand how I came to that conclusion.  Then we moved, but my desire to know more about God's word and to hide it deep in my heart has remained.  The desire behind it has changed directions and yet, it is still there burning within my heart.   Now my desire is to draw closer to Christ and be of service to Him.  It's funny how God works things out, isn't it.

Now instead of coming home and flipping on the TV, we sit down and read.  Chris might watch YouTube videos but I find myself reading more.  I have an Audible account and have been collecting the Left Behind books lately.  I am enjoying gathering books to encourage the girls and me in our walks with Christ.  Chris even gets sucked in.  We've listened to classical books, such as Treasure Island, The Swiss Family Robinson, all of the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, The Chronicles of Narnia.  It used to be something we saved for car trips, but now that we can listen on our Amazon Firebox, it means we can indulge at home as well. It makes for vivid imaginations, clean entertainment and we can be more Christ centered.  I'm hoping YouVersion eventually will become an app on the FireBox as well so we can listen to the Bible as a family via TV, phones aren't cutting it right now.

Casting Crowns has a song called Slow Fade about how it's a slow fade into living away from God and it's a good song.  However, sometimes it's also a Slow Fade to growing where God wants us to be.  I've seen people do complete 180 degree changes in their lives, but I've also seen God work slowly and gradually in lives to change them.  In the end, I hope He keeps working on me, because I know I'm not 100 percent the woman He has instore.  

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, March 2, 2018

In The Spirit of Being Honest

I have started so many blog posts lately only to delete them because they wouldn't come out right and I finally realized a part of the reason why is because I'm not being honest.  Not honest about my feelings and not being honest with anyone about what all is going on right now.  So here it goes and please feel free to exit if it becomes too much.

For years my deepest fear was losing Mom.  When I married Chris and our family began it slowly subsided.  She was happy, I was finally happy and life was good.  My deepest fear became what if something happens to Chris, the girls or worse, Chris AND the girls.  My fear came from losing Dad at a young age and my jerky stepdad who just deepened it with his emotional abuse that I wasn't wanted.   Mom did a lot to help ease the fear when I was 15 years old.  I had a horrid nightmare that she up and left for no reason other than "I don't love you anymore."  I awoke crying and crawled into her bed.  At first, she thought I was Meg.  When she realized it was me, we talked about my nightmare and she said words I repeat to my girls even today, "Baby I may dream of running away, but I always take you with me."  The nightmares ended after that, in one shining moment Mom had assuaged my deepest fear that Jim was right and I was unloveable and unwanted.  I never doubted she loved me again.

Now Mom is not well.  Each illness brings her closer to Heaven and further from me, our family and life on Earth.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I am thrilled she will get to see God, Jesus, Daddy and the two babies they lost before they had me.  On the other hand, there is so much left that I wanted her to see.  I wanted her to see the girls graduate, I wanted her to see our house, the list could go on for miles.  I love that with Bud she got to travel all over the U.S. and take cruises and see things.  I love that she got to see Sicily and Italy with her best friend, Ginny Schwarz, but the selfish human side of me wishes she could stay and see more.

I am torn between rejoicing and grief.  And I am so far away it's hard to not be there.  I used to be the sibling that was always there and now it's Meg.  And I am so proud of her for stepping up and helping where I cannot.  Moving away was nice at the time, I needed a break from family stuff and being the family fixer.  But I don't know quite what to do with that now, it feels foreign.  Until Bud came along, it was pretty much assumed that I would be the one taking care of Mom when the time came that she needed more.  I am glad that isn't necessary and sad that it isn't necessary.  I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but it's how I feel.

I'm on a roller coaster ride that no one wants to ride and I can't get off and it won't end until Mom is in Glory with Grandma and Grandpa and so many she misses.  I hate that she is becoming more and more incapacitated and I hate for her some of the indignities I know she struggles with now that she can't take care of herself.  But I also love knowing the Bud, Meg, and Aunt Nina are taking good care of Mom.  I hate that all of my information is reliant on others, it leaves me feeling powerless and helpless.  I love that I got to spend a week helping care for her.  Every day I was there, she would tell me she loved me and was proud of me and start to get emotional.  I think somewhere in her mind she knew this would be the last time I would see her alive.  I love that I got to have that, and I hate that it is probably the last time I will see her on this side of Heaven.

So I am planning.  I'm a planner.  It's a side effect of too much crap happening growing up.  Only I'm planning what no one wants to plan, my mom's memorial service and how to best help us all say goodbye with hope.

Truthfully, the only reason I am still standing right now and able to function is because God's strength is carrying me through and it gives me comfort to know He weeps with me.

Have a good weekend.
 Maureen