Monday, May 14, 2018

Things My Mama Left Me

Mom taught me a lot of things and she left behind for me a legacy of trusting in God through a lot of trials.  But I thought I'd share a few other things she taught me.

1. To love hot tea - okay truthfully Mom, Grandma, Aunt Nina and even Aunt Chris taught me this.

2. Less is more.  Something I learned, and really as a young adult this was driven home even more so in college and I was a poor uninsured college student.

3. God works even in the little things. Mom would sometimes gather up her spare change or mine and we would go and grab $.50 ice cream from where ever (remember when ice cream was that inexpensive?).  It wasn't a big thing, we were broke, but Mom helped us enjoy even the little things and it paid off for me.

4. Knitting.  Bless her heart, Grandma Taylor did her best to teach me how to knit, alas, she didn't have the patience to work with me (probably because we were too much alike if the truth be told).  Mom, however, was more than willing to take the time one Christmas break when I was in fifth or sixth grade and within two weeks, she had taught me how to knit a hat.  The rest I've learned thanks to YouTube and patterns.

5. Everyone has a different time of day or night when they function best.  I am very much a morning person, except right now when I have my days and nights mixed up.  But for the most part, I'm all about mornings.  I wake up and hit the ground running.  Mom, on the other hand, worked best at night and she rarely slept more than four hours at a time.  I didn't know the last part until Bud told me, I was always sleeping when she was doing stuff, so it didn't occur to me until later that maybe she didn't sleep like I did. 

6. Sometimes people with ADD may seem flaky, but they aren't.  Mom was an ADHD child, she told me this herself when I was a young adult.  She said as she researched ADHD/ADD while working on her Master's in Chapter One Reading and then later in Special Education that she recognized herself reading symptoms.  This meant Mom could NOT stay still to save her life, even as an adult. 
Growing up we would be in the grocery store and I would need to use the bathroom.  I would beg her to please not leave, she would promise, and when I got out of the bathroom she was not only not where she was when she watched me hurry to the bathroom, she was often further off somewhere in the store.  As a teen and a kid who lost a parent so young, it really scared me half to death and sometimes to the point of tears.  It wasn't until her last visit when I looked her dead square in the eye and told her not to move because she had the girls with her and I came back to see the girls following her around the corner because I told them to stay with Grammy that I realized a few days later, she could not physically or mentally help herself.  It wasn't something she was doing because she wasn't thinking, it's because her brain was so busy, she would forget what I said or requested and move on because something else grabbed her attention.  I wish I had figured it out a lot sooner, it might have saved me a ton of trauma as a young teen.

7.  A love of books.  When I began fifth grade, I didn't really care much for reading for fun.  I would prefer to run around and play outside.  Finally, Mom bribed me to read.  She offered me a quarter for each book I read.  What started off as a business venture for me, became a lifelong passion.  Even now, I love finding new books and reading them and sharing them with the girls. 

8. A love of learning.  Growing up, Mom would watch old movies with us and after the advent of the VCR and we got one, we would watch movies and Mom would explain the significance of what we were seeing take place on screen.  She also slowly introduced us to documentaries.  I still love watching a good documentary these days - usually historical ones because I'm not a huge fan of the direction science has gone.

9. Hating commercials. It wasn't hard for her to teach us this one, she would often mute the commercials on tv once it was an option OR she would record a tv show or movie and pause during the commercial breaks or fast forward through them if we could.  I have lovingly and maybe somewhat forcefully passed this on to my children.  With the advent of Netflix, Amazon Prime and PureFlix, we never watch commercials now.  In fact, we tried cable tv a few years ago and once the 1-year contract was finished we happily told it to take a hike.

10.  Water!!!  I love swimming and I owe that to Mom.  She would work for her friend Ginny and save up to buy us a family pass to go to the Community Center.  If you asked me a few years ago I would have sworn to you on a stack of Bibles we went every day.  Mom corrected me though,  it wasn't every day, just two or three times a week.  I think we all needed a day off from too much fun in the sun.  I will admit, it is the one thing I miss about us living in our last apartment - no pool and ocean in the Puget Sound is entirely too chilly for swimming.

There is a much longer list, but I thought this was a good place to start off.  Mom was a really, really good mom, it wasn't easy on her raising three of us alone, but I always knew I was loved even when things were really tough. 

Have a good week,
In Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

All I Wanted Was to Go Home

I spent a week preparing our suitcases, packing, making lists to prepare to fly to Kansas.  We had to be at the airport by 3:30 a.m. to fly to Mom's funeral and memorial service.  A part of me was ready, it was a small part, the rest of me said, "No, I don't want to do this.  I don't want to say goodbye yet."  As we drove towards the airport the song, "Thy Will" by Hilary Scott came on the radio and the tears began to flow in great streams.  As I sobbed through that song and the next three on the radio, Chris, and the girls let me cry, I'm pretty sure a couple of them joined me.  And all I wanted to to do was turn the car around and go Home.

We made good time through the checkpoints, we had checked our luggage and Sarah had dropped us off and headed home.  And we sat and waited and all I wanted to do was go home. We boarded the plane, I entertained girls and we made our next flight, but all I wanted was to go Home.

After we rented the car and loaded up, the girls and I slept some and we even stopped to grab a bite to eat and all I wanted was to go home.  We made it to the hotel, I checked in with Bud and I fell asleep.  I slept from 6 p.m. off and on, waking sporadically until 10 a.m. the next day, but all I wanted was to go home.  We said our hellos and saw friends and family again, I saw my mini urn with Mom's ashes in it, but all I wanted was to go home.  I visited with Dad's family who came to attend the funeral and we all headed to the church.  All I wanted was to go Home.

I saw a beautiful display with one large urn and three smaller ones, the beautiful collage of photos that Bud's sister, Charlotte put together stood there, flowers were arriving and people milled around.  All I wanted was to go Home.   Everything was beautiful, the message, remembering Mom, hearing the stories, the music, all of it.  I didn't appreciate an aunt being a jerk, but there's always one in every family.  And in that moment, all I wanted was to go Home. 

We ate with friends and family, we visited, we dealt with things that needed to be done.  The family invited us to join them later, but I couldn't visit.  I needed to be alone with my little family.  They are my shield in many ways, I protect them, but they also protect me.  We watched TV, we laughed and shared chocolates that Chris bought in Denver.  Chris and I even went out on a date and it was nice, but really, all I wanted was to go Home.

Home - it's not just my house, Home is where I find God waiting for me.  We take our time and I read His Word and love letter to me and others and I find peace even in the midst of sadness.  Home is where I know that someday I will see everyone I love who have gone ahead before me.  Home is Home - it means safety, it means loves, it means acceptance.  When everything else is hitting the fan, and I want to hide, I turn to Home.  I look forward to being there someday.  More than a house, more than people, it will be the place where finally I can be in the presence of my Savior and King.  It is where I know Mom, Dad, Grandma and others wait for me.  It's where I dream of for Matt, Meg, their families and those who have yet to make Jesus their friend.  All I wanted was to go Home.

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