Dec 30, 2016

New Year's Eve Eve

As I'm getting my house ready for our New Year's Eve festivities and guests I find myself reflecting on the year.
I think about our family's triumphs and struggles, joys and pain, the ones we loss and the ones we gained. Then I think about friends and family and their celebrations and mourning.  It has been a busy year for so many people in my life.

All this reflection reminded me of my favorite version of Auld lang Syne.  It is called "For all that you have done" by Rend Collective.  
Below are the words.
They resonate in my heart and I will make them my prayer.

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low 
through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God 
Will follow all the years

For all that you have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that you have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless your heart

For all that you have done

You can listen on youtube here

Dec 18, 2016

A few days ago I was texting with a friend about how quickly it seems Christmas has come upon us this year.  My house is decorated, the well thought out gifts are purchased, I've been playing Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, but still Christmas seems to have snuck up on me.
My friend wrote "I'm having a hard time being in the spirit of it all."  I could definitely relate. While I have accomplished all of the exterior trappings of Christmas, I lack the interior decorations - my heart isn't prepared for Christmas this year.
After I read her text, I set my phone down to start chipping away at Mt. Laundry and I quickly got lost in my thoughts.  A few minutes in to the folding a very clear thought snuck into my brain, and into my heart.
Not feeling the spirit of Christmas is exactly why we have Christmas.  That is why God sent his son to this Earth, to be our hope for the times when we can't rally hope on our own, and to give us light when our moments are dark.  God knew that times would come when we wouldn't feel like celebrating, where joy would be fleeting, where pain would be overwhelming and so he sent us his son to be the "wonderful counselor mighty God everlasting father prince of peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
Maybe sometimes the "spirit" of Christmas is just thankfulness that at the end of this season of lights and gifts, traditions and parties, Jesus will still be here for comfort and peace.  He doesn't need the yule log or twinkling lights, he only needs us to turn to him.

If you have a moment, listen to this beautiful song by Kim Walker Smith Tell Me the Story of Jesus 

Dec 15, 2016

Every once in a while I make the 90 minute journey down to Olympia to take care of some errands in my old haunt.  I didn't want to find a new doctor, dentist, or hair stylist up here so I try to strategically plan visits with friends, and stops at some of my favorite shops, in conjunction with the appointments.
Yesterday I had quite the list of things I wanted to accomplish while down there: Dutch Bros., pharmacy, drop off a Christmas gift for my renters, find a birthday gift for a friend, swing by Costco for two bouquets of flowers, head downtown to Archibald Sisters for lotion, stop by the meat shop for Matt's favorite salsa, meet the friends at 5pm and grab a Dutch Bros coffee on the way out of town.  Now that I type it out like that it really seems ridiculous to try to accomplish all of that in a short amount of time.  I didn't even start the trek down there until 2pm!
Things started off just fine, I got the coffee, had my prescription filled and swung by my house to drop off the gift for the renters, but then the birthday gift hunt went terribly wrong, I somehow lost $20, I didn't have time to make it to the lotion shop before dinner.

I started stressing over the $20, the horrible wrap job on my lame birthday gift, and the fact that I wouldn't be able to get the lotion in time for the gift I had planned on giving to another friend.  I was so frustrated, disappointed and already trying to figure out how I was going to resolve some of the issues.

With 5 minutes left before our dinner date I queried the family to see if anyone re-allocated my $20, no luck, but I was able to quickly grab Matts salsa and call the lotion shop to find out they would be open late and would have my order ready for pick up.

I arrived at dinner like a tornado.
Really, I think the people at Red Robin were wondering what in the world was up wth the crazy woman who flew in the door with gifts springing out from her winter coat.
I sat down and delivered the birthday gifts, laughed about my horrible wrapping skills and then enjoyed a lovely time catching up with two good friends.

I drove downtown and made it there just in time to wander through some of the shops down there that also stayed open late for holiday hours.

With my to-do list nearly complete I stopped by Dutch Bros on the way out of town.  I just love those people.  Unfortunately, one of the girls in the hut remembered me from earlier and I immediately felt shame.  Yes I rolled through DB twice in a period of 5 hours.  This is a new record for me.  Not one I'm proud of.  As I was trying to justify my double stop at Dutch Bros I had a fun conversation with a few of the people working there.  I'm confident we all brightened each other's day through the conversation and encouraging words exchanged.

As I was driving home I was feeling so much joy.  Then it occurred to me that had everything gone right, I wouldn't have felt such victory about things turning out well in the end.

The past month has been crazy.  Between going out of town, having house guests, deaths, funerals and tooth-breaking, we've struggled with the boys on different issues, Matt's been working late, I have a laundry pile that could rival Mt Everest, and things just aren't feeling very Christmasy.
My usual self would probably be pretty frustrated and depressed about now, but for some reason that isn't how I'm feeling at all.  Somehow the fact that I can smile at the end of the day makes getting there even better.

It is cliche and downright annoying, but the difficult journey makes the arrival so much sweeter.

Dec 7, 2016

That's My Boy

The following screenshot was taken of a conversation with my oldest a few weeks ago.


He really is smart.  I swear.
Just not in the logical sense.

Dec 4, 2016

A week ago yesterday I held the hand and kissed the face of my grandmother for the very last time.
Unfortunately, she had already died by the time I arrived at her home.
In any other moment of my life I would have thought it appalling to sit by a dead body for a few hours, but for some reason last Saturday it just seemed like the thing I should do.

My grandma had a stroke on November 15th.  As soon as I heard the news and could get on the road I headed up to Bellingham to see her in the hospital.  It was such a heart-breaking time.  She lost her ability to speak, and she was clearly frustrated and probably scared.  Tears ran down her cheeks as she tried so hard to utter words that we simply couldn't understand.  I took the opportunity to pray over her and specifically ask God to give her peace.  I spent a few hours at the hospital and then gave her a hug and a kiss, told her I loved her, and headed back home.

You just never know when the last goodbye will be.

Over the course of the week and a half from the hospital visit, she had many ups and downs.  Though she never seemed to be teetering on the verge of death, she had some rough days.  I checked in with my cousin the night before I headed back up to visit and she said that grandma was doing really well.

I packed a bag with a change of clothes just in case my aunt needed me to stay the night and help with my grandma.  I also grabbed my iPad so I could show my grandma some funny videos I had recently watched online and show her the pictures of our Thanksgiving getaway.  I hoped to dig out some of her old pictures and go through them as we passed the day, but wasn't sure how that would go since she couldn't really tell me anything about the photos.

Eli and I were on our way up to see her Saturday morning, about an hour from her house I got a phone call telling me she died.

It was pouring down rain.
The skies had opened up and released the floodgates.
I was crying, and trying to drive.
I was so sad, and so close, and it was raining so very hard.
Eli was beside me and silent.
He didn't ask questions, he didn't offer help, he just let me be.
And I drove the longest hour in the heaviest rain of all time.

When I got to the house I gave my aunt a hug and made my way in to my grandma's room.
And there she was.
94 years of life on this Earth.
And then she died.

I didn't have the privilege of growing up near this grandma, so I don't have a lot of childhood memories with her, but I treasure the many opportunities I've had to spend time with her over the past four years of living in Washington.

A few months ago a friend asked me to help her come up with an pen name for an article she wrote.  I told her I have no idea what her fake writer name should be, but if I ever needed a fake name I would use my grandma's.  Joyce.
She was adventurous, courageous, and loyal.
I hope that those characteristics live in me.

As we were getting ready to move from our house in Olympia up here, I dragged Matt out to the garage to sort through old Army stuff.  We opened a box that had a bunch of letters and cards.  We sifted through letters from me, various parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends, then we came upon a stack of identical notecard envelopes.  In each one was a hand-written note on a notecard with an American flag on the front. 40 letters.  Every Sunday for the duration of Matt's deployment to Iraq my grandma wrote him a note, and mailed in on Monday.  No other person was more faithful in sending Matt encouraging words and prayer filled notes.

Someday I will tell her story as best as I know it.
Her trials were great, her adventures were many, and she laughed a lot.

My grandma... she lived courageously, chose adventure over fear, and was undeniably loyal.