Mother's Day... again

There are a couple of things I've said dozens, if not hundreds, of times since my mother passed away.  I am not the first person to lose my mother and I won't be the last.  I've also said I knew my mother's death would be hard but I had NO idea what hard really was until she died.

On May 15th it will have been three years since she went home.  It's interesting.  I know exactly where she is but I still refer to it as "losing" my mother and in the three years since she died, I've tried to figure out just what "losing her" is.  Yes, my mother's body died and she is no longer visible here on earth but I know when that happened the true her, the spirit of her, went to be with Jesus and when He returns, she will have a new body and I will know her better than I ever knew her before.

On days like tomorrow I feel my loss in such an acute way that it's a physical pain.  My heart feels like it's being rended in two, from top to bottom and at some point it's going to rupture.  It takes my breath away, stops me in my tracks - literally.  I'm not talking about this in some sort of figurative way - it's physical, the pain of great loss. 

And that's the loss.  That part of you that was a part of them. That part of you who relied on them for an ear, advice, a hug...  It can't be, you can't make a phone call and connect and it's a wound.  An open wound that tries to scar but... another anniversary, a smell, another memory - something... SOMETHING rips it open again.

I know I'm not the only one who will struggle tomorrow.  I know I'm not the only one whose world seems to stop on birthdays, Mother's Day (or Father's Day), other important days...holidays.  The truth is - and this is where I hope I don't sound like a cliche - I will spend tomorrow praying through the day.  I will pray for comfort and grace from God (more grace...after all He's already given...) and the ability to smile and enjoy the new memories.  To be reminded that this is the way of life, that it is hard but He is Sovereign and none of this is too hard for Him.  That He will carry me - and anyone who is hurting and asks - right on through it.  Again.  Because as great as our loss is, His love for us is greater.  There will be a reunion.  This ache, this pain, the tears - they will end.  He will end it in His time.

And so I trust.  I hurt, yes.  I cry, oh yes - a LOT, usually tears that seem as if they'll never stop.  I'll wish for the day to end, the commercials to stop, yes.  But I trust.  Ultimately I trust.  I trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.  That He works ALL things to the good of those who love Him - even when that "good" doesn't feel good (in human terms).  He loves us more than I can ever describe here.

So...there I will rest tomorrow.  At least as much as I possibly can.  And for all of you who are without your mother tomorrow, I pray He comforts you, too - in ways that surprise and overwhelm you.

Be blessed this Mother's Day.  God be with you. 


What I Learned During Lent

I'm not 100% sure that title is correct but..it works.  It's more like what I was reminded of or re-discovered AND learned during Lent but it just seems the absolute right word eludes me.
Lent started March 5th this year and it seemed a bit longer than usual but perhaps that's just because I actually gave up something that was difficult.  I started a little late (March 8th) but that was due to indecisiveness and a wish to give up something God wanted me to give up, not just pick something out of haste to make sure I started on time.
On Friday, March 7th, my husband and I were in the middle of this year's first month of counseling training and let me tell you that first speaker?  He was ummmm... difficult to sit through.  I don't mean to be or sound mean because it takes a lot to stand in front of 300 strangers and pour out knowledge to them one hour at a time but that man was boring.  Boring.  Boring as in I almost had to tape my eyes open.  As in I almost fell asleep more times than I can remember counting.  It was hard.
And in the middle of those hours I checked Facebook.  Twice.  And not just a random scroll through.  Nope.  A read each post, click on links to articles check.  Twice.  Why is that a big deal?  Because my husband and I paid $410 to take these classes this year.  That's $205 each.  At six sessions that $34.17 a day.  Doesn't seem like much but it's a significant enough number that I didn't want to be ignoring what I was being taught.
That's when it struck me.  Facebook was too important to me.  I was spending way too much time checking to see if it was my turn in Words with Friends and other such inane things.  Facebook and I needed a break.  So - that is what I gave up until yesterday.
I've signed back on and yes, I've been on it more than I should already but I've been thinking about this all day and honestly?  I am checking it less so far but I pray to continue that.  I'm asking the Holy Spirit to help me resist the dulling lure of Facebook because it does take me away from things I should be doing and actually prefer (like reading books) and keeps me from taking care of things I should take care of (like cleaning house, laundry...and my job) and that is just not good.
Above all of that, though, there were some imperative things I was reminded of, learned, discovered... and by imperative I mean draw me closer to God things.  Let me see if I can get them all listed and not forget any.

1.  Sacrifice is hard.  Even small sacrifices and my sacrifice was ridiculously insignificant next to Christ's.

2.  If I don't rely on Christ; keep my eyes on Him, I will fail at everything I try to do on my own.  Always.

3.  I cannot draw close to God if I have my eyeballs glued to a computer screen.

4.  Things happen to people in my life, things I can't control or do anything about.

5.  I love the people in my life.  I love them dearly.  I enjoy knowing what they're doing, how they're feeling, when they're struggling (I don't enjoy THAT they are struggling, though).  It gives me specific ways to pray for them.

6.  Investing in the people in my life is one of the best things I can do to glorify God.  However, investing in them in person is the best way to go about it even though the computer seems somewhat sufficient in some matters.

7.  I would like to take a trip back to Jersey.  Connecting with where I've come from is an ache in my heart that I hope to get rid of and the only way to do that is by heading in that direction.  Need to start planning that one.

8.  Facebook is a fabulous tool but it is only that - a tool.  It is not real, it is not human and it is not intimate.  If my only interaction with someone is through Facebook, I don't really know them.

9.  I love Jesus more than I realized.  I also need Him more than I really knew.

Those are the reasons that have come to mind so far.  If there are more, I'll add them but these nine things have given me a lot to think about.  A lot to use to change my habits. 

Now let's see how I do...


Good Friday

Easter and the rejoicing of the risen Christ has been my favorite holiday for a long, long time.  However, it took me a very, very long time to understand why today is called "Good" Friday.  If you still don't understand, I encourage you - find a church near you that teaches from the Bible and ONLY from the Bible and ask that question. 

In the meantime, today is a day of deep, deep reflection for me.  Several years ago God brought me to my knees, showing me just how flippant I was being, how ungrateful I showed myself to Him for all Jesus had done for me that Friday so many, many years ago.

In the years since then, I have been brought to my knees by it many times but now in awe.  In goose-bump causing awe and disbelief that He would willingly, lovingly take on the burden of enduring God's wrath so I don't ever have to experience it.  Such love I can't explain, understand or - in the face of all the evidence - ever deny. 

Colossians 2:13-15 states:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

This isn't a trivial thing.  It can feel quite removed, it can seem stupid (God speaks to that, too - see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25) but it is truth.  Life giving, life altering, life saving truth. 

That Good Friday over 2,000 years ago was a day of horror, of unfathomable sadness, terror, mockery, pain, derision and hatred but also a day of humility, love and the first step to glory.  Triumph.  Grace.

On all of that I reflect today and this evening I turn to eager anticipation because the sun will rise on Sunday and I will rejoice because the Son has already risen.  He is risen indeed.


Worth Reading

Yesterday I read this.  And I fought tears.  Not because Will has Down Syndrome but because that mother doubted she'd be able to love him as he deserved.

What a joy to read she discovered God provides - all we will ever always need.


This Season of Lent

I don't know how often I'll write about this.  This post will probably be quite random and rambling.  A few weeks ago I read this post talking about Lent.  And you know what happened, right?  You would be correct.  Something in it jumped at me and grabbed me by the shoulders so I couldn't move and stared straight into my eyes.  Into my very soul.

It was this: 

"I’ve made soup. I’ve lit the candle. We bow.
I serve bowls, I pass out bread, I pour cups.
They’re talking and I am listening and I blithely sit down and I eat.
I have bread in the mouth, the bowl half empty, when I drop the spoon. I shake the head hard. I taste disgust. I absentmindedly eat in the evening, a meal I vowed to fast from.
What was I thinking? I can’t scrub my lips clean.
I choke it out in a whisper, “Do I not think enough of You to remember?”
I close the eyes tight and the heart cries the words silent. Do I love You so little?”
It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess —
before one can be possessed of God.
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary – to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
But the flesh is corrupt. I can’t do it."

Reading that took me straight to my knees.  I was confronted by my own arrogance, my own pride.  Those words... "Do I not think enough of You to remember?  Do I love You so little?"  They echoed and echoed and echoed through what felt like very, very dark halls in my heart.  I knew better than to let that echo sound a panic that God may have deserted me but I didn't let it fool me into believing He was thrilled with who I've been...who I am becoming.  I have been "she who does life on her own."  Again.

Isn't that the way?  Or...isn't that my way?  We are I am in the Word, we're I'm praying, God is walking with us me - hand in hand.  And then something sparkles in the distance and we I run off just a little bit ahead.  We I turn back that first time but there is that sparkle again and we I run a little further...

We I run until God is a fuzzy figure in the way-back distance and suddenly?  We're I'm not sure we I can hear him calling.  We're I'm not sure what He's saying...

And because we I can't understand, we I stand there for a little bit and then turn back around to that sparkly thing...and give up listening for good.  Or until something catches our my attention and we I realize what a fool we've I've been... again.

When that happened this time, I "woke up" when I read that article and it broke my heart.  How does God suffer us so well?  I love Him so much but I don't show Him that.  Jesus becomes another word that falls off of my tongue and I am furious at myself for my laziness.

So this time I think - what can I do?  In addition to repenting my pride, my idolatry, my foolishness I look at the calendar and see yes - Lent is starting tomorrow and Easter is coming up quickly.  This year I should try - try to give up something for Lent and this time give up something more meaningful, more painful, than I have in the past.  I've always struggled with Lent (and hence gave up giving up) because it never seemed all that heart-felt to me.  I gave up something (usually chocolate) because it was the thing to do and didn't really cost much.

This time I sat and thought and prayed - what do you want me to give up, Lord?  And when an answer didn't come to me right away, I gave up and opened my computer.

To Facebook.

And it struck me - there it sat in all of it's electronic glory.  Facebook.  That social network hub that keeps me attached to the people in my life - some whom I see often and some I haven't seen in almost 30 years and ranges in between.  Facebook.  That robber of time, duller of senses and honestly?  Reducer of value.  How easy it is to compare yourself to the friend who has 300 friends more than you do or to the acquaintance who has just jetted off to yet another location to hop on yet another cruise ship...  How easy it is to place your value in comparison to others.

When your value lies only in Christ.

I repeated that to myself a few times.  Prayed over it for another day or two and then posted for all to read (so no one would think I was dead) that I was giving up Facebook for Lent. 

And boy oh boy has it hurt.  I really didn't realize just how much I'd come to rely on that silly system to provide entertainment (who doesn't love their friend's kids' funny pictures or playing hours of Scrabble and Words with Friends?), to keep me in the loop on what was happening in people's lives (what is wrong with a phone call or letter?) and to make sure I saw my "daily deals" (who doesn't need another tchotchke for the living room?). 

It's been gone one week now and I will admit - I still go a bit weak in the knees when I think about it.  The temptation to sign on and just "clear my notifications" is almost overwhelming.  Facebook has emailed to TELL me I have notifications and I think "oh...it misses me."  (Right??? Don't touch that one...  I promise you I am NOT crazy!)

Yet in that week what I have replaced Facebook with?  Journaling?  Yes.  Reading the Psalms?  Yes.  Praying more often?  Yes.  Working a bit harder?  Yes.  Tackling that pile of recipes I've wanted to sort for more months than I can remember?   Yes.

And that's just week one...

Tomorrow will be a big test.  It's Saturday and I want to organize the freezer.  I'll be home alone for the bulk of the day and you do realize that means my laptop will be calling my name, even from another room, right? 

So what plan is in place?  Prayer.  Prayer.  Prayer.  I can't do this in my strength so I am requesting He provide His and do you know what I know?  He is faithful and just and all we ask in His will has already been provided.  He works all to the good for those who love Him and this stretching and growing, this reminding myself to whom I pledged my life...

He will be faithful.


Kitchen Beginnings

We  moved into our current home in June, 2007.  It's a single story rambler, about 1500 sq. ft.  It's not very large and it's cozy and it has a lot of quirks but that's just some of the things I love about it.  When Aaron and I found it, we swooned (ok - I swooned, he was just a little giddy) over the backyard (something rarely found these days) and the front yard (set back just far enough from the street).  We have one neighbor next door and woods on the other side & in the back (which has been a bit annoying in the rodent department but that's a post I'll never do).  We're on the outskirts of a town which is our mailing address but technically?  We're in the unincorporated portion of our county so we don't really belong to anyone.  Hello lower taxes...

However.  And it's a big however.  The previous owner, despite his wife's ravings about his carpenter capabilities, was not all that good at home repair.  Or he was lazy.  Or he was cheap.  Or he was all of the above.  My husband often refrains from expressing his mind when he finds just one more thing...

To give you a hint at his mindset - our drain field failed 6 months after we moved in and truth be told, we could have sued (and to this day there is still a part of us that wishes we had) because in the septic report there was one piece of paper he signed stating the company told him his drain field had an issue and needed major repair.  He not only didn't share that information with us, he withheld that piece of paper until after we had moved in - and even then it was his realtor who shared it, not him.  The realtor never did give us a reason for his not handing it over sooner.  I think we never followed through with the suit because we believe we were foolish in not pushing for that paperwork (on the septic inspection) before signing.  We asked for it, sure but didn't push the issue until we were in.

I am rabbit trailing in a BIG way today.  Apparently stepping away from my blog for almost 4 months makes me chatty...

My point is that the drain field failure cost us a lot of money.  A lot.  Then, in the midst of that recovery, my husband was laid off from his job (twice) and we couldn't really put any money aside for home remodeling.  Then, as we would get some money set aside for a project or two, something would go wrong (broken pipe under the house - more septic system issues - broken water main - broken kitchen pipe - dead outlet in the kitchen...) and we'd find some other cheap fix the previous owner had made (rather than doing it right... grrr..) and our money would go to a "need" not a "want."

Painting has been slow.  To say the least.  It took us 3 years of living in the house before we redid our bathroom (I can't even describe the hideousness that was there before) and our kitchen... Well.  The back part of our house is very "cave like" I always say.  It gets the morning sun only and the woods behind us holds very tall trees so even that morning sun is filtered and brief.  The sun beats on the roof all afternoon which makes it quite warm in the summer but there are no windows on the roof so it's very dark.  The kitchen was horrible.  The previous owners had installed these green countertops and a few people have called them "pretty" but I have always flat out thought they were ugly.  Not 1970's green ugly but pretty ugly.  I've always hated them.  The granite I fell in love with, though, is $64 a square foot and we have 36 sq. ft. of counter space.  That whole money issue... 

So, Aaron talked to me about painting our counters and I always blew the idea off because I could not, for the life of me, imagine liking something painted.  Until I was hanging out two Saturdays ago watching a home improvement show (I do not recall which one!) and they painted the countertops of their client.  Well, the client did the painting - they helped and featured the paint system.

That night I mentioned it to Aaron, we hopped online and found the company, checked out the different kit options and $89.70 later (safely ordered via PayPal), our paint kit was on its way.  It showed up Thursday and over Labor Day weekend, Aaron painted.  First I cleaned the counters (scrubbed 'em with an SOS pad - easy), then we taped them off then Aaron painted on the primer on Friday.  That took 8 hours to dry and we had plans for Saturday so he painted Saturday night.  Four hours for that to dry and again - plans on Sunday so Sunday night he painted the first layer of top coat, Monday night the second.  Now we wait a few days for the paint to set before we start putting things back but...  here is the before and after:

How happy with THIS do you think I am?  Yes - the top picture was taken at night but that's with every light on in the kitchen.  The second picture?  Daylight only.  In picture #1?  Shadows have shadows...  I can't believe how much brighter it is in the kitchen and how much better the room looks just by painting the counters.

Now...we're going to paint the walls and ditch the ugly wallpaper and I may even re-stain the cabinets.  I think I could love a kitchen....


Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday is the day earmarked nationally to recognize those women who have loved us unconditionally - cheered us on, picked us up, cleaned our cuts & scrapes, cooked our food, shopped for that food, done our laundry, took care of us while we were sick, hugged us through our nightmares...

And on & on the list goes.

I was blessed with a wonderful Mom and while I doubt they acknowledge Mother's Day in heaven, I know she'll have a glorious day.

For those of you who still have your Mom here on earth - I hope you have an amazing day with her.  If you are a Mom, I hope your kids (and husbands) spoil you rotten.  I know the latter is what I'm in for.  I'm ready.  I can't wait.

May the day be sunny and beautiful and may you and your family make some amazing memories.

Happy Mother's Day!

My Mom - 2008