Thursday, April 26, 2012

This little light of mine.

{Photo by orange gearle via}
Are you ever amazed when you come across a song or a quote or a photograph or a sunset or sunise that seems to just "speak to you" exactly in the way your heart, mind and/or spirit seem to be needing to "hear it"?! I love when that happens. Today, in one of my devotionals {Streams in the Desert devotionals compiled by Mrs. Chas E. Cowman, 1950} this spoke straight to my heart and I just feel like maybe by sharing it here it could speak to someone else too.
*   *   *   *   *
Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering. We shrink from pain.
We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong, and able for active duty, and when the heart and hands are full of kindly service.
When we are called aside and can only suffer; when we are sick; when we are consumed with pain; when all our activities have been dropped, we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything.
But if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most of our work. We are burning now, and shining because we are burning.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Pie in the Sky memories.

I found this old TGIFriday's dessert menu in a drawer of papers the other day. It's glossy and double-sided and I've kept it for a long time. Teagan wanted me to frame it and hang it on the wall by our kitchen table at one point. It's just some old pictures of desserts, but boy does it bring back memories to me!
I almost added a paragraph in the post about my Letter to my 16-year old self that I should have not eaten so many TGIFriday's Thin Onion Rings or Pie in the Sky dessert. I lost count of how many I ate during my college years- they were so good and you know what? I have some wonderful memories of those days and the people I shared apps and dessert with back then that I don't know if it such a bad thing that I lost track of how many baskets of rings we had together. They were times and people I will always be fond of.
Is it a wonder to you, as much as it is to me, just how closely food and memories are tied together? I think of the meals I shared with my family as a kid. I still remember Sunday meals with friends and family around our big table together. I always think of my Grandma Shirley on St. Patrick's Day. She loved the holiday, anything green and especially making her famous corned beef and potato dinner for friends and family. I think of picking berries at my other Grandma's house. Her strawberry patch always had loads of berries and even though they were ripe and sweet and delicious, we kids still loved to dip them in a bit of sugar when we ate them. She always made the best dinner rolls too. I've never had anything close to them. And her chocolate cake bites covered in coconut...mmmm. I feel like a kid again just thinking about them.
I sometimes wonder what my own kids will remember about growing up. I am not the best when it comes to making dinner and meals. Chip is a great cook. I am good when I have recipes, time to shop and plan and people that I know will appreciate my efforts. When it comes to nightly meals, I have to admit we eat more homemade buttermilk waffles and orange julius than we probably should. But my kids never complain when I make that meal and so the meal stays in our dinner rotation frequently.
I know food is powerful in many ways. Do you have any favorite foods that evoke strong memories? I'd love to read yours...
Today I am missing Pie-in-the-Sky for some reason. And I don't think it just has to do with whipped cream.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Not quite home.

The top three pictures are of our house back in Michigan. The one we still need to sell. The one that still "feels like home", if you ask me. The fourth picture is of the kitchen we have right now. It's big and grand and has a lot of "upgrades". I thought I would give an update about our home situation since this week marks 4 months since we moved from Michigan to Minnesota.

A lot of people keep asking, "Are you all settled in now?". The answer is no. We are SO grateful for the home we are in and the fact that we get to rent it at all. We prayed hard to get in this house- it wasn't technically on the market for renting at the time we were looking and needing it to be. So the fact that we were able to rent it and be here is a blessing and an answer to prayer. We have more than enough space and it is very comfortable for our family.


And here's the thing. I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I am not. I'm just sharing my heart and how I feel right now. I feel torn. That's the best way I can say it. Like I said, I am so glad that God opened the hearts of the home owners that they were willing to rent this place to us. But...

I still miss our former house. It too met a lot of our needs. It wasn't as big or as grand or gourmet. But it was a great place and had a lot of things about it that met our needs even moreso than this current house does. So that's where my feelings come from.

Trusting that God knows best even when we haven't hardly had a single bit of interest on our home in Michigan than needs selling, and shelling out two house payments each month is a hard thing to trust in. His ways. I've blogged so much about trusting His higher ways. And I do. We do. It just seems like He would find a buyer at a decent price and allow us to find a home that suits our needs at a decent price on this end of things too. We're "in limbo" as people often say right now. And I am learning that I don't function at my best when I'm "in limbo". I like to make our space our own. I wish the kids could unpack all their stuff and feel like this place is more like their 'old place'. More like home. But the fact is we will be moving again at some point and so we are keeping lots and lots of stuff in boxes. We keeping the walls bare and just living in the space- but not changing anything about it to make it feel like home.

So that's been hard on all of us for four months. It adds a dimension of stress that I never thought about as we prepared to move. The good news is that the more we have been in this place, the more we are finding out what we do or don't want in our next place. Hopefully that will help our next home purchase to be even more of what we want and need and therby it will feel more like home soon after we move in.

The other really big thing I am learning is that a house is a house. What has really been helping all of us to feel 'settled' in our new place is the people that have been opening their hearts to us and building friendships with each of us. That has been the biggest blessing of all in this major move. The boxes are still stacked in the garage. The house in Michigan still sits empty and takes a portion of our income each month. But even still, I can just tell that God is in this move and He has our best interest at heart. Even when I would do things differently right now. The friends we have been making and the ways we have been shown kindness truly gives us a peace that God has us right where He wants us right now. I don't know how much longer we will have to wait on His timing for the move and home sale...but I can tell you that I am sure it will happen exactly when He wants it to. Until then, even though we're not quite home, we are leaving our fingerprints all over this place and we're doing our best to not miss our old home at the same time.

I can only imagine that this is a tiny foretaste of what living here on earth is like compared to the day when we will finally be home in Heaven. There's a lot to love down here. But this isn't home. When we finally reach our real home, it will truly be like no other place we've ever been. It's going to be Home sweet Home forever!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forgiveness opens the door to new life.

Last night Oprah's Lifeclass was live from Toronto, Canada. The show topic was on Forgiveness and as the topic was introduced a few clips from our original appearance on The Oprah Show was aired. We had been notified and in contact with a producer from the show last week. We talked about how forgiveness has impacted our lives. We talked about some of the issues that we will live with forever- especially in regard to Wyndham. Seeing pieces of our story and thinking about how that was April of 2002- a full ten years ago- and yet the message is still one that is so relevent today for us and for so many other people who have been hurt in their lives.

I have learned so many things through the events of the past ten years and I find it most amazing that Chip and I have been able to stay together and as humbly as I can put this, I might add that we have grown and flourished and lived very full lives since our incident occured. I have written about it in previous posts that I still find it crazy that we didn't just pull the window blinds of lour lives shut and let the world pass us by. There were days and months in those early stages of our grief and pain that that is exactly what we felt like and wanted nothing more to do. Especially when the events of 9/11 happened just weeks after we had left the Hurley Hospital ICU with Wyndham and were trying to heal from our physical wounds and injuries. It just felt overwhelming that the world could be so full of hurt and death and pain and with a feeling of darkness over much of our days. I remember sitting on the egde of my bed with pain shooting through my neck, back and legs even before my feet touched the ground. I would sit for a moment of two and let the reailty of what had happened to us and so many others start to sink in. And honestly, some days it didn't seem like it would ever matter for me to leave my bed. It felt safer and I really felt like the world had nothing more to offer me. All I sensed was pain and hurt...and to take a step out of bed caused even more pain. I seemed as though the world we had once known and laughed in and loved in and cared about was no where to be found.

Knowing that Teagan would never come bounding across the room and throw her arms around me for a big hug, and seeing Brock's pain from her loss and his own physical issues as he tried to recover on top of Wyndham's major life set-backs, well it just seemed to be a whole new, broken, hurting world that I wanted to close my eyes and see it all go away.

Thankfully, and the only one I credit for giving me eyes to see and a heart to believe that there was something in our new dark world worth fighting for was God. I know several people who don't believe in God. I know several people who think He is just a nice idea, or they wonder if He really could exist, but they have never had to actually rely on Him or need Him for anything in their lives. But for me, for Chip, for our family, He was our everything. God made Himself known through things like a double-rainbow outside of my car window on the way to the hospital as I headed to Flint, MI while the rest of my family members were being airlifted there one by one. He made Himself known in the peace that flooded Chip's heart and soul and he undeniably felt Teagan hugging him, just moments after she died. He hadn't even been told she was gone- but at that time he felt the warmth of her arms hugging him and her small voice saying, "Daddy, it's going to be okay."

God showed up in the way our bodies were able to heal and especially so in Wyndham's tiny body. We had doctors tell us she would never survive her shunt surgery- but that they had to go ahead and perform it because without it she would die too. So the option was she would die either way, but they wanted to at least try their last resort. Once out of surgery, and much to their surprise, she was opening her eyes and looking at us within a couple of hours. They told us it would be at least a day before they even knew if she would come out of the sedation enough to be alert.

God was there.

I know some people have a hard time believing in something that cannot be seen. But in spite of never seeing Him or His hands at work, we have FELT His presence, His healing, His peace and His comfort in ways that cannot be explained. He has been a strength for us and has shown us the path toward healing and even Joy in life again. He has been faithful to provide us the grace to accept what happened to us and the ability to extend forgiveness for the offenses against us too. He has been the one to lead us through our darkness and back into the light.

In talking about the show topic and discussing where we are at now, my heart and mind have been thinking about just how amazing it is that we did choose {although I believe God helped guide our hearts and response of forgiveness} the path of forgiveness and it is so obvious to me that it changed the way we were able to live as a result.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that forgiveness allowed Chip and I to find joy, happiness, laughter the ability to see goodness in our dark world once again. Forgiveness toward Cindy and what she did that fateful day allowed us to live beyond that moment and not live a life of bitterness and inner pain. I truly believe that had we not both claimed forgiveness toward her and her actions, that we never would have stayed together and weathered the storm of grief and the ongoing life challenges that her actions have left us with for the rest of our lives. I know I would have allowed the wall of hurt to keep Chip out and I would have walled him off with the rest of the world. I would have chose to hold onto the pain and grief in a way that would have closed my heart off to feeling love again. Bitterness would have taken full root and as it would have grown and filled my heart I would have turned my back on the ability to smile and my world would have never felt the warmth of light.

I know full well that choosing the path of forgiveness ultimately defined the course of our lives for the better- and it opened the door for new life to happen again. Chip and I will tell you that choosing to forgive didn't happen to us both in the same way. But we would also tell you that choosing forgiveness was the best way for both of us. Without it we never would have found love in each other again. Our ability to say the words and live them to be true actually made it possible for us to bring Bella and Ava and Crew and Teague into our hearts and lives. They are real life gifts and blessings born out of our ability to choose forgiveness and love again. They are reminders to me each day that forgiveness DOES lead to beautiful things- even as miraculous as new birth- new life.

Forgiveness released us from the hold our pain had on us- physically, mentally and emotionally. I believe that if we had held onto the reality of how unfair what happened to us truly was, we would have let that affect our ability to heal. What I mean by that is that I know I would have not driven Wyndham to therapy/rehabilitation as often as we have had to do for 10 years. I would have used my hurt and the wrong done to us to justify my wallowing in pity and that is just one way it would have manifested itself. Forgiveness has given us a freedom to define ourselves and find new joys and happiness in life, rather than letting our hurt be the focus of all our days. We have certainly never forgotten what happened to us or to Teagan or to Peggy, nor have we ever given Cindy and excuse for her actions that day. But that one day has not been the central focus of our lives since then. It has affected us and will forever affect us- but it doesn't define us. I don't think that people see us out and about in our daily lives and think to themselves, "oh, those sad, heartbroken people are the family from that Old Depot tragedy". No, I think that thankfully and to God be all the credit, that most of the time people would be hard-pressed to look at us and see the hurt and things we have lived through. Most of the time we 'look pretty normal'. =) And I say that meaning we are just as crazy as the next family of 6 kids eating out or going to church, as you see in the picture above. We yell at our kids to hurry up and pick up and get to bed and be nice to each other, yes. We also laugh together and celebrate Coke Float Day together and we take pictures of blowing bubbles and eating cake and we go to the circus and we bring Wyndham to and from countless therapy appointments and to doctor visits and we watch SpongeBob together and we eat pizza and we go to the library and we dress up and hug each other and joke together and sing and we have dreams for the future too. We LIVE! We live beyond the walls of our home. We live with the windows open and the light shines in and we breathe fresh air and we dance in the rain from time to time too.

Forgiveness has enlarged our lives. It has made me want to see beauty in life again. It has given us Hope for the future. It has shown us how lucky we are in spite of everything. It has made a way for us to live through our hurts and beyond them too. I do not take credit for the ability to forgive. It comes only through the Him who has forgiven me. He has first given me life, and through His life I have been made free. Forgiveness has never been about Chip or me or our ability to say "we forgive you" to Cindy. But it has been about realizing what Christ did for us, recognizing that we did nothing to earn His love and forgiveness, and out of that we have accepted that we now have the ability and the command from Him to love others as we have been loved.

When you truly understand that forgiveness comes from Him and it is a free gift- sharing it with others is actually an easy decision. It's not easy to do. But it is the obvious and right thing to do. In the end, it changes everything. It changes everything for the better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm not sure why I am sharing this letter to me with all of you...

I've been reading through a list of daily prompts that I received in my inbox and decided to jump in and actually do one of them today. The prompts are part of the Health Writer's Activists Month via this site- I'm not even sure how I got on their email list, but the daily prompts have been interesting and I would like to even go back and catch up and blog about more of them if I can get time and energy to do so. They are good starting points or just fun/interesting topics. So hopefully I'll play along besides just this one for today.
Today's prompt is to write a letter to your 16-year old self. The prompt can be interpreted however you like and used to jumpstart a post. My first thought wasn't to sit down and write myself a letter, but instead I wanted to find a picture of my 16-year old self. You know what? I don't really have that many pictures of me from junior high or high school. Or of my four years in college either. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that I didn't have a camera around very often, or loaded with film when I did have access to a camera. Things have changed with the digital age and the ease and storage space for taking lots of pictures. Secondly, I didn't really like myself very much for most of those years of my life. I hated my height, my weight, my hair and it all added up to not having many photos of myself as a result.
The picture above is of me and my mini poodle, Beau {he was such a great pup!}. I think I was about to start 10th grade when this picture was taken. I was living in the church parsonage- which is the home the church provides for the pastor's family to live in- right next door to the church. It was a beautiful piece of property where we enjoyed living on a small piece of lakefront and we were right in the metro area of the Twin Cities. I was happy living at this house and surrounded by a loving family and two golden retrievers and a poodle. I pretty much had life made.
But if I were to write myself a letter it would go like this:

Dear Jody,
You have no idea what a lucky teen girl you are to have the life you are living right now. You may not have a big, sprawling home and access to world travel or the latest designer clothes or nicest car, but you are a very fortunate young lady to have things far more important and much more difficult to attain. You, by no choice of your own, have all the love, security, support, guidance and access to great education and the ability to grow and learn in a safe environment. These are things many teens only dream of having in their life. You have them all.
Yet, in spite of all these excellent things, you carry a heaviness or burden inside. I wish you knew that the things the media portrays and the things that kids at school talk about and the things that society seems to think are important and worth striving for and selling yourself short for are so not worth your time, effort or energy. Things like the way you look, and how you style your hair and what kind of jeans you own really don't matter all that much. If you are taking care of your body and making good choices about how you spend your time and money- those things will bring far greater rewards or hurts in the long run.
My dear, I know you aren't into sports. But that doesn't mean you're fat. It doesn't mean you can't go on long walks or bike rides and guess what? You go swimming almost every day in the summer- so you ARE good at a sport! You just don't play on a team right now. But being on a team isn't everything. You were great and had so much fun playing soccer and girls softball. You were even a pratty fast runner in elementary school. I just wish you realized that playing on a team is supposed to be about having fun and making friends and learning about sportsmanship and how games work. It doesn't mean you have to be the best or fastest or never lose. I wish you could just enjoy playing instead of feeling like you're no good and then believing it is just easier not to try. Trying means you care. Somewhere along the line you started to not care.
You have so much to offer in other realms too. Your passion for writing and journaling and poetry is something a lot of kids don't have. You should love that about yourself and push yourself to do it more. In college you will feel like everyone else is better at writing and speaking and once again, sports and even music too. You will let your judgement of others cast a darkness on the dreams in your heart and little by little the things you really love and want to do will feel like a chore. That professor who makes you feel inept and small for sharing your thoughts and ideas is just one person. And just because she is the professional and gives you bad grades doesn't mean you have to throw away your dream and love of writing and language and stories. It means you need to keep doing what you do and learn and grow and take one person's critique and grades as they are- ONE person's. If you could simply step back and see that a few grades don't have to change your plans for your future you would find your path to happiness and the things your hearts wants to pursue much easier and smoother as a result.
Sadly, you will instead choose to let your light and passion dim in some of the areas of your life that you were just starting to shine in. But you know what? The good news is that life has a way of twisting and turning and if you could just roll with that a bit more you would find that often times there are wonderful surprises you would have missed along the way. This is certainly going to be true for you in your future more times than you would believe as a teen. If I could tell you to hold on- it's going to be a bumpy ride- it would be an understatement. But if I could also tell you that there will be a wealth of loving and learning and that the tears you shed along the way are sowing something into you that you never could have found anywhere else along the way, I would hope you would find the strength to keep fighting hard to find joy and happiness.
Oh dear young self....
If you saw a picture of your life now- 20 years into your future, you wouldn't believe you could get through what you will endure. But I want you to know that you will. You won't just get through them and survive, but you will shine. You. Yes, you! The girl who doesn't like herself when she looks in the mirror. The girl who thinks everyone else is smarter and skinnier and faster and prettier and sings better and writes better and paints better and all the other things you feel inferior for- you will shine in your own way. Maybe not in the way you would choose. Maybe you don't even see it yet. But you're doing it. You're a fighter. You've got a heart that really wants to do the right thing. You're sensitive and caring- even though you put up a wall and try to keep people out of that part of you. You don't have to pretend to be something you're not.
Remember what I said in the beginning of this note? You are living and filling your heart with a wealth and riches that many only dream of in this life. I want you to soak up the love of God and your family and the small group of friends that you trust and believe in the knowledge and learning you are storing up in your heart and mind and know that one day all the love and security and support you have now will be multiplied and that will be enough to see you through life's biggest storms.
You're just a kid. I don't even want to tell you this, but maybe it will help you down the road. The fact is you have no idea because of the sheltered, wonderful life of ease you have only known til now will one day be shattered. Life is going to throw you a big curve ball. Everything you believe will be tested. You will wonder and ask yourself what and why and how come and for how long and you may wonder if the pain and hurt will ever end. I'm sorry to tell you that there is coming a day when one of your favorite people in all the world will lie lifeless in your arms. It will be so astounding and surreal that it will seem like a nightmare over and over again. But it's real.
I wish I could tell you to hold her in your arms and take that reality in. For it will seem so unreal. I wish that you knew to cut a lock of her hair and to take a photo of her pinky finger in yours as you promise to love her forever one last time. I wish upon wishes that this part wasn't going to be the storyline of your life. But it is what it is and only God knows why.
You don't need to know why though, and that is the very thing that will free you from living the rest of your life in pain and unforgiveness. You will want to sit in that sorrow and hurt and ask the hard questions over and over. As you begin to let go of the need to know why, therein will you find the 'new pathway' to life again. Not a new life free from hurt or sorrow- for you will forever be changed and carry her love and your grief with you. But you will be free to embrace happiness in a new and profound way. It won't be tied to the things it once was- death and sorrow will actually give you "new eyes" from which you will see things through.
So, young self, there are some things that are important to take note of. Never stop being grateful for the things which you have been given- the people and comforts and education and protection are rare gifts. Appreciate them always. Be thankful that you were spared a life of hardhsips early one. Those dreams that you have- the things you love to do and make you laugh and cry and that bring out the best in you- live for them. Do things that help make them possible. Don't let your own fears hold you back from finding your dreams. They are out there and worth going through challenges and falling down for. You will know something is worth pursuing when it brings out the best in you. God has made you for something that only YOU can be/do. Seek Him and you will find what it is that He made you for. Take more photos. Even the ones when you don't think you look your best. Take photos of the days you ask questions and wonder and take lots of pictures of the people around you. They won't always be with you.
Lastly, never let anything- no matter how big or how small or how hurtful or how intimidating- never let it keep you from being you. Because that you that you are on the inside? That's what makes you shine.
A wiser, more mature, but still very much learning and growing still Me

Sunday, April 01, 2012

He adds joy to my life...

Happy, happy birthday to my husband, Chip today.
I was lucky enough to go the circus with my family and parents yesterday afternoon, and double-lucky to have my parents watch my kids while Chip and I took in a show downtown Minneapolis. We got last-minute free tickets from some friends and enjoyed an unexpected, fun night out celebrating Chip's birthday together.
I won't go into details about how crazy my day went as I loaded my kids and took them across the Twin Cities for the day, but I will tell you it ended much nicer than it began. For that I am thankful and it just seems so fitting for how things go for us more often than not. I was reminded several times throughout the weekend of how much I need the supportive people in my life and how thankful I am that they stick with me and cheer me on at 'crunch time'.
Chip is the biggest cheerleader in my life and I don't give him a whole lot of credit on my here. So on his birthday today- even though it's April Fool's and a lot of people would like to use the day to pull a prank, I am using this space and time to tell you a few things about this great guy that I am happy to call my husband and friend.
When Chip and I met I was finishing my senior year of college and focusing on all the freedom I was about to have as soon as classes were wrapped up. I didn't have strong leads on where or what I was going to do, but I was in a very content place in my heart and looking forward to seeing what jobs God might bring my way. I had no plans for a guy to walk into my life and was happy being single and independent. But this Chip guy that I worked with just happened to ask me out to a movie and dinner at the Mall of America one night; I just happened to say "yes". I figured it would be a good time to just go out and have a fun together and see a movie. I had no plans or intentions for anything beyond just a fun time out with a guy from work.
Obviously the story wasn't that short and sweet. I didn't expect Chip to be so funny or a great conversationalist. Our work together at a restaurant didn't really allow for us to talk much beyond "shop talk", so I didn't know much about him or what he was like as a person. I knew he had a great work ethic...and a charming personality, because he was always making better tips than me! After just one dinner at Planet Hollywood and seeing the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire", I started looking at him differently. And by differently, I mean I was interested in him. He was suddenly more than "just a guy I work with". He fast became "a guy who makes me laugh, makes me think, makes me like myself more when I'm around him, and makes me want to know more about him" kind of guy.
After just 5 months of dating, when Chip asked me to marry him I was so sure of my "yes". He is the kind of guy that I knew I could be lifelong friends with and I just knew in my heart that there was something dynamic about him that I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my life. Ask any of his friends and I just know they would tell you that it's true. He's got a knack for being likable and charming and he knows how to make people feel good and want to do good. I love that about him.
I could type a list of things he does to push my buttons and a list of things I do to push his. I'm not saying we're perfect and without issues. But more than that and honestly, more important than that is the fact that I know he loves me for my good qualities and he accepts my faults too. He is there to help me change some things and I am thankful we have learned to love in spite of the stuff that comes up in our lives that's not always so fun and exciting. His best qualities are his heart, his pursuit of what is right- his integrity, and his ability to keep pushing through the tough stuff because he truly believes that something better awaits.
He has added joy to my life in more ways than I can count. He has strong arms that hold me up, keep us together at times, and his hugs make me feel like everything is okay in my world- no matter what. He has a way of making me laugh when I sometimes think it's impossible to do so. He has a way of lighting up a room and you can't help but want to be around him. It's true. My kids still race to the door and fight for his attention when he comes home from his work at the course. He is a giver and today of all days I just wanted to let him {and you} know that he's one-of-a-kind. I am thankful that our lives have had years of growing together and intertwining of stories through the years. I hope we get many more too! Happy birthday, dear Chip. I love you.