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Heaven stopped by

Dear Reed –

Just when I thought I was going to be able to get through this month without so much pain, February happened last weekend.  Ever since that moment standing in the Children’s Hospital last Saturday, all the pain came rushing back and all the memories were just waiting to come pouring out of my heart and my eyes.  For the last week, everything seemed to hurt for both Dad and me. Losing you was more than we thought we could bear.

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I see all the amazing ways that your friends and classmates are going out in the world (getting married, graduating from college, or in some cases both) and my thoughts swim in a numbing sea of “What would he be doing today?” I try so hard to protect myself from questions that cannot be answered, but on occasion my dreamer tendencies get the better of me.  Sometimes when it is just me and the dogs at home alone, my imagination creates a knock at the door and when I open it, you and Jesus have come to spend the afternoon with me.  We laugh and cry but mostly, I just hug you both.

It is in those moments I long for heaven to come close – even if for a fleeting moment.

This last year has been a whirlwind for us all.  Dad is now a deacon at the church, which keeps him really busy.  Sawyer is thriving at college both as a student and as a leader.  Sister is a senior now planning her next steps, and Sally is a 6th grader growing up before our eyes. Just like a momma’s heart always has room for one more, I have been going in multiple directions to feed both my mind and my soul. No matter how busy life becomes every day in each of our heartbeats, we carry you and all the memories of the way you loved us.

So as this week has unfolded, my heart has longed for the love that you embodied when you were here on earth. img_3776

When the pain of facing a day was too much, that love came pouring in.  Wanting to be cloaked in my tears, love gave me the strength to keep going as text messages filled my day with encouragement.  My heartache found solace in cards and flowers that arrived unexpectedly.  The family we created stepped in to love Sister at her last home game – another milestone that passes without you. Tears of gratitude filled my eyes as a sweet little girl, a sister of one of Sal’s teammates, snuck little love notes into my teacher bag at the basketball tournament. The hugs and virtual hugs envelope me with a sense of peace and a comfort knowing that tomorrow is going to be okay.  In each act of kindness and remembrance, we feel the love ripples that your heart made in this world and we are reminded how deeply we are cherished.  Do these amazing friends know they are an extension of those ripples and a symbol of God’s never ending grace?

Even though, we know we can do tough things, there are moments when “warrior on” seem too hard.  The scars of all we have lost seemed exposed as we opened our eyes today to the uncertainty of grief.  God has collected all my tears in his bottle and perhaps for one small sliver in time, he allowed us a glimpse of the divine.  What happened in our neighborhood this morning was more than magical, it was miraculous and precisely the thing we all needed to make it through this day.

Surrounded by the love of many and serenaded by heaven’s messengers, we know heaven came really close today.  And I will be loving you every day until I can hug you again.

Love, Momma

Note: The cardinals are singing in Reed’s garden over the tree house that love built.

 

 

 

And then February happened

In my last blog post, I revealed my kryptonite: not enough time.  Sometimes I have discovered that many things in life can be both a blessing and a curse.  Recently, not enough time seemed to fall into both categories for a bit.  One of my best friends texted me and gently asked, “How you doing, momma?” My response of being a little overwhelmed with all the demands for my time gave her the perfect opening to ask what her heart really wanted to know.

It’s February.  Is the schoolwork keeping your mind so busy that your heart hasn’t had time to make that connection?

I assured her there was balm and blessing in being so busy that you felt like the man in the donut commercial.  A little manipulation to the phrase “time to make the donuts” would aptly describe my life in the hamster wheel of teaching and learning.  And somehow my own personal busyness has resulted in the blessing of my heart not pining for the days to rush ahead so that I could say I survived the second month of the year again.

Although I hadn’t really acknowledged my feelings until the text exchange, keeping my mind busy definitely has kept my heart distracted.

That was until . . .

February happened.

Over the weekend, our youngest had a basketball tournament far from home requiring a stay in a hotel.  While relaxing between games, we just needed some down time from the rushing whirr of the previous week and we mindlessly flipped on the television.  The pre-programmed starting channel was tuned to The Weather Channel which was airing a top ten series about America’s most destructive storms in recent years.  One of those was a dark and ominous wall of swirling dirt in the southwestern United States.  The middle of the day storm turned the area black as night and appeared without much warning.

Little did I know a small act of kindness a few hours later would do the same to my heart!

As we were wrapping up supper, we decided to sneak away to the hospital where our boys were taken after the bus crash.  We have a legacy program there in memory of Reed where we give stuffed cheetahs (his favorite animal) to the surviving siblings of any other child who passes away at the same hospital.  We also provide a baseball card sized note with each cheetah that tells about Reed’s life.  The last cheetah delivery, we were short cards, and it is a big deal to me that the cheetahs have those cards.  Not to draw attention to us, but so that Reed’s name is continued to be heard and spoken.

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When we arrived at the hospital, we stopped at the information desk to try to ascertain where we should deliver the cards because we knew it might be different on the weekends.  The operator put us through to the Children’s Wing, and it was decided that we should bring the cards there.

I should have politely declined, because my heart didn’t know what was coming.  The day, unseasonably warm, but gray and rainy, provided the perfect foreshadowing of February lurking right behind the locked wing.  As soon as we walked in, everything – all the sights, the smells, the memories, the pain of when we first arrived there nine years ago – came flooding back in.  February pounced on us like that wall in the weather documentary a few hours earlier.

My heart beat so hard and fast, feeling like it was trying to protect itself by jumping out of my body in the hopes of not having to relive that all over. We have been back to the hospital over the years, but something about that day so close to Reed’s heaven date was just too much.  My stomach churned, my knees grew weak, and my words became slurred as my mind tried to protect me from all the emotions. My arms ached to hug the boy who gave the best sneak-up-behind-you-hugs ever.  Suddenly my soul went into overdrive wanting to protect and shield my children from all the hurts, knowing full well that my superpowers would not be enough. Yet in the midst of it all, clinging to the hope and the promise that Jesus always is.

We were well into the parking lot before I had the courage to ask my sweetie if that was as excruciatingly hard for him as it was for me.  No real words were spoken by either of us, just a few shed tears as we embraced in the drizzling cold, gray rain symbolic of the life we never envisioned for ourselves. We had both rode grief’s crazy roller coaster even though we didn’t realize we had bought a ticket to ride that day.

Our hearts are still broken, but we know that February doesn’t win.  Daily we receive encouragement from those who understand the aftershocks we feel each year.  The hugs, the messages, the prayers and the just simply showing up mean more than I could ever explain. We know that God has promised to collect all our tears in his bottle and to shield us under wings.  That hope and promise comfort us. And sometimes, even though February happened, we can feel God a little closer and for now knowing Reed is with him while he holds us tenderly is more than enough.

A Jaunty Chapeau, Part 1

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Okay, that title is a little misleading, because the official name of what I am dreaming to possess is an eight-sided tam.  Now, I am guessing that many of my readers are even more confused; so, I will do my best to explain.

A few have sent me messages that they are missing my weekly blogs.  Truth be told, so am I.  Even though I like to pretend that I am a superhero, I do have my kryptonite and that is the length of the day.  I can only squeeze so much in.  There have been quite a few changes in my life in the last six months and those changes have impacted my blogging schedule.

I am still teaching at the local university where I adore my students and my colleagues.  As I have already shared, my book was released but the publishing company wanted to wait until March for the marketing campaign. (Darn elections and holidays!) So I am guessing that being an author will have an impact as I have more speaking engagements coming in on a regular basis.  Above all else, I am still a momma and my children’s schedules always keep me on my toes and my house a little bit messy.

With mothering, speaking, book authoring, and teaching, you might think I have a pretty full schedule.  Anyone who really knows me can see what happened – I decided to throw one more thing in there.  As my youngest jokingly says, I threw “student-ing” into the mix.

For many years, I have wanted to pursue my doctorate. This isn’t exactly a secret because I have shared on social media, but I have not written about my endeavors here yet.  Becoming a student again was too tender, too precious to put into words.  I needed to fully breathe it in myself before I could share the goodness of my adventure with all of you.  But something happened in the last week that really took my breath away.

I received an email from one of my science method students.  What started out as an emailed assignment became so much more.  Rarely do I offer extra credit, but the movie Hidden Figures was just too good of an opportunity for my students to pass up. I believe future science teachers truly need an understanding of the contributions of scientists throughout history to appreciate those efforts.  During our exchange, my student acknowledged how much she owed to the women who blazed a trail before her and then she thanked me.  I shared if you only knew my story.

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On the first day of high school physics, my teacher announced to the class. Gentlemen, we are going to have a great year.  Ladies (there were three of us if memory serves me correctly) not one of you will make it through this course. I was heartbroken and fuming. That marked the first time in my life where someone told me I was “less than”.  My original dreams didn’t include being a scientist until someone told me I couldn’t. For the record, I was the only girl who stuck with it.

In my heart I always knew I would become a teacher, but my path to obtaining a teaching license wasn’t a linear one.  I became a scientist first.  A chemist actually.  I worked for the Department of Energy and loved it, but deep in my soul, I wanted to be the bridge for all the other young girls in the world to show them that they too could become scientists, mathematicians, and engineers or anything else their hearts desired.  The decision to be a science and mathematics teacher was an easy one for me and I have never looked back.

There is a movement going on Twitter right now, because very few people can name an actual scientist despite the desperate need for STEM professionals in our ever changing world.  The hashtag #ActualLivingScientist is pretty spectacular and I am enjoying reading and sharing the work my fellow scientists do.  The world needs role models and these men and women are showing there is so much more to the world of science that what students see in textbooks or in movies.

Science and teaching. Education and mathematics.  These are the things that keep my mind really busy most every day.  My heart keeps busy with other things, but I go through the world looking at it with the mind of the curious.

Some in my life just look at me and shake their heads because I bring homework everywhere.  Sitting in the stands cheering on my daughters while my lap is busy with textbooks to read, papers to write, and projects to complete. You will never hear me complain though.  I might shed a few tears and lose a little sleep, but I am getting to do something that is denied to countless girls and women around the world.

I have the opportunity to learn and for that I am truly grateful. 

My student wanted me to know that she appreciated all the ways I give back to my students in class and outside and for the ways I helping to make their future better.  I shared with her that while I didn’t have to take an oath to become an educator, I felt it was my duty to be a force for good.  Then I shared how much learning means to me.  In my immediate family, I am one of the first women to earn a bachelor’s degree and the first woman to earn a master’s degree.  For my people, I am blazing a trail as the first person to earn a doctorate.

I have a lot of people counting on me. So, when my blogs grow a little farther apart at times, know that right now, I am trailblazing, working on someday adding a few more letters to my name and for the right to wear a jaunty chapeau. But more importantly, to shine my beacon of light for all the little girls in my life so they believe their dreams are achievable too!

Finding contentment

So much of today’s technologically advanced world is designed to remind us of what we don’t have.  Advertisements for everything under the sun – including peace, if only I would buy the organizing package, flood my inbox daily.  My eyes are constantly bombarded with all kinds of enticements, for things I don’t even know how I would use them if I owned said item, but mostly the constant deluge is a persistent reminder to be discontent.  The reverberating message -the grass is always greener somewhere – is  disheartening, but more so has the underlying intent to choke out life and spread discontent in every corner and crevice of my existence.

Oh, I have fallen into the trap one too many times, because on days where the only prayers I have to offer God are tears, just buying something to brighten my corner of the world seems so appealing.  As does anything that helps me deal with the clutter of my life.  Numbing the pain in retail therapy is very alluring as deep in my heart I wish for Calgon to take me away.  But time and again, I have learned that it is not now nor never will be material items that soothe all the hurts or that take away stress or pain in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a little purchase, like flowers in the gray days of winter, brightens my world.   And I can never discount a glass of sweet tea with extra, extra ice to remind me of the far away place from where I came.

What I have learned about contentment and joy and comfort comes from a place of deep gratitude.  I was once asked if I wanted to draw a line in the sand and tell God I had had enough.  My honest answer was “No”.  I do realize that as bad as things have seemed in my life, there is ALWAYS somewhere in the world some who have it worse than we do.  Just being thankful for what I have helps me find contentment and rarely comes from counting blessings of material things. Admittedly, I am incredibly thankful for comforts that much of the world doesn’t have.

Often times from the outside looking in, others marvel at my family’s story, but I know the truth behind the mask of strength. There is one unshakeable and unfathomable truth – we are loved.  God’s amazing love flowing down in creation and in acts of kindness by friends and family and sometimes by strangers, who become friends.

Every day we have a chance to repay these kindnesses, not in the physical sense, because we would never be able to do that, but by living lives deeply rooted in gratitude.  Every day we choose to be thankful despite the hardships that come our way.  No matter how awful a situation looks, we have all received the greatest gift of life in Jesus Christ.  No one in my family forgets that. It simply cannot be diminished. Life can be hard and full of struggle, but Jesus is so much bigger than all of that.

Just the other day I was reminded of how much gratitude can reframe everything.  The last few years have been incredibly difficult for our Sister, as she has had to deal with injuries, health issues, and lack of support and understanding. On the latter, I have been dismayed and disgusted. Being disappointed in the actions of others is a greater blow to my heart’s contentment than not having the latest new gadget. I have learned too that this is a ploy to isolate rather than to bind hearts together. Then something happens and my eyes get a realignment focused on the God who has seen it all. In those moments, a heart that chooses gratitude always finds a way to do the right thing even in a tempest tossed.

Sitting quietly, without fanfare, on my desk was a letter seeking a stamp.  Our Sister took time to write to her ligament donor to just say thank you. Melt this momma’s heart.  In the sea of discontent, her words reminded me of all the ways we have been loved. It was a heartfelt letter to the family of a stranger, who like her brother gave the gift of life.  The words she carefully chose were uplifting and honoring.  After sharing a bit about herself, she wanted them to know how much their gift meant as she was able to play basketball again, while also acknowledging how incredibly hard it is to lose someone you love. Somewhere in the world a family will receive this letter.  Who knows? Their hearts might be needing a little boost, a sign of God’s love that they nor the loved one has been forgotten.

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When they receive that letter I hope they know that there is one family, particularly one girl, in Minnesota who is filled with nothing but love and gratitude for the gift they chose to give her.  Because there isn’t a time that she laces up her basketball shoes, or any shoes for that matter, that we don’t remember the incredible and agonizing gift they gave. We know the taste of that particular pain, but we take comfort knowing that out in the world there are others who received the gift of life because of our choice to honor Reed’s wishes.

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Pain and comfort co-mingled, light in the darkness always shines the brightest. In the quiet moments even amid the chaos and trials of life, those broken but not beaten hearts remember choosing gratitude leads to a road paved with joy unleashed.

 

 

*Special thanks to Roger Schroeder of phot*agape for the amazing photos, but mostly for his unending friendship to our family.

Choosing Forgiveness

Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:31a, 32 (NCV)

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As I sat outside the government center with my preschooler watching her favorite machine do its job, my thoughts were anything but constructive. Secretly, I wished the crane operator would drop the large preformed concrete wall it was lifting onto the building below. Tears streamed down my face as the darkness of my thoughts surprised me. Never before in my life had I wished physical harm on another soul, but housed inside the jail was the woman who killed my child.

While she sat in safety, I was trapped in a world of surgeries, therapies, sleepless nights, and bills we could not pay. Anguished, I cried out to God. We did nothing to cause this, but there is absolutely nothing we can do to fix it!

Although God was present in so many ways, that moment in the parking lot he appeared silent.

In the months following, well-intentioned souls tried to remind us of “a thing or two” about forgiveness. I am surprised I still have a tongue. The taste of blood on more than one occasion was an acrid reminder that none of those advocating forgiveness had ever walked in our shoes.

There was no reprieve from our darkest day because no matter where we went, every conversation, newspaper story, television or radio broadcast had some new detail of the school bus crash we wanted to forget. As if enduring exhausting days wasn’t enough, we were also thrown into the middle of a media firestorm exacerbated by the immigration status of the woman driving the van which hit the bus. There were many words said in anger for and what felt like against us. It was heartbreaking to watch our personal tragedy diminished to politicized soundbites.

We chose not to attend the trial because doing so wouldn’t change our reality. Our son Reed wasn’t coming back, and our other two children who had been injured on the bus would not be miraculously healed.

The tentacles of sadness and bitterness tangled into a chokehold around me.

When, God? When will this nightmare be over?

Although the trial led to a verdict of guilty, the conviction brought no solace. I poured my heart out to God and scoured every promise in his Word, never allowing myself to linger at any mention of forgiveness. Guilty was also a fitting description of my heart; I wanted her to hurt as badly as I did.

Is there no balm in Gilead, Lord?

Eventually the day of sentencing came, and we were to give a family impact statement. I wanted her to look into my eyes and see the pain she had created. With such intense media coverage, I had allowed my imagination to make her a larger-than-life creature rather than one of God’s children.

Sitting in the crowded courtroom, the nervous anticipation made me want to vomit. I would soon be face to face with the woman whose poor decisions shattered my family’s idyllic existence. Suddenly there was a commotion outside the guarded door. Before I realized what was happening, there she was – a tiny woman, heavily shackled, escorted by six armed law enforcement officers.

Is all this really necessary? Even I could knock that slip of a person down, and I know those big men could easily contain any threat she might offer. It seems almost cruel.

The thought was there before I had to time to process for whom my heart was feeling.

Like many others impacted by that day, we shared our story. She said hers, which only added salt to our wounds because there was no repentance, no apologies given. Yet despite it all, God used that one moment of humanity to thaw my icy reserve.

I have heard it said many times that God’s light shines brightest in the darkness. After that day, in the dimly lit corners of my broken heart, I continued to seek him. One day, God placed a persistent thought on my mind.

Wouldn’t it be great if one day she met Reed?

No, God. It would not.

Like Jacob of the Old Testament, I continued to wrestle with God. My heart conflicted with what I saw as God’s crazy idea. Yet, the thought of forgiving her so she could meet Reed was never far from my mind. In my quiet times of devotion, the thought would pop up again and again. While driving one day, I heard a sermon on people who were reluctant to trust Jesus. The pastor’s words cut straight to my heart.

How many of your sins were in the future when Jesus died on the cross?  

I sat sobbing in my car just a few blocks from the place where I had wished the cement wall to drop. I realized that the twelve-year-old boy who had loved God with all his heart would probably be one of the first to think God’s “crazy idea” was actually a good one. As the sadness, bitterness, and exhaustion which had punctuated my days ripped my heart apart, I felt a lightness as God’s words poured through that radio show. All my sins were yet to transpire on the day Jesus died. Yet, my hope lay in his sacrifice because through it I live confidently, knowing I will see my son again.

Hope and bitterness, light and dark, cannot coexist in a heart. In that tear-filled moment, I realized I could no longer live clinging to the hope of all that Jesus promised while simultaneously living with an embittered heart. In that moment of revelation, the image of my red-headed boy sitting down with her in heaven made me smile through my tears. I prayed, asking for God’s strength and comfort as my soul wrenched by forgiving her. While she was still behind locked doors, I learned that the imprisoned heart was actually mine. God melted my bitterness and transformed it into airy lightness the moment I chose forgiveness. My heart and my days had never felt so free.

This post was originally published in the Minnesota Bridging the Gap Ministry annual Fall Thrive Conference Devotional.  The theme this last year was iChoose.  Normally, I don’t provide devotional responses in my personal blog, but given what I have seen occur in our country in the last few days, I am going to go out on a limb and say that we can all use a big dose of forgiveness.  Please do not misunderstand my words to mean that God doesn’t call us all to action for what he stirs in our heart.  I believe he does. I additionally believe that for any group, organization, and yes, country to succeed we have to be willing to look past our differences and love. Sometimes in that loving, we will be asked to forgive and many times we will need to ask to be forgiven. By taking that step, maybe – just maybe – we can have conversations to realize that while our approaches might be different, many of us want the same things – to live and to love. I am a sinner in need of a Savior and every day, I try to live a life of revolutionary love because I have been loved extravagantly by all of you in the midst of life’s trials.

The last time I shared about the very personal and private side of my family’s story, I took some body blows of hatred and meanness.  I am going to state that while my first reaction was shock (I mean, really, who wants to spew awfulness at a grieving mom?), my next reaction was wanting to hug the person who sent the nasty messages. Because in my heart, I believe that anybody who would beat up on the grieving must be hurting pretty badly to begin with. I am definitely not perfect and have many downfalls, but to anyone who wants to use this post for ugliness, I may get knocked down, but I am going to get right back up and love – even those with whom I may disagree.

And who knows maybe some day God will reunite Reed and the woman who took his life.  If he does, I can only imagine that in that moment there will be nothing but love.

Reflect and Respond

Is bitterness, anger, or hurt clouding your heart? God wants to share your burdens. Spend time in his Word, soaking in his promises to carry you through the storms of life. Take time to pray and ask God if forgiveness can help your heart heal.

 

 

 

The Comfort I’ve been Given

I’ve been there.  Home alone and feeling kind of lonely.  When my husband was still serving in the Army National Guard, there were weekends and summer training when I was a party of one.  Sometimes there is comfort in solitude, and other times, it is a terrifyingly isolating experience. My heart holds a special place for those military spouses and anyone who is lonely.

For years now, I have attempted to make Christmas presents for our family members.  I say attempt only because sometimes when you have four children under the age of nine all you can muster is a half completed scrapbook.  Let me use this moment to support all the mommas doing the best they can.  If someone gives you a half completed scrapbook, don’t look at that as the glass is half empty.  Look at all the love (and probably hours of sacrificed sleep or a less than picked up house) it took to give you that much even if it is half full. This doesn’t get better as they grow and get involved in activities. Do not judge these mommas!  Just don’t. Every mom I know is doing the best she can and is probably her own harshest critic. Why add to that?

My other reason for using the word attempt is that my gifts haven’t always arrived on time.  My gift list totals over thirty people (twice that many if you count teachers), and sometimes there are only so many hours in the day.  More than once I have ordered my glass of sweet tea with extra, extra, extra ice and if they would be so kind to throw in an extra hour or two for this day, I would appreciate it.  So needless to say, I have the best intentions, but not always the time nor energy to see them to completion on time.

But the one thing that never fails is that when I am making something for anyone is the item is well prayed over.  While I am sewing or knitting or crocheting or crafting, every second my hands are touching that item, my heart and head are praying for the recipient.

So it was for our niece this year for Christmas.  Having recently moved, and her beau traveling away from home for long stretches at a time, I knew I needed something extra special for her.  My family’s story of triumph over tragedy has been punctuated by the people who have buoyed our spirits when we didn’t even know how desperately we needed comfort.  Many were sweet souls who had endured life’s hardships and they were sharing from a deep well of love and support from the comfort they had been given.  My heart felt that maybe our niece needed just a little more love and support this year.

She has often tagged me in crafting posts, dropping hints that she might really, really, REALLY enjoy said item.  So this year knowing that while she does have people in her new community who adore her that this might be the year of comfort.

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It took a village and a bit of persistence because once I set my mind to making an afghan out of gigantic yarn there was no looking back.  Skeins of yarn flew in from Florida, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota because apparently the yarn I chose is discontinued – of course, it would be – requiring personal shoppers around the country.  Let me just take a moment to say that knitting this blanket on size 50 circular needles (yes they make those) was akin to wrestling an octopus.  Often, the octopus won and I had to put it away for a bit. Add to that the fact that I have hit the stage of life where I need a turbo fan wherever I go, there were moments that I considered knitting this treasure in my bathing suit.  Love knows no limits . . . unless of course, you have to break it to the puppy that the blanket is not for her.  

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I couldn’t be more proud of the final product as it is beautiful, but more so, because I hit it out of the park with our niece.  Along with the blanket, we gave her a soup cookbook (which turns out is her favorite comfort food).  Totally auntie win-win! But even more importantly is every stitch was knit with prayers that whenever she is wrapped in this warmth she feels the love of the hands, hands that know days of loneliness needing comfort, that made it for her.

Had it not been for a blizzard it would have arrived right on time, too.  I guess we can’t win them all. But who’s sweating the little stuff? Wherever you are today, I pray that God is wrapping you in His arms of comfort!

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Ready to be mailed.

 

What happened when I blinked

Although I am a planner, I often feel that much of life sneaks up on me.  With everything that has happened in our lives, I have learned to perfect the art of “Plans B, C, and D . . .” sometimes exhausting the alphabet and going with Plan Z in the end.  Even when I know something is going to happen, I don’t always deal with its arrival well.  One of my besties still likes to tease me about the time my “not handling it well” poured forth from my eyes when I realized that Reed was leaving the sixth grade moving onto the adventures and perils of 7th grade.  I could have never imagined what would really happen, but after his last Track & Field day, my heart broke because my boy was growing up.

Sometimes I look at my children and all the air seems to be sucked right out of my body as I try to wish with every fiber of my being for time to slow down.  They have lived through so much, and yet they are still going forth making huge differences in the lives of others.  Recognizing this is when I want to go back and savor every moment of their lives because in an all too soon time frame they will have launched – skyrocketed really – into the world.

One of those bittersweet momma moments sneaked up on me in the passing of the New Year.  I hadn’t really thought about it, because sometimes the oldest children seem so much older and more mature simply because they were born first and the babies are relegated to being little forever. Reed was twelve years old and in the 7th grade when he died and now the baby of our family recently turned twelve and is a grade behind him due to having a winter birthday.

To me, she is still the curly-haired, chubby-cheeked bundle of energy who loved reading the My First Little House books every day at naptime.  She is supposed to be the little cutie who the oldest taught to say “What up my peeps?” when greeting people.  Frozen in time as the little who once implored me to just let “nature be her teacher” is where my heart wants her to stay.

That same heart wasn’t ready (it never is) when she phoned the veterinarian herself to arrange to have her furry little pet put to sleep.  Lord Business, the hamster extraordinaire, developed a massive tumor and as much as she loved her little friend, she could not stand another day of him not enjoying the things that he once loved – like preparing for the hamster Olympics every night by incessantly running on that squeaky wheel.

Lost sleep or not and trust me there were many nights where I was less than enamored with the Herculean strength and stamina packed into such a pint-sized rodent, Lord Business was the perfect first pet.  He “talked” to her every day and waited patiently each morning for his favorite indulgence – a cheese flavored yogurt bite.  He loved running in the wheel and in the ball around the house.  For such a tiny tyke, his presence filled a room – both in joy for us and terror in the hearts of the dogs of the household.  But probably his most endearing quality was the way he snuggled with his girl.  Having had hamsters and gerbils in my lifetime, I have never witnessed a cuddlier pocket pet.  Whenever she took him out of the cage, the first thing he would do is lay out sprawled in her hand like he was some version of a miniature bearskin rug.  He never once tried to run away or jump out of her hands.  Apparently nestled in her tiny hands was his place of respite.

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With such a developing companionship, how could I not notice how she had blossomed from elementary girl to middle school tween? I blinked and she became a mature and conscientious pet owner who loved her furry little buddy enough to end his suffering. Somehow when us mommas are busy dealing with the day-to-day busyness of life, our children’s hearts and souls grow right before our eyes.

She will always be my baby, but on the day I accompanied her to say good-bye, I went with a beautifully sweet and mature soul.

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While I was still trying to make her much younger than she really is, she understood to love a pet is to understand that someday you might have to let them go. In the most fitting of ways, she held him close until the very end because her love was fierce and strong and tender.  And if this is any indication of the woman she will become, I couldn’t be more proud.