Wednesday, July 20, 2016

God's Whispers

"When He Who was, Who is, and Who is to come sees each one of us, He sees who we were, who we are, and who we will become."  from Mercy Triumphs, a study of James by Beth Moore

Today is my 58th birthday.
I have been thinking a lot the past weeks on being a parent and losing a child and being a child and losing a parent and just parenting in general.

I have heard it said that when you lose a child you lose your future and when you lose a parent you lose your past. There have been many times I have wanted to ask Daddy something about his past and then I realize that the opportunity to learn anything else about his life is gone. I have my memories but I have no way to access his anymore. He didn't write much down once he married and started a family. That is why I treasure my copy of his journal from his time in Poland when he was 16 and my copies of the letters that he wrote home to his parents from the war in Korea when he was in his early 20's.  I have very few letters I kept from him over the years, because I'm not a keeper of "things".  I guess I never thought I would miss his words because I thought I would always have him.
When I "lost" Amy I didn't feel like I lost my future. Amy would never have gone to college, left home, married, or given me grandchildren. Amy was my present. I lost my present way of life when I lost Amy. And for quite a long time after she died I was lost also.

C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pain." If it wasn't for God shouting at me, I think I would have stayed lost. Recently I have felt His whispers.

We were given Amy's burial plot by Bill's cousins when she died. We were so thankful for it as it is right beside Bill's parent's grave. Daddy had all his funeral and burial plans done ahead of time. He even had the tombstone in the ground. Ever since Daddy died I have wanted to make sure we can get plots in the same cemetery and if possible the empty spot beside Amy. I know it doesn't matter where ones body is put in the ground. But, oh, how it seems important to me to rest beside my daughter until we are raised for all eternity!  A few weeks ago we got a letter in the mail from Bill's cousin telling us that the lot that was given to us to bury Amy contained 4 burial plots! I felt God's whisper, "I care about the little things that are important to you."

I have been watching Marissa Amy for a year now. Anywhere from 2 to 4 days a week (about 8 hours a day) depending on her Mommy's busy schedule. She has grown from a smiley 3 month old to a very energetic, babbling, laughing 15 month old! Around the first of the year I was determined to get Mari to sleep on her own in the crib. I was rocking her to sleep and then holding her while she slept as she would always wake up when I put her down. After a week of failed attempts and many tears (mine and hers), I heard God whisper, "Just hold her, lay down with her, take a nap yourself." So I did and have continued to do so. Just the last few weeks, I have started to lay her on the bed beside me instead of holding her. The first time I did this I couldn't keep the tears in as I realized this is what I would do with Amy and in the very same room that Daddy had built for her 15 years ago. (It is now our bedroom.) I would cuddle up beside Amy in her bed and talk to her, read, just watch her sleep and  sometimes fall asleep myself. Another of God's whispers, "I'm restoring some of what you miss most."

I always rock Mari to sleep and sing to her. We start off with "Jesus Loves Me" but I change the words to "Jesus loves Mari for the Bible tells Grandma so". Then I usually sing "Trust and Obey" always a good song for little ones to learn. If she's not asleep yet I move on to other old hymns. I grew up singing hymns and the church we have attended since we have been married didn't start singing worship songs until abou  t 12-15 years ago. So my mind turns to hymns as I rock her because that is what I sang my babies to sleep with. Lately I have been singing  "In The Garden." Last Sunday Tessa played it for offertory, not even knowing that I have been singing it to her daughter almost every day! Another whisper from God, "There are no coincidences. You are my own child."

That same Sunday, Mari wore a dress I made for Amy.

I made this for Amy when she was three on her first day of preschool.
Tessa likes to wear Mari's dresses longer than I did for Amy.

God has given me such a gift in caring for Mari. Even though I get tired at times, He gives me strength and He knew I would need this little one to take care of.

Being a grandma is so much different than being a mom.
My youngest, James, gave me my first grandchild almost 2 years ago. He and his wife are still in their 20's.
My oldest daughter, Tessa, had Mari when she was 35 years old. 
I had all my babies in the 1980's so when I was 35 years old Contessa was 13, Amy was 11, Emily was 7 and James was 4.
There are many different ways to parent and raise a child and I have been realizing that my ways might have been right for me at that time but they are not the only way!

Again God whispers, "Enjoy this time, love on those sweet babies, they will not be babies forever!"

Here are the words to "In the Garden." As I reflect on them it has a new meaning for me more than it did in the past. My 'garden' is the time I spend in studying God's Word. I am presently in the middle of a study on the book of James. God is whispering new things to me each passing day.

In The Garden

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Verse 2
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,

Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known

Verse 3
I'd stay in the garden with Him,
Tho' the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro' the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known

Here are some recent pictures of my family.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

More Goodbyes-for a little while

On the third anniversary of Amy's death, April 8, we again released balloons at the cemetery. It was a cold day and so the new little one was left in the warm car. The ten balloons sailed high into the air and as I watched them go I couldn't help but feel blessed.  Marissa Amy was represented with a balloon last year, but she hadn't made her appearance yet into this world and we didn't know that she was to be named after her Aunt Amy. How special that is. Now we have another new one, Micah James. Three grandbabies in the three years since Amy has been gone. They keep me busy and fill my days with joy and memories and sometimes tears.

We celebrated Marissa's first birthday the next day. She is such a little princess, but yet loves to get dirty by helping me in the garden, taking handfuls of dirt from one bucket to another, and loves to stand under the spray of the hose when I water the plants.

In early May I was able to fly to Maine and visit my Mama for 6 days over Mothers Day. It was so good to see her and to see how she has settled into her new home with my sister. It was odd to see the furniture that has forever been in my mind on the farm in Iowa in a new home. I was able to help her sort through her clothes, unpack some boxes, hang up curtains in her bedroom and plant some flowers outside. I planted some pansies in a pot and a lilac bush under her window to remind her of the lilac bushes we had on the farm. I wish I could have done more, but time didn't allow it. We took a drive on Saturday and Sunday and saw some of the beautiful Maine landscape. Mama told me a few times, "I don't think I will ever see you again." I tried to encourage her and tell her I would visit again in the fall. Saying goodbye was very, very hard.
Deer Isle (I think)

Taking a picture of Mama, taking a picture of a seagull

Mama and me, the morning I left

Our pastor and his wife retired the end of May.  Pastor Floyd baptized James when he was 6 years old. He baptized Amy just a few months before she passed away. He had been her Sunday School teacher at one time and he told me that was one of his dearest memories. It was difficult to say goodbye to someone who has been a spiritual leader to me for so many years. We have a new pastor now. He and his wife are very sweet. But they didn't know Amy. How can I ever tell them how much she was and still is a part of my life?

Last week I was in WalMart and I saw a little boy in a shopping cart with his mom. He was sitting in the front seat but looked to be about 6 or 7 with such long legs  that I didn't know how the Mom was able to get him in the cart. He was playing with two plastic animals and he clearly had special needs. I stood for a few seconds, just looking at him and then quickly went around the corner before his mom saw that I was staring. I stood in the next aisle wondering if I should go back and talk to her. I just wanted to give him a hug. That's all. I just wanted to hug him. But I didn't. I didn't know them. The tears were already starting to fall.

Today in church we sat behind a young man with Down Syndrome. I have known him since birth. I had a hard time keeping the tears in and then our assistant pastor shared that he had lost a member of the first youth group he pastored. He was a young man in his twenties with special needs. He told how he would sing for the Lord with his whole heart. He talked about heaven and how he was singing up there. The tears fell again.
I'm not sure everyone can understand my grief. Last week we attended a party of a young man graduating from high school. His father was telling us of his adoption story. How they searched and searched for a "perfect" baby. I wish I had the courage to tell him what a blessing they missed by not adopting a special needs child! Yes, Amy was a lifetime commitment, and a lot of physical work, but she was a piece of heaven living with us. I miss the pure innocence and joy that she showed me every day of her life. I miss how she showed Jesus to me. I miss her so much.

Missing Amy also brings me to missing my Daddy.
So many times these past few months he has come to my mind and I want to talk to him. I see farmers here out in the fields and I want to call Daddy and ask him if the planting has started, if the corn is coming up, how tall is it now, do you have enough rain, too much? The list goes on and on in my mind. Every time I called I would ask about the crops. Once a farmer, always a farmer, even retired. But there is no one left in Iowa to call anymore. Soon the farm will be sold. Only a memory will be left to me.

Last year at this time I was with my parents. Emily and I had the privilege of celebrating Daddy's 85th birthday on the 18th of June.
We were able to surprise him with a cake and candles.

On his birthday, 39 years ago this Saturday, Bill and I were married. Daddy and I have shared a special day together for all those years. Sometimes I would remember to call first and wish him happy birthday or sometimes he would call first and wish me a happy anniversary. 

I am so very thankful that I had this special time to spend with Daddy last year.  I didn't know it would be the last time I would be able to see him without the effects of drugs and pain. I didn't know it would be the last birthday. The last special day we would share together.

Heaven is so much more real to me now. I do not fear death. I look forward to it.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says,
 "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words."