Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Amazing Grace

You know the song; it’s the most popular hymn of all time. It also happens to be my mother’s most disliked hymn! Sounds sacrilegious, doesn’t it? She didn’t like it because it was overplayed. And yet every time I hear this song, my first thought is of Mom.

I think about the way she rolled her eyes in church when I was little and we heard the first few notes of “Amazing Grace.” I remember how her rolling eyes turned into sighs and slight grimaces in later years. I also think about a story from the last person who ever visited her before she died.

One of the pastors from her church stopped by the hospice center to see Mom. The pastor told us this a few days later, as we were planning her memorial service. The pastor said she sang a song for Mom in that last visit. My sister and I asked which song, and the pastor said, “Amazing Grace.” We laughed and snorted and the pastor looked strangely at us. We explained how much Mom hated that song. The pastor said she never would have guessed because Mom just sat in her bed like it was the nicest song ever. Then the pastor said, “That’s just like Brenda. She would never make someone feel uncomfortable or unappreciated. She was gracious even in her last days.”

“Amazing Grace” also holds tender memories for me because it was a song my dad loved. It was played on bagpipes at his graveside service (by a bagpiper from his alma mater, who also happened to be named Jackson).

For many years, “Amazing Grace” has been a source of tears for me. If we sing it at church, I can hardly get four notes into the song before I have to stop singing because tears have clogged my throat. Our church usually sings Chris Tomlin’s version, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” which is even more difficult for me to hear because it reminds me that my parents and brother are gone and free from their chains. While that’s a happy thought, it’s hard to be happy when I miss them so deeply.

And then *today, on the way home from work, Chris Tomlin’s version was on the radio. The song was halfway through when I stopped singing along and came to a stunning realization: I wasn’t crying! And then I wracked my memory and tried to remember the last time I cried when I heard the song. You know what? I can’t remember.

I thank my Savior for that. He has healed my heart in such an unexpected way. Before you go thinking life is hunky-dory and I’m “over” my grief, let me elaborate: Jesus hasn’t healed my broken heart in the sense of restoring it to pre-loss status. He has healed my heart in the sense of taking the shattered pottery and fitting it back together. There are still cracks, and some pieces that went missing and can’t ever be replaced. But those cracks allow His light to shine through, and now my pottery heart is leaky and drippy and spills a lot more mess these days. I’ve come to find I like it that way.

Thank you, Jesus, for soothing and redeeming my pain so it isn’t quite as sharp anymore. I didn’t even realize you were still working on me, but now I know the “work” never ceases. You are constantly remodeling, reforming, and shining me up so I can reflect Your image in my soul. I am so grateful that You didn’t give up on me, and that you think my broken pieces are worth restoration. Amen.

*Footnote: Today is the anniversary of the last time I saw my brother alive. September 26 is the date I have traditionally started my month-long mourning period for him. It’s just like God to take a hard anniversary and paint it in a new light, giving me insight into how He’s changed my life. He picked today for a reason, of course.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The First Shall Be Last

Each morning, the kids on our street head out to the bus stop before school. In past years, they have spent the 10 minutes of waiting at the bus stop by playing games. Usually there was some kind of game, and they got pretty creative with the rules. Their favorite was a tag game where you could run only on the lines in the pavement. If the person playing “It” was zeroing in on one specific player, they would yell out, “No puppy guarding!” I had never heard that phrase before.

This year, things have changed a bit. This is how they wait for the bus now:IMG_1513

All of a sudden, it’s a contest to find out who gets to be first in line to get on the bus. They stand in this line the entire 10 minutes of waiting for the bus. It would really be no big deal, except there is serious “puppy guarding” of the coveted first-in-line spot. And that drives me a little bonkers at 7:50 in the morning, not to mention they are in such a hustle to get on the bus first that there’s already been one injury. One of the littlest got scraped across the throat when everyone was racing in front of the bus, and she ran into the safety guard arm because she couldn’t see around the big kids.

I’ve tried encouraging them to just go play games, but it only worked for two mornings. We’ve talked about birth order and we tried lining them up in order of their assigned seats on the bus. And I’ve talked to them about Jesus and how he told us the first shall be last and the last shall be first. That idea pings off their little brains and they stare at me with a blank look in their eyes.

I know, I know… it really shouldn’t bother me. My meddling is a one of the purest Helicopter Parent techniques, and I really should let them figure it out on their own. So I’m trying to relinquish control. And I’m looking at this as a gentle reminder from Jesus every morning.

He tells me that we are all born sinful, with our wants and needs paramount to everyone else’s. Even though our kids seem innocent and sweet, sin still has a tight grip on them. The morning bus stop routine is a beautiful way to start my day remembering that we ALL need a Savior. We can never make it to heaven without His help, because we’d all be pushing each other out of line.

Aren’t we blessed to have Someone who loves us enough to let us all be first in line?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun with Forty

Today is Dan’s 40th birthday. I am having lots of fun planning little surprises for him. Nothing too big, because I don’t want to embarrass him. But the small things add up to lots of smiles.

Last night, I waited for him to go to bed so I could hang the birthday flag in front of the house to greet him this morning._MDS0702

Then I wrote a message on his car._MDS0700

And today, this is the sight that greeted him on his commute to work._MDS0694 (2)

At lunch time, I retrieved the sign and brought it home to adorn our house._MDS0703

I’ve also asked family and friends from all areas of our life to email him birthday messages throughout the day. I hope each message is confirmation of what a fantastic person he is. I want him to know that!

One of our friends offered us tickets to a Cardinals game tonight, so we decided to be spontaneous and head to the game to celebrate Dan. It turned in to a downpour and was – literally – a wash for us, but it was a good idea.IMGP1699

Tomorrow, we have an all-day celebration planned with his childhood best friends. We’re going to grill steaks and crab legs, share some beverages, and watch Mizzou’s first SEC game against the University of Georgia.

Happy birthday to my spectacular husband. I can’t believe I’m married to a 40-year-old, and that I’ve gotten to share life with him for so long. He is a blessing to me and our children. I love you, Dan!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August 2012 Review

Gorilla suits.IMG_1317

80 pounds of pork butt for our church’s Backpack Attack.IMG_1356

Twenty-two hours in Georgia for my niece’s senior portraits…VHW-123

And my sister’s family portrait with her in-laws.130

First day of Kindergarten and 4th grade._MDS9879 (2)

My Godson’s and his brothers’ birthdays._MDS0139

Have you ever seen a hummingbird’s nest?_MDS0247

Photos of my sweet one-year-old neighbor.IMGP1161-2

Road trip to Kansas City for three things: 1) the new SeaLife aquarium.IMGP1259

2) the new Legoland Discovery CenterIMGP1344

3) our friends and their kids (who have their own Legoland in their house!)IMGP1376

Visiting our alma mater as a family for the first time.IMGP1387

Skin cancer excision (don’t worry, it’s just basal cell carcinoma – not the big melanoma)._MDS0253

Toys moved to Jackson’s room and the basement._MDS0273

Which means our main floor is finally toy-free, after nine years!_MDS0259

Annual block party with our neighbors._MDS0570

The kids’ first karate class.IMG_1426

The biggest freak out (to date) that I’ve seen my daughter have – which was at the dentist’s office when she needed two teeth pulled. This was before the panic; the teeth never got pulled, but both our anxiety levels shot through the roof!IMG_1442

August ended with a really fantastic treat. Dan and I had dinner plans and nothing else afterwards. He said he'd figure something out and surprise me. We got in the car and he started driving. He pulled up outside the Fabulous Fox in downtown St. Louis and told me to hop out. Tickets were waiting at Will Call: he took me to see The Lion King. Pretty spectacular! Oh, yeah, and so was the show.IMG_1450


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