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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grace is Falling

Softly....  Slowly...

But Grace is settling in to light a path of peace for Millie and Don.

This week past Millie has gradually regained some strength... enough to "graduate" from her hospital stay and head to a rehab unit.  As her mind began to grasp her bodies frailty, we watched as sweetness descended and her countenance relaxed.

She will spend the next few weeks (to months) at the local nursing home's rehabilitation unit.   And blessings abound, for she will have a private room!  We have enjoyed spiffing it up with all her favorite things from home... pictures of grandkids galore, her beautiful orchid plant (gift from Don for 62 years of bliss!), homey lamps and and comfy robes and slippers... She smiles with contentment and drifts off to rest as we fuss with details.

And this is what I've come to realize.  We can fight the changes or accept with grace.  She has seen God's Grace and rests easy. 

There is a beautiful song that speaks it better than I can... the words are compelling... God is our "I Am."  No matter what season of life we wrestle with, He is there.  Always...


He is our elbow healer when that is all we understand and our saviour pasture maker when we reach for His Hand... Woven and Spun as the Angels Danced Around the Throne... He cherishes our very being and is there every moment.  He never changes, but meets us where we are, no matter the season of life we are walking...

For Millie, the Grace is Falling Sweetly this night.  She is not looking for what may happen tomorrow, but rests in the truth that the same Everlasting Father who cares for her today will shield her from suffering or give her the unfailing strength to bear it.  It is Peace.  It is Rest.

May we each be Graced with the whisper eternal and sure... 

and it is enough. for where ever we are.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Final Chapter... with grace

How do we "do" graceful when we're facing the autumn days in our life?

I'm not sure... There's been much written about handling life's end with grace and dignity, but in the nitty-gritty mess of it all, how do you really "do" graceful?

We are walking that road with Leroy's parents.  It breaks my heart to see their once proud heads stooped, gray and weary...

These days past have been spent back in Illinois.  This time, Leroy's mom... Another fall, dehydration, hospital stays... weak and fatigued.  Strength wrung out, life energy ebbing.

Where do we go from here?

Doctors are advocating a nursing home/rehab unit.  And we accept the necessity... but Leroy's dad isn't "doing" graceful.  He wants to be at home.  With his wife.

And this is where it gets messy...

Millie has been there for Don for 62 years.   She's been a faithful companion, help-meet, loving partner... and major cook and bottle washer to boot.  And now her tired eyes speak truth... she can't do it anymore.  We know.  She knows.  For goodness sake even their pastor knows.  But Don doesn't want to see that... it is so incredibly difficult to accept that our bodies have betrayed us...

And so we talk.  And make meals.  And drive him to the hospital to visit Millie.  And get the wheelchair out of the car for him.  And carry in the portable oxygen.  And pray for strength to return to her frail frame.  And sigh when we leave, knowing that tomorrow we will do it all over again...

And how do you watch a heart break?

How do you do graceful?

In the quiet morning hours, we offer solutions.   Come stay with us.  Let us help.  No, the gray head shakes.  This is home.  Our doctors... are here.  Friends.... are here.  All that is familiar.... is here.

All that is... except Millie.

So we suggest hiring help... with the housekeeping, and the meals, and the bathing, and the lawn care, and, the list is endless...  Don's expression at this suggestion needs no words... we make another pot of coffee and slice into some warm apple pie... the universal remedy when there is no answer...

A niece arrives with sunshine and smiles.  We visit the hospital and make plans, offer another solution that Millie approves of... perhaps the new Assisted Living Facility across town?  And together with our sweet niece, we coax Don into a tour.

And find it totally charming.

And possible.  But for the price tag... It is a private-pay facility and runs high.  Even with their long term care insurance it is out-of-range.
And so we headed home.   Defeat weighing heavy... and not very gracefully. 

In the ensuing days, Don digs feet in firm and insists he will stay at home.

Millie's doctors are equally as firm, she must go to nursing home/rehab unit until she regains some strength.


If this were a 30 minute sit-com, we'd be arriving at the happy ending by now... But, real life is messy.  And difficult.  And not at all like we planned...

And I have been dragging my feet writing this post because I wanted an answer to the messy, a graceful solution to the dilemma, a roadmap for the difficult.... instead I have been given this... a word. a prayer... from a dear friend, who knows our hearts are hurting right now:

There is hope to be found
in the midst of our pain.
The darkness, the heartbreak,
the sorrow, and the grief
are not permanent.
The Lord's compassion never fails.
He is good to those who hope in Him,
who seek Him,
who wait quietly for Him.
He knows your suffering and
will give you the comfort of His presence.
Walk with Him step-by-step
each day and you will know happiness again.
Life as you knew it has stopped,
don't rush the healing,
the grief will come and go like waves.
Embrace the Lord thru it all,
He will bring you thru it.
Hope in the midst...
Walk with Him, and with Don,
A walk in love and honor and respect...
A wait for Grace...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It Takes a Village...

Mother’s Day… My heart reaches for the voice and touch that has been gone too long… a longing that sighs deep and aches hard.  Does it get easier?  51 years of her mothering and it was not enough.  Not near enough.  Mom’s gift was infinite in scope, and her very presence is missed endlessly. 

And I’ve come to learned thru her example that it does indeed take a village… of super women moms… to raise a child. And I am so blessed that mom opened the door and invited some amazing women in to help mother me through the years.  She had an intuitive wisdom and confidence to know when she needed to step aside and let others take a hand in my raising and when she needed to take my hand to lead me straight. 

There is gratitude overwhelming for the way she loved me and shaped me and grew me.  And let’s face it, raising kids is a task of monstrous proportions.  If it’s not the terrible twos, it’s the last minute 5th grade science projects or the 8th grade dance dress that is all wrong or of course the tyranical teenage angst ad nauseum that would take pages and pages to recount (but let’s not, J it is still a somewhat touchy subject!)
No wonder we have Mother’s Day… and honestly, is one Day of Celebration really long enough?!

Looking back on my life, I see clearly the many, many women who loved me in tangent with mom and shaped me into who I am today:

There was Ruth, neighbor-friend, honorary aunt, who traded babysitting with mom, played a mean game of hopscotch, talked fluent Barbie-ese, read mountains of books and laughed joyously…

There was Grandma Inga and Aunt Di who planned glorious summer vacations for us on the dairy farm, building forts in the hayloft, teaching the art of handmilking and bottle-raising baby calves, taking endless picnics in the woods and throwing us on a tractor and caution to the wind…

There was Grandmother Meier, our city-grandma, who taught a love of history and travel and fine dining, taxi-riding and Chicago museums, and condo-living on the shores of Lake Michigan, letting tiny ones sit at her fancy table and eat peanut butter sandwiches off of her beautiful china, her smile echoing mom’s…

And Mrs. Ray, youth-leader wife-extraordinare, who listened to the woes of a broken teen-age heart so many times, pouring the grace of Christ into my life thru the years, preparing me for the stretching and growing pains as God grew me into a young woman ready for a grown-up love…

For Leroy’s mom, sweet Millie, mom-in-law with love, who opened her arms with exuberance to a dewy-eyed bride of 19, needing to learn so many things!  Like cat-fish frying and pickle-canning, summer gardening and days of Mississippi River fishing… Loud family reunions and happy times around an overflowing dinner table….

And when jobs took us 1,000 miles away from these mom-angels, with my babies barely knee-high, God planted me in the midst of the most precious mom-mentors.

Like Mrs. Buchmeyer, the children’s first grade teacher who encouraged me to try my hand at room-mothering and then proceeded to become mother indeed to both me and the kids, wearing their hand-made clay jewelry gifts with pride and stepping in as surrogate grandma for birthdays and scrapped knees and tooth-fairy escapades.

Or Michelle, pastor’s wife, ladies ministry leader taking me under her wing and lavishing love and laughter over me and my children with abandon…

And through it all, mom was the constant.  Always there, sometimes physically with hugs and in person, other times a phone call away, the sound of her voice all the connection I needed.

Somewhere along this mothering journey, she became my best friend, a confidante of the heart, my cheerleader and sounding board, understanding without words, sharing adventures and jokes, and lumps in our throats.

I have been given an extraordinary gift in my mom.  And I never understood it until I had children of my own.  When that downy head and tiny, precious baby mine was laid first in my arms, the love bonded tighter than sure.  I remember that powerful flow of ferocious love that beat loud for all to hear… this one is mine, I will protect and love and cherish always.

And I never wanted to let them out of my sight.  Not very practical, true… but this mama had control issues…smile. I have learned to loosen the strings little by little because really, we just can’t do it all.

It’s true!  Us moms.  We just can’t do it all.  For our kids.  All the time.  Always right.  (Sorry to disillusion you on Mother’s Day and all, but it’s true…honest…)

And the reason I know this is true is because Mom modeled it all my life.  She mothered us with gracious love and was able to step back and allow so many other incredible women to come alongside and share the load.  And now I am walking it out with my own kids and grand-girls…In the midst of a pack of amazing angel-women super moms.

I am beyond humbled by the gift of other women around me who I know will leave their mark, who will pick up where I leave off, and who will be the hands and feet of Christ to my kids, a gift I know I’ll never be able to repay.

And so on this Mother’s Day evening, my heart is full.    

Mom knows…

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Puffballs of Spring

You know Spring has arrived when you walk into the local feedstore and see water troughs filled with yellow balls of fluff!

The minute I opened the door I knew they had might have been the smell of pine chips, or the soft churrring of hundreds of little chicks peeping, or maybe it was the glow of the heat lamps...But I wasn't the only one drawn to the "Puffballs!"
They just pull you in and wrap it up with adorable!  There were yellow ones and cream ones and black ones and striped ones... scurrying and peeping and fluttering their downy puff in an irrististable show. Tubs and tubs of baby cuteness!
Who can resist???
And so, it happened that I may have come home with more than just the feed and hay on my list...

Ok, maybe I couldn't pick just one... I kind of brought home 6.
And they are simply too precious.
Farmer husband says they'll make good fryers one day...
I covered their ears and told them not to worry.
Each one promised to lay a bounty of eggs and eat all the bugs in the garden.
So, they are happily cozied up in the wash room right next to the dryer.
Because even though it is officially Spring,
the weatherman has put out freeze warnings...
for Texas!  In May!!!
That's just plum wrong!
But the Spring Puffballs in my laundry room don't seem to mind!
May your weekend be filled with the sweet wonder of new life,
wrapping your heart in the downy softness of precious hope...
The Puffballs of Spring have arrived.
Blessings and Joy,
                Always, Jane