Mar 31, 2009

Happy 29th birthday, Andy!

A picture is worth a thousand words...we are proud of you, son!

Mar 27, 2009

"When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die." -- Jim Elliott Mar. 25, '57

Today I post a small tribute to my dad on the 1st anniversary of his passing. On Palm Sunday of last year, he wasn't feeling well and hadn't been out of bed for a couple days. My husband and I went to visit him in the early evening, and I tried my best to persuade him to let us take him to the hospital. He laughed out loud: "that's the LAST place I want to go!" I knew it was a lost cause, and we eventually said goodnight. As I turned to leave, he spoke those coveted words, "I love you Jacque" as he gave me a wave of the hand. Honestly I don't know that I ever heard him say that before! I've always known my father loved me, but the words just about stopped me in my tracks. "I love you too, Dad!"

A few days later mom called to say dad really did need to go to the hospital and this time he didn't put up much of a fuss. We got him in the front seat of my car and all he could say was "I can't believe this is happening. Do you think we're doing the right thing?" The days following are mostly a blur and its hard to place the sequence of memories. Finally when it was determined that he would be released to in-home hospice care, he was so excited. He wrote the night nurse a note "no breakfast tomorrow, I'm going home!" He then asked if he was supposed to be preparing to die, and stated emphatically that he was not afraid to go home to die.

My father died the way he lived--peacefully and at peace with himself, with God, and with his family. There was nothing left he had to do but pass from this life to the next. God graciously granted him the dignity of a smooth transition as his family shared the final sacred moments.

Back in the '70's I bought dad a little plaque with this poem on it, attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it was read at his funeral:

"That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who leaves the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it;
who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had."

There will never be another dad like my dad. We all miss him terribly, but we know it is a temporary separation. The pain of loss we feel today will pale in comparison to the joy we will share in our eternal home.

I can't close this without mentioning that my husband's father also passed away on March 27, three years to the day before my dad. That's another story for another time, but how fortunate that these anniversaries fall during the Easter season. We will always have reason to renew our hope in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as we remember our earthly fathers.

"...because I live, you will live also." John 14:19

Mar 15, 2009

Holy Cannoli!

Here's my first attempt at homemade Cannolis.
I definitely did not want to deep fry the shells, so I made pizzelles and my husband and I had a great time trying to figure out how to roll them on the steel form without breaking them, holding them just long enough to cool. I got a filling recipe off the internet and its basically ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips. The filling turned out just a bit thinner than I had hoped, but it sure didn't affect the taste! I sprinkled some powered sugar on top, and drizzled chocolate syrup over it all. If anyone has tips for me, I'm all ears, or I guess I should say I'm all "eyes". I'm determined to perfect this before our next family reunion, which is a little over a year away! Even though I won 1st place last year in the spaghetti sauce contest, I really want to win the dessert contest next time. It would be a huge hurdle, because we have some really great dessert makers in our family!

Mar 14, 2009

Confessions of a perfectionist...

Jill Briscoe, in her book 8 Choices That Will Change a Woman's Life, refers to what she calls "The Perfectionism Trap". How often I have wondered how much of life I have missed by being firmly caught up in perfectionsim. I've even considered a theory I've created, that perfectionism is somehow related to birth order. Specifically speaking, to first-borns. I'm a first-born, the daughter of a first-born. I'm married to a first-born, and I think I've passed the disease to my own first-born.

Unlike my more carefree friends and family, I can't leave the house until my face is made up and my hair is fixed. I can't begin a cooking project until the kitchen is perfectly cleaned up before I start. I hate going on a road trip if the car isn't cleaned and everything in an organized and readily accessible place. A few years ago, my then new daughter-in-law, while observing me, asked "do you iron everything?" I'm the only sibling of the six of us who didn't complete a college degree. Why? Because I dropped out when I got my first 'B'. And that was almost 2 years into it. There's a whole lot more I could confess, but you get the idea. It's torturous to think of how many opportunities I have passed up, or how many of God's gifts I have wasted, by giving up instead of persevering through the tough times and allowing stumbles and falls to sideline me.

The sad thing is, while I'm busy trying to present myself as something "perfect", without a doubt it's all too obvious to even the casual observer that I am anything "but"! And it's really quite lonely to be in this trap because to keep up the game, one must constantly try to hide part of oneself and only present the "put together" parts.

Enter God! While it is taking a lifetime to really "get it", it is so freeing to know that He has me covered. God came to earth in Jesus to live the perfect life I could never live. It's mind-boggling to think that when He looks on me, it is through the lens of the cross, and in spite of myself, He alone sees me as perfect. Not because of any of the goofy perfectionistic things I do, but only because of what He has done in the perfect work of Christ.

Easter and the cross are particularly meaningful to the "perfectionist". A good Lenten meditation, I think.

Mar 11, 2009

Have you heard my crib story?

I've told this so many times and once again to a friend just yesterday, so I thought I'd get it out in writing. This is the baby crib we bought thirty years ago, second hand. Nothing special about it except it slept my two how much more special can it be than that? About seven years ago a friend was collecting baby supplies for a young Russian couple who were living in married student housing at Kent State, expecting their first baby, and with very little money, needed just about everything. I offered my crib, which I was hanging on to in the event I ever needed it for grandchildren, who were not even on the radar screen at the time. Tonya and Sergi once had us over to their place for dinner and we so enjoyed seeing their little girl using our crib. We told them to use it as long as they needed it, and we would get it back eventually. Time passed, the Russian students moved to another city, as well as our mutual friend. I wistfully said "goodbye" to my crib in my mind, and really never thought any more about it. Until in 2005 when I found out we were going to become grandparents! The sentimental thought of "oh my crib" quickly ran through my brain, and I felt a pinge of sadness that I had saved it all those years and now wouldn't have it when I wanted it. If you've ever doubted that God cares about the tinyest things in our hearts, doubt no more. That VERY DAY I received an email "Hi Jacque, it's Tonya. Remember me? I have your crib. We used it for two children! I want to return it. We will be in your area this weekend." I'm not making this up! But wait...there's more! A couple more years passed, and while walking through the atrium at our church, who do I run into but Tonya and Serji? They've now moved back to the area and are new but vibrant, growing Christians, and Tonya is now in my Thursday morning ladies bible study, sitting right next to me. I thought I'd recovered a crib, but really I gained a friend.

Mar 10, 2009

full of dreams...

Here's a candid shot from the wedding we attended last Saturday in SC. Congratulations to Emily and Gus! This beautiful 20-something couple stand here full of hopes and dreams as they begin their new life together. I'm sure there are some fears, too. But mostly dreams. My husband and I had lots of time to talk on our 10 hour drive back home from the wedding weekend. We marveled at how it seems like only yesterday that we were 20-something, with our whole lives ahead of us. And then we started to do something we haven't done in a while, but should do more often. We talked about possibilities for our own future. In other words, dreams. We asked each other open-ended questions. We listened to each other. This was not a time for problem solving or decision making. Just a time to think and talk. Safely. A time to share with each other what is in our heart of hearts. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to dream out loud. We may be getting older, but not too old to dream. While we don't know how much time we have ahead of us, we have today. What a gift and treasure!

Mar 4, 2009

Life Transitions: Letting go of your kids

My husband and I have been good friends since we were teenagers, and have been married now going on 33 years. We are still best friends and I always thought that alone would protect me from the so-called empty nest syndrome. I never expected to have any emotional struggle at all when my kids grew up, left the nest, and started their own families.

Much to my chagrin, I was wrong. Our older son has been married over six years now, and our younger son, almost four. I feel now that I'm on the other side of the struggle, and I can safely talk about it.

We are totally convinced that our sons each have the perfect mate to complement their own personalities and natures, and we love both of these women and consider them as daughters. It had to be a God thing, as we prayed long ago, when our sons were still little boys, that God would someday bring the right women into their lives for that very reason. What comfort that gave me, in the midst of my struggle to let go.

Over the last few years I've thought a lot about why it was so hard. There are so many reasons! I always felt my job as "mom" trumped every other job I had with the exception of "wife". We lived around our color-coded calendar posted prominently on the refrigerator. We had 16 consecutive years of year-round organized sports that our boys were engaged in. We went through two mini-vans. I cooked, I cleaned, I shopped, I organized, I laughed, I cried, I prayed. All the things every "involved" mom does. And I loved my job!

Then it seemed like suddenly life as I had known it for 20+ years came to a screeching halt. It was something like getting laid off. Left to my devices to find a new normal. And it came at a time in life when a bunch of other life transitions were beginning to happen as well. Parents get older and need help, and sometimes they die. Our always steady-on breadwinner got "downsized", not once, but twice in six years' time. We became grandparents, ready or not.

I clearly had a choice. I could either embrace my "new" life or spend the rest of my days kicking and screaming, as if in rebellion against some natural law. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot I don't understand. Like why does God put so much love and sense of responsibility into the heart of a mother, then ask her to allow her little chicks to grow up, leave the nest and cleave to another? Why does it take so long for mothers to realize we will only have our children in our care for such a small percent of their lifetime?

I just talked to a mother yesterday whose son will be married this coming weekend. She's having a hard time. I tried to share what I've learned. I'm praying for her. I've been there, and it's hard. I told her to give it some time, because I've discovered the rewards are so great. You really do gain a daughter when your son marries, if you allow it! And then the grandchildren come, proof that God knew what he was doing afterall. You get to experience that motherly love all over again, only this time without the heavy responsibilities.

Life is good. It really is. Letting go was so worth it.