Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Love you, Grandma

Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes it rolls over you like waves. Sometimes it hits hard and fast like a cold bucket of water tossed and splashed around. Sometimes its nearly silent, the tide rolling out and in again. Sometimes its shared, like you're all in the boat together, and sometimes its isolating, like you're out on a life raft, waiting out the storm, until help comes along.

I don't know why it's been this week specifically, but I've been missing my Grandma. She passed away in March, just 10 days before my baby boy was born. She was so excited to meet him and loved him him from the minute she knew he was coming. Makes me sad to think that she missed holding his sweet hands and seeing his ridiculously big grin. He would have loved her like I do, I'm sure. I would have enjoyed calling her and sharing stories or asking for her advice. She was always so full of wisdom. I miss my grandma.

Because I was so close to my due date when she passed away, we made the decision to not go to her funeral. It was the wise decision. She would have kicked my bottom if she knew that I'd traveled at that point in my pregnancy. She really would have.

While I wasn't able to be there, I was able to write down some thoughts that were shared at her funeral. Dad had asked for a paragraph. I went a little bit over. It's how it goes. How do you sum up one of your favourite people in the world in just one paragraph? You don't. That's all there is to it. You don't.

This week, missing her again, still, I reread what I wrote and thought that perhaps I could share it here. Maybe by sharing her in this way, she'll feel a little closer today.

This is what I wrote:

I wish so much that we could have been there today to celebrate Grandma with you all but I know, too, the scolding I would have gotten from her if we did anything to risk the life of the little one we’re waiting for so this will have to do. 
I know that at 35, I’m probably lucky to have had my Grandma in my life as long as I have and yet still it doesn’t seem like long enough. Just a little bit longer. Just a few days more. One more hug. One more phone call. The chance for her to meet the baby we’ve both prayed for. One more “I love you.” Still, I know it would never be enough. I’m so thankful she’s at Jesus’ side – she’s probably up to some mischief there – but I sure do miss her here. 
As I was sitting last night and crocheting for our little one, I began making a mental list of all the ways that Grandma is with me still. Things that she taught me and ways that she has shaped me. 
  • Perogies taste better when boiled with garlic. 
  • If you find the right spot for a plant, you really don’t have to have a green thumb.
  • Sometimes equal doesn’t mean fair but equal is important too. What you do for one you do for the other. 
  • Life is more fun with a bit of mischief and some sharp wit. I will always remember, the raised eyebrow, the twinkle in her eye and the laugh when she was up to no good. 
  • Recipes are a guidelines and measuring cups matter sometimes…but not always. A bit of this and a bit of that often works. If all else fails, taste. Did you ever see a skinny chef? 
  • Oh, and don’t ignore spices. There’s no need for boring food. 
  • Handmade gifts are best. They come with the deep love. 
  • There’s always room at the table for one more. 
  • Family is family and family comes first. Sometimes, I think Grandma loved us so deep she was blind to our flaws (thank goodness) but you will never find a better cheerleader or more fierce defender. 
  • You will never know unless you try…from foods to new skills to new endeavors and adventures. You never know unless you try.
  • Smile. And stand up straight. Being tall is a gift. 
  • Always say “I love you.” You never know when it’ll be your last chance. 
  • Marriage can and should be forever. It’s work, but it’s good work. 
  • One stitch at a time. And if it doesn’t work, just back up and start again. 
  • You are lovely. And loved. 
  • Family, life, happens around the table. 
  • Hard work matters. 
  • Its ok to be a little sentimental about things from time to time. 
  • Stories are meant to be shared and savored. I loved listening to Grandma tell stories.
  • There are things worth getting upset over and there are things that aren’t. Choose wisely. 
  • Messes can be cleaned up. 
  • Family isn’t just by blood. There’s always room to adopt a few more. 
  • Laugh. 
  • Pray about everything. God hears and God answers.
  • Each day is a gift. There was never a day that I asked her how she was that she didn’t respond with “thankful that the good Lord has given me another day” or “nothing to complain about. No one wants to hear an old lady complain anyway.” 
Most importantly, she modeled for me how to love God and love people. In every conversation I had with her, our shared faith in our creator came up in some way. She prayed for all her kids, grandkids and great grandkids to know His great love for them in a real and personal way. And she loved deeply, because her love came from Him. 
Her legacy and her life is in each one of us. We carry her lessons and her love with us every day. Love you, Grandma. 

Love Stacey (Colin, Marissa, Jenae and wee baby Miller)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm back

I'm back. I want to be. Perhaps I even need to be.
I have no excuse for my hiatus. I let fear get in the way. I was afraid of a certain situation and a certain someone and so I took a break. This place has never been about added stress for myself or those around me but about expression and peace. When I felt like it had become something different, something other than what it was intended for, I was afraid of where it would go and so I took a pause to examine. I wrote and erased, I wrote and saved for later, but I always paused before pressing "publish."  And, like any other habit, once you pause, sometimes it's hard to get going again and it becomes easier to not. Ever tried going to the gym after being gone for a while? Ug. Same principle has applied here for me. 

Now, though, I find I'm being drawn to it. Compelled to write down what's going on in my mind and heart. It helps me process and its good for me to create. Words on paper, black on white, thoughts contained and captured. I need a space to string words and thoughts together. If you choose to join me, welcome. If not, I'm okay with that too. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Being Renewed

A year ago, when I prayerfully began asking for my word for 2014, I realize now I was thinking small. So small. And that God had much bigger, deeper things in store. I was thinking of so many of the difficult circumstances in life that needed change and, truly, God wasn't blind to those painful places. Looking back, though, I think that what God was more interested in was my heart, my soul, my perspective, and my place with Him.

Like I said, God HAS stepped in to some of those ugly places. Right around Remembrance Day, my husband and I were noting just how far this year has brought us. How different life is this year compared to this time last year. It was mid November last year that he had lost his job. Mine was not much better. We were alienated from both daughters. Finances were tight. We were just taking slow, painfully frightening steps into church community. Our basement was a disaster. The past was pushing into our present with painful perseverance. We had experienced loss after loss after loss and hope was hard to be found. In truth, I felt like I was drowning and wondering where on earth God was in it all.

This year, we have seen change in some of those circumstances. My wonderful husband has been provided with a new job. One in which he feels respected and challenged, able to provide for us as a family. One of our daughters has returned to us. We're only a few days work away from the basement being finished (we will never, NEVER, renovate again). And, spoiler alert, we have a baby on the way! There is a different feeling of hope this winter season, even though not all of the tough stuff is by any means fixed or "gone."

Hope is a funny thing. Rarely, if ever, does it come from circumstance. One of the biggest changes for me has been a softening of heart, a renewal of relationship with God and His church that is hard to explain fully but something I am increasingly aware of and thankful for. We have made some choices in that regard. One of them has been returning to church community.  I don't know if I have posted yet about how that all came about. Short version is this: summer vacation 2013. Colin and I were on the ferry to Victoria to visit some friends. I was sitting on the deck of the boat watching the beauty of the BC coast pass by and I knew, I just knew, that it was time to go back to church after our season of rest, if that's what its called, or at the very least, of absence. As is his nature, when I spoke to Colin about it, he was truly supportive. I think his words were something to the effect of "I've just been waiting for you. Where do you want to go?" We chose a church close to home (proximity to community is important to us) that we knew had similar values and theology to what is close to our hearts. After a meeting with the pastor to answer some of our questions, we decided to make it home. There was no church shopping for us. It was time to get back into community and this was the place. We were, or at least I was, tentative at first. I think its probably a natural tendency of the broken to be tentative and cautious. For me, this was a step, maybe even a leap, of vulnerability, not just with church and organization and community but with God himself. Let me be clear. This was not just about "going" to church. To me, its been about being open to God's timing and God's plan, which truly is perfect, even when it felt like He had completely and utterly forgotten us. We entered into His community just before crap really hit the fan for us.

God has been faithful. He has found me in my vulnerability and reluctant obedience and given me what I didn't know I needed - not the renewal of circumstance I expected but a renewal of Spirit. Through the people there He has provided community, friendship, support and encouragement. In the last year He has spoken deeply into my Spirit. He has healed, or at least, is healing, this broken heart of mine. Because of what He has been allowed to do there, more has come. I know I am different, perhaps more whole, than I was a year ago because I have allowed Him to move in me. God has taken my one step of obedience, one tentative step towards what I knew to be true, to change me. He is dragging me, slowly and patiently, out of the darkness I felt like I was in and returning me to the lightness of His spirit.

He has me doing things I wouldn't have imagined a year ago. Our church does what they call Covenant Community. I suppose you could call it membership. Just recently, my husband and I made the commitment to join community. It wasn't about being "members" for us, about whether we could vote or be on the "in" with decisions. It had very little to do with organizational church of structure to me at all. I felt like it was another important step, a building of an alter if you will, like in the Old Testament when they built alters to mark significant meetings with God. We were saying that we're here. We're not going anywhere. These people will be our family and this place will be our home. We commit to following God together and allowing Him to continue to change and shape our perspective, to continue to provide the hope and renewal He has begun. We will allow Him to use us there, in service, to do what He needs to do.

An important part of the process was reflecting on and writing down my journey of faith. This was the testimony I gave to the church that day:

I was practically born into the church. I am the oldest child of a dad who was an elder and founding member of our church, a well known teacher in our small farming community and a farmer and friend to many. My mom was a leader and servant in her own right, an integral part of our church and community. Our church became an extension of my family and I learned early that one of the joys of community is doing life together. Through that family, I learned the stories of the Bible and watched it lived out in real life. It was because of the lessons learned there that I met Jesus early, praying a child’s prayer at around 4 years old, asking Jesus into my life. I had opportunities to serve, to lead and to search out God’s will and gifting for me. 
My faith became real and truly hit home when I was about 9. I remember it clearly. I was at summer camp and the speaker was talking about just how much God loves us. He read John 3:16 and then asked us each to repeat it with him, putting our own name into the verse. “For God so loved Stacey, that He gave his only Son that she should have eternal life.” I knew that that was true and that that was a God I wanted to follow. That message of unconditional love, deep and unending, has been the foundation of my life and faith. 

It has been my goal to love and to serve Him since. I was baptized in June of 1998, after my first year of Bible College. I went on to get my Religious Education degree and have had the privilege of serving in ministry for almost 15 years, walking closer with Jesus, learning more about who God made me and having the opportunity to journey with so many dear people who were also getting to know Jesus better. Together we learned to love God and love people.

In 2010, things began to fall to pieces, making the last 4 years some of the hardest of my life. I have wrestled in my faith, moved out of ministry, struggled with my belief and trust in people and had my self esteem beaten and battered. I have wondered if God is there and wondered if there is anything good left for me. Hope has been hard to find.

Yet through it all, even though I didn’t always feel it in my heart, two truths that have shaped my life remained: God loves me and He wants us to walk in community. 

Last July (2013), I knew it was time to return to church. Even though I was afraid and even though I was wounded, I knew that was what God wanted for us. There was something there for us that was important. Our first Sunday was a timid step of obedience. Sunwest has been our home since.

Every year, instead of choosing a New Year’s resolution, I try to prayerfully choose a word. This year’s word has been renew. There are so many aspects of life that have needed (and still need) renewal. We are thankful to have Sunwest as a part of that renewing journey. 
I feel a little bit like I'm rambling and not fully getting to the depths of what God has, is doing. Let me put it this way: I feel like I am slowly climbing out the other side of a dark valley. It's uphill and has changed my perspective. It is hard work but I am not alone. He is walking with me and I'm beginning to see the light glimmering over the horizon at the top. I am learning that He who began a good work in me will follow it through to completion. If all I can is this, that God has not forgotten me, this I know, then I am better than where I was a year ago. Some days, that's what it is...still one fragile, broken step in front of the other, simply knowing I am not forgotten in the mess. Some days its more. Some days I feel like he's closer. Present. And I'm starting to see His movement in life around me again. It's not all sunshine and roses. Some areas are downright nightmarish. God is in those moments too.

That is a perspective I needed to have renewed. That is where there is hope to be found. There are so many little, circumstantial things that still need to change, so many that I need take responsibility for - habits to restore, mindsets to change, steps to take - but it all seems a little less daunting looking at it from a different perspective (someone remind me of that when I'm a tearful puddle on the floor next week!!).

Who would have thought that seeking a simple word could be used in such a way? Do I dare ask for more?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Life Aquatic :: Donkey's Day at the Pool

It's recreation. You'd think it would be fun, and some days it is, but usually it's 29.9 degrees, 79 percent humidity, grumpy people and, well, work.

So we make our own fun.

Donkey came to the pool. The girls took one look at him and were convinced that I have a fabulous ass. We spent all day chasing that ass around the pool, making bad jokes.

Look at that ass in the pool. There's always one, isn't there?
Lazy ass hitched a ride with Gertrude.

How on earth did you fit that ass into there!?

The diving board is broken! Get that ass off of there.

Sit that ass down on the slide. No standing.

Check out that hot ass in the hot tub!

You don't like our rules?  Think that lifeguard is a real ass?
A real ass? You might be right.
Then that ass decided he wasn't getting out of the pool.
Then that ass decided he wasn't going to get out of the pool when we closed.
Who can argue with an ass? This is how the morning staff found him.
He came back the next night. Silly ass.

And the next. That ass thinks he's really funny. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

To Love and Be Loved

**This post was written last October but, for a number of reasons, tucked away. Today I found it and decided to post it. **

Have you ever had that moment where something new and different - perhaps a new place, or a new group of people - bring you back to exactly where you began? I had one of those today. My sweet husband and I are embarking on a journey back to church community. For so many reasons, it is a journey back and while it is in so many ways old and comfortable and home and same and about obedience, it is still new and different and a little bit frightening. It is indeed a journey back.

That Sunday, participating as a part of this new community, I was reminded of one question. A question that drove me through my degree and the classes I took at the masters' level. The question that influences me in my day to day interactions. The question that for so long, took over the reading I did and the things I discussed with other church leaders. This one question motivated the lessons I planned and the way I taught my leaders in my different leadership and ministry roles. It was the foundation for the way I recruited. It, in many ways, shaped how (and why) we began this journey back to church.

What does it look like to live with a spirit transformed by Jesus?

I've come to the place where I sum it up like this, the way that Jesus did: to love God and to love people. I know I've said it before in my musing: the love that Jesus is talking about is active and all consuming. It changes how we think and live and move. It informs all things. Or at least it should.

See, living like Jesus can't be just about believing in him. In the message that Sunday, we were reminded of the scriptures teaching that even the demons, if Satan himself, believe in Jesus. They know he exists. They know he is real. They know he is the savior of the world and that he sacrificed himself.

But they don't live lives that are changed.

They don't follow him.

They don't love him.

And if we truly love Jesus and realize that he loves us, we can't help but live lives that are loving. We can't help but be transformed from the inside out. See, then it's not our actions that make us followers of Jesus. It's our hearts. And it's because our hearts are following Jesus that our actions change. 

Round 2

I've decided it's unlikely I'll have time to post an extended review on the playoffs - I've barely even been able to catch a game thanks to this crazy shift I'm working (working nights is hard on life). That said, I still have my four picks ready to go.

Eastern Conference
Boston over Montreal - I hate to say it. Loathe, really. I hope Carey Price can steal the series but, barring that, I still have to pick Boston.
Pittsburgh over New York - again, don't really like it, but here we are. It seems I'm all about the goaltenders this season - Lundquist could be the New York solution to Pittsburgh but I'm still not convinced.

Western Conference
Chicago over Minnesota - Have I mentioned I hate Chicago? And yet....
LA over Anaheim - This is the only series that I'd be pleased to see my pick actually win!

So there you have it. Time will tell.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Current Read - April 20, 2014

It has been a long time since I've written one of these. I've certainly spent more time hiding myself in the stories of others than writing my own. For a season, I'm convinced, that's okay. The truth is, I have had so much in my head, so much in my heart, but it hasn't felt like the time or the place to pour it all out. It's like Thumper was taught by his momma, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." And I haven't. So I haven't.

But today, on a day to celebrate newness and life and restoration, it seems like this is a good, safe place to start.

So stories. I have read piles and piles of stories. Words written on paper and giving rest and, at times, escape.

I have read (from most recent to oldest):

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now, Gretchen Rubin - A continuation on her first project, it's more of Gretchen's story on how to live life, in the context one finds themselves in, seeing the beauty, the fun and the happiness there is to be found. The fun thing is, while I wouldn't choose to do all of the same things - some are certainly applicable and resonate - the truth is, her search is inspiring. Who couldn't use a bit more happiness at home?

The Help, Kathyrn Stockett - My confession is that I didn't think I would like this one. I don't normally get all into the "drama" category. Not often anyway. I read it more out of curiosity. It's been on the best seller list forever. My friends that read all seemed to enjoy it. Book clubs have devoured it. A movie has been made out of it. And with good reason. It's unique and honest. The characters are real and loveable - well, at least most of them..the rest you just love to hate - diving into the issue of black versus white and white versus black, people with differences on the outside but all the same hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations on the inside yet still coming at them from very different perspectives.

Cress - Marissa Meyer - The third in the trilogy. Fun to the end. So fun. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (books 1-5), Rick Riordan (oh, and I watched the movie adaption of Sea of Monsters. It was actually pretty good. For a movie based on a young adult fiction. But then again, we liked the first one, The Lightning Thief, in this house too.)

The Happiness Project: Or Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun, Gretchen Rubin
A project to find more happiness. You know what I liked the most? It's not like so much of this type of thing in society. She was not in crisis of any sort, in fact, life was good. It wasn't about being a victim but about building a "bank" of sorts, a series of habits to rely on, so that if life were to get tough, like it often does, she would be prepared to face it. It wasn't about being a victim and expecting someone or something else to the work of "making" her happy. It wasn't about having more or getting more or having to make big changes to the context (like move) in order to be happy. What it was, was about finding the moments of brightness, of happiness, within her already there life and enjoying them. Like stopping to smell the roses. Making the choice. Taking responsibility for her own happiness. Making the choice to be happy with who she is and what she has. What a novel concept. And yet oh, so needed, and so deeply refreshing. I feel like this is one that I'll likely read more than once.

Crossed - Ally Condie
The first book in the series, while young feeling, caught my attention enough to bring me into the pages of the second one. It picked up right where the first one left off except that now, instead of just questioning the existing structure, Cassia, the main character, chooses to leave what she knows in search of a new future, new adventure and possibly even a new society. And now, that I'm two thirds into the story, I may just have to pick up the third book.

Matched - Ally Condie -They choose when and who you marry. They choose who you die. They choose what you eat and where you work and what you study. They. And everyone goes along with it. But what if something changes that causes someone with a bright future to question whether they should or whether they really know what they're doing? Another utopian, challenge the regime book, in the wake of young adult fiction books like Divergent but, unfortunately, this one comes off being a bit younger feeling than the others. I can't quite put my finger on why. 

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the full love of Story of Christmas, Ann Voskamp - Sometimes the holiday season gets so full and busy that it's hard to see the truth of Jesus in the midst of it all. Voskamp's devotional focuses on the truth of the manger and how it ties through to the prophecies of the old Testament. It sounds so dry when I say it like that but the style of it is such that it comes alive and makes it beautiful. True. Even holy. I think this might be a part of our household holiday traditions.

A Tale of Three Kings - Gene Edwards - A sweet friend who knows much of our story over the last couple years recommended this one. Actually, she insisted that I had to read it in light of everything. Then one of the pastors I shared life and ministry with at Journey told me the same thing. Two people I respect, trust and know me well so read it I did. And I'm glad. Solomon. David. Absalom. Three kings with different stories but all needing grace and forgiveness and hope. What struck me most profoundly was the message of hurt, loss and betrayal experienced, at the hands of other believers and how each character dealt with it differently. Hurt, loss and betrayal are emotions I know well and even just knowing that there is enough truth to them to write a book made me feel a little less alone and, in company, brings hope.

Scarlet - Marissa Meyer  -The first book in the series, Cinder, took to space and political crisis the story of Cinderella, twisting it into something unique and different but strangely similar. Scarlet brings to life the little red riding hood and the big bad wolf. And then the two characters collide in the midst of political breakdown, potential global takeover, and the threat of war. The only problem I had with this one was that when I finished the last page, I didn't the third and last book waiting for me to start.

The Infernal Devices (books 1-3), Cassandra Clare - I think I liked these better than the Mortal Instruments. Set approximately three generations before the events of the Mortal Instruments, it prefaces the stories of the other series and yet still tells its own, full of battle, suspicion and magic.

Allegiant, Veronica Roth - I don't know if I've ever been as angry at a book as I was at this one. Seriously. With each page approaching the end hoping I kept hoping it wasn't going to end the way I feared, and, when it did, I threw it one the floor. Really. But I don't want to ruin the fun for the rest of you reading through the series. Enjoy.

City of Lost Souls, Cassandra Clare
The story of the shadowhunters, full of love, loyalty, betrayal, fear, sacrifice and family continues. Husband has lost interest, I think. Too much teenage angst, perhaps? And he's probably right. The story has probably been drug out one book too long but I need to see it through to the end. It's just the way I am.  The story gets bigger, the characters take on a little bit more and I just have to know. I want to find out where it goes and, in the battle of good and evil, who will actually win. Because that's what it's about, isn't it? Good and evil? Love and hate? Hope and fear? Loyalty and betrayal? Somewhere, deep down, we're wired to hope that good can and will overcome. Always. So there's one more book to wrap the story up. Thinking I might pre-order. Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. 

I feel like I'm missing a few but I can't remember what I'm forgetting. I suppose it wouldn't be forgetting if I could. That's the thing about forgetting.

Now there's this one. My current read:

Fall of Giants, Ken Follett

I loved the last Follett books that I read. I also enjoyed that my dad recommended them to me. So when he told me about these, I couldn't help but hunt them out. Spanning the stories of families over generations through some of the biggest global confrontations in history, the Century Trilogy combines historical truth and fantastic, gripping fiction...and I'm barely a third of the way into the first book. It's a big book. A really big book. Even so, I've already encountered Welsh coal miners, German spies, American ambassadors, Russian plant workers, police and peasants and English royalty. I think this one's going to be good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Round 1 Picks

For the last several years, I've been posting my picks for each round and my thoughts on the match ups. This season I'm a little bit behind. My days since the round was finalized have been full - I think work is taking it's toll and getting more than just the best of me. Regardless, here's a quick look at the teams I choose. If I can, later this week, I'll expand. But, for now, I choose:

Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh over Columbus
New York over Philadelphia
Boston over Detroit
Montreal over Tampa Bay 

And, with slightly less confidence, and I hate to admit that, I choose:

Western Conference (the West, in my opinion, is way harder than the East!)
Dallas over Anaheim
St. Louise over Chicago
Colorado over Minnesota
LA over San Jose