Monday, April 30, 2012

the happys. so many happys.

Feeling a lot of love these days. 
Joy-bringers all around.

A quick stop at the nursery last Saturday sure got me in the mood to get my hands in the dirt. Tomorrow's the big day to head outside and start planting. I think I'll share this year's garden plans with you all soon.

There on the doorstep, coming home that eventful day last week, this mother heart so tender and so full of emotions all a mixture, that secret admirer of mine strikes again.

Thank you, my dear. Always.

And aren't these the most beautiful roses you've ever seen?

She sent this surprise package in the mail on the day he left. "A raw food recipe book for a heart raw with love." she inscribed. Another pick me up, signed by the author herself. Looking forward to more "happy experimenting". (The chocolate chia pudding we made yesterday is fabuloso.)

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, Cathy, my adopted sister.

Those brownies you dropped by last night, Kristen, and the gentle touch on my arm at church, wanting to know how I was... thank you for these sweet tokens of love.

And speaking of friendship, it was so good today to catch up over lunch with Lori, my old neighbor and friend. So nice to feel like nothing has really changed after all this time.

Such a nice feeling, getting my sewing room back after all these months. All of his stuff packed and put away over the weekend. Making me all motivated to get these creative juices flowing again.

Noticing my wardrobe is in need of a little updating with the upcoming warm weather days. So... I justified my little splurge.

I just love the feel and look of linen.

I couldn't stop thinking about these fun and inspiring books I kept drooling over at Barnes and Noble for the last couple of months. I really like the simple styling, and all the variation options this Japanese book offers. 

Another self-gifted pick me up, I guess. Trying to find something to fill my days and fill my thoughts.

And tonight, even if it was just a little time to gather on the floor and play a quick game together. A happy way to end this good day.

Now, before I head up to bed, I've been thinking about how much your kind words and encouragement has meant to me, here in this space, on Facebook, or through sending me a note through email. It means so much to me that you, old readers and new, would take the time out of your day to stop by here. I feel like I need to do better acknowledging each of your comments. Every one is read and those sweet words you've shared with me are so very much appreciated and touch my soul. And it's totally fine if you are quiet, too. That's the way I tend to operate in my visits to other blogs.

Just want you to know that you are part of my happiness, friend.

(I really mean that.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Loving, Serving, and Sacrifice: a Measure of True Discipleship

After the events of this week, I felt like it was time for some spiritual renewal. My emotions are tender and this heart so full that tears are often at the surface. I had been looking forward all year to spending Friday at Women's Conference. I always come away soul nourished and emotionally replenished.

The sessions I chose to attend were perfect for me. Just like they were last year. It always seems to turn out that way.

~"Discipleship and our Ministry"

~"This is a Gospel of Grand Expectations, but God's Grace Is Sufficient for Each of Us"

~"Our Discipleship Need Not Be Dried Out by Discouragement or the Heat of the Day"

~"Homemaking Skills: Learn Them and Pass Them On"

As I sat there in that arena with the other thousands of women, young and old, all of us united in our love, and our faith, and our sisterhood, I felt such overwhelming feelings, to the point of warm tears welling my eyes. All our voices raised together in singing this hymn. I wish I could give you a sense of the beautiful melody, but here are the words:

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another's lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof's safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I'll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I'll show that love by word and deed;
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

(text: Grace Noll Crowell)

These words sank deeply in my soul. This idea of sacrifice, service, giving, and suffering, which have been at the forefront of my mind, especially that morning as I was continuing to contemplate Gary's missionary departure and all that this entails for him, for our family, and for me as his mother. Stacey's comment left on my "a missionary" post the day before continued to set heavy on my mind. I again asked myself this question:

Why does loving hurt? Why do we continue to serve, sacrifice, and give to others, even when it sometimes, many times, causes our own pain and suffering?

I've asked myself this question many times. Especially as I've experienced this thing called motherhood.

I don't have all the answers. But I know some things for certain.

Loving isn't easy. In fact, it's downright painful, inconvenient, and difficult, sometimes.

Being pregnant and going through childbirth hurt. I suffered tremendously, both physically and emotionally for each of my children. My body, sick, sore, and bleeding, stretched beyond capacity, stretch mark scarred for life. Those nursing and baby years were not a piece of cake, either. Tired. So tired.

But I gave it all, and sacrificed it all and endured it all because of love.

Helping others outside my family circle, as well the sacrifice I've given in church service has not been been convenient or easy. There were times when I've felt stretched thin; giving my whole heart and so much of my time and energies to those that needed the help  and gifts I could offer.

And now, this next sacrifice: This offering up my son to God. This chance for him, out of his own free will and choice, to devote two years of his life helping and teaching others. Sharing our Savior's message of love, mercy, and redemption with others because of the miraculous and marvelous way it's blessed his own life. This is a small sacrifice of ours in the grand scheme of things.

Discipleship is made manifest by our own ministering.

We give when we love. We give because we are given much. And we grow and we stretch and we become better people when we engage in this loving, this giving, this sacrificing.

I'm grateful for the better person I've become, and hope to become, because of this gift of giving. Going through my own pain, suffering, and refiner's fire is sometimes the only way to understand, help, and truly love another. (And isn't that what Christ did?) I'm so pleased that my son is the type of individual that wants this gift, this growth, and this understanding in his life, as well. 

Even when it's not an easy thing to do.

So we can, and we will, and we must smile, even through the tears, and thank God for the chance to learn the greatest lesson we can learn in this life:

How to love.
What it means to love.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

a springtime fieldtrip

Isaac's teacher invited me to join the second graders today at Thanksgiving Gardens. (It's a local destination and gem in our community.) The Tulip Festival is coming to a close and how could I pass that up.

It was lovely, walking amidst all that beauty my eyes beheld. Observing and feeling the boundless energy of these sweet children. And with all that sensorial abundance without me, the quiet stillness and reflection I experienced within me, of where I am today, brought a sense of peace of which I'm grateful.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

a missionary

It's been a whirlwind of activity around here this week. Actually, this whole month, when I come to think about it.

An emotional rollercoaster, too.

And now, I'm sitting here trying to digest it all.

It was good of Keith to take the day off yesterday. Divide and conquer is how we knew everything would get done. Last minute errands, the packing, the moral support, being there for each other and for Gary.

Towards evening, I got busy in the kitchen making his favorite dinner, highlighted with a big pot of Jambalaya (our Louisiana heritage coming through), a loaf of homemade bread from Mama, and a storebought lemon meringue pie for dessert. Then it was off with family and other loved ones for Gary's "setting apart" (or ordination) as a full time missionary by our local ecclesiastical leader.

I got up early this morning and made another favorite of his- homemade biscuits- with fried eggs to make breakfast a little more special. Again, as I was standing in that kitchen in my nightgown with apron donned, I realized again that this work that I do in the kitchen, this holy work, is a powerful way to bless and manifest my love to my family. I wanted Gary to feel that.

Again, a few more errands to run this morning and last minute checking off of the packing list. "Did you remember this? What about that?" And can you believe that last night we realized that there was a required immunization that we had thought was up to date, but actually wasn't, and so we scrambled to get into the Dr's  first thing and get that DPT shot. What a great send off !

The mood at home today and yesterday was loving and good, and despite the stress and hurried-ness, we all felt surprisingly at ease and relaxed. All the while, the growing feelings of meloncholy and impending separation looming.

Right before heading out the door today, Keith layed his hands on Gary's head, bestowing a father's blessing. This prayer, this sweet tradition this has always been in our home whenever the children are ill, are starting a new school year, are going far/ moving away from home, or any time they need comfort, guidence, healing, and reassurance of not only their earthly father's care and concern, but more importantly that of our Father in Heaven's constant and abiding love.

We gathered, too, in a circle to kneel in family prayer and listened to Eliza's sweet words of faith and gratitude and pleading for her brother.

We all thought a stop at the Creamery for lunch and ice cream  sounded like a good plan since it's very close to the Missionary Training Center where Gary will be staying for the next three months before leaving for Finland.

This is the place where young men and women, as well as retired couples, begin their training to serve as volunteer missionaries for a period of 18-24 months. Did you know that there are approximately 52,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving in 120 countries of the world? Here's a little bit more about what our son will experience for the first three months (because of the difficulty of the Finnish language, one more month of study is added to the normal stay at the Missionary Training Center) of his missionary service:

"Each Wednesday several hundred missionaries enter the Provo MTC. The eager missionaries enter an exciting world of learning. The MTC curriculum consists of up to 12 weeks of studying doctrine, learning to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively, and developing excellent communication skills. When missionaries are called to serve in foreign lands, their training also includes learning a new language. The Provo MTC is well known for its language teaching program. Approximately 50 languages are taught at the Provo MTC. The teaching staff is composed largely of former missionaries, who are well acquainted with missionary life...."

"The Provo MTC is a beautiful campus designed to accommodate up to 4,000 missionaries. The facility includes a large gymnasium, cafeterias, a medical clinic, a bookstore, a mail center, laundry facilities, classrooms, and residence halls. A day at the MTC can involve many different activities, including visiting the cafeteria, enjoying some exercise in the gym, and engaging in personal study. Missionaries spend much of their time in classroom activities."
"Although the MTC has excellent facilities and an outstanding training curriculum, missionaries feel that the spirit of the MTC is their best learning and teaching aid. The MTC experience is the fulfillment of a life-long dream for many missionaries, and yet they anxiously await the day when they will depart to their assigned missions. After weeks of training, missionaries leave prepared to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people around the world. " 

As you can probably imagine, it's not an easy thing to sacrifice it all to serve a full time mission. To leave the world behind in the prime of your life.

It's not an easy thing for a parent to send a beloved son or daughter out in the world to a far off place. Hearing his or her voice only on Christmas Day and on Mother's Day. To have the communication  be by a once a week email.

But we do it out of love.

This love and gratitude for our Lord that we serve.

And despite this moment of victory, of this day of celebration, this pride, this excitement for this precious son of ours, there's a profound sense of separation. Of longing. Of this mother heart physically aching. This heart almost breaking. The sobbing, raw emotion holding you close and kissing your face, hoping you'll be okay and knowing we're both letting go and not being able to swallow that hot lump in your throat that just isn't going away.

How can you feel all these feelings at once?

How I'll miss you, Gary.

Seeing your body all curled up on the couch in those dark, early morning hours.
Not hearing the click and close of the door when you've come home late at night.
Not hearing your happy voice, "Hi!" on the phone multiple times a day.
Not hearing your ever cheerful, musical whistling, knowing you're around and that you are in happy mood.
Not picking up your dirty socks in a heap on the floor.
Not being able to stroke your fine, smooth hair.
Not being able to share those deep gospel, literary, and lessons of life discussions of ours.
Not having that moment of mother-joy when I see your car pull up against the curb.
Not hearing your music.
Not having you and Ivana around the kitchen table doing puzzles and eating my food.
Missing your sweet Gary smell.
Holding you in my arms.

So goodbye, sweetheart. May the Lord bless you and keep you. You'll be in our prayers, in our hearts. Constantly. We're cheering you on. We are so grateful and happy you've chosen this path. So proud of the person you've become and the person you are now becoming. Your light shines. You'll be a blessing to those Finnish souls who'll learn to love you and who you'll learn to love.

God be with you until we meet again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

our family

We finally found a time, all of us home and the weather just right, for taking some family photos. It's been a while since we've had an official/formal family portrait. I think we did an okay job of it, the amateur photographers that we are. So glad to have these beautiful pictures of us all together, smiling.

Something we'll each draw strength from in the days and years to come.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

a little reprieve

After this week's round up of those last minute items on the packing list...

After putting together what I called a "Little Taste of Home" cookbook (a collection of family favorite recipes) for him to use in his far off kitchen in Finland...

After helping him clean and move out of his apartment on Friday (still trying to figure out where to store all his stuff )...

After helping her move out of her dorm this morning and Monday's move back down to settle into her new place... (We decided to just leave everything in the van until then. Good idea, huh?)

Before he goes away on Wednesday for the next two years...

Well, we realized that we just needed some time together. Time to be a family. A quiet place, without the distractions. A little reprieve from all the pressures and the to-do lists.

A simple family picnic in the mountains on this perfectly beautiful spring day was our answer.

Being out in nature with those I love really brings me a lot of peace and happiness.

So grateful for this time.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

quiet morning kitchen

I love this space.
This space that I've created.
Where I create.
Where I nourish.
And am nourished.
I like this morning light.
My favorite time of day here.
My favorite spot in this house.
Peace and quiet today.