Sunday, April 29, 2012

Still Hangs with Mom

What's better than a "Mom & Noah Day?"  An unexpected and unplanned one!

For the past few years, Noah has gone with me to an annual Indian breakfast.   A local oncologist opens his home each spring as a benefit to the American Cancer Society.  Noah, being just as adventurous of an eater as I am, it's something we've come to look forward to each year.  Hard to believe though that the little kid I first brought along is now taller than me!  This year, though we were scurrying out the door, I managed to think and pause long enough for a photo.

We were somewhat rushed Saturday morning because we had a certain time to be back in town.  Living nearly an hour from the breakfast, it also meant we had a specific time we needed to leave.  Though we made it to the breakfast on time, we didn't have the luxury to leisurely eat and go out back for a stroll through their picturesque backyard.  However, in the short time we were there, we made the most of it.

Noah tried everything but tossed me several items, one toothy bite missing from each.  As he lapped up the syrup and melted cream from his waffle, I caught him eyeing mine.  Actually, he was at first glancing at the buffet.  My "Mom look" let him know without words it wouldn't be appropriate to go back for seconds, but I softened that news by sliding my waffle over to him.  He gladly accepted.

As we left with our bellies content, he softly grabbed my arm, a silent thank you and secret hug.  If that's all the one on one time we'd had yesterday, I would've been happy from that single moment.

Heading to my office, the closest place to change for our next stop, I noticed Noah's shoes.  Although we were on a tight time limit, needing to get home for a ballgame, I realized a shoe shopping trip was in order.  Though we'd just bought the current pair less than three months ago, his poor sock covered toes were hanging out the sides!  When I asked why in the world he didn't tell me (smacking myself internally for not noticing already), Noah responded with a shrug.


And though he'll only need those spiffy size twelves for a total of 13 days, as school is nearly out, they were worth every penny seeing him strut his stuff.  I might add, it was the quickest shoe shopping trip in my personal history,  helped in part because I totally avoided the women's section!  At any rate, we made it to the ball field on time, or if I'm being honest five minutes late, which considering all we packed into less than three hours, I'd say that's pretty impressive.

He trotted off to be with his team.  I figured this was the end of our day, though it was still technically morning.

Noah was dressed in his uniform but wasn't on the field to play.  The high school team called all the teams from the county to be recognized, one team at a time.  I chuckled a bit when Noah took the field, stopping at the dugout to shake the hands of the "big boys," especially since he was bigger than some.  And he's only 12.

We settled in to watch the game when an announcement came through that changed our plans.  A time delay found Tim an open fishing opportunity.  (He'd been itching to take out his boat for weeks)  And it found me and Noah with a free afternoon.  We opted to wait the game out out, grabbing a burger and keeping our shade tree spot.  A chunk of the day faded into early evening, cheering on our boys.

I thanked him for spending the day with me, knowing he could've just as easily hung out with his friends and other teammates who were littered around the stadium.  He smiled agreeing he'd enjoyed the day too.  Again I assumed that concluded our day and was one happy mom.

Once home, we had time apart during the evening busyness of preparing dinner and for church the next day.  But bedtime found him crawling up with me to watch tv, taking advantage that his dad was thoroughly enjoying his fishing time and wouldn't arrive home until midnight.  Tim prodded him off to his own bed in the wee hours of this morning.  I drifted back off to sleep, blissfully thankful for a complete morning to night quality time with my growing boy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Faithful Friday: Finding Rest

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
- Matthew 11:28-29

If ever there was a time I needed rest, it's now.  Life has been hectic and chaotic, both at work and at home.  I'd say sleeping would be the only time I've found rest lately, but being sick, that hasn't been true.  Catching "the crud" this week, I've suffered from the symptoms, tossed and turned, and even had nights of insomnia.  And it couldn't have come at a worse time for me. 

This time of year is typically busy at work, but a new project has had me exceptionally occupied.  The coming weeks will be even more hectic as we launch a new program.  While I'm excited about this opportunity, it's just been another added ball to juggle in an already full schedule.  Combine that with the new mix of baseball season and the addition of meetings, plans and events for an ending school season, and you've got one crazy Momma!

Normally organized, I am finding myself forgetful, rushed and unprepared.  Yesterday morning is a prime example.  Noah's 6th grade class is on an overnight field trip.  Typically, I would've had him packed a week before with a detailed plan for every little need.  All the boxes would've been checked.  Instead, his last elementary school field trip was filled with chaos, as I packed last minute, scurried to get him out the door on time, and realized on the way out that I'd forgotten to pack his lunch.  Knowing I had nothing in the frig to construct a decent sandwich, I opted to grab something on the way.  First stop, right by the school...nothing.  The clock was ticking.  Thus we began a frantic search for a simple sandwich.  It took 2 calls and 3 stops to find something, and a dreaded drive to Walmart, to pack a decent lunch Noah wouldn't be embarrassed to open.  I peeled into the parking lot with moments to spare.

Aside from the obvious, why am I so harried and stressed?  Well, I've noticed that May, looming on our calendar, is seeming a lot like our November.  As November has us bracing to relive the horrible moments of losing Austin, this May is  a hurtful reminder of what could've been.  This May would've been Austin's graduation.  2012 would've been his Senior year.  So many pages of his life, ripped out too soon.  And we're finding ourselves continually struggling with this knowledge, as the signs of celebration are all around us.

With every graduation announcement, prom picture, and other milestones we see others sharing, it is just a painful brick added to our already heavy hearts.  I'm finding myself living the versus of the Casting Crowns songs that have brought me so much hope before..."If I ever needed you, Lord, it's now" and "In the arms of Your mercy I find rest."

Though I could so easily spiral out of control, down into the deep dark hole that is grief, I'm trying hard not to.  Perhaps on the outside it appears I'm keeping my head above water, but below I'm struggling, churning and trying to stay afloat.  If it were all up to me, I'd drown.  It is only through Him that I know I can get through this.  This is just another season of sorrow that will pass.  Hard as these next few weeks will be, I must remind myself that I'm not alone.  Just has He has through this entire journey, God will be by my side, even carrying me when I don't think I can move forward.  I can look back and remember other difficult, even excruciating moments, on this path that this was true. 

So even while my physical body can't find rest, I can place my heart with God.  He will soothe my soul and hold me through June...and every step thereafter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cheeseburger is Back!

We've survived our first week of baseball season.  There's been tears, frustration, excitement and about every other emotion in between.  We've braved 40 mph winds, rain and winter-like temps.  And I've become a Martha Stewart in the laundry room, perfecting the art of removing grass stains from white pants.  All have been memories in the making!

I can't deny that with Noah's first game we weren't filled with reminders of Austin.  Baseball and Austin just went together.  It was touching that Noah asked to have his jersey number, 23, but I don't know that I was prepared to see it in the field again.  The fact that, at only twelve, Noah already has the build and frame Austin did at 14 added to the resemblance.  For a moment, Tim and I both were transported back four years ago to watching Austin play.

But ever his own individual, Noah quickly reminded us we were watching him.  Although he has many of his brother's best traits, (physically, character and athletic) he is 100% Noah. 

Unlike Austin, Noah's favorite sport has always been basketball.  As a young child, he enjoyed baseball but it wasn't his passion.  He played, partially I think, because of Austin.  It was something they shared.  And now maybe he's playing again as a way to remember him. 

It's been nearly four years since he's played and his hiatus was evident in his first few games.  Rusty, but ever the sportsman, he grew with each swing, every catch.  We've watched him transform in only a week's time.  Last night's game was his coming out party!

Noah's last season in baseball he earned the nickname, Cheeseburger.  It started as a joke.  Before each game, Tim would place a bet with him.  Make a base hit, get a buck.  Home run earns you a cheeseburger from the concession stand.  Now what Tim failed to remember is that Noah is and always has been good at every sport; but most importantly, that boy loves him some cheeseburger!  One game he did so well, the coach offered him a full meal deal.  By the end of the season, everyone was yelling Cheeseburger from the stands and he had an open tab at the stand.

While Noah still enjoys a cheesy meat patty, what speaks to him most at this age is dough.  Green dough that in CASH!  The first time Noah went up to bat last night, he struck out, but not without hitting a foul, which if straightened would've been sweet.  Tim retreated to the dug-out, whispered something to him, and returned.  I would later learn he offered him $5 for every base he reached on a hit. 

This was shared with me, as nearly weeping, Tim added up his debt with an amazing triple Noah hit in the last inning.  This, added to the $5 for a wow moment catch Noah made in the outfield, cost him a total of $20 for the game.  (Personally, my bank account suggests we go back to cheeseburgers!) 

But then again, seeing Noah's smile - both after his hit and especially all the way across the field after his catch was worth every penny.  In fact, it was priceless!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

PJ Saturday

An empty day on the calendar...could it be?  A completely free Saturday!  After a busier than usual week, the start of ball season, and the promise of many packed weekends to come, I had one thought this morning.  PJ Saturday!

A day of absolutely nothing.  Lounging on the couch, snuggled under blankets.  With these odd winter-like April temps, even a fire in the fireplace.  And of course, lots and lots of movies.  What isn't there to love?!

Well, actually my hubby could list a few.  He doesn't understand the concept.  Sitting still and doing nothing, not for him.  I managed to keep him around long enough to eat the dinner I ordered in.  (Hey...remember the theme here, folks)  But then he spent the day braving the wind and frosty weather to do busy work. 

A brief guilty spell allowed me to get our laundry done but that was the only lazy rule I broke.  The rest of the day was complete comfortable bliss.  My hair was not brushed, just tossed into a messy ponytail.  The same PJs I woke up in remained on my body all the way to bedtime.  I ignored the fact that the floors really needed to be vacuumed and I could probably measure the dust on the furniture.  And we had the same ordered-in leftovers for supper.  (insert gasp here)

It was amazing.  I soaked up every moment, stocking energy for another hectic week to come.  Now to check the calendar for when the next PJ opportunity awaits!

What's your favorite way to spend a free Saturday?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Faithful Friday: He Speaks

Have you ever been stunned when reading the Bible?  As if the words just reach out and shake you?  Or perhaps they fall down and envelop you like a hug?  I've noticed over and over again how many times this week, God has spoken to me through His word.

We discussed this several days ago in a church group we're a part of.  The leader, who happens to also be our preacher, mentioned how God uses scripture to move in our lives.  It isn't coincidence when we happen upon a specific verse or section in the Bible.  When a daily devotion comes across my inbox and I feel the message was written just for me, perhaps it was - or at least God used it at that time to speak to me.

Tim and I also read a devotion each night.  We are continually amazed at how that short passage is so timely with whatever we'd faced that day, or perhaps it is preparing us for tomorrow.  I've also noticed that often times a scripture or focus I'll write for Faithful Friday is reaffirmed to me that evening in our reading.  They are all certainly God-goosebump moments and I feel so blessed to experience them. 

At each point, it's as if God is just in the room, everywhere, and using that moment, a word, a sentence, a story to speak to our speak to us.  What a privilege!

And yet it somewhat saddens me to think about what message I might have missed on days I neglected time with Him.  In other points in my life when I wasn't so committed to reading His word each day.  It just shows me again how extremely important it is to make that time each day - and evening - with Him.

I heard or saw something this week that said, "What have you done today that is eternal?" and it resonated with me.  How many times do we feel "life" is too busy for God?  Or we make excuses about reading our Bible tomorrow, or that it's ok if we miss church this week. 

And even going a step above, what are the missed opportunities we had to share the message with others?  Were we too distracted to notice a friend, maybe a stranger, in need of God's love?  May I continually be reminded to remember why I'm truly here.  Ultimately the only To-do list that matters is bringing others to Him and keeping myself close to His side, listening as He speaks.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." - John 10:27

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Special Signs & Scholarships

It seems very fitting that we selected the winners for the scholarship fund started in our son's memory on the cusp of Volunteer Appreciation Week.  The Austin's Legacy Scholarship's main criteria is volunteerism and is rooted in the scripture,
1 Timothy 4:12.

Austin will always be known for his giving spirit and helping hands.  He loved to volunteer and jumped in enthusiastically at any opportunity.  As is etched on his stone, He lived a lifetime in his fourteen short years on this Earth.  Giving back, making a difference, and being an example for others is the legacy Austin left behind.

This would've been Austin's graduating year and so we decided early on to award multiple scholarships.  That decision would prove helpful, as our committee had a difficult decision between several excellent candidates.  In the end, we were able to recognize three outstanding young women.  We'll present their awards, totaling $1800, on May 1.

Of course Austin's spirit filled our home, as we met to make the decision.  The goose bump moment came in selecting our top recipient.  Each member of the committee reviewed one application at a time, scoring them at the end.  Once finished, we tallied their totals to find the average score and discussed top candidates.  As the group talked, and I calculated, my eyes filled with tears on our first choice.

Her total was 23.  Austin's favorite number, proudly displayed on every jersey he ever wore, and something he uses often to send us signs.  I sat there stunned, tearful, and very thankful that Austin could be a part of our selection.  What I hadn't shared with the group, until after we chose her, was that she and Austin were friends.  They grew up together, attended the same church, and sat beside each other every year in band.  I think everyone at the table was inspired and felt hugged by our sweet boy, as we left the table.

In a season that has so many difficult moments...wishing for the memories that will never be, yesterday was heaven sent.  Our family feels beyond blessed to share Austin's Legacy with three very deserving ladies.  And we know he looks down proudly on it all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Faithful Friday: Trusting Him

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6

It's hard for me trust.  This inability is perhaps one of my greatest weaknesses, as a person and a Christian.  Trust, for me, comes with time.  Personally, it must be "proved" and shown in actions over and over again.  If I'm let down or hurt, it's difficult for me to try again.  As a Christian, trust is a struggle, especially when you question things as much as I do. 

Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people? Why disaster strikes some and not others? Why people who seem healthy get sick?   I do, even though I know I shouldn't.  Maybe it's human nature.  Maybe it's just my personality. 

I wonder if I drove my Mom crazy with questions as a child?  Constantly, I was curious about how things worked, why things happened, and sought to learn as much as possible.  As a mother, those questions were welcomed by children, most of the time.  When they were little, it was a glimpse into their world.  As if they were a human sponge, with each question - and then answer, I could almost see their brain soaking it up.  I loved teaching them new things and letting them explore and grow. 

Yet, I can also remember being annoyed with questions, especially when they didn't seem necessary or when an explanation wasn't needed or available.  "But Why?" can tug at any parent's nerves.  And I wonder if that is sometimes how God feels with us.  Some things aren't meant for us to know - or understand.  As his children, it's just our responsibility to TRUST that he knows what is best.  I don't believe that God causes all bad things that happen, but I do believe he always has a hand in them.  If only to use the circumstance for good, whether to use it so that we lean on him more or to lead others to him, they are opportunities for spiritual growth. 

Today's scripture has been on my mind for many reasons this week.  I've learned that dear friends and close family members may be facing cancer.  Even though I work in that field - Cancer - is an ugly and scary word.  It makes you hold your breath, waiting for what is to come.  Personally, there's some decisions I'm wavering in and find I'm depending more on myself than God for the answers.  And there are other family members on my heart, some who are struggling with their own faith.  As someone who has been down that road, the deepest departure with the loss of Austin, I feel their pain.  I know what it is to doubt, to question, to wonder and even to anger at life's decisions and results.  God never promised His path would be easy but he did promise he'd be there every step. 

I'm reminded of possibly the first "favorite quote" of mine. 
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Over the years, that quote has held many meanings for me.  But today I can see it mirrored with the scripture above.  Our path, in this life, is sometimes uncertain.  It is sometimes filled with pain.  And it often feels like the ending will never come.  Taking that step forward can be frightening, especially if we feel we are alone.  But no journey in this life is truly taken in a single step because God is always walking right beside us.  No matter what you are facing today, he is there to walk with you, to guide you, and to support you through it all.  But it is only when you willingly give up your own expectations or demands and give the reigns to Him that those steps become less burdensome.
I think of it like this...I will walk any path in this life, no matter how many mountains to climb over or valleys to come out of, because I trust where it ends.  Though the next corner may be unseen and uncertain, I trust where this journey leads.  My trust in Him lets me know this is my path HOME, and because of that, it is worth every single step.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

I'm not a cat lover.  And it's not because I don't think they're beautiful...or smart...or enjoy their unique personalities.  It's because I'm allergic.  Sneeze my head off, itch all over, kind of allergy.  And for that reason alone, I steer clear of most cats.

So one might think it odd that I've been sad all week about a certain beloved cat in our family.  More than just sad, I've grieved.  Our cat, who's been a part of our home for over twelve years, is gone.  We took him to the vet today to end his aging pain. 

Filled with sadness I couldn't understand at times, I finally gave myself permission today to feel the loss.  I cried for a cat that has shared our lives for as long as we've lived in this home.  It was hard to say goodbye.  But I guess that's expected when you've spent over a decade with an animal.  He's the longest pet we've ever had in our family.

Tux, aptly named for his permanent tuxedo coloring, has been a constant in and around our house for as long as I can remember.  Shortly after moving here, my Aunt called asking if I'd like to have a cat.  I don't recall why she even had him but it was common for her to rescue animals and find good homes for them.  At first, I laughed, thinking immediately of my allergies; but then I thought of my husband, Tim.  His favorite animal is a cat and his childhood is filled with furry memories from former pets. 

Shortly after, I brought him home on a ride neither of us ever quite forgot.  I was thankful for a crate she let me borrow as Tux howled the whole 45 minute drive, a sound I'm not even sure I knew cats made.  As soon as we made it inside and I opened his door, he shot out like a cannon, straight for Noah's room.  Darting under his bed, he remained there for hours, growing accustomed to his new world.

For the next couple years, he remained an inside cat, sneaking out between our legs whenever the door opened an opportunity he wanted to explore.  Before long, the outside visits became greater and longer, even though he never strayed far from home.  Between my allergies and his accumulating dirt, he officially became an outside cat several years ago. 

Of course, by this point he was spoiled and we would occasionally allow him inside - for a cool respite from the scorching heat, or the warmth of a fire during a hard winter day.  He'd purr and circle our feet, knowing without words that he wasn't allowed on the furniture.  He was just happy to visit.

Tux greeted us good morning with a Meow and gentle scratch at the back patio door, signaling his need for breakfast each day.  Every evening, he'd be in the driveway, ready to say hello again, sometimes following us inside and to his food bag for supper.  He was our outside friend, as we'd enjoy coffee on the deck, time in the hot tub, or any other outdoor activity.  Not staying true to a Tom Cat mentality, he was always here.  A calm constant in our changing lives.

I joked that in a former life he must've been a Pope.    For his gentleness.  His great listening skills, which everyone in our family utilized.  His refusal to fight - against birds who stole his food or neighborhood female cats looking for a date.  And his quirky enjoyment in going for walks with us.  Before Tux, I'd never known of a cat who would go for a walk.  But Tux would and did, strolling beside us on the grass as we'd make evening strolls around our neighborhood.  No matter our pace, slow and romantic, or fast and aerobic, he'd keep up.  If the kids took off riding bikes, he'd often follow them too. 

And yes, he was a dog lover; Patch is just overly protective of his bones.
 Those walks grew less and less the past couple of years.  His whiskers and paws, once stark white, began to yellow with age.  His pace, once quick and strong became slower as he weakened.  That's to be expected with time though.  Tux lived a good, long life, of what we can only guess was over 15 years. Considering he spent more than the last half as an outdoor cat, that's especially true.

And although it was hard to say goodbye, even more so to watch Tim holding him to his last breath, I'm grateful for the time he shared with us.  He was worth every sniffle, each and every sneeze, and even all these tears today, because in the big picture he brought us far more joy than sadness.  If there's a special place for cat's to go, I hope he's frolicking in the grass and has a big comfy couch nobody will shoo him off of.  Tux certainly deserves it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg in a Bag

We have a favorite meal whenever we camp.  Noah actually taught it to us, after learning the recipe at a 4H camp.  I think that's one of the reasons we enjoy it.  The meal is so interactive, from start to finish, and is perfect for camping. 

Before we left for our trip, I spent an afternoon prepping our meals.  This made whatever meal we were having so much simpler, allowing me to truly relax and be on vacation.  For our "Egg in a Bag" breakfast, I chopped and bagged all the omelet choices, knowing we'd have additional leftovers from other meals. 

The morning we had this, all I needed to do was heat up a pot of water and lay out the assembly line.

Each camper then brought their Ziploc bag (slider type, sprayed with Pam), inserted into a solo cup, just to keep the cracked the eggs from slipping across the table. 

We dropped two eggs in each bag and then the fun begins.....squish, squash, squish!

Once mixed, everyone gets to add their favorite ingredients to the bag......ham, cheese, onion, green pepper, mushroom, the options are endless.  And because each bag is as individual as the owner, everyone is happy.

Another squish or two and then we're ready for the pot. 
The water needs to be boiling before dropping in. 
(Be careful not to let the edges touch the sides of the pan or burner or you'll have a gooey mess.)  Cooking time will vary based on how full you packed your bag - around 3-5 minutes.  You'll know it's done by checking for any liquid goo.

When ready, just open bag and roll out onto a plate. 
Because of the cooking process, it's not a meal that everyone can sit down to eat at once.  But, because others are busy mixing, adding, squishing or boiling,
everyone has something to do. 

And all that's left to do in the end is enJOY!

Whether camping in your backyard or a woodland retreat, try Egg in Bag with your family.  I hope it fills your belly and creates fond memories for years to come!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Faithful Friday: Spiritual Serenity

"Be still. And know that I am God."

Those words echoed frequently while on our camping trip in the woods this past week. Each morning, as the birds began their singing, sending their melodies back and forth as if in multiple duets, I heard "Be Still."

As the sun stretched across the skies,
reaching it's way to the tree tops, it shouted,
"Be Still."

The living oil painting, which danced across the lake,
changing with the wind or hour, whispered,
"Be Still."

The dramatic contrast between last year's decaying leaves
on the forest floor below the vibrant green life above, spoke... 
"And know that I am God."

It's hard to ignore God when you're surrounded by all his beauty and every day distractions are gone. When life is simple, relaxed and worry free.

But the spiritual peace that arrives from truly being still with God comes from so much more. That serenity can only be found in closeness with Him, in the knowledge of what a relationship with Him can do. For me, I'm reminded to Be Still when faced with devastation, tragedy or sorrow. I'm reminded to remember that He is God when I can't fix whatever problem I'm faced with in life.

This weekend is the perfect opportunity to Be Still and Know God. When I reflect on the sacrifice he gave for ME, I am in awe. It's impossible to be anytning but still. When I pause to remember and realize the wonder and miracle of what Sunday morning represents, I am so overjoyed that I do KNOW God. My hope is that you know Him too.

Wishing you all the blessings this season and Easter can bring to you and your family....

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