Friday, January 23, 2015

Birthday Blessings

I anticipated that Noah's 15th birthday would be bittersweet and filled with emotions.  It's a celebration milestone we didn't have a place card for, as Austin only lived to 14.  Prayerfully, thankfully, it was a joyous and peaceful weekend.

True, there were definite moments that tugged at my heartstrings.  My baby shouldn't be surpassing his big brother, and yet he was -is.  I'm grateful, but a part of me still wishes things would've been different.  And there were moments of relief, release from the held-breath of a child-loss momma.  Surviving beyond the mark that Austin reached doesn't prove anything, life's moments have no guaranteed timeline, but it is something that often weighed on this mom's mind.

Going into his birthday weekend, there wasn't much planned, an unusual change from the regular festivities Noah has known.  Through the years he's had some "epic parties," or so he describes.  This year though, he had one simple request.  An acoustic guitar.

Noah's followed his mom in having a great love of music and it's always been his goal to learn to play the guitar.  In grade school he was in a bluegrass class that allowed kids to stay after and learn to play musical instruments. He loved those afternoons.  Not having the opportunity for that instrument after graduating to middle school, he sort of put the dream on hold.  Occasionally, we'd pass a consignment store window and he'd remark about the stringed beauties on displays.  This year he finally made his wish known.

Researching the price tags himself, he figured there would be no combining other events or activities, like we normally did.  Mom and Dad were very fortunate and frugal shoppers but reality was, there wouldn't be much extra.  And even though we knew he'd love the gift, I searched for something "more" to make it special.

Though his birthday didn't fall until Monday, we figured he'd enjoy having the guitar over the weekend so Tim and I began plans to present it Friday night.  Talking things through a great surprise developed.  I'm still in awe of how everything fell into place.

One of our favorite pizza places recently relocated and Noah had mentioned a few times of wanting to go there.  We decided that would be the perfect spot to present his present.  Tim stopped by there earlier in the day to see if they'd be willing to bring it out to him.  And I had the idea of seeing if anyone would play it while singing 'Happy Birthday' to him.  In asking, none of the staff knew how to play.  But wait, there was a new guy starting that night who was from Nashville and is a singer/songwriter.  Maybe he'd agree?  Wonderful!  Plans in place, we smile awaiting the big reveal.

We arrived and Noah had not a clue.  Typical of their business, they were swamped and I stewed wondering if the timing would work out ok.  At one point, near the end of our meal, I could faintly hear the strumming of a guitar and wondered if Noah would figure out the surprise, but he was too invested in their Reese's pizza to notice!

Once finished, the doors from the kitchen swung open and music began to play.  I'd describe the rest to you but a video does his reaction better justice....

If that wasn't enough, the rest of his weekend was packed with special moments too.  He spent Saturday at an archery meet with his Dad and a drive to his new favorite burger joint.  Sunday our family filled two pews to worship with him and follow us home for simmering soups.  We spent the afternoon playing his favorite games and hanging out together.  Monday, his true birthday, was also a holiday and a no-school day so he got to sleep in, have breakfast in bed and an afternoon with his girlfriend who visited.  We watched movies and ate his usual birthday meal request - shrimp Alfredo, along with a homeade butterfinger cake.  All in all, I'd say he had a very special 15th.

And his big brother had some ways of saying hello, as he does, on his special day.  As I was taking his cake out of the oven that morning I hit the timer and noticed it was 9:23, an Austin wink.  That evening, as Noah was playing his guitar he stopped and smiled, turned the instrument over and said, "Look Mom, a sign from Bubba."  

We bought the guitar from a friend and had not even noticed Austin's number.

In that moment I just felt Austin there, knowing he was watching over his little brother as he always did.  And always will...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Joy Jumble

Maybe I've been too busy SOARing this week, folks, because here it is Friday and I've not even thought about a post!

Today's collection will most certainly be a jumbled mess but it's a snapshot of the joys that have come my way.

Sunday school with my momma.  church potluck.  scripture challenge.

Our family is memorizing a scripture a month this year.  January is Proverbs 6:16-19.  It's brought lots of unexpected chats with the teens about God.  We hung it on the frig so everyone is sure to see it and "drill" each other when driving or hanging out at the house.

A sweet surprise from a dear friend, dropped off on my desk at work.

Look close, it is a tiny blue butterfly pin.

A midweek lunch with my favorite little.

And old home videos restored to dvd.

Noah and I are watching our Jamaican vacation from 06' now.

If you can see from the picture, I had our last day with Austin put on dvd. 
We'd filmed them putting up the tree and decorations, as we always did.
Haven't built up the strength for that one but grateful we can watch when we're ready.

For now, I'm off to begin the birthday weekend celebrations for Noah's 15th.
Take care, friends, and may much JOY come your way!

Friday, January 9, 2015

One Word...SOAR

Have you ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle and found satisfaction as that last piece snaps into place? Or found yourself knee-deep in parts assembling a piece of furniture, when hours later it eventually looks somewhat like the picture on the box?  Perhaps you've planned an event that took weeks of tedious tasks and projects to result in one amazing night.

There's something pleasing when everything comes together.  Apart, it often makes no sense.

Sometimes such is life.  At times, you may not even realize the volume or impact until looking back.

Such has been my week, as I prayerfully pondered my "One Word for 2015."
A few years I began this practice, thanks to the world of blogging.  

My first word was Submit.  And through that next year I would learn the impact of Obedience, a life lesson that would take me all the way back to my wedding day when I ignorantly (and stubbornly) left out the word obey in my vows.

Last year, facing so many uncertainties with my future, after job loss, I chose Assured.  And, in so many ways, trusting Him, God provided Rest through life's storms.

Rolling those over in my mind a new word began to form.

Submit. Obey. Assurance. Rest.

Funny how God shows you He has a plan in ALL things, huh?  In the midst of your year, the struggles, highs and lows, you often wonder what is on the other side.  Will it be worth it in the end?  Is there a purpose? 

Sometimes I question Him out loud and say, "What do you want me to see? do? learn? know?!"

In my impatience, I want answers and results NOW, not later.  Time again God shows me when I let go and just trust, He'll see me through.  And always, there are life lessons to be learned, wisdom gained and strength renewed.  

With the new year, a new daily Bible plan has begun.  One day this week found me upon a collection of some of my favorite scriptures, in Philippians 4.  Though I've read them many times, it didn't "come together" until that viewing.  The impact of how those individual scriptures have arrived for me over the years, on His timing, were now all combined.  A beautiful tapestry that showed my past and how far I've come.

Several scriptures reminded me of those I clung to after our wreck.  As I literally learned to walk again, Phil 4:13 became my battle cry.  Every time I had to drag myself out of the hospital bed, onto a walker, and down the hall, I meditated and repeated this verse.

The beginning of Philippians seemed so similar to another favorite, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  This was one of the first scriptures I recall actually writing out and clipping to my sun visor.  I was so grateful to be driving again, so much that I was filled with joy.  I kept it there to remind me there was always a reason to Rejoice!

Phil 4:6 became a soul soother in the days, weeks and months that followed Austin's death.  My human nature could not help but worry for Noah.  At that time, we didn't know why he passed and I was so fearful for every cough or sneeze that escaped our youngest.  For the first time in my life, storms scared me.  The flu terrified me.  Terrorists threatened me.  Anything that brought the possibility of losing my now only child.  

But the peace from 4:7 came, always, when needed most.  Peace in planning the funeral and standing through those days, in the darkness and depth of grief.  Peace I couldn't understand would wrap around us and carry us through.

As I've grown in my walk with God, 4:8-9 became easier.  I no longer counted on my own strength, but of His.  I learned what a gift it was to have others pray for me (4:10) and how prayers were said even when I didn't know or ask.  How those prayers have provided healing for us these past several years!

The lessons began in our wreck to be grateful and were most certainly grounded in losing our son.  After losing a job of 16 years, Phil 4:11-12 found new meaning again.  In all circumstances, for which we've experienced so many, we have learned the secret to contentment.  It's not what you have -or don't have that matters in the end.

Which brought me right back to the beginning.  That familiar scripture that is etched on a pillow, which hangs from my front door.  That holds my checkbook.  That hangs around the neck of our towering teen.  No matter what we may face in this life, we know we can endure with the strength of Christ!

And not just endure... but SOAR.  

I've decided this is my mantra for 2015.  
My last year of thirty-somethings.  
I feel it is the year to fly...
to SOAR.

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