Love

Goodbye, Gramps

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I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. It was just a matter of time, but it’s a time you never want to arrive.

He turned 91 just this past September. He’d had several episodes of going in and out of the hospital, but he always came back out – sometimes not quite the same as he went in.

I have been extremely blessed with something I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances haven’t had – until last week, all four of my grandparents were still living. It is something really special for someone to know their grandparent(s) into adulthood. Many people only have vague memories of their grandparents while they were children, or visited so infrequently they never really got to know them. Often, the memories aren’t really memories so much as they are memories given/created by others via conversations and stories, pictures, or maybe a video. So, I am keenly aware of how lucky I have been.

I am struggling with what to write as memories come rushing back to flood my mind, and my eyes, with happiness and joy.

I guess I don’t really need to say much about those.

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I told him to smile for a selfie…this is what I got!

I just need a place to express remembrance and appreciation for a man who loved his wife (their 69th wedding anniversary was the day before his passing) and his children. For raising my dad in a loving home. For raising his family in a home of Christian faith and passing that legacy on to the rest of his family. For working hard, at two jobs (a fruit orchard and a factory) and teaching his family the value of hard work. For having a wry sense of humor and a mischievous smile. For all the time spent camping, and fishing, and playing cards, and laughing. For all the stories of life on the farm. For going back to the family farm in South Dakota and telling us about his younger life in a sod house on the prairie. For the story of outrunning and catching a jack rabbit in the orchard. For the times of sharing meals. For the quiet times sitting on the patio, sharing conversation, a sunset, a cool breeze, and sometimes even a beer. For the garden goodies he grew every year. For his mealtime prayer that never changed and I will forever hear in my head, “God is great and God is good and we thank Him for this food.”

Now, he is home in Heaven with his Savior. He is in His presence, praising the One who gave him life. He is whole again.

I am sure he is now fishing, gardening and farming, playing cards, talking with his parents and the son he lost to cancer while a toddler. He is hanging out and laughing with the siblings that have gone on before him. He is, no doubt, preparing a place for those who will come after him as well – because that is the type of person he was.

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Tools of my grandfather – bench vise and a pole saw he used on the farm.

Saying goodbye to Gramps is, after all, not really a goodbye. It’s just a “see you later.” Cliche, I know, but I believe it really is the truth. I know that one day we will sit together again and do the things we enjoyed here on Earth, because we have been given and accepted a promise.

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A few quiet moments with Gramps, hours before he joined his Heavenly Father.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I hope you have that knowledge too. The knowledge and assurance that death is not the end for a loved one, or for yourself. That one day you will be reunited, because it sure takes the sting out of death.

Am I still sad? Yes, of course. Not because I have no hope, but because of the missed opportunities I could have had with him or the opportunities my own kids will miss too. But, with the sadness comes rejoicing as well. How can I not be happy for him as he continues to live, living in triumph over death? There is still a funeral and memorial to come, but for now this will do. Goodbye is so hard to say, and yet…

“Welcome to Heaven, Harold! You are going to be missed down there because you were really loved. But don’t you worry, your family knows where you are and they are celebrating too. We have lots of time and I’ll show you around in a bit. But first, how about I show you a thing or two at canasta…”

Goodbye, Gramps.

Positive Post-it

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What if you were given a fresh, new pad of Post-it notes that came with a requirement?

Let’s pretend I just gave you a pad and the requirement is that you could only use the notes to pass out encouragement to others, whenever and wherever you can.

  1. How would you use them? Sign them or make them anonymous?
  2. Where would you use them? Leave them in the open or hide them to be found as a surprise another day?
  3. Who would you leave notes for? Obviously you have friends and family that could use some encouragement, but have you ever considered leaving encouragement for strangers – maybe on the bus, at the restaurant, while you are shopping, or at work? Why?? Well, maybe the stranger did or said something that you noticed and deserves a compliment. There could be any number of reasons, but the cool thing is you get to decide.

With all the negativity floating around in the world these days, it would be nice to spread some love and encourage people instead of tearing them down. What do you think?

Are you up to the challenge?

**NOTE** Comment what you would do, or who you would encourage in the comments below. OR, if you want, I would really like if you could take a photo of your notes and post them in the comments. Let’s build a “blog post of positive!”

A Forever Family Needs Help!

Help bring Chloe home!  *Regulations say I can't show you her face yet*

Help bring Chloe home!
*Regulations say I can’t show you her face yet*

The beautiful little girl above has the opportunity to go home to her forever family this year! But, she needs help. FAST!

I have written about this adoption before, If Ever There Was A Good Cause, but that was before there was an actual, real face and child to think about. The idea was there and there was a goal, but it was just so unreal and seemingly intangible. Well, things have changed and there is now a very real, very tangible goal in mind. But time is short, so anything you can do (no matter how small it may be) helps bring this pretty little girl one step closer to her new home in Hawaii with an amazing family.

They are trying to raise funds in a very short amount of time to help defray the costs of the adoption, which includes traveling to China to meet her for the first time and bring her home. With about two months to go, they could use some help, like right now!!

I am including the links to their fundraising efforts so that you can help them be successful! But most of all, for a little child of God to come home to a family that has loved her for a long time without even knowing her. Again, there can be no greater cause than this.

GoFundMe

MyThirtyOne.com

purecharity.com

Thanks so much for considering this as a way to change the world, one life at a time. Be the difference in one life.

Thankful for a Gift

This has been on my heart since before Thanksgiving, I just haven’t had much time to formulate it into a manner which makes sense to me so I am just gonna put it out there.

In the Sunday morning services at my church this year the pastor was talking about the true meaning of thankfulness for a Christian. This wasn’t a new concept for me, I have heard sermons like this before but our new pastor has a way of putting things that makes me think much more deeply than I have in the past. In his sermon the Sunday before Thanksgiving he asked a simple question that many of us probably really haven’t taken much time to ponder. So, I am gonna ask you the same question. You can choose to respond, or not. But please ponder it, deeply, because it might change how you see this time of year, but it might also change YOU.

What are you thankful for AND how long will it last?

After having just come out of the Thanksgiving (last month here in America) season and now just about to celebrate Christmas I wonder if you really know what you are thankful for. Moreover, you many even know what you are thankful for, but have you really taken the time to contemplate how long it will last?

If you are like most people, you probably can answer that questions with a long list of things you are thankful for.

Good health.

A house, a car.

A job, an income, a BIG income.

Family: parents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, cousins…

Clothing, a warm place to lay your head, a retirement account, a big TV, etc.

The point of the questions is, how long will those things last? Health is fleeting and as we age it will deteriorate. Wealth is temporary and can be gone in an instant. Those material possessions you have worked so hard for are going to break down and need to be replaced at some point in the future. The point: none of it lasts. It never will. No matter how hard we try to make it happen, it just won’t.

An Eternal GIFT

it is Christmas Eve and we are about to spend time with family. I love them a lot, however they are only temporary. That thought both pains me and gives me joy. I want them to be with me forever and I want them to live forever, but the only way that can happen is if they do one thing: accept a gift they neither deserve nor can they earn. Thankfully, most of them have accepted that gift. Maybe you would like to as well?

The GIFT came in the form of a little baby so long ago. God sent his son to earth so that he might endure a human life and then give himself, as a sacrifice, to atone for my sins. Not just mine, but everyone’s, including yours. That is a GIFT no one except a loving God can give. Think about that. He gave up something that means the most to Him so that we might have eternal life. How many of us would willingly give up what means the most to us, just so someone who deserves nothing could have everything?

This Christmas we celebrate isn’t about those gifts that may be under the tree. Most of us know this, but many of us fail to grasp the weight of it and simply go about our busy lives failing to appreciate the GIFT that was given to us.

What are you thankful for AND how long will it last?

How long will it last? That question has haunted me. Everything is temporary, except one thing – eternal life. An eternal life given to me, you too if you accept it, through the birth of a child, which eventually led to his death.

The only thing I am sure of this Christmas season is that I have accepted GIFT that no one else can give me. I have accepted a GIFT that nothing can destroy, be stolen, or lost. I know as I end this year and begin the next that no matter what happens I have a GIFT that can never be taken from me. It is forever! There are no other things in life that can make that claim. No other things in life that can be guaranteed with that much certainty. No other things that will last beyond this world.

If you don’t have that kind of thankfulness and if you haven’t accepted the GIFT no one else can give you, I would encourage you to seek someone out that knows what this GIFT is all about. You can contact me, if you like, and I will do my best to answer your questions, but I am still learning and growing in this lifelong journey.

However you do it, do it soon! Remember, those things you sat around a table and were thankful for about a month ago are only temporary and you never know how much time God has granted you on this ball of dirt and water. The sooner you choose to accept THE GIFT that will not fail, the sooner you can live in confidence of an eternal life. What better thing to be thankful for than that?

I can’t think of anything.

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

THIS IS IT!!

My life has been affected by adoption. I have two beautiful, amazing, and strong Korean born sisters. They came to this country so long ago (when they were 13 months and 6 months old) that it is hard to imagine that they were not originally part of the family. I was 12 when my first sister arrived and I was excited for the new change in my life. I was going to have a little sister! When my second sister arrived, I was just as excited to have another little sister. My parents made the choice to adopt two little girls out of a Christian run orphanage in Seoul, South Korea. I AM SO GLAD THEY DID! I am immensely proud to call them my sisters and love them dearly.

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

That is where the Van Notric family comes in. You see, they too have a desire and a dream to adopt a little girl. Not just a little girl, but a special needs little girl. What a challenge that God has lain on their hearts! They are an amazing family and they need help to make this dream come true. For them it is a mission, a calling, if you will.

They have been working on this adoption for a long time and have faced many a challenge along the way. Doors have opened and doors have closed. It would appear as though another door is close to opening but they have some final hurdles to get over still. Why adoption has to be so expensive is anyone’s guess. I mean, if you are doing good in this world, why would the cost of adoption stand in the way of that?

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

Typically, I get a little annoyed with the “GoFundMe” campaigns that I get invited to view or that randomly appear on my Facebook feed. However, this is NOT one of those times. This is one of those time that you just feel compelled to do something. I don’t have a ton of funds to offer, but what I do have (though limited, admittedly) is a platform in which I can spread the word and maybe help this family on their journey to making the world a better place.

Please visit their GoFundMe site and read their story. I think you will be impressed and I think you will want to help them.

http://www.gofundme.com/waitingforchloe

Afterall, who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? Even if we have to do it one person at a time, it is worth it. You can help that happen. And, even if you can’t afford to help financially, maybe you know someone who can or someone that has a passion for adoption or someone that likes making dreams come true or someone that can share their story too. All the help they can get is appreciated, I know. I know them personally and they would be very grateful.

Thank you. Thank you for helping in one way or another. Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for help a special little girl have a permanent home and family.

Thank you.

The Eternal Hope of Spring

How can one not love this time of year?  This time of the year brings forth all sorts of newness and spawns the eternal hope of renewal for so many things.  The eternal hope of Spring comes every year, but rarely lasts longer than a few months.  The joy of this season for me is almost uncontainable and I look forward to it with immense anticipation.  At times, hope swells beyond control and occasionally bubbles to the surface on my face or even in the sparkle of my eyes.  This Spring, nothing has changed.  I eagerly await that which I have yearned for since it last left.

For some, Spring means the chance to get out of doors.  Spring brings forth the desire to shed the confines of the abode and venture to new places, seeing new sites along the way.  The chance to attain mountain highs or the valley’s depths inspire many to don quickly packed clothing and devour hastily prepared snacks as they clamor towards a space of solitude amongst God’s great creation.  I, too, long for these spaces and, in the past, have heeded their call.  I have been fortunate enough to gander upon hidden wonders and soak up rays of sunshine as I traverse among the stately pines on the Northwest.  Again, these spaces are calling to me, but my eternal hope of Spring does not lie there.

For others, the eternal hope of Spring brings forth new growth.  As the sun warms the Earth and the falling rains soak the land, new life emerges from what appears to be death’s grip.  Naked trees begin to clothe themselves in green buds, seeking a rebirth of sorts.  Soon, bare soil comes to life with carpets of green and the grass coats vast valleys with its protective blanket.  Flowers begin their delicate lives from nothingness, it seems.  Suddenly they make their appearances everywhere, shining forth the joy they bring to so many.  Yes, this time of year brings new life and hope.  Nature reminds us that all is not lost and that we can start anew once more.  Again, I find joy in this part of Spring’s emergence.  I am awed at the struggle in which many partake to coax their yard’s landscape to be revitalized.  Can they make the lawn lavishly lush again?  Can they control the warrior weeds?  Will the flowers flounder or flourish?  Yet, while these struggles are calling, my eternal hope of Spring does not lie here.

For still others, Spring brings new and budding romance.  The hope of emerging nature and silent solitude is overrun with fluttering hearts and heals over heads.  Much like the reminders of that which comes with this Spring, we are reminded that companionship is what all humans clamor for.  Shared experiences are better than those of loneliness.  The romance of the season lurks under the surface, waiting to be released.  For those lucky enough to find it, smiles and laughter are intertwined with moments of tenderness such as holding hands, hugs, and kisses.  Sun provides the warmth for the earth, but romance supplies warmth for the heart.  As I have experienced these times in the past, I treasured them for I knew they may only be fleeting moments; however, my eternal hope of Spring does not lie there either.

My eternal hope of Spring lies, like so many other sports fans, with the “Boys of Summer.”  My eternal hope comes with the reporting of pitchers and catchers to warmer climes such as Florida and Arizona.  My eternal hope springs forth as the snap of the glove and the knock of the bat are heard once again.  My eternal hope rises to the surface as anticipation of a new season, a new year, a new chance comes.  For me, Spring is the re-emergence of the greatest sport known to man.  No games have been played and everyone has an equal chance at immortality.  The off-season has come to a close and soon dusty diamonds all over the world will once again ring with the laughter of children learning the game.  Fields of dreams will come alive, daring men to dance upon them.  Fans will gather in homes, in stands, in stadiums to witness delightful deeds of the diamond or witness foolish field follies.  We will yell at men in blue and at televisions as though it will make a difference, believing in “our” team once again.   The eternal hope of Spring gives me and all other fans the chance to dream once more that our team will stand alone in October.  Champions!

The real eternal hope of Spring is . . . baseball.

Valentine’s Day W(h)ine

Valentine’s day is the SECOND WORST day of the year to have a birthday, especially if you are male. The first worst day is, for obvious reasons, Christmas. But let’s focus on the day at hand…

Today is my birthday. It sucks. It sucks, not because I am getting older but because the “holiday” overshadows it. Am I being petty? Am I being childish? Maybe. Should I just suck it up? Maybe. However, I am going to whine just a little today.

“You are the best Valentine I ever received.”

OK, mom, thanks. I appreciate you telling me this every year. It makes me feel better, a little. So many years ago my mom was in a hospital in a little town in eastern Washington trying to push me out. I arrived on this day and have for evermore been called a “Valentine’s baby.” My mom says that my dad bought a little can of Almond Rocha candy and told her that she couldn’t have it till I was born. I am not so sure how long it took for my arrival after that, but at least she had a goal (the candy or me?). TA-DA! There I was.

Growing up with a Valentine birthday was a little strange. I would go to school and while all my friends were running around putting little paper Valentines with those candy hearts in them I was just wishing someone would say, “Happy Birthday!” As I got a little older, some of my friends actually realized that the day was also my birthday and they somehow managed to find Valentines that were BOTH a Valentine and a birthday greeting. They were my heroes for the day, for sure.

As I got older, middle school and high school, I realized that this was going to be a “no win” kind of day for me. Girlfriends were the winners and I was going to be the loser. The expectation around this day is that someone (usually the male) is required to do something nice for a significant other (usually the female). This usually involved a flower or two and some little stuffed animal with a cutesy heart on it. Closer to the end of this stage, it may have even involved reservations to some place, but I lived in smallish town so the fancy places were out of the question and I had a limited budget. Usually, just “going out” was enough but not always.

I don’t think I had too many girlfriends around the time of Valentine’s Day in college, so I don’t really remember too many from that period. However, I watched a lot of my friends go through the trials of navigating the day. Reservations to places that were “special” and hard to get into suddenly became like a bloodsport competition. Flowers that were normally $12.99 a bouquet most of the year suddenly became $54.99, and that was three weeks in advance (if you could remember to order them). Don’t even think about buying them on the day! Of course, the bigger the bouquet the better. Heart thingy boxes filled with candy and cutesy stuffed animals filled store shelves while Hallmark stores made money hand over foot for brightly colored paper with a sappy words and sentiment inside. As a result, friends who were poor college students before the day just ended up being poorer college students.

Aren’t I entitled to have one day a year about me?

In general, I don’t really like to make things all about me. Yes, I have those days where I might whine and be a tad selfish. But can’t I at least have my birthday?? Can’t I feel more special than normal on one day of the year?

So, that brings me to my current life. I am fortunate to have a wife that understands me and my need to feel special on my birthday, which of course means that she has to sacrifice feeling special on Valentine’s Day. She tries to do the little things for me (coffee, a special lunch or dinner, offering to rub/scratch my back, etc), though I must admit that I only allow it begrudgingly. I know that she loves me though and that is all that really counts. I love that she understands that I would really like to have a day that isn’t overshadowed by everyone else’s expectations for what the day should be. She is OK with having a Valentine’s Day “something” later in the month, and I try to make an effort to show that I love her then (maybe not in the usual ways I show or tell her).

My family has been pretty indulgent as well. They make sure that they try not to include “Happy Valentine’s Day” in my birthday greetings, so that makes me feel special too. I get texts from my siblings, my kids, and from friends. I am glad they are thinking of me whilst planning something special for those they love too. I guess I can share a little.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while it sucks to have a birthday on a day like today, it isn’t the end of the world either. It is nice that so many people want to show their love to others in their lives. I am just not sure why it has to be a special day…can’t we just show that we love people every day of the year?

So tonight, after my special birthday dinner, I’ll whine a little about getting older. I’ll whine a little more about this stupid “holiday.” Then I’ll sit on the couch, watch a movie or TV program with my family, and have a little wine with the woman I love. That will be grand.

Happy birthday to all those other Valentine babies that might be out there!

PS. I am not a complete idiot…I do get my wife a little something anyway.  😉

 

I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It!

Yep, I kissed a girl and I liked it. For those of you that know me, this likely comes as no surprise. Sorry Katy Perry, I am going to borrow the title of your hit song. I hope you don’t mind.

That being said, I feel the urge to tell you about it. You see, that kiss changed me. It changed me physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably some other “-ly” words too. That kiss led to some other stuff, mostly a relationship with the woman  who belonged to the lips. From there she eventually became my wife. Again, for those of you that know me, this stuff also doesn’t come as a surprise.

The reason, or urge, I want to talk about that kiss today is because it has been six years since that kiss. I certainly didn’t know when I kissed her in the car in the parking lot of the community college that it would lead to this. It did and it has. Now, we have been together, through thick and thin (and we have seen the extreme of both) over those last six years. We have been married for 3 1/2 of them. I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side. She is my partner, confidant, best friend, strength, refuge, my…well, you get the point. She is a lot of things to me.

When it came time for the bridal shower I was asked to write “25 Reasons Why I Love Jenn.” The 25 reasons were going to be shared with her at the shower as a surprise. I thought it was a good idea so I complied. The thing is, it was pretty easy to come up with the following 27 reasons (OK, I didn’t comply completely. I am difficult, what can I say?):

I love…

  1. …the way your face lights up when you see me.
  2. …the way you are quick to offer help or say, “I can do that.”
  3. …that you are caring to a fault at times.
  4. …every time you kiss me it still feels like the first time.
  5. …that you are frugal most of the time.
  6. …that you think I am “funny” and laugh at me.
  7. …that I can feel your love and don’t just hear or see it.
  8. …the fact that you are looking forward to making my lunch for school. 
  9. …your hand on my back.
  10. …holding your hand in the car.
  11. …that you try to make do.
  12. …that you are happy with simple things.
  13. …that you tell me “I love you” often.
  14. …the little notes that you leave in places for me to find later.
  15. …that you put up with my sounds.
  16. …the cute little way you bite your lip when you are thinking about something.
  17. …that you see me as I am and not the way I see me.
  18. …your willingness to get dirty and to work hard.
  19. …your encouragement in all that I do.
  20. …that you endure the cold and rain to watch me play softball.
  21. …the way you speak your mind.
  22. …that you love my daughter as though she were your own.
  23. …your desire to be a Godly woman and continue to pursue Him.
  24. …that I feel “safe” with you and don’t have to be something or someone I am not.
  25. …that you love me.
  1. …that we can go to church and worship together.
  2. …that you understand teaching is more to me than just going to work and I have more “kids” than my daughter.

I love that first kiss. Obviously, since I am crowing about it even to this day. I kiss that girl every day, multiple times if I can manage it. AND, I still like it! I cherish the list above because of the little things that I saw even then that I knew I loved about her. And now, six years later, on the anniversary of that first kiss, I could probably name a whole bunch of other reasons I love her. Things that I have discovered as time has progressed and I have gotten to know her better. But, I am gonna save those for another day, another anniversary. The point today is this:

I kissed a girl, she became my wife, AND I LIKE IT!