Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jesus is My Word

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Inspired by my dear friend, Cristie, who made this bracelet, I "chose a word" for 2015. I know many of you already do this. But I'm writing about my word at Segullah today. 

There are so many beautiful words to focus on. Have you chosen one? If so, please tell me about it. And don't miss the excerpt I included from one of my favorite books last year - The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. Such a powerful read.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Go Home

Grandma's clock chimed eleven. My brother Dave, who found sleeping bags for my girls and put them to bed downstairs, had gone to sleep. The boys had finally closed their eyes. Gordon on the mattress, Spencer sprawled on the floor of an upstairs bedroom. And I could hear my parents talking quietly in their room, soft lamplight seeping out from under the door. 

I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, turned down the covers in my old bedroom, but couldn't sleep. 

So I walked out to the kitchen. 

It was all dark. Soft light coming in from a strand of white bulbs scalloped along an outside fence.

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I noticed my Dad had tidied the scene, set out the frying pan and grill for tomorrow's breakfast. By morning, the table would be crowded with children and grandchildren filling plates with buckwheat pancakes, fresh bacon, and scrambled eggs. The granite counter tops gleamed a shiny black, starlight trickling in from a ceiling window.

I padded into the living room and turned on the lights to the tree. I climbed into the red winged chair, tucked my feet up onto the cushion, and hugged my knees. 

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It was the day after Christmas. Earlier that evening the main sewer line to the street had backed up into our basement. It came up out of the toilet and tub downstairs, contaminating a large section of carpet and tile, rendering all toilets, showers, and sinks, unusable. It was awful. 

Doug called Disaster Clean-Up. (They came last year when a section of pipe broke downstairs.) He stayed at the house while I took the kids to my parents' to spend the night.

Somehow I had injured my back a week earlier and the neural sensation and lumbar pain I was having made me suspect a disc tear in the lumbar spine (which has since been confirmed). I muscled through Christmas but wasn't moving like myself. I had also noticed blood in my urine on several occasions and was starting to feel concerned. All that, along with other menopausal oddities, and I felt like my body was falling apart! 

And now the house was falling apart! (Which has since manifested several other disasters. Like the dishwasher flooding the kitchen floor, waking up to a cracked kitchen window, and a vacuum cleaner that went kaput.) 

I usually try to spare you complaints here. Who wants to hear it? Who wants to read the running list of disasters we've been cursed with lately?

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No one. But I'm going to share them with you. Because sometimes it's the stuff behind the blog, behind the happy pictures, that has to be talked about. Because it gives context. And in this case it created a circumstance in which I could feel something I hadn't felt in a long time.

As I sat there, huddled in the stillness, Christmas after Christmas suddenly played out before me. Memories from my childhood. 

The tree was in its usual place. Our stockings were stuffed to overflowing. I saw the Sesame Street playground. The cabbage patch dolls. The year we found two saddles and saddle blankets propped up on one side of the tree. I felt the fire blazing in the fireplace, could hear the singing on the stairs, my sisters hopping and twirling in anticipation until it was their turn to see if Santa had come. 

In a rush of vision and emotion, I felt the total safety of being together with my siblings and parents as I grew up in this home.

And I thought... this was a remarkable place to live. To grow up.

I curled deeper into the red winged chair, overwhelmed with nostalgia. Feeling something new yet familiar. So startling it made me cry. 

Day after day I'd been caring for my children and family. You know how it goes. Mom holds everything together. Mom meets everyone else's needs before her own. She makes sure things keep rolling, gifts are bought, school projects are finished, and all the parts keep moving. Mom cleans, folds, cooks, band-aids, reads, sings, tucks in. She cares until she's limp and then she cares some more.

But for a few minutes that evening, I wasn't Mom. I was a child again. 

My Mother had put fresh sheets on my bed. My Dad sat down and discussed my health concerns. They helped me put children to bed, made sure I had everything I needed, hugged me, let all six of us come banging into the house with our bags and blankets because we had nowhere else to go.

I forgot how heartening it is to be cared for. To have somewhere to go when you feel broken, lacking, and hurt. I forgot how it felt to go home. 

To that warm, safe place where someone takes care of... you.

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The next morning, I sat at this counter and told my sisters about my experience. I couldn't do it without blubbering. Mom and Dad listened and my sisters agreed. Our growing up was marvelous, magical. You don't realize how much you have until you travel the world a bit, see families who don't love, don't nurture, don't care.

Then my Dad, in his wisdom, said, "I believe what you felt was just a taste of what it will feel like to go home to our Heavenly Parents."

And that made us cry some more.

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He is right. In that glorious moment of return, all the mess and struggle of this life will melt away. Someone will hold us. Loved ones will come for us, gather us in their arms, and we will know, without question, how well we have been cared for. 

During all of mortality. Even when we couldn't see it. 

We will find our name. We will know our place. We will belong.

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Home. It has so many meanings, doesn't it? 

Different front doors. Different roofs. Different living rooms, kitchens, and beds to sleep in. But hopefully each of us has one (or several over the course of our lives) that is very tender to us. 

I wish everyone on this earth could know the feeling of home. Real home. 

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As the years stack up, I realize how much this home - the one I grew up in - means to me.

The grandkids loved playing in the snow. Just like we did as kids. (We used sleds for snowboards back then.)

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Uncle Lance made things especially fun.

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Snow angel.

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I was slow with the camera this year. My back kept me from moving as quickly as I would have liked. In fact, I can't believe I didn't get any pictures of my brother Dave and his family, visiting from Texas.

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Deb with baby Hana.

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Over the Christmas break, my Dad worked his last shift as an ER doc. He "retired" a couple years ago. Which meant he stopped working night shifts, but didn't technically retire. Not until now. 

So we planned a surprise dinner and invited his siblings over. Deb put together a book for him. Full of things we remembered about his doctoring over the years. After dinner, we went around the room and talked about his gifts. His gifts of healing. Not just his skills and expertise, but his mannerisms, his humor, and the way he immediately sets his patients at ease. The stories had everyone in tears. 

I think Lance said it best: If we were to put a red sticker on all the parts of our bodies he had helped us with, patched up, prescribed medicine for, or given us counsel for, we'd be covered with red dots. But if we put stickers on the parts of us he had healed with his love, his tenderness, and his concern, we would be covered head to toe.

My Dad has been a physician of both body and spirit, to all of us.

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I didn't have my camera out that night. Wish I had. 

It is good to have my Dad home with my Mom. She's been having sensory seizures, maybe 1-2 a week lately. Which might be her new norm. And that has caused her to have a little more anxiety than usual. Knowing Dr. Bob is home is a great comfort to her. And to us.

Of course, he's still on call 24 hrs a day when it comes to our family. Last week he wrote me an MRI order for the lumbar spine, made sure I got in to see a urologist. He even made a house call when Sami collided with a kid on the playground then whacked her forehead hard on the pavement.

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Pretty sure he won't get rusty with us around.

After our international dinner on New Year's Eve, we came home, put our New Year's tree together, and rang in the new year with dancing, horns, and streamers.

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It was good to go home. To my parents. To be cared for and cradled. And it was good to come home. To the home our children know. Even without carpet downstairs and a dishwasher that doesn't work. 

It is still home.  Still the place we feel most loved. The place I care for my own.

Happy 2015! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day in the Morning

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At 7:45 we blinked awake. Surprised the house was still quiet. Then we heard a door knob tentatively turn and little feet shuffle into our room. It was about to begin...

Per tradition, no one peeked at the tree until we had gathered for breakfast in the kitchen and singing on the stairs. 

Doug turned on the tree, started the fire, and whispered that Santa had come. As I was taking this picture, the kids were sitting on the stairs singing, "Here we sit like birds in the wilderness... Waiting to go upstairs." 

Do you know this silly song? Keddingtons and Kimballs have been singing it for generations. Great way to channel the anticipation until everyone is ready to parade into the living room. Youngest first.

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Almost as exciting as the tree inside was the wonderland outside. First big snow. White flakes began falling in the dark of early morning. While lying in bed I heard the rain go silent, change to snow.

Only hours earlier, the kids had sprinkled reindeer food (thank you Lauren!) onto dry lawn while a warm wind licked their cheeks. But by morning, everything was white. And still coming down.

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On Christmas Eve, Doug had to step into the photo to keep the kids from pushing and punching each other. Honestly, it was still up for debate at this point, if Santa would come.

But eventually, they calmed down and went to sleep. A full day of skiing on Christmas Eve made for sound, long sleepers.

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This was our first time getting the kids up on the slopes. High time these little Norwegians learned to ski. But for the last few years, we couldn't wrap our brains or pocket books around how to do it. This year, however, we took the plunge. We put the boys and Ali in ski school. Eliza skied with Doug. Sami and I, unfortunately, kept the infirmary warm. But the rest had a blast and didn't want to quit. I love Spencer's hair.

Here they are with Poppa Jim. Still skiing like a pro at 71. His father, Ruben, came over from Norway and helped establish skiing in Utah, put in the first tow rope at one of the resorts.

As we were walking out to the car Gordon said, "I LOVE skiing Mom! Can we come again tomorrow? Even if it's Christmas?"

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Eliza with her cousin Emily. Arveseths have been skiing on Christmas Eve for years. It's an old tradition but our first time joining. (And if you dressed as Santa Claus, you got to ski free! Check out the background.)

Here are their favorite gifts Christmas morning.

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A camera for Eliza.

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Kit for Ali.

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Samantha for Samantha.

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"Fluffy" the bunny and Spiderman kendama for Spence.

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"Bluie" and Batman kendama for Gordon. Kendamas made for hours of entertainment Christmas day. They love these things! The boys keep calling them "kendominos." Cracks me up.

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Santa gave each of the children an ornament in their stocking. Red bird for Eliza, our bird lover. Blue toadstool for Ali who is loving fairies and all things blue. Christmas kitty for Sami who adores cats. Angel Elephant for Spencer who loves elephants and has been quite angelic in recent months. And a lion for Gordon, who not only loves lions but has the temperament of one. At least lately.

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Love Ali's face when she opened this gift.

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Sami, our animal lover, plunged right into this book. You'll love it too. More details coming in January with our 2014 Favorite Books post.

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We tried a new approach when it came to gifts this year: something you want, something you need, something to do, something to read. 

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The boys asked Santa for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Combat Gear but to our disappointment, the shells didn't fit well, and it was hard for them to grab their swords and daggers from over the shoulder. Buyer beware. Santa's elves needed to do a little more consumer testing on this one.

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But Lincoln Logs were a huge hit.

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My people. My world.

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And my favorite gift of the day? This painting I gave to Doug. 

Months ago, I commissioned my friend, Stephanie Hock, to take an Instagram photo I loved of Doug and the kids at Cecret Lake and bring it to life through her art. Together we titled it "Made to Stand Strong" (Psalm 30:7). David is speaking of the mountains in this verse. And when I look at her paining I think not only of the mountains, but also of Doug and our family. All made to stand firm and strong against harsh winds, storms, and the test of time.

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It snowed all day. By Christmas night, I was so taken with the fresh snow piling on lamp posts and sidewalks, I stepped outside for a short walk alone. It's good to step out under the sky. In any weather. Any time of day. But especially for me at night. It helps me connect with God. Find my small place in his universe.

I took this photo of our neighbors' home behind us. All ablaze. Under a gray canopy of falling snow.

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It was a beautiful Christmas. Simple. Soft. With all of us together. How I wish every day could be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fear Not; Believe Only

Dear friends, On this beautiful Christmas Eve, wherever you are in the world, I wish you joy.

wrote a post for Multiply Goodness today about my assignment, which was the very last of the 24 days - to gladden someone's heart. The whole month was one of gladdening hearts. Not just others, but our own. You can read more about our experience over there. Extra pictures here.

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Today we shared this favorite family verse with a young girl in our neighborhood recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. We know in part the road she is about to travel. It is a tough one. But she is firm in mind and spirit. And we admire her courage so much. My mother wrote her a letter that we included with this gift. Words of support, love, and understanding.

Earlier in the month we made a memory book for our 13 yr old cousin, who lost her best friend in a tragic accident. Everyone called them the twins. You can see how much they looked alike, how much they loved each other.

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The children watercolored pictures for their cousin Sydney (on the right) and wrote what they believed.

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This is Eliza's picture and words. I love what she said, "It will all be all right. Never doubt."

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We dropped donuts Saturday evening at the Fire Station. The three firemen on duty were preparing dinner when we knocked on the door. I said, "You don't know us, but we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!" They said, "Well, let's get to know you! Come on in!"

"Jacobs" (pictured below) gave the kids a tour of the new station and even let them start the firetruck. They couldn't have been friendlier.

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Another day we took ten years of loose change we'd been gathering to our local bell ringer. I thought he could just unlock his kettle and we could pour it in. Nope. "I'm powerless," he said. So we sat there for 15 minutes and visited while the kids slid their hundreds of pennies into that tiny slot.

"Rivers of Pennies!" he said, laughing. When we left, we slipped him a card, a gift of his own to enjoy. With a note that said, "Thank you for being kind and friendly. And for ringing your bell of joy and gladness."

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Another favorite day? Visiting with our 96 year old neighbor, Maggie. Her eyesight is going, and so is her hearing, but she's incredibly sharp. Still reading, still learning, still loving. She has the most gracious heart. Later in the week, she left us a voicemail saying, "Your visit stayed with me all week." 

It stayed with us too, Maggie. 

Giving made our Christmas. Made it a joy-journey we won't soon forget. More at Multiply Goodness as to why and how it changed us.

Because we made it our priority, some weeks I didn't get to the grocery store. We missed play dates and other holiday usuals, and it took us a record eight days to get the tree lit. But really, no one complained. No one missed a thing. Instead, we were genuinely happy, floating even. Because we reached outside our comfort zones and ourselves.

Feeling thankful for all the goodness in my life this Christmas. Thankful for you. For your words here, your example, support, and love.

Hope your heart is enlarged, comforted, and gladdened this Christmas.

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And as the angel said to Mary and the shepherds, I hope we can replace fear of the unknown, the challenging, and even the heart-breaking, with believing in Jesus. With whom all things are possible.

Much love,

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