When There’s More Bitter Than Sweet…

Mother’s Day is this weekend. It’s a holiday that brings up bittersweet feelings for me. I know that there are some women out there who find more bitter than sweet in it. I know, because some years that’s been me.

I’ve been the woman who miscarried two babies and wondered if she’d ever hold one of her own…

I’ve been the daughter who couldn’t bear to think about the fact that it was Mother’s Day because I’d lost Mom just two months prior…

There are other reasons why thinking about that Sunday in May can hurt. Some of them have been explored on the Home Educating Family Blog. You can find those posts by clicking here.

This Sunday, I’ll hug the four precious children who put crayon and pencil to paper and make lovely cards for me. I’ll reflect on how thankful I am that I have a truly wonderful mother-in-law. I’ll still remember the four babies I never had the chance to hold, and I’ll miss my own amazing mom just as much as ever. But I’ll also remember some of the Bible verses that Mom helped me memorize so many years ago, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)

I pray that any of you who are hurting this Mother’s Day will find the same comfort that I do in our Savior, Jesus. And maybe you’ll be able to share a little bit of that comfort with someone else too.

Peeking Out the Window

Little Guy is napping and the older kids are playing outside. The house is quiet. I could be reading a book, knitting, or enjoying a quiet cup of tea…

Instead, I’m walking to the window every few minutes. The kids are playing in the back yard, by themselves. My back yard is perfectly safe. We live in the small town that I grew up in. Our neighbors are relatives and people who I’ve known since I was a kid. I was playing outside in that same yard when I was their ages! I never thought much about it then. Today I’m wondering if Mom looked out the window to check on me this often.

I vividly recall all of the times I told her that she worried about me too much. She used to tell me that I’d understand someday when I had kids. I would laugh (and probably roll my eyes) whenever she said that. Turns out, she was right!

This “letting go” thing that moms have to do is no easy task. These kids start out needing us for everything, and we get used to that. We get used to being in arm’s reach to catch them when they take a tumble. We get used to making sure that everything is kid-safe. Now, some days the constant “needing” is frustrating beyond belief. There are times it makes me wish that I wasn’t constantly needed by someone. Then the kids get a little more independent. I have to let go a little bit, and I find myself regretting the fact that they don’t need me quite as much as they used to. Oh, I know that they’ll always need Mom at least a little bit, but I think the letting go is always hard. Especially difficult for me is figuring out how much to let go. Such a confusing thing this mothering gig is…

For now, I’ll do my best to give them the independence they need, and try not to peek out the window too many times!

Redefining Better

They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think that’s quite true. Sometimes it just gives us enough perspective to allow us to live with the old wounds. But some of them still hurt, even many years later…

Munchkin and I were talking while we changed her bedding before bedtime this evening. One of the blankets we put on her bed was one that Mom made for her. She asked me if it was the last blanket that Grammy had made for her. I thought for a minute and then told her that it may have been.

She was quiet for a few minutes before softly saying, “I can’t remember Grammy’s voice anymore.”

I could tell from her tone that she was bothered by that. We talked for a while about some of the things that she still does remember about Grammy. I told her that she would always have some memories, but she still seemed a bit worried that she would forget Grammy over time. So I told her about my Grandpa.

I was four when he died. The same age that Munchkin was when her Grammy died. I told her about some of the memories that I have of Grandpa and how that even though he’s been gone a long time, I still have some really special memories. Both of us were trying not to cry when she spoke again.

“I miss Grammy.”

The tears that I’d been holding back started to spill over just a bit when I hugged her and whispered, “You know what? I still miss my Grandpa too.”

We talked a bit more about how Grammy is in Heaven. I reminded her that was a good thing, and that now Grammy would never be sick again. I hugged her again and kissed her goodnight. I tucked her in and said a final round of “I love you” to all of the kids before heading downstairs to write.

I hate to cry, but I can’t seem to help it as I sit here in front of the computer screen. Part of it is because I still miss Grandpa and Mom so very much. I seem to miss them even more this time of the year. But that’s only part of it…

I look up at the ceiling and ask God why my little girl has to go through this. I’ve been there. I know how much it hurt 26 years ago, and I know how much it still hurts today. And to be honest… I wanted better for my daughter. None of this feels better. Yet even as I question why God would send this, I am reminded of a verse that the kids and I read together a couple of weeks ago:

“Also we know that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

That’s from the 1599 Geneva Bible. What struck me the most when we read that in this particular translation was that it was written that all things work together for the best, not just for good, but for the best. I say that I wanted better for my daughter, but God has sent this for her best.

I found the notes for this verse to be quite thought-provoking as well, “…we are not afflicted, either by chance or to our harm, but by God’s providence for our great profit….”

All is from God. All really is grace. And sometimes, that grace is hard. Sometimes it hurts. But should this really surprise me? The grace by which I am saved was brought about through incredible pain and suffering. Grace does not mean that all is sunshine and roses, but perhaps grace does mean that it really is all for the best, our best.

Revisiting Grace

I sat down to do some writing on a particular project. I ended up reading Mom’s journal instead. She kept one for a short time back in 1997. She was in a near-fatal car accident in January of that year. Truth be told, it’s nothing short of a miracle that she even survived. But the road to recovery was long and hard to say the least.

Reading her own words about it makes me amazed that she handled all of it with such faith and grace. If she was here then I know that she would be quick to credit God for that. Even though I was there through it, I was quite young… only 16. And I didn’t really grasp just how hard it all was for her. Reading a glimpse of her struggles makes me realize that.

You know one thing that struck me though? Her concern for us. I read about it and think, “With all that you had to go though, why were you worried about us?” But that was Mom. She knew that it was a difficult thing for those who she loved most to deal with. She could have complained that it was harder on her than it was on us. And she would have been right! She did freely admit how difficult and frustrating it was for her, but she also realized that it wasn’t just about her. That’s what being a family is I guess, being in this thing together.

Something else that stood out to me was how many times she thanked God. No one could deny that her survival was a miracle. That’s why they called her “The Miracle Lady” at the hospital. But she sure could have chosen to bitter that it happened in the first place. Instead, she chose to thank God for sparing her life. Several times in her journal she asked Him to forgive her for complaining about being in pain or not being able to do anything for herself. I don’t think any of us would blame her for complaining about that, but regardless, she did not want to have an un-grateful attitude.

Finally, I read words that I’d heard her speak so many times through the years, “Lord give me grace.” I can’t count the number of times that she prayed that, or the number of times that she quoted II Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)

My Mom wasn’t a saint. There were plenty of times when she would ask, “Why Lord?” But that’s usually when she would quote that verse and pray for grace. In November of 1997 I actually wrote a song based on that. It’s just the lyrics, as I’m no musician. But she was my inspiration. I don’t remember now if I ever told her that.

Remembering all of this, remembering Mom, reminds me that being a woman of faith doesn’t mean that I’m never frustrated, angry, overwhelmed or just plain weary. It does mean that when I reach the end of myself, that I hold on tight to His grace. Honestly, my faith is only by His grace anyway. I am so human. I truly have no strength of my own. But it turns out that His grace really is sufficient.

You Never Forget…

“I’ve brushed Auntie’s hair for her,” Munchkin told me as I brushed her hair before tucking her in for the night.

“I used to brush Grammy’s hair when I was a little girl,” was my reply.

“Did I ever brush Grammy’s hair?” came the question.

I hesitate before answering, “I don’t know.”

“There are a lot of things that I’ve forgotten about Grammy,” she tells me after a thoughtful pause, “But I still remember what she looks like.”

I swallow hard before hugging her and saying, “Grammy loved you very much, always remember that.”

I hope that she doesn’t notice the quiver in my voice as I tell her that I love her too and say goodnight. I’ve been in her shoes. How do I tell her that though you may forget a lot of things about the person you loved, you never forget how much you miss them? How do I tell her that that little ache never completely goes away? Not even twenty-six years later…

Tea With Munchkin

Munchkin and I had our first “real” tea party today. She asked me if we could us my real teacups and drink real tea from them. We opted for iced herbal tea since it’s still very warm on the East coast! She picked out a teacup and I did as well. We filled a small teapot with iced tea and seated ourselves at the kids’ plastic table. Munchkin had made place cards for each of us. We sat sipping our iced tea and practicing managing a full-sized teacup and saucer.

When we had finished our tea she helped me carry the empty cups to the kitchen and wash them. She did a wonderful job handling them with care. I made it a point to tell her that though we must be careful with Mommy’s teacups, accidents do sometimes happen, and I would not be mad at her if something was accidently broken.

That’s the sort of thing that Mom always told me. I tried to be careful, but I broke a number of dishes while I was growing up. She always told me that I was far more important to her than any dish. I can’t remember one time when she was mad because I’d broken a dish. That’s a lesson that I do my best to keep in mind now that I have kids of my own. I do like my pretty teacups, but I’d rather risk breaking one and use them for tea parties with my daughter. Because ultimately, it’s the memories made with my little girl that are far more precious to me than a fragile china cup.

Baby Socks

I opened a package of new sock for Little Guy today. It reminded me of Mom. She ALWAYS kept socks on hand for the kids. When they were babies and we visited her she always had the same response when one of them started fussing. She’d say, “It’s because their feet are cold!” Then she’d whip out a pair of socks and put them on the tiny feet. It didn’t matter if it was 70 degrees in the middle of the summer. She always put socks on them.

Now, this isn’t to say that I just let the kids go around barefoot in the snow. I just couldn’t seem to keep socks on their feet. I’d put them on and less than half an hour later they would have them off. Actually, the older kids still do that. What is it that kids of all ages have against socks?

One morning last week Little Guy was fussing and I was rocking him. I glanced down at his bare feet and I could practically hear my Mom’s voice saying, “It’s because his feet are cold!” Remembering that brought tears to my eyes. And so, I keep finding the socks he kicks off and putting them back on his feet. Every time I do, I think about Mom.

March 3rd

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

Today, I find that particularly hard. March 3rd, I really want to hate March 3rd. Two years ago today we lost Mom. Two years is a long time, just not long enough… It still hurts. Life does continue on, and honestly, most days are OK now. But I still miss her.

I woke up today and the first thought that crossed my mind was, “It’s March 3rd.” I spent a few miserable minutes reflecting on all of the reasons why I’d like to just skip today altogether. Then I thought of the verse from Psalm at the beginning of my post. I’d been prepared to be miserable, not convicted.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” – I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV

Tempting as it is for me to spend the day wallowing in despair and self-pity, I can’t. That’s how those without hope grieve. This is not to say that it’s wrong for me to still miss her terribly! Of course I do. Today in particular will bring a few tears, I’m sure. But not despair. Not the paralyzing grief of the hopeless.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” – II Corinthians 1:3-5

The Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, has promised to comfort me. As much as I want to be miserable and feel sorry for myself, I have no excuse to. According to the Scriptures, my consolation aboundeth by Christ! If I truly have faith, how can these assurances not spark some hope within me?

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – II Corinthians 12:9

I’m fond of quoting that verse, but do I really live like I believe it? I’m ashamed to say that I do not. I do not always behave as if God’s grace is enough for me.

So where does this leave me today? Today will still be a hard day. It’s a particular reminder of how much I miss Mom. There’s nothing wrong with missing those we love. But I’m also learning that I must guard against self-pity. It’s an easy sin for me to fall into, unfortunately. In the end, I have hope. And that Hope is greater than despair.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” – Romans 5:1-5

Mom’s Birthday

I’ve been eyeing my calendar all week long, mindful of the fact that February 26th was fast approaching. I have mixed feelings about today. You see, February 26th was Mom’s birthday. When I stop to think about it, the tears well up and I swallow hard. I can’t help it, I still miss her.

But there are good memories too. Mom and my sister had supper with us on her last birthday here. Munchkin helped me bake the birthday cake and we had chicken parmesan. After the kids were in bed, we four adults played cards. And, oh, did we laugh! It was such a good evening. We had so much fun celebrating her birthday that night!

Five days later, she was gone. But I’ve always been thankful that we had that last birthday together. I’ll always be grateful to have that memory.

Finding Love in the Moment

My article about homeschooling is still simmering away, and as soon as it’s done I’ll post it. So keep checking back!

I’m still reading VRIN in between this hectic patch of life, and I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I’m done. (Soon, I promise John!)

In the meantime, I’m making room for a piano. Our dining room is also a learning/spinning/knitting room, and now we can add music to that description! It’s the same piano that Aaron practiced on while he was growing up. Even though I never achieved any amount of proficiency playing the piano, I still think that they are just a beautiful instrument. I’m thrilled that we’ll have one in our home! Perhaps I’ll even convince Aaron to play for me now and again!

Making room for this piano has involved no small amount of furniture shuffling! I’m also taking this opportunity to give the room a much-needed organizational makeover. With some help from my Dad, I got a lovely set of shelves up on one of the walls for all of our “school books”. That first step has been a big help!

In the midst of sorting through the mountain of books and papers that had accumulated, I came upon Mom’s prayer journal. Ever Sunday she took it with her to write down the prayer requests for the week. Later on, she might go back and note how a particular prayer had been answered. I couldn’t help the tears when I came to the last entry, shortly before she died. It was the same as the rest, filled with compassion and concern for everyone else. None of us knew that it would be her last.

It’s funny how just seeing her handwriting makes me feel. I’d recognize it anywhere. I’m glad that I have things that she wrote, but at the same time, it makes me miss her all over again. Sorting through drawers and boxes has unearthed tiny reminders of her. Each one of them pricks.

Part of me wishes that I was “over it” by now, but I know that’s not how it works. You never “get over” people you love. I’ve heard it said that love is a decision. That may be partially true, but real love is so much more! If it was just a decision, then it would be easy to decide to stop. We truly would be able to “get over it”! I think that love is a very deep and complex thing. I don’t believe that we can completely understand it here on earth. I do know that real love is not something that you can stop just because you want to. It doesn’t matter what happens to the people you love. It doesn’t matter what they do to hurt you. You just keep on loving them anyway. Love is hard. Love is sacrifice. Love can hurt. But the Scriptures tell us that love is greater than even faith or hope.

Love is many things, and in this moment, love hurts. But there are other moments. Moments that don’t hurt like this. If I’ve learned one thing though, it’s that in the end, it’s worth it.