I Pledge.

There is a four minute video that will be shown in schools across America tomorrow. Take a moment to watch it here. Some of it sounds rather nice, some rather dubious, and some downright evil. At the end we are all encouraged to make a pledge of some sort. I reflected on this, and decided to adopt the slogan from Michael Peroutka’s 2004 Presidential Campaign as my pledge.

“I pledge to honor God, defend the family and restore the republic.”

Sounds like a simple little pledge, but let us stop to ponder for a moment all that is contained in those twelve words. That is the essence of what it means to be an American and a patriot.

Our nation was built upon a foundation of honoring God, and giving thanks to Him for our innumerable blessings. We thrived and prospered, because we honored Him as a nation. What should we expect now? Now that we no longer honor God. We should certainly expect His judgment, and like Thomas Jefferson, I fear for my country when I realize that God’s justice will not sleep forever.

How does one go about defending the family? That is a tall order in today’s society. Political activism is not enough. We must not only look to the defense of the family in general, but also to ours in particular. One way that I choose to go about protecting my family, is by teaching my children myself. It is my God-given responsibility to teach my children according to the Scriptures. I trust no one else with this sacred duty.

Restoring the republic is partially becoming politically active. We must elect only men who above all, fear God and seek to do His will. We must also ensure that they are statesmen, rather than politicians, and that they truly understand where our rights come from, and the proper role of government in protecting those rights from infringement. But that is only part of the picture, for the republic will never be restored until the hearts and minds of the people are changed.

William Wilberforce sought to make the slave trade illegal, but he realized that his work must be twofold. The laws must be changed, and the hearts of the people must be changed. They are synonymous.

I challenge the American people to read. Read the Bible, study it, and search it. You will be changed. Also, read the great classics that the early Americans read, and the ones that many of them wrote. Read the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Read your state Constitution. Read The Law by Frederic Bastiat. It is a short pamphlet and the text can be read freely here. I’ll quote Jefferson one more time, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

I was rather appalled by the people in the video pledging to serve the de facto president of the United States as if he were a great king. In response to that, I’ll borrow another slogan, this one from Rev. Jonas Clarke from during the time of the American Revolution, “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus.”

Come September

I’ve been busy gearing up for starting lessons with the kids come September. When I stop to think about this task that I’ve undertaken, I’m rather overwhelmed. OK, scared to death may be closer to the truth. I know that I’m up to the challenge, I just have to convince myself of that fact!

Mom made it all look so easy. She made being an amazing mother look as natural and effortless as breathing. I have a tremendous example to follow, but by the same token, it means that I have some very large footsteps to follow in! Dare I hope that someday my Munchkin will be saying that I made it look easy? Parents have heavy responsibilities, but the struggles are more than offset by the great joys.

I’m thankful to have help and advice from some really wonderful moms and teachers. Still, there are so many things that I’d thought to ask Mom. I feel a little more lost without her a phone call away. I guess this year will be a learning experience, for both the kids and me! As frightening as this all seems at times, it’s a wonderful adventure that I face with anticipation, and a LOT of prayer!

(PS – Points for anyone who can tell me who starred in the movie with the same title as this blog post!)

Ocean of Tears

I miss her today. I miss her so much. I can’t say why today in particular.

Perhaps grieving is like the ocean. The tide goes out and you walk the sand by the edge of the water. Suddenly, the tide comes in and the waves overtake the shore again. It can take you by surprise the first time you visit a beach. Perhaps our grief is like that. Some of it almost seems to fade a bit and we walk on, unsuspecting. Then the wave of grief swallows us up again, just like the tide reclaiming the sand.

Maine has her share of sandy beaches, but much of her coastline is quite rocky. Watching the waves crash against the rocks, constantly assaulting them is quite the sight to behold. Perhaps the beach analogy is not entirely accurate for where I am today. I feel more like the rocks. I’ve stood against the battering waves of the ocean for so long, but they are beginning to wear me down. The unending attack of the salt water eventually has an effect. I’ve cried what seems like an ocean of tears over these past months, more tears than I’ve ever cried over any single event in my life. The sorrow threatens to overcome me.

But I think of what the ocean does to fragments of glass. Smoothing out all of the sharp edges, softening and shaping it, into something remarkable and beautiful. Have you ever held a piece of beach glass? There is just something about it that fills you with a sense of wonder. Perhaps I am a piece of glass.

Maybe the relentless waves of sorrow and raw grief are serving to polish and mold me into something better. I’m finding this to be a long and terribly painful process. One that I could never endure by relying on my own strength. I could never survive it without His strength to hold me firm.

For today anyway, rather than requesting grace for the day, I’ll pray to God to give me grace for the moment.

Bright Orange Crocs

When Munchkin was just a little toddler, Mom started wearing Crocs. They are those plastic foam shoes that have holes and come in bright colors. Not the most attractive footwear, but even I have to admit that they are comfortable! Mom discovered that they had introduced kids sizes. Well of course that meant that her little granddaughter just had to have a pair of her own. The only pair she could find in Munchkin’s size was bright orange. I have photographs that I took of Mom and Munchkin on the lawn between the two houses, walking hand in hand, wearing those bright orange Crocs. It’s a sweet picture, and a wonderful memory.

Those same shoes were worn by Mr. Q, and this summer by Camo. I was walking with my youngest little boy on the very same lawn last night. There we were, hand in hand, and he was wearing those bright orange Crocs that Grammy had found a few years ago. It seemed to me like an echo of that photograph, and reminded me of that day.

It continues to surprise me the little things that can trigger a memory. Remembering is such a bittersweet thing. The memories are sweet, and I am so thankful for that! At the same time, the realization of what we’ve lost is a bitter thing to swallow. Perhaps it is the worst when I think of Camo. He will likely never remember anything of the Grandmother who loved him so dearly. He won’t remember, but I’ll tell him just the same.

I think that life in general is bittersweet. We can’t have one without the other. Consequences of a fallen world I suppose. Even so, as bitter as life is sometimes, there is still hope. Always hope. My hope lies not in myself, nor in anything on Earth. My hope is eternal, because my hope is in Him.

Surprise!

I feel like a kid again. I had two birthday parties (and two cakes!) this year. The second was last night at the home of friends that have known me for so long that they qualify as family. They all got together with Aaron and Joyce and managed to find me a spinning wheel! I cannot tell you what a surprise that was! I’ve spent last night and all of this morning researching antique spinning wheels online and looking for books to help me get started spinning!

My wheel is the precursor to what the modern wheels today are. It’s called a walking wheel. Walking wheels have a larger wheel, and you spin while standing. They are also a much simpler, very elegant design, and in my opinion, more beautiful than their modern day descendants! Of course, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for anything historical, and my wheel was made in New Hampshire in the 1800’s. It’s steeped in history! Wouldn’t you just love to get a peek at the stories it could tell us? I’ve found a few videos on the internet of people spinning with their walking wheels, and now I’m just ITCHING to get started myself!

I’ve also decided that I can count it as exercise. When spinning on a walking wheel you take a couple of steps back and forth as you spin, hence the name “walking” wheel. So, the next time that the doctor asks me if I exercise, I’ll say, “Why yes, I spin every day!” Hmmmm, if I’m going to spin that much, I may need to look into buying a couple of sheep…

You know, I may have lost Mom, but I’m still richly blessed with friends who love me as if I was part of their family. And that’s the real treasure.

Next Year…

Today is my birthday. I’m twenty-nine. No… really, I am twenty-nine! Honest!

This is my first birthday without Mom. Last year, we went camping with Aaron’s parents for my birthday. When I told Mom that I’d be gone on my birthday she said, “That’s a bummer. I was going to make you a cake!” I smiled and told her that she could make me one next year. Today it’s next year, and she’s not here. I don’t regret going camping last year, not at all. The kids had a wonderful time, and it was great to have the opportunity to spend the time with Aaron’s parents. I wouldn’t change that weekend at all!

I guess that reflecting on that short conversation with Mom reminds me that none of us know what tomorrow will bring. It’s like I thought that Mom would always be here. I had no reason to think that. She’d had more than one brush with death. I knew better than most young people how precarious life can be. Yet, life without her was still a shock. It’s still sad, and I still miss her even more than I’d have ever guessed. For nearly twenty-nine years, she was so much a part of my life. Who I am today, is in so many ways, due to her influence. I can only aspire to be half the woman that she was. She set the standard high, but did everything that she could to equip me to aim for it. For that I am thankful beyond words.

If I had to make a birthday wish, it would be this: That we would never let a day go by without telling those we love, just how much we love them. Do me this one favor today, if you can, give your mom a hug, and tell her just how much you love her.

Mom never got the chance to make me that cake this year, but my sister and my daughter stepped in to do it themselves. I’ll be honest; it’s the most beautiful cake that anyone has ever made me. Tonight when I blow out the candles I’ll give them both a hug, and tell them how much I love them, because we never know what next year will bring.

It Will Hurt Until Heaven

I’m still managing to go through things of Mom’s that have found their way to my house. I have the pillow that I made her years ago for her arm. Since her car accident, she always felt more comfortable if she had a pillow to rest her elbow on while she was sitting. The one I made was sewn from two hand towels, making it washable, and the perfect size. She used it for so many years. It looks ratty and worn, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So, it sits in the chair in my dining room, a gentle reminder of the Mom who so shaped my life.

It still hurts. Nearly five months later, and it is still an open wound in my heart. I’ve thought of a new way to look at it though. “It will hurt until Heaven.” Perhaps that sounds rather depressing, but bear with me. I’ve said many times that I’ll miss her every day for the rest of my life. That is true, and denying it won’t change the fact that I miss her terribly. The hurt from missing my Grandfather has not faded away in nearly 25 years, so why should this be any different. Reminding myself that it will hurt until Heaven is a way of reminding myself to have hope, to have faith. It won’t hurt forever. Someday, all of our hurts will be healed, never to bring us pain again. Heaven seems a long ways off right now, but none of us really know do we? Until then, we can live with the hurt, because we know that it is not forever. We can continue on in the journey of life, and know that the hurt doesn’t have to become our life, because it’s only one small part of it.

There is a line in a song that asks, “When does the pain become a friend?” I think that I’m getting closer to that point. Certainly, it’s become a companion on my walk through this world. Perhaps the pain does become a friend, because it reminds us of how utterly weak that we are. We are shown anew how much we must rely utterly on the God in whom we put our faith. Pain reminds us of where our trust must be, not in ourselves, but in Him. It reminds us that we do have hope, eternal hope. And we remember, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) It’s right there in that verse, hope. Until then, we have grace, His grace, and it’s enough…

Jalapeno Jelly

There’s this jalapeño pepper jelly that I’ve made for the past few years. I don’t care much for it, but I use it as gifts since some of my relatives and friends enjoy it. Mom was a big fan, and I’d have to make a couple of batches a year to keep her supplied. She used to put it on her toast.

A few days ago, I had to take Camo out with me and left the two oldest kids home with their Dad. He gave them PB&J for supper. (It’s their favorite meal, go figure…) He used what he though was apple jelly. In fact, it was a half-empty jar of the jalapeño jelly that I made for Mom. She had left it down here when we made sandwiches for everyone on the day that we moved into the house back in November. She just forgot to take it home, and it got lost in my fridge. Surprisingly, the kids loved it!

Today, at lunchtime they requested more of the jelly on their sandwiches. Once again, they told me how much they loved the jelly. I guess I’ll still be making it on occasion. Perhaps they have some of Mom’s genes in them. They must, since Aaron and I won’t eat that flavor of jelly!

That’s one of the things that I love about having kids. I see something of everyone I’ve loved in them.

Munchkin was wondering aloud if they have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in Heaven. I told her that I didn’t know. She thought that if they did, Grammy would be having the same jelly on hers. Perhaps it’s fanciful, but the thought does make me smile, even if it is through the tears…

Lipstick

I feel like I’ve been packing up pieces of Mom’s life. Going through her things, deciding what to do with them, and sometimes just boxing them up for now has been a physically and emotionally draining process. It has surprised me some of the things that I just can’t let go of.

Today, it was Mom’s lipstick. I came to that, tried to throw them away, but I couldn’t. With tears in my eyes, I put them in a box to take home with me. It seems a little silly, even to me, that something as simple as lipstick would be such a trigger point. But, that was Mom. A thousand and one times that I watched her at the bathroom mirror, putting on the only two cosmetics that she used, Oil of Olay, and bright fuchsia lipstick. It was just so Mom. I’ll never wear the same color that she did, but for some reason, I have to keep those little tubes. All I have left now, are little bits and pieces like that. Sure, I have so many great memories, but the memories aren’t tangible. Physical beings that we are, I think we just crave some sort of physical connection with those we love. Love doesn’t die when our bodies do. My love for Mom is still as strong as it was when she was here. I don’t think that will ever change. And that’s just fine.

I see so many things of Mom’s that make me smile. So many things that meant something to her. So many things that remind me of the million memories of her that I cherish. I’m sure that with the perspective of time there will be things that I can let go of, but for now, there are some things that I just have to keep. Sometimes it’s the books that she read to me when I was a kid. Sometimes it’s the crazy things like a tube of lipstick.

They say that time heals all wounds. I don’t know that it’s true, but I think that in my case, time will dull the ache somewhat. Someday, I’ll wake up, and it won’t hurt more than it did the day before. For now, I’ll just rely on God’s grace. Grace for the moment, grace for the day…

Grace and Gratitude

I wrote previously about the idea of an “All’s Grace” list, wherein I would list the many gifts that I am grateful for. I began mine just a few days after Mom died. Since reading a chapter about the importance of gratitude in the book, “10 Keys to Wellness”, I’ve decided that it’s past time for me to add to my list…

All’s Grace…

…music. Simply the sound of beautiful music.

…green sprouts in my flower garden.

…the comfort of a hug from a dear friend.

…curls framing the face of my little girl.

…the infectious laugh of my redheaded son.

…the serious yet smiling little boy of mine who is nearly three.

…reading a book so familiar, that it’s like a visit from an old friend.

…writing again, ideas flowing like the rush of a spring river.

…forgiveness. Incomprehensible forgiveness, that I never deserved.

…holding the hand of the one I love.

…a hot cup of fragrant Earl Grey.

…sewing, surrounded by memories of Mom.

…smiling over my Aunt’s first quilt. Mom would have been thrilled.

…such lovely flowers growing by my home. How many years have you grown by this house?

…four little ducklings, swimming with their mother, right outside my window.

…falling asleep to the sound of many frogs, with the window open to allow the crisp night air in.

…the most perfect and clear starlit sky, with every single star still there, right where it should be.

…grace for the moment.