Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strawberry Picking

"Berry picking with Mama was a delicious time. Just this once, I'll gather more than I eat, thought Suzie Mae. Quick as a wink, she placed each plump strawberry into her bucket. Caw..caw. A crow swooped down and perched on the fence, giving Susie Mae a suspicious look. "Don't worry, old bird," she whispered. "I can pick and not snitch." Mama began to hum, moving swiftly between the rows. Joining in the song, Susie Mae picked the sun-ripened berries. The singing and the sunshine made her stomach rumble. She could almost taste the juicy red strawberries with homemade ice cream. One or two won't hurt, thought Susie Mae..." (from "Just Like Mama" by Beverly Lewis)

This page in the book ran through my mind today as I went to pick strawberries with my kids. Our second year without Ashley. It still hurts, it always will. It seemed as though I went through all of the motions. I even had a good time picking and watching my kids pick. I got home, sat down to hull the berries, and realized what I just did. again. without Ashley. I missed her deeply as I sat at the table with 20 lbs of berries to put away. I could see Ashley sitting across from me. She would insist on helping. We would work together in the kitchen as we turned the berries into sauce and jam. I remembered her getting mad if I hulled too fast...not leaving enough for her to do. She was beginning to work me out of a job.
Each year, Ashley would insist on picking more strawberries. She didn't want to risk running out of sauce for homemade waffles!

I kept on asking myself why I am doing this. How am I doing this? What did I just do? Is this for real. Jake reminded me that we have to keep living. We can't stop life. Even though I often wish I could, I know he is right. Hopefully one day the memories that come along with every day will cause more joy and less pain. I am amazed at how sometimes what hurts the most are the little things in life. I felt as though I had to hold myself up, and remind myself to breathe this afternoon. I had finished the berries and felt the cost in the end.

I took some time to read the book, "Just Like Mama" to Emma this afternoon. Ashley loved that book. We read it often. Ashley always wanted to be like me. She reminded me of "Susie Mae" always trying to do the things her Mama did...following in her footsteps. I taught Ashley to do so many things..but most of all, I taught her to love Jesus and to serve Him daily. She is loving Him and serving Him today.

A song came to my heart today as I drove home. "Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage, Your defender is He, who is always the same. Mount up with wings as an eagle ascending. Victory is yours when you call on his name. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong in the Lord, and rejoice for the victory is yours." I Imagined that Ashley was singing it to me, encouraging me to press on, keeping my eyes fixed on God.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reflections about my Fathers

Great Grandpop. He lived to be 101 years exactly. What a privilege to have known him into my 30's. He taught me how to love the sound of laughter. His laugh was hilarious and contagious! I loved to say things just to hear him laugh. He laughed hard when us great grand children would say the few silly things that we knew how to say in Pennsylvania dutch. More seriously, he taught me about wisdom, strength, and silence. He taught me something about listening more and speaking less...something that I probably won't really learn until I am older.

PopPop. He taught me about serving others and certainly proved that you can never know too many people. PopPop can't go anywhere without knowing someone. He has taught me kindness and gentleness toward others. He has always taught me through his actions, to remember others. He often set time aside to do special things with us kids. I remember evening bike rides, walks, games,fishing, rides in the back of the pick-up truck, and the special "me and Pop Pop" trip to the Phillie's game! PopPop also taught me how to address my Father in heaven. I crave to hear his Sunday dinner prayers. "Our kind and heavenly Father....use this food.. there of to bring glory and honor to You." These words will never leave my heart. In some of my darkest moments, the echo's of his prayers have comforted me.

Grandpa. Although he did not live close by, he taught me so many things through what he taught my Dad. Grandpa taught me about being a good steward of what God has given to me. My Dad would often say...."Grandpa always said that it doesn't matter how much or how little you had, you must take good care of it because it is what God has entrusted into your care." Grandpa also taught me about working hard. He raised my dad on a farm, teaching him the value of hard work....being a steward of our time. In turn, Dad taught me about working hard. Grandpa also taught me to enjoy music. What a blessing it is to sit around his table as a family and hear four part harmony as we sang our favorite hymns before prayer.

My Dad. He is truly one of my best friends. I love to chat with him, and to spend time together. He taught me to enjoy nature. Growing up,we spent lots of time traveling with our camper. Dad taught me to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. He taught me how to work and how to play. Dad taught me how to provide sacrificially. Dad spent many hours away from home as he has driven a truck for most of my life. Although he would have liked to be home, he desired to be the best provider for our family as he could be. I have learned to give up things that I desire in order to give my children what they need.
Although I am still learning this one, Dad has taught me about patience. He patiently waited as I learned to do things..anywhere from riding a bike to driving my car, and he patiently guided me as I sorted through my spiritual life as a teenager. Dad taught me how to relate to others and to enjoy the company of others. Dad always reminds me to examine my ways before the Lord. He continues to guide me to be a godly woman.

My father in law. I have been his "daughter" for 18 years now. He has taught me about gennerosity toward others and about giving. He has also shown me about forgiveness...over and over and over again. I love to listen to my kids giggle as he tells them bedtime stories when he comes to visit. He taught my husband how to work hard, and equipped him with the ability to do just about anything! And, now I am blessed to see them use those talents together as they serve in Haiti.

My husband. The father of my four beautiful children. One of the first things I loved about him when I met him was the way he loved children. "He is going to be an awesome daddy someday!" That was one quality that was at the top of my list! I have always loved to watch him with little kids. What a blessing it has been to watch him love and play with our children over the past 13 years. He has proven to be more than an awesome father, not only to our children, but to others. I love to watch him father the children in Haiti. They come running to him and can't wait to be with him. He doesn't push them away. He loves them too.
He is strong, confident, and works hard to provide for his family. He teaches his children to love and fear God, not only through words, but through his example. He has bravely done what most fathers never have to do in their lifetime. He is showing us how to walk in faith each day. Even in great weakness, he has picked himself up, and walked forward. He teaches me so much about who God God loves his children, how God provides, how He forgives. He is showing us how to walk in faith each day. God has given me the best father for my children!

God has blessed me with generations of wonderful fathers. I am so thankful for each one of them, and for the things they have taught me, and continue to teach me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Give me Jesus

Mother's Day. Not always a hallmark card, really. It seemed empty, lonely, and sad. It was also sweet with hugs and kisses, homemade cards, good deeds for Mommy, picnics, and family time. I'm not the only one out there that doesn't get to live out the ideal Mother's Day. I think Mother's Day is a sad, painful day for so many. It is often unmentioned that there are women who never got the privilege of being a mother even though they would have been the best mothers if they had been given the chance. Some mothers didn't deserve to be a mother...and their children have to live with their loss each Mother's day. So many mothers have to grieve over the absence of their own mother as they raise their children without a Grandma. There are mothers, like me, who have to face each day, including Mother's Day with one (or more) of our children missing.

There is a misunderstanding about Joy in the midst of pain. Joy never left. It is here, most every day, in one form or another. Joy is chained to deep sorrow and pain. They are rarely felt apart from each other. My mother's day was filled with joyful moments with my children. It was also filled with tears, and the pain of separation from my first born child that literally shook me. I do not desire a Mother's day without tears. My tears represent Ashley. I want them.

As I began my day, I pondered Mother's day. I imagined happy families blissfully celebrating motherhood. I imagined Mom's with "all" of their children. (Not that those things are not worthy celebrating!) Mine was broken. Empty. Lonely. The words of an old favorite song filled my mind..."You can have all this world.....Give me Jesus." Being a mother WAS part of this world. This world is broken and lost.
Later on, I took a drive by myself. It was a good time for me to give in to my pain. Tears rolled down my face and I shook as I tried to imagine my sweet child. I missed her deeply. I couldn't feel her as close anymore. I missed specific things about her. I missed my perfect Mother's Days. I wanted her hugs and kisses. Soon, the song began to play on the radio..."when I am alone, oh when I am alone, Give me Jesus..."

God wanted me to know that even being a mother belonged to Him. He entrusted that gift to me, but it belonged to Him. A particular verse in Luke made sense to me..."If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." Even those good things are part of this world. I determined that God wanted me to know that I only need Him. I didn't need a perfect Mother's Day.

Ashley crowned me with motherhood. She shaped me into the mother I am today. As the oldest child, she conducted each day. Every one of my children bear her mark. For a very long time after Ashley died, it was hard for me to "see" my other children apart from her. I have been so blessed over the past few months, as I have begun to enjoy each one of my children for who they are apart from Ashley, and to also love them for their characteristics that mirror their sister. The hole is always there, every time I look at my children, one is missing, but I am not always focused on it. I see the hole as part of the WHOLE of my broken life.