I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A letter to my late husband on his birthday

Dear Michael,

I can hardly believe I still miss you this much. As we celebrate your 44th birthday, the 12th we have celebrated without you, why are these tears spilling out? I am happy. I truly am. I have a wonderful life. Your babies aren't babies anymore, but rather one is a handsome and intelligent teen who is the spitting image of you in both looks and personality and the other is a beautiful, growing-up-too-fast talented and tender-hearted young lady.  To your two babies I have added another two treasures so now I have four just like we always said we wanted, minimum (although we both not-so-secretly wanted six).  I am blessed to be able to homeschool like we always wanted to. I have a wonderful church, supportive friends, and even an amazing new love (never saw that coming after 11 years alone). So why? Why does it still hurt? Why do I still miss you? Why do I just want to talk to you?  I guess it is a testament to our friendship and the life we built together. You know, I am convinced that I have been able to love again because of our good relationship and the friendship we had. Thank you for that. I really thank you for that.  I wish I could tell you all about my life now. I know you'd love hearing about the kids, and I would give absolutely anything to discuss so many other things with you. I miss you. I miss talking to you. I miss that we could talk all day and all night and never run out of things to say.  I am grateful for my life now and so grateful for the lessons that grief has taught me. I am a better person for having relied on God's grace through the suffering and pain to make it to the joy on the other side.  But that joy doesn't change the fact that you are gone and I miss you.  It makes me smile to think of you in heaven. I know you are happy now, and I know you are happy for me. I'm sure that by the time the kids and I are bowling for your birthday celebration and I am telling stories of their dad's exploits I will have smiles rather than tears, but right now I just miss you.

Love,
Justine

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First world problem

After a week with basically no internet, I learned a few things:
1. I am way more productive when I don't have internet.
2. I can't do several crucial things without internet (which means #1 is really only partially true).
3. I spend way too much time on Facebook and reading blogs and articles.
4. I am going to change the way I use the internet, just focus on the vital stuff, and spend less time online.
5. I am going to change tomorrow.   Today I am going to bask in faster browsing speeds.  Thank goodness the technician came right before naptime. ;)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fifteen years ago today






I love my life and I am very happy, but I still miss him.  We were married for less than five years.  He has been gone for more than ten.  Today we will leave an American flag at his headstone to honor the most patriotic man I have ever known.  

I may shed a tear or two, but mostly I will enjoy my day with his children plus the two wonderful kiddos I have added since he died.  Being happy and enjoying my life doesn't mean I don't miss him with all of my heart.  It does mean that I live in the land of the living and look forward instead of backward most of the time.




1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

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. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two traumatic true stories


We have had a great weekend, but there were two brief episodes that were ummm...interesting....  Sorry I didn't get pictures of either event as they were both spontaneous and, well, rather traumatic in the moment.

Last night Baby Girl was last in the bath.  That fact is important because it means that the bar of soap had been water logged by both Super-T and Little Pud and was a soft squishy version of its former self.  For unknown reasons, Baby Girl decided to take a HUGE bite of soap.  This is the same Baby Girl who is completely tube-fed and refuses to let any food or beverage down her gullet, but non-edible things?  Yes!  Let's gnosh tissues and sand and now SOAP!  The crying didn't start right away.  In fact she didn't seem fazed until I, realizing she had a huge wad of soap stuck to the roof of her mouth, decided to get it out.  Girlfriend has mad tongue skills when it comes to getting something unwanted out of her mouth, but apparently the soap was just so soft and sticky that she couldn't move it and it had become attached to her palate.  Enter my finger (OUCH!) then a spoon, and finally a toothbrush.  It took several minutes and LOTS of crying and foaming at the mouth (literally) before Baby Girl was finally soap free.  The residual crying and sob-breathing lasted a long time.  I tried to sympathize, but I wasn't so successful and confess to laughing.  But don't worry, I was paid back, because the next traumatic experience was just for me.

This morning I loaded up three kiddos and headed to church.  The Philosopher has been at a living history event all weekend so he wasn't with us (if he had been, this story would most likely be quite different.)  When we were nearly to church I saw a big turtle right in the middle of the road.  The road was completely deserted, but I knew there would soon be lots of traffic with first service letting out and second service starting, so I stopped, flipped on the hazards, and told the kids, "I'll be right back."  I hopped out to rescue the nice turtle.  I love all animals and hated to think of someone running over this guy.  I picked him up and immediately was rewarded with cold "water" splashing all over my feet.  Yes, Mr. Turtle peed on me.  Shocked, but remembering my mission, I ran him to the grass by the side of the road and jumped back in the car where Little Pud needed confirmation that the gallons of "water" were in fact what she suspected.  Fortunately the minivan is well-stocked with wipes, Mr. Turtle mostly got my feet, and I was wearing easily-cleaned flip flops.  There was no time to go home.  Just time to laugh and have the kids laugh at me while I wiped off.  So, if you saw me at church this morning, I had turtle toes.  I cringe to think about it.  On the other hand, I see a homeschool science lesson:  cold-blooded animals have cold urine and apparently can hold more than the actual volume of their body.  Who knew?

How was your weekend?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

HELP!

I need help.  Accepting help takes vulnerability.  I first learned how to really accept help ten years ago when my husband died.  Up until that time I preferred to be the helper rather than the helpee.  I think most people prefer that.  But Michael died when I was eight months pregnant with our daughter, had a two and a half year old little boy running around, was DEEP in debt and moved within weeks...I had to have help.  It was humbling, but since I really had no choice, I allowed it.  I even began to realize the blessing it is to allow others to help me.

Fast forward ten years.  I am much more often in a position to help others now, but still have specific areas that are weaknesses, not to mention specific times when I need help (e.g. adoption transition!)   I have found that accepting help from friends who have strengths in my areas of weakness is a huge boost to my whole life.

One major area of weakness in my life:  organization, specifically home organization.  I do okay in small segments.  I kept my adoption paperwork pretty organized up until the last bit where it got a wacky.  I have little pockets of organization in my home, but overall I really have a tough time keeping stuff under control.  I have tried Flylady (which works, by the way, if you actually do it, which I did for several months back in 2004, but not so much if you just delete the emails and never do them) and several other systems, but mostly no system at all and just trying to tread water.  The special bane to my existence is PAPER.  Why is there so much paper?!?   (The below picture is of my garage, not my paper piles.)

BEFORE

Over the last few years I have been more and more open to having friends come help me with organization.   It started with my wonderful college roommate.  She and I would get together annually and do a sorting/organizing project, alternating houses every year.  This was lovely and helpful, but unfortunately my roommate (who has many many incredible qualities) has only somewhat better organizational skills to my own.  The good part was that this eased me in gently because I knew she could relate to my struggle, plus we had lived together for four years in college (she was the neat one) so she had already seen me at my worst (hello, mountain of college clothes piled high on my desk chair until it tipped over).  Besides, once every two years combined with my pathetic solo efforts wasn't really making a dent considering the constant influx of stuff brought by the mailman and by my kids.

Last summer another good friend from college who is stellar at organizing came in to town and spent two days whipping my pantry, kitchen, dining room, and various piles of paper into shape.  She set up a simple "even Justine can do it" filing system and did it all with great respect and encouragement. It was incredible and even fun!  But I wouldn't even let her touch my closet. 

That experience opened the door to my seeing how valuable it is to let others into our lives to help us out in our areas of weakness.  Much to my own surprise I allowed a newer friend with a talent for organization, (who had never even been to my house!) come over to help me organize a room before Baby Girl came home.  It seemed to snowball from there.  I have now had three or four organizationally gifted friends help me with bits and pieces of my house.  One wonderful friend came over earlier this spring and together we cleaned out and organized my entire garage!  Her church even provided the storage shelf and totes we used!  What a gift! 

AFTER (the giant pile o' stuff on the left is our soon-to-be-set-up pool)


This past week was the most amazing, humbling, exhausting, and enlightening experience.  My good-at-organizing college friend was back in town for a conference.   After spending two days "conferencing" and getting too little sleep, plus another day running errands around town and getting too little sleep, my Friend With Boundless Energy And Mad Organizing Skilz (FWBEAMOS) decided it was time to tackle my closet.  This time I let her.  My role was to stand by and give the occasional opinion in between running out-of-place items to their places.  Mostly I tried not to hyperventilate (not really) or cry (really).  Although my FWBEAMOS was very gentle in her approach, there was no denying that it was painful to be that vulnerable, to let her go through my "stash and dash" boxes that had been in my closet for years and watch her throw away 95% of the contents.  It was painful to see her make short work of piles that had mentally tortured me for years.  It was painful because it made me face a glaring weakness in my life.  I am good at a lot of things and mostly have my act together.  I can dish out a lot of encouragement and advice, much of it good.  But I am not perfect.  I do not have ALL strengths.  None of us do.  That is why we need each other. 
That is why the American ideal of "rugged individualism" is actually against the gospel.  First Corinthians 12 is one of my favorite Bible passages.  It talks about gifts and needing each other.  It includes possibly the best (and funniest) analogy in the Bible, comparing the members of the church (universal) to the parts of the body:
 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.  If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?  - I Cor. 12:14-17


Can't you just see a giant eyeball?  Or a giant ear?  It wouldn't be much of a person if it was just a giant eye.   I highly recommend reading the whole chapter.

We need each other.  We each have a purpose.  We each have gifts.  And we need to be vulnerable and open enough to allow others to help us in our areas of weakness.  The rewards are great.  Really great.  I am thankful.


One reward of a clean garage: a workbench for The Philosopher.