Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Death and Eternity



There's just nothing quite like death and grief.

You can't fully comprehend it. It tries to choke the life out of you.

You can't completely prepare for the waves of sorrow and grief that will overwhelm you. You can't prepare for the joy that will strike you when you picture your believing loved ones at the foot of Jesus.

After a loved one dies, sorrow hits you at the most random of moments. You grieve all over again. When it's not a sudden, tragic death - like my 94 year old Grandpa who passed away 2 weeks ago yesterday - it's easier to process, though still unbelievably sad. You wouldn't wish they were still here because they had a good, long, happy, healthy life. But the heartbreak of losing them is still awful and it gnaws at your insides for days, weeks, and sometimes years to come.

Tragedy is something else altogether. Tragic deaths - like my 2nd cousin who died suddenly in a tragic accident 1 week + 2 days ago - is impossible to really ever wrap your head around. It's shocking and hard to believe that you'll never see them again. In this case, I'd actually never met him, but I knew his dad and I adore him. It is an utter tragedy and he left two teenage girls and a wife behind... no more hugs, no more kisses on the cheek, no more cheering them on and weeping with them on their hard days. He's gone. And there's a really big, lonely, aching hole where he used to be. It will never fully make sense.

There's my friend whose precious 6-hour-old baby died 9 months ago in two days. It's incomprehensible to me why babies are allowed to die. I mean, I get that God is in control and it's part of the Fall of man and sin... but, why sweet innocent little babies? That's crazy hard. I cannot pretend to understand. But I know God is good, gracious, and kind, and he weeps with us in our sorrow.

For us personally, with Grandpa's death, this is the end of an era. We have no more living grandparents. We don't know when or if or how often now we might even see most of our cousins who live far away. The glue that tied us all together is now gone. I can hardly even begin to really imagine life without any grandparents. It seems so strange. Yet as we grow older, I fear the days of no more living parents. That knocks the breath out of me and makes me want to sob like a little girl.

So we think of all the days gone by and reflect on all those childhood memories. And we wish we could go back and tell our childhood selves that the days are fleeting, don't just toss them to the wayside for the next thing to come along.

THIS was the last time we saw him. It breaks my heart we didn't get to see him over the past year. We were planning to go this past weekend. It hurts me so much to realize this. But with his dementia, honestly he wouldn't have really understood. And Elijah never would have remembered. It was more about seeing him, touching him, having the picture together with him. One last time. One fond farewell.

Elijah will never know our grandparents. That's so very, very sad. And he will never know his paternal grandpa [Tim's dad].

What a reminder it is to savor the moments. We truly never know when it could be the last for us or someone we love. How easy it is to simply go through the motions of daily living, forgetting that the most important things in life should matter to us every single day. It could be our last. We aren't meant to live in dread of dying, but we should count the days and know that we are one day's march closer to eternity.

Where will you spend eternity?

Without knowing fully that you have an answer to that question, my friend, the answer isn't a good one. Get right with God today and make sure you know that you know that you know Jesus, accept his free gift of salvation for dying on the cross for you, and commit your life to serving him today. I'd love to see you in heaven someday!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We Have a Walker!

Photo courtesy of his daycare teachers

We are unceasingly amazed at how much he's growing and changing!! So fast. He's been a rock star this past weekend, with flexibility and generally a good demeanor with traveling, messed up schedules, etc. Of course now that we're back home, he seems to be a mess and he misses my family as much as we do!

I'm so grateful. It's like he knew it was a hard, important weekend.

On another note, I'm much better today! I don't know how people just go, go, go, go. I love people and being around others, but I need "me" time too or I get cranky and hit empty. Been super busy today, but I'm so glad I was able to have a day to myself to recover. It was important to my sanity, and now that I can see straight and feel refreshed, I can get back into normal life. :) I needed my own tank filled back up.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rough Week

Last week was super stressful at work with a stream of very important, big deadlines.

Tuesday night I got a phone call at 8 pm from my mom, just as we were putting Elijah down for bed. Her father, my grandpa, had passed away.

Gratefully he was 94 and had a solid, good, healthy, happy life. He was ready to go home to be with Jesus.

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity - from wrapping up work projects to traveling to reconnecting with family to a crazy schedule of here there and everywhere. We got back home mid-afternoon today.

This morning my dad's first cousin's son {so, my 2nd cousin} was killed in a tragic accident at a construction site {he was a construction worker}. I didn't personally know him, but I know his dad and I adore him.

Mostly I thought I was doing fairly well, all things considered, because my Grandpa truly had an extraordinary life and I know he's at peace with Jesus now.

But as we've come home and entered back into "normal" life... I feel a bit empty. I'm sad and still wrought with grief and an overwhelming sorrow for this world and those without the hope we have in Christ.

Just sharing random thoughts. All I know is the hope we have in Christ, and I'm so incredibly grateful for his love, mercy, grace, and care for us even in dark times. No matter what, it's always hard to lose people we love or are related to, and death doesn't get any easier to handle. 

Tonight I'm just really sad. Down to the core of my being. Grieving is such a hard process.....

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I'm Into :: August 2014

I'm not sure how I feel about Summer hitting an end this weekend. I've enjoyed much of it, except for the super hot days, and have tried my best to soak it in despite it being a whirlwind and blur of a Summer!

As I look toward Fall, my very favorite season, I'm excited but am also filled with a little dread. I've been loving the daylight hours and the chances to do things with Elijah outdoors. I'm not ready for bundling him back up in a coat or boots, especially as he's getting so much better at walking and will surely be running by then.

But in the meantime, let's talk about August and some good, enjoyable, non-children things. :)

What I've been up to this month...

Books I'm Reading:

The Shunning. Oh it is SOOO good!!! I've always loved learning about Amish culture, especially after my brother lived for nearly 10 years in an Amish area in Indiana. So intriguing. I cannot stop reading this book!

The Fault In Our Stars. Oh you guys, I am trying. But as much as everyone simply raves and raves about this book, I'm so. very. bored. I'm taking a break and will try to go back to this, I promise. But... ugh.

Loving the Little Years. Such a great book. Helping me to remember to focus on the good things of raising a little one. I know I need to stop feeling guilty about the hard days {after waiting sooo long for a baby, I often feel super guilty about telling anyone about a hard day because I really am so grateful to have my baby...}, and this book helps me stay level-headed about it all.

TV Shows I'm Watching:

I'm a big fan of the Summer shows. We've been watching America's Got Talent, Running Wild with Bear Grylls {I'm such a goober, I LOVE this show!!!!}, American Ninja Warrior, Franklin & Bash {I love their banter so much, love these lead actors together, but so far am not loving the changes to this show this year}, Food Fighters {at-home cooks competing against professional chefs for money with every-day people on the judging panel}, Penn & Teller's Fool Us, and probably something else I've forgotten.

TV does go by the wayside some as we focus on Elijah - and especially as we get him down for bed between 8 and 8:30 - but we still love it whenever we get to see even parts of our favorite shows. Especially after hard times with the little guy! It's a good way to just relax and enter another world.

Movies I've Seen:



The only movie I've seen in the theatre lately, is The Hundred-Foot Journey. And oh. my. word. You guys. This movie is SO GOOD! Go see it, for real. It's heartwarming, endearing, encouraging, inspiring, funny, sweet, romantic but not annoyingly so and nothing is shown {so rare and so nice when not everyone is having sex left and right, after all romance IS more than that!}, and if you love food, this is a good comfort meal!! I was really impressed. There's nothing bad in it except a little violence that wouldn't even scare my 11-year-old niece. It's unsettling, but a good, realistic look at some of the issues in the world. Loved it.

Spiderman 2. A lot of people criticized this but we thought it was pretty good actually. Right on par with the way this line of movies has gone and we were entertained. Good acting and some nice comedic parts too.

Noah. Ugh. So completely off-base from the Bible, it was startling. But as a movie, technically it was good. Just so very wrong too.

RoboCop. I thought this was surprisingly good, but I also kept falling asleep. A combination of me being really tired, and the movie dragging in places. An intriguing concept, but one I hope we don't get to anytime in the near future. I never saw these original movies, but Tim said it was very similar.

The Other Woman. Pretty lame and a waste of time, except Leslie Mann was superb, her comedic timing with Cameron Diaz was hilarious and stellar, and there were some really, really, really funny moments. But ultimately the storyline is just ridiculous. It shows a pretty sad trend in our society these days with husbands cheating on wives way too much, and it's just a buzzkill.

What I'm Cooking:

Oh man. I've been so bad in the kitchen this month. With our vacation and lots of looming work deadlines, we've done some eating out or some light cooking. But certainly nothing worth mention here.

----

So that's what I've been up to in August. Anything exciting on your end?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Family and Vacation

August 10-16 we spent the week near Wisconsin Dells with my family.

Rented a house. 10 people, 7 days. 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a perfect kitchen, extra bikes, ping pong and foosball tables, a great room with lots of space for all of us, plenty of space between bedrooms so we weren't all right on top of each other, a space for campfires and S'mores, and a picture perfect screened-in porch which was ideal for eating all our meals.

It was picturesque. Not perfect, but amazing. Not always everyone getting along perfectly, but mostly {we all like each other, so that's good!}. Mostly restful except when Elijah didn't want to sleep {only bummer was sharing a room with him!}. Some fun activities, though we didn't get to do all of them because of Elijah or his naps. Lots of great memories. The best was seeing Elijah with his cousins.

Life since getting back has been hard. Back to reality. Back to some really hard things.

Grateful for our time away. Missing my family lots.



Monday, August 18, 2014

8 Years Ago Yesterday - The Beginning of My Fibromyalgia Journey

It was a day like any other.

I was at work, doing my job per usual.

And then all of a sudden... what slowly began as tingling in my arm, over time developed and was later diagnosed officially as Fibromyalgia.

8 years ago yesterday {August 17}, our lives changed forever.

In 2007 - less than a year after my symptoms began
Though we will never be the same, we have learned a lot through living with chronic illness, the sacrifices it takes, the toll it takes, the ways it's made us more grateful for what we do have, and the mercy & goodness God has shown us well beyond what we could have ever imagined.

The first two years, I battled a lot of depression. It was confusing, overwhelming, and felt impossible.

Then through a series of events, God helped open my eyes and I started learning, researching, feeling better, finding better ways to deal with this illness, experimenting with a wide variety of treatments and therapies, and growing exponentially in compassion for others with chronic illnesses, cancer, etc.

I've learned to be thankful for this adventure. God is working on me every day and growing my character to be more like his. I can't imagine my life now without Fibromyaglia, and while I certainly do ask him for healing, I trust his ultimate plan for my life.

Grateful to all of you who have gone with me on this journey thus far. I greatly appreciate your prayers, thoughts, advice, support, and encouragement!!

For more on my Fibro story, go to My Fibro Story page.

Me with dear friends on our girls night in July.
I hope I look wiser and more carefree than I did 8 years ago {not just older, lol!}.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

50 People = 1 Big 1st Birthday Party

Disclaimer:
All pictures on this page are (c) 2014, Red Sweater Photography, redsweaterphotography.com
Used by permission. Use of these photos without consent by the photographer is prohibited. 



We wanted to throw Elijah a huge birthday party when he turned 1. It was often on our minds, with plans slowly starting in January. It was a serious undertaking--as we didn't get to celebrate his birth as much as we would have liked, and we wanted our closest family and friends to be there. We invited over 100 people, but many were traveling or had something else going on. Good thing you always know at least 1/4-1/2 won't be there because if we had 100 people I don't know what we would have done!! We knew my family would be coming in from out of town and the date that worked best for many of them was Sat, June 28th--one week after his birthday. {To see his 1st birthday day post, click here.}

A lot of people say not to bother with 1st birthdays because the child won't remember it anyway. We didn't care about that. We wanted it to be a big deal as it was important to us.

Unfortunately, just a day or two before his big party, I started getting sick. The night before his party, I was coughing enough that we decided I'd take some medicine to help me get a really good night's sleep. I wasn't sure that'd be wise since it's a medicine that makes me drowsy, but I was feeling desperate. Meanwhile, Elijah was dealing with something and was up half the night before his party. So here I am with codeine in my system, awake half the night, coughing, and somehow I'm going to make it through a big party in the next few hours while staying awake on a hot day with little sleep.

The Lord gave me some supernatural energy but I can't say I was 100% the day of his party - not by any means. The adrenaline pushed me and the Fibro flared up later. I did my best to soak up the day and enjoy the day!




We rented a park and splash pad. We had a potluck with some catering {that hubby had to go pick-up, still not my favorite plan but it was the cheapest}. We had a delicious cake from Target {it was yummy and very well done!}. Elijah had fun with friends and smashing his cake. I was loving it for the first hour or so until suddenly I felt super depleted. It was overwhelming and absolutely amazing. It was fun, and crazy, and all-over-the-place. And I wouldn't do much differently even today. Having all those people there to celebrate our son.

Our son.

It still brings tears to my eyes.











After the splash pad, I had chosen an outfit for Elijah that celebrated his being one, and I just loved it! It had a little cape that you could velcro on the back too, if you wanted. :)





We really celebrated. Splashing in water, playing on playground equipment, sharing Goldfish and juice boxes in the early morning, singing happy birthday, watching him smash his cake, eating chicken and watermelon and pasta salad and chips, taking pictures with each family before they left, and laughing at Elijah's funny antics. It was precious and perfect.

 

My family absolutely amazed me that day. My husband, brother, sis-in-law, their kids, my mom, my dad, and my stepdad helped load up the party supplies into different vehicles as we quickly drove the 7-ish minutes to the park to set up, and then helped unload once we were there. Someone helped take care of Elijah. We put everyone to work. They give you a half hour to set up. I needed an hour people. I think I would have felt better about the entire day if I had an hour to set up. All. my. stuff. I really went all out and it was crazy, but this was super important to me. Looking back the decorations and such were a bit much and with the windy day, we couldn't use half of them anyway.

But oh well... It was still so worth it, except for the shoving of everything into stuff below the tables, so that we weren't able to find some things when we needed them - whoops!



My incredible family:


Then Tim's mom arrived and also joined in the fun on us setting up. She helped handle random aspects of organizing the food tables, finding things that got buried under the tables in the chaos, etc. She was fantastic and I couldn't have done it without her!

When it was all over, Tim's brothers Jim & Chris and sister-in-law Sue, and Jim's two kids helped join the crew in tearing down. It was incredible. Everyone came together. We had SO much help with tear-down, which was a really good thing because we had less than 20 minutes to do it when we found out another party was right after us! Yeesh!! That was one fast tear-down.


So while we loved the park and splash pad, we weren't fans of the quick set-up and tear-down times. I understand why they think they need to do it that way but it was a bit much.

A few things accidentally got buried in our rush to leave and some cold stuff had to be thrown out the next day. But overall, everything got back home to where it needed to be... and we had way. too. much. leftover. Seriously you guys. When ordering food for 50 people, don't forget that half of them are KIDS!

**Rochelle smacks forehead**

But I digress... it was a beautiful day. Despite the heat, it was a great day for playing in the splash pad. Gratefully there was some wind or I might have melted in the 88 degree heat!

We went with a Disney Cars theme. No particular reason except that Tim & I enjoy the movie {Mator!} and I saw that Party City had a Cars themed 1st birthday party. And I wanted to go outside the norm. Some of our decorations and balloons fell as it was just too windy {sorry mom and Olivia, thanks for blowing up all those balloons anyway!}. But people got the drift.




We had favors for each child to take - they could choose one item from a basket of a variety of products I found at Party City. We had a Cars cup filled with Cars themed Smarties & lollipops for kids. We had a canvas for people to sign and give well wishes to Elijah that we plan to later put up in his room. We had a centerpiece with Dum-Dums for kids to take, and a selection of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for kids who might not want chicken.



We also had applesauce, various organic juices, water and then tea and soda for adults. Snacks were Goldfish and raisins {didn't even think through these options much, thank you Sam's Club for good bulk-buying prices!}. We ordered fried & grilled chicken from the local grocery store, had purchased potato salad & cole slaw & rolls, and had loved ones bring a veggie tray, fruit tray {which ended up being awesome fresh pineapple & watermelon!}, super salad, and a pasta salad. So great of everyone to chip in!! I just feel sooo badly we had so many leftovers!

{seriously what was I thinking?!?!} 

Well, I wanted to make sure everyone had enough food. I just didn't mean to make it crazy! Oy.

    






The park also had a tennis court, frisbee golf, skate park, and basketball court... but I think just my dad and nieces used the basketball court. I kept thinking it'd be great, everyone can do whatever they want... but I'm really glad everyone stayed nearby and we celebrated together in the splash pad and under the pavilion for the most part.

After the first hour and a half was over with the splash pad rental {a wonderful park district employee was there to help us shoo people away from the splash pad if they weren't in our group since it didn't open to the public until 11}, we started gathering around. It took a bit longer for hubby to get back with the food so he came at about 11:30.

Then we sang to Elijah, had him smash his cake {so people could feel freer to leave early if they wanted}, I made announcements {which I wish I'd prepared myself for, I didn't even say hi or thanks for coming, ugh, oops!}, and then Tim said a wonderful prayer over Elijah {which he'd worked hard on writing the night before and it was terrific!!}.





We were LOVING this!!!










His cake was GREAT!! Half white, half chocolate, and they gave us a free smash cake too! Thank you Target, what a blessing!


As everyone was eating, I was scurrying around, hugging people, talking, saying goodbyes, getting our pics with each family, and somewhere in there I didn't really eat much, whoops. But I didn't want to miss anything and I wanted everyone else to be sure to get something. My sweet sister-in-law Jeremi told me to sit down at one point and eat {she worries about me, love her!!} or she'd fix me a plate. I really wish I would've had her do that! By the time I was able to relax enough to eat, we needed to hurriedly tear down.

And suddenly, it was over.

All done. Everyone but family helping tear down was gone.

I couldn't believe it. Where did it go??

And yet, I was also relieved as well.

I was exhausted, sun-soaked, sick, heat-soaked, emotional, spent, had barely eaten, and really could not believe it was over. It was already a blur. So as we walked to the cars... I completely lost it.

I mean... LOST. IT.

To the point my dad actually thought I was on the verge of passing out and got a bit nervous and concerned! I had to wait a few minutes before I could drive away from the park, I was just a sobbing mess. While my poor child was falling asleep in the back before the car even started to move because he was that exhausted! Oy.

It was the culmination of a year's worth of emotions -- such a hard start, so many good things in-between, and one little blessing that we are unceasingly amazed and blown away by!! What a joy it was to celebrate!!!!

One decision we made before the party was that we would be way too distracted to take all the pictures we wanted to. To be in every place at once. To really enjoy the day AND take pictures. And while I often see life through a camera lens and perhaps didn't see moments I would have if I was seeking to take a picture of them... we decided the best thing for us was to hire a photographer.

We talked to a couple of close friends who wouldn't be able to be there that day. And then I remembered my good old friend Ellen from Bible study at church years ago was an up and coming photographer in the area. So we started chatting. And it was going to work perfectly for her to take Elijah's party pics! I was sooo excited and relieved! What a joy to not have to worry about that aspect in the midst of everything else.

Ellen from Red Sweater Photography took all of the pictures used on this page. These are HER pictures and you are not allowed to use them anywhere else, in any form, or edit them one bit. Please be respectful and only use these for viewing purposes. Thank you!! {And be sure to look into her if you live in the area and need an excellent photographer} 

Below are the remainder of pictures that I just had to share with you - fun times with dear friends, daycare friends, and family.


Elijah's favorite girl, Avery :)


Daycare buddies Caleb and Carter!



Friends Don & Sara brought their 5-week old baby {pictured earlier} and their twin boys. Elijah, Jacob, and Josiah get along great, and Jacob is really good at making Eli laugh hysterically. But today they were all kinda shy and not having it. This pic cracks me up.


Flying high with daddy!



Cousin love


I brought the photo albums I'd been able to create thus far. I had more I wanted to get done before the party, but it just got too crazy and I couldn't focus on them. People really enjoyed looking at them though, so I was really happy about that.


Tim's mom and our nephew Toby. His mom (Tim's sister), Kandy, had to work that day. :(


My Aunt Bev was able to join us from Chicago even as she bolted quickly at the end for a wedding. What a sweet gift it was to have her there!




Love this pic of the two of us. So special. I didn't even remember this moment!


Our sweet little buddy Nolan loved the cake too!


From Tim's side - nephew Sam, niece Hayley, and nephew Dan


With our beloved Gee family!



Elijah hanging with my stepsister Susan - who I regrettably wasn't able to talk to very much that day, but we were so blessed that they drove up the few hours to be with us!







Loveeee this pic with my mom! Elijah is so happy :)



It got so crazy that we didn't even get to open his presents in front of people! We had him open just a couple on the lawn for pictures, and then we had to end things! We hadn't realized the time or that a party was booked right after us, or I might have tried to do things a smidge differently. OOPS! Oh well, live and learn.








My side - Elijah with his cousins Olivia, Cayley, and Joshua


Kinda my very favorite picture - love all these kids with literally every ounce of my being! And I love how Elijah is peeking under his hat at his buddy cousin Josh!!


Such a special day and we are so grateful!!! Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us -- including those who wished they could have been there! We feel so loved, blessed, and truly grateful. What a way to celebrate our little boy, his life, and his first year!


Pictures: (c) 2014, Red Sweater Photography, redsweaterphotography.com
Used by permission. 
Use of these photos without consent by the photographer is prohibited.