Friday, May 29, 2009

A good cry

Last Friday, Nikelle had early dismissal from school. As I wanted a break and the little ones were napping, I had her choose a movie to watch. She chose The Wizard of Oz.

When the movie was over she came over to me looking quite sad. When I asked what was wrong, her voice got shaky as she replied, "I just didn't want her to have to say goodbye to her friends". At this, I couldn't help but smile. I've had my share of movies where I've been in tears but The Wizard of Oz is not on that list. "You've got a good heart," I encouraged her as I tried to hide my smile as I hugged her. "And a great imagination" she felt the need to add.

She was sobbing in my arms. It was nice having my almost 7-year-old climb up into my lap for a good cuddle. At the same time, I really didn't think The Wizard of Oz warranted this type of emotion. As I attempted to explain to her how the whole "Oz" experience was part of Dorothy's dream, she continued to cry. "Nikelle, are you sure you're not sad about something else? Are you thinking about Grandpa and Papa or something?"

"No," she responded. "I just wanted to stop this action of crying."

I just hugged her a little while longer as I smiled. It's a memory I'd like to treasure forever. Still so innocent and sweet.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering

Today we remember those who have sacrificed and are sacrificing for our country. More than that, our family is remembering Dad Carlson.

I came upon some pictures taken by a Patrick Brueggeman of the parade we would attend every year in LaValle, Wisconsin. Amongst his pictures was this one he caught of Dad Carlson getting some candy. He may have been helping Nike snatch some candy that was thrown at the parade or he may have simply been gathering some of the "hard" candy that the kids didn't pick up. He loved those types of candies. The thing I absolutely love about this picture is his smile. There are not very many pictures we were able to capture of Dad smiling. It's not because he didn't smile. He was just among the list of those who didn't smile for pictures.

When I think of Rod's dad smiling, I will always remember his death. Last Memorial Day when I watched as the life left his body, I was strangely aware of his smile. As we all gathered around his bed watching the Cubs game and talking, I was sitting at his feet. The National Anthem was playing and he smiled. He then smiled again and left this world peacefully. I am certain of the fact that he met our Savior. I personally cannot think of any other reason to smile as life is leaving one's body. His smile was so genuine, so peaceful and a memory that warms my heart which I will forever cherish.

As I remember his smile, I get to look forward to eternity. Smiles will be abundant. Laughter and joy will be full. And why wouldn't it be? We'll be spending eternity with God together.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Missing out?

It never fails. Whenever I commit to slowing my life down, opportunities arise where I have to intentionally commit to saying "no".

There are new study opportunities I really desire to commit to. A marriage study. One during the day with other women (childcare was even provided). And yet I have to say "no". Right now it's only saying "no" to myself. One would think this should be fairly easy. The problem is that I hate to feel like I'm missing out. I want to be informed. I want to be involved. I want to be in on whatever is going on.

I need to change my mindset this year. I need to realize that I'm not missing out. I can be informed. I am very involved. And whatever is going on is right here in this household. Still, it is hard for me.

God is impressing on me the importance of my own family. I can minister to others. I can be involved in the lives of others. And yet, what does any of that matter if I miss out on the lives God has entrusted me with? Now that Nikelle calls me out on so many things, I'm realizing some day she will look back and talk about the impact her mother had on her. I strongly desire for there to be some positive impact for her to reflect on.

Looks like this is a year where God is working on changing me. It's all good in the long run. During the changing process, however, it is downright exhausting. I am learning to embrace the change. It will make me a better person. I will become a more accurate reflection of Christ.

If I seem a bit distant, though, it's because I'm in the midst of change. So I'm tired. And yet, there is still so much changing to do... and I don't want to miss out on my girls while I'm doing it. So, I'll get better at saying "no" to myself and others so I can say "yes" a little more often to my family.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Then and Now Sabrina



Sabrina and Uncle Rod in our pool on Washington Street. We played the game "guess who" where I said "Who wears glasses?" Sabrina asked, "Who has a hairy chest?" Both answers were Uncle Rod!


Sabrina, Maty, Nikelle and Julia at the God's Girls' Craft Night this past week.

Happy Birthday, Sabrina Nicole!

In a world where we all get to decide what's right for ourselves, teenagers with character are hard to come by these days. That's one reason why I'm grateful for my niece, Sabrina. She is a teenager who strives to follow God in all she does.

Becoming an aunt at 14-years-old, I didn't realize the importance of embracing the moments with my niece. Now I've blinked and have come to the conclusion that the time I have left with her is precious. I better be cherishing every moment I have with her. She turns 17 today, her golden birthday. Soon enough, she'll be starting her adult life and squeezing time with us in where she can.

Sabrina is a natural-born leader. She is more than comfortable being in the limelight and we've known this about her since she was a little kid. At birthday parties, we would all be commanded to sit down and watch as she performed different songs for us. Seeing the joy she had in bossing us around and no other little ones to give our attention to, we all willingly obliged. Looking back, she really should have turned out to be a selfish kid. And yet she seems to be exactly the opposite. Sabrina is always thinking of others.

Sabrina is friends with everyone and yet the popular crowd seems to embrace her as well. Never "too good" to hang out with her Aunt or other family members, we even have the privilege of being Facebook "friends".

And she never finds herself "too old" to hang out with all her younger cousins either. Just this past week, Sabrina joined her little cousins for a craft night. With all the crazy busyness of her life, it spoke volumes to me about the kind of person Sabrina is. When I informed her that Nikelle was having quite a few friends at her craft night and I felt bad that she would be taking time off of work to join us, she replied. "My cousins are only little once. I'll NEVER regret spending time with them."

These days, we tend to miss out on a lot of Sabrina due to her busy schedule of school, work, soccer and friends. At the same time, I love that she still wants her family to share her birthday with her.

What I love about Sabrina is that she uses her outgoing leadership qualities to serve our God. My niece is not afraid to stand up for what she believes God wants her to. I remember a story when she was younger where she witnessed a woman shoplifting in a superstore. She was adamant that the store needed to be informed because this was clearly wrong. Although the store did nothing about it, she stood up for what was right and I'm certain it has helped shape her for today.

There is a more recent story I recall from the ice cream shop where she works. She was working the drive-thru when a man was mistreating a woman in the car with him. Sabrina sold the ice cream to the man and then informed him that "no woman should be talked to that way". (Bold, I know!) She closed the drive-thru window and walked away. The man waited for her to come back (I'm certain to share a few choice words) and when she didn't, he threw his ice cream at the window and sped off. (Yes, we've discussed the dangers in this with her now.)

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." ~ 1 Timothy 4:12

A lover of people who stands bold for our God. That defines our Sabrina. And I believe she lives this verse. Sabrina Nicole leaves no reason for anyone to look down on her. She strives to set an example for others as she lives her life for our God!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kids say...

Rod's shared two stories with me lately about the kids that were fairly humorous.

The other day, Nikelle was watching "Max and Ruby". If you have never had the privilege of watching this little cartoon, allow me to enlighten you. Max and Ruby are two little bunnies who oddly do everything without parental supervision (although sometimes the Grandma comes into the picture). I find it to be an annoyingly strange cartoon overall. Still, my girls love it. Ruby is the older sister who is continually giving Max orders and acting like his mother. Max is always doing thing Ruby doesn't like and getting in her way. As Nikelle watched this show the other day, she commented to Rod. "I like Max and Ruby because it's kind of like mine and Jaycie's relationship." When asked "How so?" she replied, "Well, because they have problems..." Rod probed a little more "...like sharing..." she told him. Interesting thoughts in her head.

We found a little more humor the other Saturday morning after Rod finished up some yard work around the house. Rod and the girls were in the basement together when Jaycie sniffed the air and commented. "I smell a skunk." Nikelle corrected her sister, "No, Jaycie, that's not a skunk..." In all seriousness she continued, "that's just Daddy."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Running the Race and the Finish Line

I love when God gives me some new insight into a Bible verse.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

In 2007, I participated in the historical Chicago Marathon. In it's final year as the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon (it is now Bank of America), the race was cut short. Due to extreme heat and lack of hydration for the runners, it was decided that runners who had not yet made it to a certain point in the race would be detoured to the finish line.

Having only reached about the half way mark, I was extremely disappointed. I felt the race was stolen from me. I was not allowed the satisfaction of completing the goal I had worked so hard for. Even so, we were corralled across the finish line (from the wrong direction). Everyone who crossed the finish line was awarded a "finisher's medal".

I watched as so many wore their medals proudly around their necks (many had completed the 26.2 miles). I simply could not and would not wear mine with pride. I had sacrificed so much to train for this event. I had imagined for months what it would be like to cross that finish line... The time I would complete the race in... The emotions involved as I was running for a cure... Those who would be cheering me on at the end of the race... The finish line photo. Nothing went the way I had envisioned in my mind. No, that medal was not worn with any kind of satisfaction. I wanted to be worthy of the medal. I wanted to complete the 26.2 miles.

What a comparison a few weeks later as I crossed the finish line in Indianapolis. After completing the 26.2 miles with my sister-in-law, I wanted to wear my medal everywhere. Could I wear it as we went out to eat at the restaurant? How about shopping for a gift? And why not the car ride home? I earned it, after all. I was worthy to wear a finisher's medal now. I wore it proudly.

Although I wasn't running for any kind of first place prize, I wanted to complete the race with pride. I'm realistic. I'm not any kind of elite runner. At the same time, I did train. I did condition. I had sacrificed. That medal around my neck was one I wanted to be worthy of in my own eyes as well as the eyes of others.

As I train, condition and sacrifice in this earthly life, I look forward to the prize that I will receive in Heaven. Don't get me wrong. I know nothing I do makes me worthy of Heaven. I am so unworthy. Thank God for grace. I'm am so grateful that grace covers me. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I will cross that finish line to share eternity with God.

Technically, I still deserved the finisher's medal in Chicago. I completed the part of the race I was allowed to complete. Still, it was not my best. It was not complete in my eyes.

As my life on earth comes to an end, will I be able to boldly say like the Apostle Paul, "I have fought the fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith"? Or will I be ashamed of my life lived here on earth? I know I'll be grateful for Christ for all He did so I do not receive the punishment of hell I am so deserving of. Will I be ashamed that the life I lived on this earth did not express my gratitude for His taking my punishment? I want to live my life expressing that gratitude each and every day. I want to obey God and live a life that honors Him. I won't be attempting to earn my way to Heaven; that's impossible. At the same time, I want to express my gratitude so I can accept the prize with a grateful heart. Not one filled with regret.

I want to be able to embrace that prize. I want to give God my best. I want my life to be complete. No regrets.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV)
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."