Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mom's Pizza


At least once a week, we could count on mom to prepare homemade pizza. After we helped roll out the floured dough for our meal, we were allowed to spread the tomato sauce as mom added the necessary seasonings. The highlight was adding layers of cheese followed by pulling pieces off of a roll of breakfast sausage to achieve our meat topping. As we added the mushrooms, I could never resist eating them straight from the can between placing them on top of the pizza.

I didn’t think there was anything unique about my mom’s pizza back then. Looking back now, I recall so much more. Tomatoes from the garden’s harvest filled buckets and covered counters as they waited to join those boiling on the stove. The aroma left me craving the moment I could satisfy my taste buds with Mom’s homemade sauce.

The work that I now know goes into that kind of task makes me question the reasoning behind the amount of effort involved. Mom’s homemade sauce spoke of her love for my dad as she supported his hobby of gardening and enjoying the harvest. Allowing us to assist in the preparation of the meal was one way she spoke love to her children as well.

In our family, take-out pizza will never measure up to Mom’s. As I watch my children’s excitement in helping create this tradition handed down from my childhood, I am convinced that the memories created help leave the lasting savor in my mouth.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What I would say to my Dad today, April 27, 2010

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday. This year, as with the past couple, however, your birthday does not beckon a celebration. I have no reason to enter a Hallmark shop and look through the cards to find that perfect one that would make you cry. (I always knew it was the right card when I achieved my treasured result.) There is no reason for the family to gather. It serves no purpose to excite my girls with exclamations over what this date means to me. And yet, I know there is still much to celebrate in this life.

My heart hurts to realize this letter can never get to you. At the same time, I really have no idea what kind of moments God allows you to witness there in Heaven. I have no idea what type of experiences He gives you the privilege of knowing you played a part in. Somewhere in my heart, I hope He gives you glimpses of the joys here on this earth. I realize no joy here can compare to what is there. There are so many moments with your granddaughters I long for you to be a part of. Nikelle still creates smiles on the faces of others just because she extends love unconditionally. And every time she does, the little jingle you borrowed from Sara Lee runs through my head. Jaycie is extremely shy in groups of people but if you catch her at just the right moment, she is so terribly goofy. I can almost hear your laugh as I watch her and I think that laugh would encourage her to continue in her goofball ways. Andelise will point to your picture on the refrigerator identifying you as “Papa” and, for a brief moment, I will forget that you have never known her as she has never known you. Her fearless ways would make you concerned for her safety and yet I think you would learn to appreciate, as we have, her little stunts. She is just our little gymnast and athlete who wants to be included in everything her big sisters do.

58 years ago, God brought you into this world. For almost 56 years, you had the opportunity to impact those around you. You and Mom chose one another and welcomed the birth of four children who you would attempt to pass the baton to. Now today, more than two years after you left our world, I realize how very much your life impacts me still.

After your death, I was forced to face things in my world I had never faced before. Oh sure, there were the minor house repairs that I would want to pick up the phone to have you quickly fix. There have been the family gatherings where there is no longer great joy in wondering if the meal I prepare will leave you satisfied after you’ve mounted your plate high before you sit down at the table. There have been the trips to the zoo and the farm where I find my heart aching that you are not around to smile and laugh and comment on the kids’ reactions to different moments. Yes, there are plenty of things in my life that have required adjusting since your death.

The biggest adjustments have been those within my own heart. I never knew how much pain and anger I stored within myself. It all came to a climax after your death. I found myself eating for comfort until my clothes didn’t fit anymore. My emotions continually exploded with the force of a volcano at every little disruption in my life. Witnessing all of this has caused me to do some serious soul searching. I most certainly do not want to continue causing unnecessary pain to those I love or even myself for that matter.

The question of what is truly important to me has been nagging at my soul. I do a lot of talking and lip service to those things I treasure in my life. Still, I don’t believe my actions have been confirming much of my talk. I finally think I am on the right path. There is a long journey ahead of me but with the help of so many people, and mainly from God, I am experiencing real change.

Your death has left me asking what I want my own husband and children to remember about me should my life end unexpectedly. I have come to the conclusion that I was not living a legacy that would be worth leaving behind. Back in high school, while I was visiting some friends in Indiana, I came across the lyrics to a song by Philips, Craig and Dean entitled “Will You Love Jesus More?” I’ve always wanted that song to be a tribute to my own life and yet after all these years I believe I am only brushing the surface of that desire.

You may not be here anymore to influence me on a daily basis. My baby will never have the privilege of knowing how very special the word “Papa” is. I will likely continue to long every day for you to still be here with us and sadness will probably always remind me of your absence. And yet, your death has changed me for the better – more than I could have ever imagined possible.

For so many years, I longed to live my life to please you. I desired your approval. I pined for your affection. Today, I realize that I life is more about living for the approval of my Heavenly Father. God, himself, is really the only thing that satisfies.

I am so grateful to you and mom for introducing Him to me and impressing upon me the importance of a relationship with Him. We had no way of knowing that I would be forced to rely on Him in this way. Somehow, because of what you passed on to me, I knew to cling tightly to my Lord and Savior.

For some reason, now that you are in heaven, eternity is more tangible for me. Eternity has always been the hope I clung to and even still, just differently. The promises God has left in the Bible are what I live and breathe each day.

I just thought you should know the impact your life and your death have had on me.

With love,

Trist

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost and Consumed

I can easily be consumed over just about anything. When I lose something, however, there is little that can distract me from searching for the lost item. This has been the story over the past few days.

Jewelry is not something you find adorning my body very often. I wear a watch (for running) and my wedding ring (it is actually an anniversary band we purchased on our 5th anniversary). Every now and then I will wear a necklace and on a rare occasion, a bracelet.

This being said, it is not a big shock that almost immediately when I get in the house, all jewelry comes off. This includes my watch and ring. I often hook my ring onto the band of the watch so that it won’t be quite so easy to lose. I then set my watch and ring combo on the kitchen counter, the microwave, the bathroom mirror or place it in the pocket of my bag that I carry everywhere.

I only notice that I am not wearing my watch and ring when I leave the house for some reason. Monday night, as I ran out the door for a meeting, I did a quick glance at the kitchen counter but did not see them. I figured they were probably in my bag but couldn’t find them as I looked prior to the meeting. I wasn’t too worried.

On Tuesday, as I left the house to take my daughter to school, I checked the kitchen counter and microwave for my ring. Unable to place them, I became a little more concerned. Still, I figured it would turn up when I actually spent the time organizing and looking for it.

Tuesday night, I met my girlfriend for a walk/run. I really wanted my watch to time the intervals we’d be doing but still could not find them. I came home from the run and searched my bag again. I opened every zipper, took out every item and put everything back in. I searched my bathroom, my bedroom and the kitchen to no avail. Frustrated, I drowned my emotions in a box of crackers with some cheese. This was only a temporary solution, and not a good one at that.

I went to bed praying and woke up the next morning determined not to find comfort in food but rather give it all over to God. My prayer was that He would help me find the watch and ring.

My mind was scattered. I did not recall taking them off anywhere outside of the house but I did my best to retrace my steps over the weekend. I searched by the computer because I had gone straight to check my e-mail when I got home both Saturday night and Sunday morning. They were not there. Was it possible that they could have fallen out of my bag somewhere as I was out and about and fell out of the van? I even went to Jewel-Osco on the slim hope that someone may have found them and turned them in. Nope. I was really losing my mind.

I searched the toy box (getting rid of some stuffed animals in the process) in hopes that I had set them somewhere within the baby’s reach. I figured she could have easily taken them and put them somewhere. As I cleaned my house, I remembered what I had worn Saturday and Sunday and decided it wouldn’t hurt to check the pockets. My husband had already washed my jeans. (He’s great with helping with the household chores!) I dug through the hamper for my sweatshirt and yelled! For some bizarre reason, I chose to put my watch and ring in my sweatshirt pocket! Whoo-hoo! I felt so light-hearted and it made me think.

Besides asking God to help me find the lost items, I had prayed that He would keep me from being completely consumed with finding them. I continually prayed giving it over to Him again and again. I knew if they had fallen out of my bag somewhere outside of the house, they were gone with no hope of finding them again. Worrying about it would do no good. I also knew that if they were in the house somewhere, eventually they would show up. I prayed that He would help me remember to turn to Him for comfort and direction rather than eat away my worries.

I had a girlfriend call me last minute to come over for a spur of the moment visit. This gave me other things to think about. It took me outside of myself. I went out and got my haircut as my mom watched the girls. I took a book and found myself easily lost in the story. My mind returned to the items I lost as soon as I left but I believe God was teaching me through it all.

I get so totally consumed with finding material items that I’ve lost. I can be distracted here and there but overall, my mind does not let up. So many different things consume me and they’re not good. They serve no positive purpose.

What would happen in my life if I allowed God to consume my thoughts and actions the way this experience has? I believe God is working to teach me this these days. I’m thankful not just that I found my watch and ring. I’m truly grateful that God is far more satisfying than anything else I allow to consume me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

God is my EVERYTHING?

As I look at my blog, I think to myself, "Really? It's been over a week since you had anything to write about? How can a person think they are passionate about writing when they never even take the time to do it?" Then I stop and look back over my week and realize God is working to change me. When change is occurring, that takes time and thought and can be utterly exhausting!

God is working to change me from the inside out. He's working to change my eating habits. He's working to change the way I handle anger. He's working on my priorities. He's working on my relationships. He's working on me. I am so grateful that I have a God who believes in me and offers me grace and carries me through each day.

I've always said God is my everything. My current challenge is this: "Am I living it?" "Does my life say that God is my EVERYTHING?" Actions speak louder than words.

Sometimes a person has to take time to listen before they actually have something worth saying.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Child's Play

Playing with my kids is not a natural response or desire. I always have something that I feel needs to get done and honestly, I'm just not wired that way. Just about anything sounds more enticing to me than entering their world of innocence and make believe. I love my kids and enjoy them thoroughly but child play is often left to my husband.

I have friends who find time daily to play with their children. I'll read their Facebook statuses about how they took their kids to the park, spent time painting inside on a rainy day or baked cookies with them. These women know the light-heartedness experienced when they seize the moments and find enjoyment in playing with their child.

The past couple of days I have stopped and shared in the fun of Play-Doh with my toddler. I suppose that I may be deceiving by painting a mental picture that I "shared the fun". My motivation was more likely that Play-Doh was the only way I could distract my screaming child from hanging on my leg. It was almost a welcomed relief. When we opened each container we found that the once fresh and separated colors were now lumpy and blended. This is a sign of the fun the kids normally have with their daddy. I actually found myself attempting to reseparate the colors between cutting fun shapes out for my child. Maybe Play-Doh just wasn't a good choice for an attempt at child's play.

When my middle child begged me to play a game of Chess with her, I found myself attempting to get out of it by responding with, "I don't really know how to play." "That's okay," she assured me. "I will teach you cuz Daddy taught me." Seeing as how I had just spent time consoling her over the fact that her daddy took her sister to play Chess for a school activity she incorrectly assumed she would get to be a part of also, I didn't have the heart to outright tell her "no". I attempted to entertain my little one with Play-Doh as I listened to my preschooler instruct me on the rules of the game of Chess. While I honestly do not know exactly how to play chess, I did know enough that I was going to have to get over my hang-ups about "following the rules" immediately or this was going to be a miserable experience for her. I quickly caught on to my 4-year-old's "rules of the game" and played along until my king was "captured" and she could claim victory. Sadly, I was relieved that I could now declare it "bath time" and get on with the next task.

I think that I am possibly a little too uncomfortable with disorder and fun. I claim to be the "responsible" one in the family but really maybe I'm just the big dud. I find myself asking a lot of questions lately on how I wanted to be remembered when I'm gone. Do I want my children to be able to say, "Mom kept our Play-Doh like it was new; every color in its original container and she followed all the rules all the time"? I think it is more likely that I would want to be remembered with "Mom took the time to play with me often and showed me I was important enough and loved by setting aside her own expectations and desires."

Maybe there is something to be said for mixing Play-Doh and being creative with making up rules for new games. As a matter-of-fact, I think I'll go join the fun that's be experienced outside right now. I may even agree to play with the sand. Although my urge is to go grocery shopping while I have the opportunity to without the kids.

Change can be good. It's just a tough one for me to embrace.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter 2010

Today, my family will come over to celebrate Easter together. This is the third year we celebrate without my dad. Funny how it still hurts. The pain is still so fresh. And yet, it's become part of life. I don't struggle quite as much with the fact that it is truly a reality. I don't attempt to squeeze the topic of my dad into conversations quite as much. It's not crucial to my heart as much anymore that my girls remember my dad. But I still wish he was here.

As we were headed to the Good Friday service last night, I decided to talk with Jaycie about Jesus' death on the cross. I wanted to be certain she understood it as we were going to be partaking in communion and I wanted her to be able to participate.

"Jaycie, do you know why Jesus died on the cross?"

"Yes," she replied quite confidently. "So he can take us to heaven and we can be with Papa and Grandpa."

"That is a nice perk to be able to see Papa and Grandpa again," I smiled as I watched my husband smirk from the corner of my eye.

I felt the need to clarify a little further. "Jesus loved us so much that he died on the cross to take away our sins."

It's really what keeps me going. The fact that we live for something bigger than ourselves. If I don't live for God... If my purpose in life wasn't greater than myself... I'm not really sure how I could face each day. I'm so forever grateful that this world is not all there is. Eternity is what we live for and hope for... with Jesus.

And yes, my darling, Jaycie... with Papa and Grandpa, too.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

The New Living Translation brought Colossians 2:13 and 14 alive for me tonight:

God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Very cool!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Great Cathedrals

"Our words, like a chisel, are building our children." The comparison of our children to the great cathedrals in Europe by Nicole Johnson in her sketch at the Hearts at Home conference really created a strong mental image for me.

She talked about the fact that so often, we as moms, feel invisible. Our husband will mention that there is no butter on the table and the butter magically appears as though there is a butter fairy. We tell our children over and over again to pick up their toys but it is as though no one can hear us. As she tied this in with the fact that the builders of the great cathedrals are unknown, I found myself nodding my head. "God sees you and the work that you do," she reminded us. "We are building great cathedrals and if we build them well, God may be able to live in them someday."

My children are great cathedrals that I have the privilege of building. My yelling and criticisms are doing the exact opposite of building - they do nothing but tear down. I went home with a determination to change. I returned home to my sleeping girls and shared some of what I had learned with my husband before going to bed myself.

The next morning, my oldest daughter came downstairs a little later than usual due to the "spring ahead" time change. Feeling rejuvenated from the conference and time away, I welcomed her hug and cherished it a little more than usual. My husband chose that moment to hurry her along because they were going to be late.

My initial response was, "Good grief! She just wants to give her mom a hug. She hasn't seen me the last couple of days and you are rushing her away. It won't kill you to leave 5 minutes late. All you need to do is actually drive the speed limit and you'll be there on time!" (I had just told him in a fight - although one-sided - that he drove like a grandpa the week prior.)

"That wasn't nice," he responded calmly.

"YOU'RE RIGHT!" I geared up for another barrage of poorly chosen words to throw at my husband but found God stopping me. "...that wasn't nice." I decided to utilize a little self-control. (I believe self-control is really an oxymoron because I have no control over it. Self-control only works when I allow the Holy Spirit to control me.)

Nikelle chose this moment to comment. "Mommy, are you trying to control your temper?" I believe that this was God's way of affirming that this is the path I should be on. I wanted to celebrate and yell, "Thanks for noticing, baby!"

The kids are watching me all the time. When I hear them talk disrespectfully to their dad, it is only because they are imitating my disrespect. I need to remember that it's not when I yell the loudest that I am heard the most clearly. It's in the day-to-day moments that they hear me most.

"Invisibility is Love's greatest costume given only to its choicest of servants." Nicole Johnson finished. "Wear it well."