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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reflections of a life...

     June 20th 2009

     I woke up this morning very early...not quite 3am...flooded with memories of my life with Paul.  Like watching old movies, the play-by-play of my husband and children at certain moments flashed before me. I don't know what triggered the memories. A day spent with darling new Moms experiencing their own lifetime of firsts? Maybe?  The upcoming celebration of another year of my marriage to Paul?  Perhaps God just wants to remind me of the journey.
     Our life started with dark stuff...Paul with his own before me, and then together we had more. His older brother Charles died right before our wedding and then I found David dead in our apartment just a few months later. Thats when Fear moved it and stayed too long. Those first few years were hard. We were simply existing on a thread of grace.
    Then God began to restore our hearts and joy came.  Paul cried tears of happiness for the first time as he held our baby, a little girl, in his arms.

     I still remember the smell of her. Paul was a natural Dad. Changing diapers, singing songs, taking her on tractor rides. I remember her at one, already precocious, on the floor in red panties and blue knee socks eating a plate Cheetos. I saw myself lying on the sofa, Paul rubbing my huge brown belly as we wondered what the baby boy inside me would be like. 
     Tears of joy came again as he held his baby son, our Michael. I remember watching ReAnnon hit a ball off a tee and dance around in her Michael Jackson t-shirt to La Bamba while her baby brother bounced and laughed from the jumpy in the doorway beside her. 
     I remember ReAnnon running  across two acres with her Dad's ice teas after he whistled at her from the tractor. Paul mowed our 2 neighbors yards, (3 acres total) every weekend for an extra forty dollars and he would take us out for hamburgers and root beer floats.
     I saw Michael on the soccer field picking grass, chasing bugs, and  then jumping to his feet so serious when the ball came his way. 

     A little Madonna, a little Teen Wolf, our drama queen and bug catcher, our lives full as it took on new purpose.
     Michael barely four, eyes filled with excitement as he carried a bullfrog by the back legs that was almost as big as he was and he couldn't wait to show me.  (To catch a bullfrog you must canoe around a pond at midnight and stab them with a spear after paralyzing them first by shining a flashlight in their eyes. Paul had taken Michael with him the day before and I had not slept.)

     Then I remember ReAnnon, barely six, so eager and excited to leave me as she placed her suitcase by the door. She was going to visit her Mimi. Flying from Oklahoma to California with my Grandmother, a woman she barely knew, and I remember thinking, how can she do it? How can she leave me so easily?
     Life got hard again after that. Paul lost his job, couldn't find work, and depression set in.  I got pregnant and the timing was lousy, so very very lousy and I cried alone at night in a pillow on the couch so no one would hear me.    

     I got a key to the food closet at our church and I stood in lines with other pregnant mother's for food stamps and vouchers and it was so very humbling and hard.
     Our precious gift of a baby girl came with hair the color of an orangutan and as I my husband wept once more I knew that it came from a deeper place than ever before. God gave my broken man the greatest gift of love when he needed it the most, and as the nurses fought over her I begged to stay just one more night in the hospital so I could have her to myself one more day.  I knew what I was going home to. 

     Her sister and brother fell in love with the tiny new redhead, and I cleaned a Montessori pre-school and so ReAnnon and Michael could attend. I watched my niece Tiffany after school for my sister and she soon moved into my family and into our hearts. Paul got a job at an Art Gallery.
     Shortly after this, God opened a door for us to begin again in California, and Paul left us for 4 months to begin a new job while ReAnnon finished 2nd grade.
     This next section of time  is imprinted forever in my heart when our little family piled into Paul's Mother's Thunderbird and crossed the country headed for a brand new life. We started an adventure and sang our way to a place called Mammoth Lakes. 

    A California life...a new beginning. A cold triplex we couldn't afford to heat. Campouts on the living room floor in front of the fire. A bear in the parking lot. Waterfalls, mountains, sunsets, more stars than I had ever seen and snow. Moments full of awe and wonder.  
     Laughter, hardships, Chandler's first words. Her Na. Her Va. Her amazing and crazy red hair.  Kids hiding food under the table and Michaels first real soccer game.  A little boy who could hit a baseball the way a baseball should be hit. A natural athelete. A gift.
     ReAnnon's first dance recital. Her first musical. We watched her come alive on the stage. She glowed.  Another gift. And my best little shadow...
     The snow didn't come and we had to move our little family into one of the motels we managed. We were now on-site and on-call and I hated it. I grieved for what we had given up, but yet I knew at the same time that we were not going back.
     We got a fluffy white puppy and we were a family of love as a five-year old boy with a towel for a cape and tighty- whitey underwear dove off the check-in desk onto the lobby sofa. "Welcome to the Wildwood Inn", I would say to the guests, "I hope you like children."
     Swim parties at the motel pool, Chan in her Barbie car that we could not afford but bought anyway, Michael and ReAnnon roller blading in the parking lot. Michael skates three sizes too big but he still skated better than his sister. New bikes and Michael so good at everything but always pushing the limits. Always... pushing.

     Chan's first day of pre-school. Her first song. Her first dance recital. Her first musical. In the shadow of a sister as our little family celebrated it all. 
     We dug in deep. A friend’s teenage son, a high school baseball player, moved in with us and we weren't prepared. We made mistakes. 
     There were first communions, a little altar boy, a wedding on a boat, an adorable ring-bearer, years trying to fit into a church that didn't fit. We struggled through too little money, too many years behind a desk and broken promises. We did what we had to do and found the blessings.  I wrote letters to my kids with a dream in my heart that I could one day turn them into books and give them as a gift. I told snippets of life and I wrote inspirational stories for the local paper.…laug
hter...compromise...discontent...broken promises…but yet choosing joy ...finding joy...and always...always...believing God and having faith for more.

     ReAnnon began to drive...went to her first dance…had her first boyfriend.
     Then our partners sold the Motels we managed, and we were out of jobs. With no plans or prospects, I got scared again.  Then God gave Paul a vision for something great so when He opened the door, we stepped through it. 

     I walked into the Sierra Nevada ski lodge that first time and prayed that Paul could see what I could not.  My husband the visionary. I will never doubt him again.
     Paul keeping promises, working hard, and planting dreams deep in his heart. Fast and furious years of crazy busy as investors were paid and life went on. We bought a house and our family adjusted to a busy new life. 

     A new kind of stress came too, a kind I had never known before, a responsibility with employees, partners, and many years of hard work followed. Too much togetherness when my husband became my boss.  I didn't like it and I had to smile with hospitality when there was nothing hospitable in me anywhere. 
     We struggled around every corner with things, always things, things with guests, things with partners, things with employees, things with children. Always more and more things.
     We fought hard the good fight with integrity and truth and sometimes we lost and sometimes we got beat to a pulp. I no longer had holidays with my family because in the tourism business holidays are busy times and so...they disappeared in business.
     Athletic successes for Michael, more dances, musicals, plays. School and church and friends and an angry husband and an angry boss and a wife who did not want to do it anymore. And yet always, always in the center to help me see and fight a little harder was my little red-head.
     Everything started to swirl together into a giant vortex of busy that became our life. But we found a new church, took a family mission trip to Ecuador, made new friends. God filled us with new perspectives. He began to change our hearts, our spirits being made new with Jesus. I had faith for the first time in years. I learned how to pray.  Really pray.
     A daughter in Ywam wanting to serve, a championship football season for Michael his senior year, worries over college, more prayer, a season of understanding faith and learning to trust God.
    A proposal, wedding plans, and a gift from God of a son-in-law. Our family grew.

    Then one last horrible season of winter came and brought with it the worse snowfall in our Mammoth history. A local mother and her daughter who we worshipped with on Sundays got lost in a snowstorm and the whole community looked for them for 3 days. The daughter got out of the car to get help and died trying. We had people snowed in, sleeping in lobby chairs and I was so tired and full of saddness I cried and I cried and I cried. 
     God ended the season as only he could and as our baby was preparing to graduate high school, our business sold at the top of the market.
     The season that followed, God's gift of rest and blessing, surpassed anything we could have hoped for or imagined. I was given the home of my dreams and I have been given a garden where I meet with God. 

     Our first grandchild blossomed a new love in me like no other love before it and it takes my breath away.
      I don't know what the rest of my life with Paul holds. I don't know what the future for us or my children looks like, but I know without a doubt that many more trials will come. But I also know that God's promises and faithfulness are real and true and he is soverign and sufficent for anything that comes our way. 

     So I am humbled and thankful for my journey, with its darkness and its light because I am who I am today because of it all.