My Sentimental Journey

An ordinary girl's walk with an extraordinary God


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Memorial Poppies

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A couple of weeks ago I posted on my blog portions of what I read at my mom’s memorial service. Now, I’m going to share the story surrounding her Celebration of Life and how God showed His faithfulness in the midst of it all.

The sun shone vividly the morning of mama’s service, nevertheless my emotions remained engulfed in a deluge of throbbing grief. Wondering if I could hold myself together for the service; let alone muster enough nerve to share the essence of who our mother was. Thankfully deeply embedded within me was a greater desire to honor her, allowing me to override the pain. God filling me with this inner strength to temporarily jump over hurtles of timidity and the fear of public speaking.

As I geared up to head toward that  hopeful direction, I donned myself with waterproof mascara (an absolute must), and still allotted for a potential  backup plan. This crucial plan was comprised of two dear friends gifted in the art of public speaking willing to wait in the wings if things veered south. Still my heartfelt intentions and prayers were earnest to get through the 8 minute time of sharing.

Having countless things my mother taught my brother and I to glean from, I choose a selection of valuable lessons carved through her words or forged by her life. Also, including a sprinkling of her silly antics that made for lots of fun stories to tell.

One of the funny stories that I wasn’t able to share was her first morning ritual, the ceremonial task of opening all the heavily draped windows, giving way to joyful light dancing with the pull of the curtain strings.While simultaneously belting out two silly songs…never deviating from her delightful favorites. Everyday she arose from her bed singing, “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning, oh, how I hate to get out of bed”, then making her way down the hallway towards the windows finishing off her encore performance with, “Have a Banana, Have a Banana “. We knew mom was up by the sound of her voice caroling down the hall.

Now as an adult I too love to start my day by opening the curtains. Though I’ve taken a fancy to singing little ditties from time to time, I’m sorry to say my repertoire of morning melodies do not include mom’s personal faves… the famous saying “Apples do not fall far from the tree” somehow still rings gloriously true.

So when this little apple opened the shades first thing in the morning of mom’s memorial, my eyes beheld a breathtakingly beautiful red poppy that bloomed overnight. Its’ brightness and contrast to the muted palette shocking me with its’ first vibrant bloom. My mind recalled the field of poppies in the Wizard of Oz, while softly saying yes Lord mom is now experiencing, “There is no place like home”..in Heaven. Profoundly comforted yet still wanting to know more about this new cheery visitor I made my way to the computer, my inquiring mind wanted to learn the meaning of the poppy  more completely. Clicking on Wikipedia my eyes could not believe what I was reading about this flower and their symbolism. It stated that:

“Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep. And  also a remembrance for soldiers handed out around Memorial day.”

Another interpretation of poppies written in Classical mythology is that “the bright scarlet color signifies a promise of resurrection after death.”

What a perfect hug from God, … soon I would be gathering with others not only in remembrance of my mom but also rejoicing in God’s promise. That she now lives in eternal glory, free from pain and suffering. The poppy has become an ongoing comfort to me as I mourn the loss of my best friend and dear mother.

The very next day after the service, my little family somberly celebrated Mother’s Day and I was graced by a second poppy blooming in our yard. Grabbing my camera to snap a photo of this newly opened magnificent bloom hoping to capture its’ delicate form. Afterwards I counted the remaining buds still cloaked awaiting their brilliant reveal. Two were blooming while three were waiting. Five is the number of grace and was the number of people in our family whenever mom hung out with the Jennings.

As I clung to grace celebrating Mother’s Day without mom, we decided to switch our lunch plans for the day from the China Gorge restaurant in Hood River, to Calamity Jane”s in Sandy, Oregon. Playing out the scenario of the day in my mind I was sure that all of us would be getting burgers served in a cast iron skillet. However, my husband ordered a taco salad making me giggle at the scene that previously ran through my mind. Frankly, it matters not what my husband orders, it just seemed unconventional for him to choose a salad at a restaurant known for their burgers… usually his “norm”. Then it all made sense as I glanced at my husband’s finished meal staring at his now empty plate… amazed to see five red poppies designed on the melmac dish.

I love how God shows up in the seemingly common, obscure places, ready to bless us through the smallest details or grandest design. His plan unwrapping in our present. Only requiring eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear, and hearts ready to expect Him to show up.

One year later  still marveling at how poppies show up in curious places my eyes increasingly  mindful of their breathtaking and heartwarming presence… God revealings Himself again and again through their message. Looking forward to sharing more about that in the future.

 

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What My Mother Taught Me

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Last year, a day before Mother’s Day, we celebrated our Mother’s life as she peered down from Heaven’s glory.  Even though the memorial was to celebrate her life it was the hardest good-bye I have ever faced.   The following, is in part, what I shared to honor my mom’s life on that day.  I wrote this from the perspective of being her daughter.

 

Proverbs 1:8:9 says: “Never forget what you learned from your mother… Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair,like rings on your fingers.

My mother taught me how to laugh at myself …. her unspoken motto was, “Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.”

Because of the many silly things she would do,  Mom was never short of material to laugh about.  During my teenage years I found most of her stories amusing,  while at other times  I was completely  mortified.   However, it did not take me long to realize that I was cut from the same cloth, fighting a battle I could not win…slowly beginning to embrace the joy and freedom that comes in laughing at one’s self.

 

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My brother Troy and his love for wheels.

 

My mother taught me the joy of worshiping the Lord.
I have fond memories of mom and I singing hymns while she played on the piano in our basement.  She had a thankful heart and loved to worship God in song.

My mother taught me to celebrate life ….

Mom was eager celebrate and have fun … when we where younger she made every occasion special and festive, full of life and laughter…. even the simplest things felt over the top because of all the love she poured into it.

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For as long as I can remember, before we ate our dinner she would put a paper napkin on her head as if it were a hat; making sure everyone could see her to get a laugh.  I never tired of watching her get the biggest kick out of that!  I have no doubt that she is feasting in Heaven with everyone joining in her napkin hat merriment ..

My mother taught me to be frugal.

Mom knew how to pinch pennies, get a bargain and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  Thanks to her I realized how much product is left in a toothpaste tube, or a shampoo bottle if you cut them in half getting every last bit from the container.  Mom would be giddy when I gave her my old plastic grocery bags so she could recycle them for her garbage. Her exuberance would make me laugh and I would say, “Oh mom, thank you but I’m only giving you plastic bags.”

Recently, not to long ago it dawned on me, I to get gleeful when I can reuse a plastic bag… just like my mother!

 

My mother taught me how to love my children selflessly.

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Charles Lamb said:  “A mother’s love grows by giving”

 

My mother taught me the power of prayer…

My mother’s prayers for me and my family brought comfort, strength and joy. Having a deep and rich reservoir of answered prayers within my spirit to remember God’s goodness with.

Abraham Lincoln
“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life ..

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Kevin and I renewing our vows on our 25th wedding anniversary in 2011, with our pastor and our two sons.

 

My mother taught me to Love God …..

By far her greatest hope and desire was that her family knew Christ as their personal Savior, living daily staying close to His side. To love His word and putting their trust in all His promises.  Knowing for themselves He is good all the time. Walking by faith even when life seems difficult and disappointing.

Displaying this so beautifully throughout her life even to the end. Even during the eight hospital stays in less then a year, and in the midst of rapidly declining health.  One particular day after telling her I loved her, I finished by saying God is good. Mustering up enough strength she replied boldly, “Oh you better believe it “.

One time while visiting my mom at the hospital I read to her this verse.
Psalms 71:17-18 “O God, you have taught me from my youth, and hitherto have I declared your wondrous works. Yes, even when I am old and grey headed, O God, forsake me not, but keep me alive until I have declared Your mighty strength to this generation, and your might and power to all that are to come.”

Thank you mom for your shining example in human frailty.  Your love, sacrifices and unwavering faith accompany me as I mourn your loss. Thank you God for reassuring me and all of us with your promise, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Though I miss you something terrible, I know your having the best Mothers Day ever in all of Heaven’s glory. I love you

 

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Feathering the Empty Nest

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It seems like only yesterday that Kevin and I filled  the air with excitement as we delightfully  prepared a room for the arrival of  our first-born son. Fueled with anticipation and joy, more animated than the Daisy Kingdom wallpaper that paraded around the walls of his soon to be nursery.  Light danced on the now glossy white crib positioned beneath the window, each intricate spindle sanded and painted,  a labor of love by my husband. Transforming the worn hand me down wood into a crisp, brilliant white. The closet brimmed with an assortment of  adorable clothes in a variety of styles, and sizes, for every season.  A handmade wooden Noah’s ark nestled in the far left corner, my thrift store find just days after the thrilling news “it’s a boy! “,  was confirmed by the ultrasound imaging.
While waiting for Derek’s birth you could either find me waddling around (did I just admit that?) adding feathers to our nest or propping my swollen feet up to read the latest How To parenting book. As each day drew nearer to the delivery date, so did my joy and optimism; confident my husband and I could do this thing called parenting.

Apparently there is no prerequisite to mastering this skill before you give birth to your first-born or even your second. For lo and behold two and half-years later we welcomed our second son Trent. Doubling our happiness and compounding the realization that books give you only limited training in the true art of being a parent.

Now twenty-two years and far too many mistakes later, we stand in awe at the honor of raising such wonderful sons in spite of our flaws and brokenness. Gloriously tallied into the raw equation is God’s grace equaling the sum that otherwise seems mathematically impossible.
And while the clock ticks away and within a few short hours, this stay at home mom and former homeschooler, will become an empty nester. No stranger to the knowledge of this incurring reality,  lingering in the far recesses of my mind ever since our boys entered this world. Aware of the fact  just as the appointed time led them to leave the womb, so also one day they would leave the nest.   A familiar quote by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher comes to mind, “There are two things we should give children, one is roots and the other one is wings.”  Today our son Trent takes flight, propelled by wings of independence gilded with freedom. Soaring to new exhilarating heights and rich depths, fulfilling all God has called him to be. Whether finding themselves aloft over mountain top successes or thrust down into canyons of failures, character and destiny still forging with every flap of their pinions.

Concluding this chapter in my life has gone all too quickly.  Now my heart waits for the dust of bittersweet memories to settle, and the echo of an empty room to begin to pulse with life once again.  Asking Papa Daddy’s (God’s) help transitioning into whatever He for me next as He re-feathers my nest with His promises.

I love Psalms 91:4 assuring truths:
“He will shelter you with his feathers; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall”

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness, a love that is never-failing and generous compassion, even mindful of every sparrow that falls to the ground. Your attention to the smallest detail brings a reassuring peace. We stand awestruck gazing at your unfathomable love that comforts to the core and covers every human condition. We long to trust in you Papa, grounded in the roots you have given us while we soar victoriously with you providing the wind beneath our wings.

“But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
Within your mighty hands
When the ocean rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know you are God
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust
When the ocean rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

“Still” By HillSong


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A Bunny Tale of Unconditional Love

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Deciding to join Facebook in 2009  felt as if I  plunged headlong into  uncharted and  thrilling waters.  Butterflies danced wild and free within the walls of my stomach, as unexplored  territory loomed on the horizon.  Face  aglow with excitement embarking on this recently acquired adventure, only  to enhance to a greater depth my  already  delightful run as a  longtime  stay at home mom.
A  bold  new avenue to broaden my  connections with the outside world  while still  enjoying  the comforts of  home was  carte blanche to “having my cake and eating it to”.  Fork in one hand, cake in the other  savoring  the leisure of reconnecting  with  friends, family and classmates, rejoicing with the freedom and readiness Facebook had to offer.  No longer having  to wait until   family or class  reunions to get caught up.  Also, pleasantly surprised at the ease  this network made  connecting with  those you never had the pleasure of knowing very well before; so it was with a group of  high school ladies from the Reynolds Lancers.   Birthed from  casual  Facebook interactions eventually  leading us to be  cleverly dubbed  “The La La’s”,  short for Ladies and Lancers. This freshly brought together group met over  dinners and gatherings  all a buzz as we  took  our trip down memory lane. You would never know we were on the cusp of all turning  50, for memories of  teenage years flooded our memory banks, spilling over into the present whenever we conversed .

One day such a  moment happened  when someone started a  “thread” to chat back and forth on the internet.  The conversations poured in  about life, kids and of course high school.  That particular day  someone  casually  mentioned one of the teachers,  triggering my memory to begin typing out his thirty year old nickname he held back in the day.  Is if that was not enough I continued  trying hard to be witty as I expounded on this thought.  Wrapping up what I thought was  comic stride I stepped away from the computer…  however, instantly  a  strong conviction came over me as I started the treadmill.  What was I thinking?  I asked  myself , “I’m not sixteen anymore and what I did was wrong.”  Quickly  turning off  the  exercise machine  I went back and positioned myself in front of my computer eager to type out a full apology for my immature behavior.  This is when  hunt and peck method is at  a sore and  painful  disadvantage.

Reopening the  computer I was horrified  to  realize that very teacher I had just  poked fun at, had  unbeknownst to me been on the  thread the whole time.  Red faced and mortified I poured out my repentance for all  to see, asking Him to forgive me. Truly sorry for hurting him  and ashamed of my willingness to get a cheap laugh at someone else expense.  After finishing my deepest regret and taking ownership of this Epic failure something beautiful happened…

Forgiveness poured in spilling unconditional love over my shame.

Not only was I forgiven I was given a new nickname … Bunny

I saw myself as a foolish child, having the sting of an adder.
My friend Lisa saw me as a soft cuddly and sweet bunny.  No way on earth did I  feel  deserving of  that name… and yet isn’t  that  what unconditional love is all about.
Throughout the brief time  our group stayed together,  there was not a time that went by that being called  Bunny  did not touch my heart and cause profound gratefulness, grace, forgiveness, and a clean slate.  Even though I made a major  Loo Loo of a Boo Boo… I was  still  loved  unconditionally.  Making this Bunny extremely Hoppy  !!

Dear Lord , What a comfort to know nothing takes you by surprise, not  even the word that rolls off our  tongue.  Thank you for  unconditional love and grace displayed so beautifully through you and all those  that follow your precious example.

To the choirmaster: A Psalm of David. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”
Psalm 139:1-24 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:8 ESV


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No Regrets

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If there is one thing that Michelle my dear friend and mentor for over twenty four years likes to do is to pray big, bold, audacious prayers. Prayers that rock my spiritual world to its’ very core. Shaking its’ foundation with thunderous possibilities. Oh, don’t get me wrong I love praying larger than life prayers for others too, though my faith may be the grain of a mustard seed. This tiny seed of faith takes wings soaring with bated  breath, watching mountains careening into the mighty roaring sea. Knowing with confidence God is able and  more than willing to bless them. However, there are moments when prayers that are said over me wax bold and require wide-eyed faith tethered to tenacious trust. Causing my spirit to nervously gulp, while legs quake in my less then well traveled spiritual boots. How I long to grab a hold of the  horns of the altar refusing to let go until the grand answer is revealed. Assured these powerful prayers have become a fragrant perfume sweet to the nostrils of God, stirring Him to my attention. Tipping the bowl of petitions until each spoken prayer becomes reality.  Thus, releasing times of rapturous ensuing praise of my faith becoming sight.

Sad to say, my faith is less then stellar at times, falling short of God’s glory. Determined daily to set my heart upon a deeper trust in Him, while finding enormous comfort that we serve a God that loves far beyond our failings. Our lack or wavering faith never changes the character of a loving and compassionate God. Thankfully, His grace and mercy shows up over and over again triumphing over seeded doubt or mustered up faith.

Recently Michelle’s dauntless prayer came to fruition, unfolding before my very eyes.   Through the years her fearless prayers were for me to have no regrets with my mother.  For as the years went by, so to had my mounting tension and concern increased. Her deteriorating mental health issues loomed over our relationship….longing to help and her refusal wearied me. Michelle’s petitions for total reconciliation felt sorely beyond my grasp. However, she knew inevitably her requests were going to be answered. God had mended the breach between Michelle and her mother, He would surely do the same for me….and  indeed He did, beginning through a whirlwind of events.

For in April of 2012, within a 24 hour period, my mama went from living alone and driving, to needing around the clock care with a blown heart value and rapidly visible and increasing dementia. During the next three weeks I cared for her 24/7 until we could get her into proper adult foster care. My heart softening with each act of servant hood, every stroke with the hairbrush to her beautiful auburn hair, rubbing her swollen legs and feet, or being her memory as hers was growing dimmer. Slowly a deepening love and appreciation for my mother emerged. My initial frustration and anger vanished while her profound gratitude flourished; our love blossoming in the soil of adversity, blooming in spite of human frailty.

God using ashes to bring beauty, answering prayers in ways we at times grapple to understand. As the dust unhurriedly settles, we reverently gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, standing in awe, humbled and  profoundly grateful. God’s word declaring “Behold I’m doing a new thing, your going to have to see it to believe it. God’s splendid sense of humor allowing little old me to walk in liberating freedom of no regrets.  From one that masters an impeccable hind sight of 20/20, and rather quick to bemoan her lack of foresight to have ordered the soup of the day instead. Has found herself smack dab in the middle of a full blown miracle, shaking her head in joyful astonishment.

God’s grace is always sufficient in our time of need. Since God is no respecter of persons, what He did for me and my friend Michelle He wants to do for you. Whatever you may be contending with let God be your ever present help in times of trouble. Even if your faith is a little wobbly don’t you worry, your in good company…. so what do you say? lets go grab some front row seats and watch mountains be hurled into the sea, together.


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Beauty in our Barren Places

ImageAwhile back my husband and I  watched  Steve and Geoff the “Meteorite Men ” trek through  barren and high altitudes parts of  the Chilean Desert called the Imilac Strewnfeilds,  as far as the eye could see it looked  lifeless to me.  I’m not a big fan of the desert, however if you add an extra S to desert it becomes the word dessert and that I am a huge fan of.  I did  become enthralled  with the whole process, seeing that  void stretch of Terra ferma  reminded me of my life at times.  When my spirit  feels barren, arid and lifeless, the  grit  of my  circumstance blurring my vision  no longer  being  able to see any evidence of value or purpose in the wasteland of suffering. How comforting to know even in our desert times of feeling  spiritually dry, parched by life’s scorching trials. God sees  the  value, the nuggets of truth, tried by the fire and ready to mine the deposits left by our painful feelings of loss and devastation.     Steve and Geoff were excited with the possibilities…they saw the gold mine that lay at their dusty boots, armed with magnetic devices and keen eyes they gushed at the wealth they were beholding, one precious rough rock  at a time. So too  God mines our souls sweeping across them with the powerful attraction of His Grace, stooping down to marvel at the beauty and value of  which we often mistake as worthless.  Beauty for ashes, life spoken over the dry bones, humanity formed from dust …. God’s redemption in the most  drought stricken  and lifeless situations.  How precious to have such a loving Father as he; to see the value  when we see none, to rejoice over what the world would overlook.
Heavenly Father and miner of our souls, thank you for knowing first hand  the value in suffering.  As we travel through the desert times may your well traveled hand guide us with  your truths and  water our weary and torrid soul’s.  May our mind be refreshed in your promises and the hope that one day we will be coming up out of the wilderness times leaning on our beloved; and just as the  iron entered Joseph’s  soul when he was chained with fetters.  Make us strong, fortified with your walls of love, seeing beyond the pain to your exceedingly bright and precious promises.  Thus,  knowing that you make all things work together for our good.  From glory to glory, one  priceless nugget at a time….

Matthew Henry commentary says, “Afflictions are among our mercies. They prove our faith and love, they humble our pride, they wean us from the world, and quicken our prayers”

“Let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour some heavenly blessing.” Henry Ward Beecher

Isaiah 43:19…”Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”