Thursday, September 4, 2014

My First Family Funeral

Until Friday, August 29th, 2014 I had all four of my grandparents. Pop-pop, my dad's dad, passed away that evening following a surgical procedure that morning. He was surrounded by his wife (one day short of being married 67 years), two children, their spouses, and my cousin Josh. He had lived with Parkinson's Disease for years, and over the past month or so had very rapidly declined in health. We were aware of the fact that his life on earth would not be much longer, but that doesn't ease the sorrow very much. 

Yesterday we celebrated Pop-pop. He served in WWII (his unit was wiped out on Omaha Beach on D-Day, he was held back in the states because of broken eyeglasses!), spent decades working with the Gideons (the group that puts Bibles in hotel rooms, as well as many other hands), and lived his life to the glory of God. I never once felt like we were saying "good-bye," but rather "see you soon." I knew it would not be easy but the day was much harder than I was prepared for. 

The whole family was there, minus my children. We decided it would be less disruptive if they stayed in school. My brother, Jordan, took the red-eye flight from LA yesterday morning, and my youngest brother, Jake, drove in from eastern PA the night before. My cousin Josh and his wife and daughter live here, so they were in attendance, and even my cousin Sarah was able to fly in from NYC for the week.

The viewing was at 12:30pm. I've been to two funerals before, but never for someone this close to me, and definitely not an open casket. Pop-pop was laying there, and he looked strangely better than he did the last time I saw him a couple months ago. His face wasn't as sunken in, he wasn't shaking, his hands were folded on his abdomen in a way that he used to hold them when sitting in a chair. He looked so peaceful. He even had his glasses on. The strange part was him wearing a tie and jacket- I can't remember the last time I saw him dressed up so fancy! Maybe my brother's wedding? 

Pop-pop loved African Violet plants. In lieu of flowers, my Nana requested that people send monetary gifts to the Gideons. I, however, knew I needed to bring a violet. I found a store that had a few varieties available, and I couldn't decide so I bought four plants and re-potted them all into one planter. I took the leaves that had broken off in the process and put them in water to start new baby plants, just like Pop-pop taught me so many years ago. 

After the private family viewing was over, as everyone was leaving the sanctuary, I plucked one single white blossom from the plant and placed in between his right thumb and finger. That was the moment for me when it got real. Like, REAL real. Pop-pop was no longer here with us. I knew he had gone immediately to heaven when he passed away, but it didn't hit me until just moments before they closed the lid. Just knowing it would be the last time anyone on earth saw his face hit me like a brick wall. 

The 13 of us (Nana, Mom, Dad, Jordan, Jake, myself, Justin, Uncle Stafford, Aunt Margaret, Josh, Erin, Bree, and Sarah) waited together in a room to the side of the sanctuary. Since Pop-pop was a veteran, he was going to be given full military honors at the end of the service. A young man and young woman from the Army National Guard assigned to do the honors came in to speak with us. Dressed in full uniform, they made me proud to be the granddaughter of someone who served so selflessly. 

At 1:30, we all lined up and followed my Nana into the sanctuary. There was quite a turnout, which was not surprising since everyone who knew my Pop-pop loved him. People from church, friends from their retirement community, members of the Gideons, and even my dad's coworkers - to support him in the passing of his father. 

It was a beautiful memorial service. The pastor read the things we had all written about Pop-pop, and it was so special to hear all the different ways we each remembered and loved him. I had written a very long tribute, and had to shorten it for the service. I kept the long one, however, and printed it out for my Nana to read later. Here is the the shorter version from the service:

My very first memory EVER is going to the hospital to see my new baby brother, Jordan. I was 2 ½ years old, and it was my Pop-pop who was there with me. I’m sure Nana was there too, but it’s Pop-pop who I remember holding my tiny hand while walking down that endless hallway to the room where my mom and baby brother were. We left the hospital and drove to a department store where Pop-pop helped me pick out my very own baby doll. I still have her to this day.

I got my green thumb from Pop-pop. He grew African Violet plants in the basement, and I learned from him how to water and prune them, and how to start baby plants. They are still one of my favorite flowers.

Growing up, when my brothers and I got hungry, we would ask for Nana. Pop-pop would tell us “she went on a looooonnnng journey.” We would, of course, be horrified. Turns out, she was really out in the garage or in the next room, but that was his answer every time we asked where she was. Then, during meal time, he would tell us to look out the window at “the Green Horse.” While we were distracted, he would take a piece of food or silverware, and when we noticed it missing he would blame it on that darn Green Horse. We never did catch a glimpse of that elusive creature, though Pop-pop seemed to see it quite often.

After spending time with Pop-pop, no matter if it was all day or a few minutes, he would say good-bye by giving us each a hug, squeeze, kiss and tickle. It’s something that was so special, I will never forget it. Pop-pop, I hope you knew how much I loved you. I can’t wait to see you again.

When the pastor had finished reading our memories and some scripture (Psalm 27), and after we sang Pop-pop's favorite hymn "How Great Thou Art," the room was silent as the National Guardsman approached the casket. He slowly gave a full salute and held it there while Taps was played on the bugle. The young woman, also in full uniform, then joined him, and they took the folded flag off the top of the casket. Together they unfurled it with great flare, and then re-folded it and presented it to Nana. 

Then it was over. 

The casket was wheeled down the center aisle and we followed, once again in line behind Nana. As we waited for Pop-pop to be put in the elevator, I hugged my Nana. She whispered, "He loved you so much!" I am a very emotional person by nature, but this simple comment just destroyed me. I loved Pop-pop so much, and to hear that I was just as important to him (he had 5 grandchildren, after all!) touched me deep in my heart. He was such an amazing man, and I have never seen myself as anything special... but to him, I WAS

There was no greeting time, per Nana's request. My mom and dad said good-bye to the guests as they filtered out while the rest of us waited in the side room. The casket was taken by the hearse to the cemetery, and we followed, just 3 cars full of family, soon after. 

It was a simple interment. The pastor read a few verses from 1 Thessalonians. It is such a great comfort knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I know that Pop-pop is there, and I'm honestly a little bit envious. I keep wondering what he's doing, and what it's like. Nana did not want to stay and watch the casket be lowered, and honestly I was relieved. We each got to keep a rose from the spray atop the casket, and as we were getting ready to leave I saw my dad gently place one hand on top of the casket, right where Pop-pop's shoulder was hidden underneath. Watching my dad say good-bye to his own dad, who was raised without a father and yet was the perfect example of how to BE a great father, mad me want to bawl my eyes out. To everyone who has had to bury a parent- my heart hurts for you. We can say with joy and thankfulness that we will see Pop-pop again, but I know that not everyone has that confidence and peace. "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (John 11: 25-26) 

My grandparents had picked out this grave site and headstone a little while ago. Both their names are inscribed on the front. As you can see from the date under Pop-pop's name, we were married on his birthday (his 79th, 10 years ago). Even though we didn't plan it that way purposefully, it has been an honor to share our special day with his. 

Here is my rose from his casket, along with the ring I wore to the funeral. Now every time I wear this ring I will remember the love we had for Pop-pop, and the love he had for us. Make sure the people you love KNOW you love them, take time to see them, call them, hug them. Don't wait until their funeral to tell them all the wonderful things you love or remember about them! "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:7 & 12)

Joe H. Miller
Entered into this life July 10, 1925
Entered into Eternal life August 29, 2014
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way." (Psalm 37:23)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Luke is FIVE!

I say this every time one of my boys has a birthday- I can't believe it's been another year. I can't believe Luke is FIVE years old!!! The day he was born my entire life changed. March used to be the one month out of the year that I hated the most. I was so ready for winter to be over, and then March brought a whole 31 more days of yucky weather.

Then Luke was born on March 1st, 2008. Now I love the month of March. The day he was born was 60 degrees and sunny and I loved it (even though I was stuck in the hospital). Someone brought me a shamrock shake from McDonald's that day, and now every time I drink one I remember how amazing that day was. I can almost remember every little detail with perfection. I think the birth of your first child is something that will stay crystal clear in your mind for a long time. 

We came home from the hospital on March 3rd, and I stayed inside the house for 3 glorious weeks. I don't think I even had to go to the store very much because my mom or Justin did the shopping for me. I do remember taking my tiny little man out for a few shopping trips with my mom, and thoroughly enjoying the oohs and ahhs and other similar admirations from fellow shoppers (directed at the baby, not ME!). 

When Luke was 3 weeks old we drove to Philadelphia so I could be in a friend's wedding and visit family, and when we got home afterwards it was like spring had arrived! I spent so much time taking walks around the neighborhood with friends who also had new babies in strollers- because what else is there to do with a new baby??? It was such a happy time for me, and now I associate March with all those wonderful feelings from five years ago.

A fifth birthday is a pretty big deal. I mean, I totally remember turning five. I remember driving home from church that weekend, buckled into the backseat of my dad's red car, and at a red light he turned around and asked me how it felt to be five. I looked out the window, shrugged, and said "It feels an awful lot like being four." :) My parents also let us have birthday parties every five years (5, 10, 15) and this was my first one! 

So in light of this, we decided to do something special for Luke on his special day. Justin and I both took the day off work, and I took the younger boys to daycare and kept Luke at home. He was tickled pink! We were supposed to go have his pictures done at Penney's (which is already a tradition) but at the last minute the studio called and said they were shorthanded and we had to reschedule.

Justin had to go into the office to do some paperwork in the morning, so Luke and I did puzzles on the kitchen counter until he got home, and then we were off to the Indianapolis Children's Museum! It's the largest one in the world, and we spent over 4 hours there. There are four floors, and the idea is to start at the top and work your way down. 

On the top floor he played with water and boats, and then we ran down the ramp to the Hot Wheels section. He spent a lot of time pretending he was a gecko in the Special Exhibit Area (they had sticky paddles you could strap onto your hands and climb on these contraptions to know what it feels like to have gecko feet), and then we had lunch at the food court. Next was dinosaurs, trains, and the Planetarium (where exhausted mama took a 20 minute nap- not sure if daddy stayed awake either). On the way out we let him pick out 3 Brio trains for his birthday present. 

All in all it was a good day. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

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Friday, December 21, 2012

What's With All This COMPROMISE Fluff????

Lately I've been hearing a lot of talk, from Christian friends mostly, about compromise- why can't we all just get along, it's all a matter of perspective, practice tolerance, be sympathetic, etc...

I am extremely disturbed by this.

As Christians, we are called to be IN the world but not OF the world (John 15:19). We are to let our lights SHINE before men that they may glorify God (Matthew 5:14-16). When did we move from being a city on a hill to being a dim flashlight????

Consider the words of Christ himself:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'

"Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
(Matthew 7:15-23)

"I tell you the truth... Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19)

Jesus also tells us many times that the world will not understand us, not accept us, and will even HATE us
(Luke 21:17,  John 15:18, 1 John 3:13, John 17:14)

Most importantly "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)

Matthew 24 talks about the end times. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

If that doesn't put chills down your spine, what does??? Are YOU standing firm, or are you compromising? What are you afraid of? "So we say with confidence- the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6) I am MUCH more afraid of having to stand in front of my Creator and explain why I did swayed in my stand for His glory than of what people can do to me here on earth. After all, I am covered by the blood of my Savior, and I know I will reign with him in heaven very soon.

I will finish with the verse that I want engraved on my tombstone, because I want this to be said of me:

"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." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Calen at 19 Months

I meant to post this last month, when our littlest man was 18 months, but life got busy! 

What a fun age! When Luke was 18-19 months old Jackson was a colicky newborn and I was struggling with some pretty serious postpartum depression. When Jackson was 18-19 months old I was entering my 3rd trimester with Calen, working nights as a waitress, and dealing with Luke's first few months of public preschool. I never really got to experience what a really neat time this is, as far as growth and development goes. It's so much fun to watch Calen grow into his own little person!

Here are some of the highlights about our littlest man:

* He loves his Monkey!!! It is a Kohl's special edition Curious George doll with a curly tip on its tail. My mother-in-law got it for him on his first birthday and he took to it right away. Sometimes we joke that he would be fine if we cut off the monkey's body and just gave him the tail! Thankfully I was able to find one online and now we have a spare. I switch them regularly and so far he doesn't seem to have a favorite (like Jackson does with Dino). One morning he was carrying Monkey and I needed to wash it, so I opened the linen closet to give him the 2nd (clean one). He looked back and forth between the one he was holding and the one I was holding for several seconds. His little mind was blown- TWO Monkeys?!?!?! So cute. 

* He will scream bloody murder whenever he wants something or we take something away. I've even started  swatting his rear end a few times when he tries to throw a full blown tantrum. Now I honestly truly see why the 3rd child is babied so often- I am doing it myself. I'm definitely not as hard on him as I am on the older two. 

* He loves food. He is so stocky that we call him our little tank, but he is still very small compared to other boys his age. I guess I just produce small children! Some of his favorites include pizza (see below), squeeze-pouch applesauce (which my mom buys in bulk at Costco), Nutrigrain bars, and fish sticks.

* He is finally sleeping better at night. For a while he was still getting a bottle before night time (2% milk) and then he would wake up 3 and 4 times a night, screaming until someone came to see him. We had a few tough nights of no bottle and "cry it out" scenarios but now he will go to bed around 8pm and sleep until 7 or 7:30 in the morning when I get him up for daycare. 

* He has a little happy dance that he does when he sees someone he loves (parents, babysitter, his brothers). He will hold both arms straight out in front of himself and kick his feet out with his knees locked straight. It's so funny to watch!

* Lots of language! Words include: whah (water), Mama (me), MeMe (Monkey), mah (more), buh-bah (bye bye, complete with wave), hi (hi), appah (apple, or applesauce), ahh-duh (all done), umnumnum (meaning food or hungry, pointing at his mouth), no (no), nuh-nuh or uh-uh (no-no, complete with shaking his head) dah (dog), whoooaaa! (self-explanatory), and of course his very first word "uh oh" which he still uses very freely. He will also sign the words for "more," "no," "hungry," "all done," and "please."

* He definitely knows what goes on around the house. When his older brothers are putting on shoes and jackets for daycare in the morning he excitedly grabs his shoes from the closet rack and brings them to me. When everyone is dressed for the car he is the first one tugging on the door handle to the garage. Also, when he's hungry he will communicate that very clearly with signing, whining, and trying to climb into his booster seat. 

* As far as he sees it, anything his brothers can do, he can do also. He wants to eat with utensils, sit on the couch with his snack (as opposed to his chair), climb on their big boy beds, and color with crayons or pencils. He's very adept at all of those things! He's even starting to run a little, as opposed to bumbling around. He loves to play chase, and finally Luke and Jackson are starting to see that he can be fun more than destructive when they are playing.  Although it usually includes making a mess of some sort...

* He still loves push toys. The $2.50 scooter I bought at Once Upon a Child when Luke was 9 months old has been once of the best toys I ever invested in. He still loves it! Another favorite is the push lawn mower, partly because it is LOUD!

* In typical boy fashion he loves to be messy. Whenever we go to the neighborhood park he tries to eat the dirt and pea gravel. So gross, but since he spits it out I don't worry too much.

* He has it in his head that it's his job to supervise Remy while he eats, and most of the time to hand-feed him the kibble as well. He has tasted it a few times too.

* So far, out of the three boys, he's the one who enjoys reading the least. We started reading to Luke as a newborn, and to Jackson when he was a baby too. Calen just doesn't seem to want to sit still long enough to look at even the most exciting pictures in a book.

* He has the cutest little facial expressions! In the shot below he is saying "ohhhhhh!"

I say it all the time but it's so true- it is so much fun to watch my little guys grow up. I can't believe in a few months I will have a 5 year old! And that my last baby is over a year and a half old... As I was rocking him before bed last night I had a slight twinge of baby fever, and then I realized that I was really and truly okay with the fact that I'm done having babies. I like sleeping through the night, not having to spoon-feed, and having kids who can play on their own!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Weird Blessings in Strange Disguises

I never thought I'd be glad to have a sick kiddo.

Calen threw up at daycare on Tuesday and I had to leave early to go get him. I missed a half day of work. Wednesday morning daycare called me again to say that he had diarrhea three times and had to go home again. I missed another half day of work.

I work in a sales commission job, so missing time in the office is not good!!!!

This morning I had to take the kids to daycare late because of the 24 Hour Rule- if a child vomits or has diarrhea they are not allowed to return until 24 hours after the last incident. That's to keep things from spreading too quickly through all the kids there. While we were all playing here at the house in the morning Jackson kept complaining that his tummy hurt. I decided to err on the safe side and keep him home with me, even though it would mean missing a WHOLE day of work today.

Good thing too- he threw up as soon as we returned from dropping Luke and Calen off at daycare. Around noon I went down to the basement to get something from our shelf storage and to my horror I stepped onto a soggy carpet in our unfinished area. I flipped the light on and saw that half the floor was covered with about an inch of water.

I panicked and called Justin. He agreed that I needed to call a plumber right away. I checked Angie's List and called a company who happened to have a free truck a few minutes away from our house. Within 30 minutes I had my diagnosis- a broken sump pump.

The thing is, by the time Eric (from BeDell Plumbing) arrived less than an hour after I first noticed the water, the puddle had doubled in size and was even deeper. And now it was seeping into the carpeted area in our finished storage room. Eeek! Within an hour he had a new sump pump installed and functioning, and the water started draining out.

How is this a blessing????? Well, if Jackson had not been sick I would have gone to work like normal, and who knows when I would have gone down to the basement in the next few days! Our whole basement could have flooded and ruined everything instead of just having to clean a small area. We only had to trash a couple things, and the rest was saved from water damage.

Thank you Lord, that even though I griped and complained about missing more work, it allowed me to see the problem before it would have cost us thousands of dollars and weeks of headache.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Never Underestimate the Power of Praying People in Large Groups

"Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel God's mighty power and his grace
I can feel the brush of angel's wings, I see glory on each face
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place"

Have you ever just known you were truly in the presence of God? Some of you will think I'm crazy, but some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. For the past few months I have been fighting a huge battle, one that cannot be shared publicly. It is mostly within myself, but a lot of it is external too. It hurts. A lot. This is something that Satan could have used to rip away everything I believed to be true about trust, faith, love, and all things spiritual... but those of you who know me know that I do not back down easily. I fought tooth and nail with the devil and have drawn closer to the Lord than I ever thought possible.

This morning's church service started out like any other. It probably would've ended like any other, too, except that during the invitation something happened. A group of three women approached the pastor on behalf of a few families in our church whose marriages are suffering. This was not new information to the pastor, but it immediately became a call to action.

He asked for women to come to the front to pray for wives who were hurting, specifically for those whose husbands have walked out on them physically and/or emotionally. Then he asked the men of the church to get on their knees and pray, as spiritual leaders in their own families, for these families in our church who are affected by this. From what I could tell, the whole church was on their knees before the Lord. One of the deacons prayed over everyone, crying out to God for healing. There were so many tears...

And God. Was. There.

The old adage is true for sure- "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups," however, I think it is much more important to remember the following:

Never underestimate the power of praying people in large groups.