Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love for the Latte
What can I say? I’m in love with my latte. It greets me in the morning – frothy, tasty, and warm in my hand pushing out the cold, slowly waking me up. This love for the latte – I can’t imagine a day without it. However, I’m guessing like most of you, I wasn’t born a coffee drinker.
I started drinking coffee in my teens – I remember my first cup – my Dad handed it over to me and asked, “Do you want anything in it?” It seemed like a test – so I paused…cream seemed safe. Sugar…that didn’t seem quite right… I drank a few sips black…I held back my pucker face. I stirred in the cream. “Better?” he asked and I nodded. Somehow I knew I had to get through that cup. I was definitely not a “regular” yet.
Fast forward to college – I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to experience the holy grail of coffee shops – Water Street Coffee Joint. The original location – across the street from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo is what all coffee shops should aspire to be. Quirky and quaint in a tiny, old converted gas station near the train tracks, the original building was so small, 2-3 people could barely stand in line to order at the same time. The sunshine logo in yellow and orange with the cobalt blue background and mug were perfect (still is). We were always crammed in and sometimes you could not find a seat – but you waited anyway. Their mocha was the stuff Folgers coffee dreams of being when it grows up and starts wearing makeup and dressing fancy. The fresh cream (lightly flavored with vanilla) alone was enough to make you want suck down that heart racing, rich chocolately dream drink. Jerry did not drink coffee UNTIL he had a Water Street Mocha. He was converted – right then and there.
True story – we went to Chicago during those years and went to Starbuck’s for the first time. We both ordered mochas – mistake number one. What we didn’t know then that we know now is that a Starbuck’s mocha in my opinion is their worst latte drink. We didn’t finish our drinks – it tasted like –*gasp* the fast food of coffee!
Fast forward to now – I’ve been converted to Starbucks. Maybe I have gone backwards on the coffee snob continuum by admitting this fact, but it is all about the love of the latte. Give me sugar free vanilla and breve with that kickin espresso and that first sip is divine – every time. We have duplicated it on our home machine and I have my cobalt blue mug and saucer where I sit and pine away…remembering the days at Water Street. If we lived closer, I would be there…
Enjoy your coffee today, friends.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear God, The weight of these circumstances threaten to overtake me – another day of missed work due to a sick child, the plans unmade for summer care for Kayla, serious illness threatening a close family member, recent passing of a relative. It has been one thing after another for us and I’m tempted to be wound up, angry, hopeless, thankless. My gratitude journal is missing two days worth of entries. If I don’t capture those things – this thankfulness that leads to joy – I know they will be gone forever, but I just can’t seem to do it today. I’m sorry, God, I’m trying to carry all of these things and I know I’m not supposed to, but I’m at such a loss right now. I’m craving normalcy, but change all at the same time. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that you do. So I’m sitting over here – praying against this anger, this hopelessness and I know you are listening, but I can’t help but crying out this frustration. I hope you are feeling patient because I’ll be handing you over a bunch of things today. Love, Jenny

Friday, February 18, 2011

It’s Almost Here It’s almost here…warm, windy days, flowers pushing through the earth, robins chirping and yet this glimpse of spring today is something I’m having a hard time accepting. Fifty degrees in mid February is more of a tease than something to be embraced as reality. To those that don’t watch the calendar – today looks every bit like an early March day – wind whipping and wind chime slamming, sunshiny, snow melting day. But I’m just not ready yet. Back in January I said I was looking forward to spring and yet here I am the skeptic – resisting the urge to take a walk, to let the sun shine on my face. Why is this thing called change – even a change that brings hopes and light and fresh breeze so hard to embrace? I feel the breeze blowing through my cracked window and I want to welcome it – let it blow out the funk of this cold, dark, sad winter, but I can’t believe that it is really here or meant for me. Isn’t that how life is? God giving us gifts all over the place – each day – each moment if we would only look and open them up: 113. Endless blue sky 114. Shiny, clean car 115. Snow disappearing miraculously overnight 116. Each day precious with loved ones Change is hard for this set-in-her-ways girl…but even though change is painful – blowing wind must dry the ground – I’m resolving to open my hands and my heart to what these winds bring.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thank You! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Since I have been actively blogging again from January until now - you have visited my blog 1200 times! I'm humbled, awed, floored and over all THANKFUL! I love writing here and sharing with y'all. I would love to hear from you - please post a comment (or three) when you get a chance. It has been a busy day, so I will leave you this musical interlude. See ya soon! MercyMe - Move (click the picture to play the video)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Memories of Grandma
In memory of my Grandma – Donna Rudowske – whose birthday was last week. Grandma went to be with Jesus 5 years ago.
When I think of you Grandma, I see you with all of the rings on your fingers, a knitted purse in your hand and your “ehl-ehl-ehl” car. You are telling a story and looking for ways to teach us girls the more traditional things that girls learned in your day – knitting, crocheting, and sewing. We all tried to be good students, but I never quite learned any one of them very well.
But the treasures you had, the history of those things, the pictures – those are what always piqued my interest. You gave me your hope chest – filled with treasures. I’ve looked through them many times – crisp, white pillow cases with blue birds embroidered on them; a yellowed linen towel with purple flowers, an embroidered pillowcase doll – faded red lips smiling at me. I was looking through these things the other day and found the notes you left me – what they were, where they came from, who made them. How did I not notice them before now? The history of these things spelled out – making them even more sentimental.
You gave me your tiny ring with the “R” on it. It did not fit one of my fingers (or toes), but I kept it anyway. Later I gave it to my sister. You bought me my birthstone ring when I turned 16 – peridot green still gleaming in its tarnished band. You crochet little purses for coins – made purses using so many different materials that we joked that you could make a purse out of anything. I think my love of purses started with those ones you made years ago.

The beautiful crochet rose square blanket you made for me (and identical ones with different thread for my sisters) – how perfect that it matches all of the colors in my craft room. It is draped over my little couch in there – as if you had made it for that space. How did you know?

We weren’t always respectful of you, Grandma and I’m so sorry for that. You always loved us and wanted to show us the things that were important to you. You took us to the flea market where you sold your treasures. You gave me pretty teacups – beautiful pieces that someone had thrown away. We use those for holidays and I think of you.
I miss you Grandma and I’m so happy that I will see you again someday in heaven. I’m sure that when I get there – you will be wearing your rings and holding your newest purse and I can’t wait to see the ones you have made for all of your friends. I love you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We Celebrate Anyway

The last several weeks have been really trying for our family and extended family. We’ve suffered through illness, untimely death, and other stressful situations. Over this past weekend, I felt as if I were at my breaking point, but I found that keeping up with my thankfulness journal really helped me keep perspective on everything.

Today on Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of the most important things to celebrate – love, family, and the decision to celebrate.

We celebrate by giving each other cards, candy, hearts, flowers, and small gifts. But it is not the gifts that matter – it’s the people giving those gifts that we hold near to our hearts. If I chose to look at the circumstances around me, there would be no reason to celebrate – I could easily be depressed or exhausted, or just look for the simplest way to get through the day. But instead we celebrate anyway – in the midst of the pain, fear, illness, waiting, and sorrow. We choose to take a different path – to choose joy in the simple act of giving paper hearts, homemade cards, and cookies.

I wear a cross around my neck occasionally. It took me a long time to decide if I wanted to wear one because I didn’t want to dishonor what it stood for or disrespect Jesus’ sacrifice by my bad behavior while wearing it. The cross – the symbol of ultimate suffering during Jesus’ time becomes a symbol of our salvation – a treasured and honored reminder of new life from horrible suffering and death. We choose to make this awful thing represent eternal life.

Ultimately I believe we have made it through these last several weeks by choosing to believe and have hope that this is not the way it should be, has to be or will be forever. We don’t always get it right, but I believe that God if faithful. He has shown his face to us during this trying time.

We choose to celebrate anyway and welcome the joy of this love He has given us.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Staying Open I used to be pretty stuck in my ways – territorial, rigid in my plans, and definitely not spontaneous. But then I had children and well, I had to put those ways behind me. It wasn’t an easy process and I’m still learning everyday how to stay open – how to consider all possibilities – how to love first instead of selfishly considering my own agenda. Several years ago, Jerry and I took a class at our church – a survey of the whole Bible over 2 years. In one of the first few lessons, I learned something that I had never thought of before. If love is what God wants us to do then sin is its polar opposite – sin is love turned in on itself. I’m sure like many of you, I had learned that sin was a bad thing that we had to avoid, but when put in this context sin is defined more clearly as any action where I act selfishly. Wow, right? Whenever I refuse to be open to something new and different, I consider my own ways over someone else. Not the best idea if I am learning to love perfectly as Jesus wants me to do. So I’m learning to be open – open to reading a book, playing with trains, an unexpected phone call, a message asking me to pause and pray, to listen, to talk, to take an unexpected trip. I’m not just learning the good things – but the hard things too – illness, pain, loss, death. He is teaching me to love first and consider myself second. Below is a song that I love that captures this idea – staying open – Like a Lake by Sara Groves. so much hurt and preservation like a tendril round my soul so much painful information no clear way on how to hold it when everything in me is tightening curling in around this ache I will lay my heart wide open like the surface of a lake wide open like a lake standing at this waters edge looking in at God's own heart I've no idea where to begin to swallow up the way things are everything in me is drawing in closing in around this pain I will lay my heart wide open like the surface of a lake wide open like a lake bring the wind and bring the thunder bring the rain till I am tried when it's over bring me stillness let my face reflect the sky and all the grace and all the wonder of a peace that I can't fake wide open like a lake everything in me is tightening curling in around this ache I am fighting to stay open I am fighting to stay open open open oh wide open open like a lake How are you learning to be open?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

One More Day My coffee is cold, but I take another drink anyway and pad on over to warm it up. I look out into the living room at their faces – watching a movie…sweet and innocent - and I’m happy, content. I know that I am meant to be here for today, for this time. Little boy – over the illness that put him down for nearly 5 days. He says, “I feel good today, mama.” I’m so happy. Big girl – quiet and a bit warm. “I want to go to school” she says and then coughs hard and gets quiet again. “I want you to go” I think to myself. But in my heart I know that we just need one more day. I need one more day…one more day to snuggle close to them, to let them know I love them, another day to pass this test of motherhood. You see, I get impatient and angry and I yell too much. I’ve been home with them so many days in the past two months and for some reason, I just can’t get this thing right. But a good friend reminded me today that "Every day that you wake up in the midst of your mess and resolve, every day that you try, and yes even every day that you fail, your heavenly Father is proud of you." So I keep trying and each day there is small progress and I know He sees. I’m here with them, one more day and who knows how many more and I will keep loving them and working on this patience thing and being a bit quieter and a lot more loving.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Party that Wasn’t We’ve prepared for this day – cake ordered, paper goods bought, theme chosen, invitations sent, gifts waiting. We’ve prepared for this day to celebrate, because that is what you do to celebrate the lives of these children - our blessings. But what if the party wasn’t to be? Guests arrive; birthday boy playing and having fun, food ready, gifts piled high…excitement builds…balloons sway. But then he is slowing down…he wants us to hold him, we do. He grows warm, he can’t keep his eyes open, his food uneaten. The party stops. We talk, we wait, but we all keep asking ourselves the question…what if the party can’t continue? What will we do with the cake – uncut – too much to eat by this family of five. Gifts, unwrapped…no one to observe the tearing and celebrating? He sleeps and we wait…it is not a long time, but it is anguish. What if? Should we cut the cake anyway? It would be heartbreaking for him not to blow out candles… As parents, we wait, because we want our children to experience the best of what we have for them. We plan and we wait patiently…giving grace because in doing so, we experience the joy of our children unwrapping all we have for them. Someone else is waiting for us…our heavenly Father. He has given us so many gifts…our cake beautifully decorated, he – anxiously waiting. Will she take the gift of grace I have for her? He, accept who I am? He waits…gifts collecting dust…cake uncut…company of heaven waiting. How heartbreaking for him to wait on us receiving his love – accepting the gift of who he is and the gifts of each day – each moment – that he wants to bring to our lives. He wakes up…medication working – blows out the candles, wants to open gifts. Jumps and screams and yells after the ripping and tearing – plays. Thank goodness – this party WAS…it happened; we finish celebrating and are thankful. We hold him close. He wants to hold YOU close – unwrap the gifts – come to the party, eat the cake – RECEIVE what he wants you to have today. He is waiting for you – accept the gifts of today and let the party begin.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

To My Wonderful Boy This is a tribute to my son Zachary who turned three on 2/4. Three years ago, you came into this world after one triumphant push…your sweet little cry filling my ears. My sweet, special boy – the result of my 2nd pregnancy and first labor. Eleven hours of labor – I was giddy and happy when my water broke and introspective through the hard, late hours. Pushing you out was the hardest work I have ever done, but definitely the most rewarding. My heart raced for a day…but I was fine. I stared at you in your clear little bed – swaddled, hat on, little face squinted in sleep. You cooed, and sighed and I knew that I was in love…love at first sight. What would I do with you, my sweet little boy? You name – Zachary John – means “remembered by a gracious God” and oh, how gracious He had been to me – that day – those days following your birth. It is three years later and I can’t believe how you have grown. Not quite a toddler, not quite a boy, but always wonderful. You make me laugh – your twice dimpled smile makes me melt. I cannot resist you. Loud, fast, running, jumping, screeching, growling, tackling me…you pause and your little arms are around my neck, “I love you mommy.” I am still in love with you my son. I didn’t know how to love a boy, how to raise you, how to do this thing – being your mom, but you showed me how. I will never be the same since we met. I’m so grateful that God gave you to me. Happy birthday, my Zachary John.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Small Sanctuary I have three small children, which means that my house is pretty much at some level of chaos – laundry, toys, dishes, crumbs, papers – stuff in every direction. I don’t do very well with chaos like this. My idea of order is things put in their place – within reason. Overall, I tend to have a cluttered or “lived in” house, which is fine. But there are certain things that if not tended to make me vibrate just a little bit. But life is what it is and I don’t always get to those things that keep the order that I crave. I’ve found, however, that a made bed can somehow be a small sanctuary. Making our bed in the morning leaves a single, peaceful spot in our room that somehow centers me. I can sit on the bed, read, take a couple of minutes to pray and enjoy the crisp, neatness on this floating island in the middle of my room. (Never mind the ever present laundry baskets just out of view or the cluttered dressers.) While this is a physical place that I can retreat to, I need, want and crave that spiritual place of rest also. That rest for my soul. I need to take the time to pause, to pray, to put all into perspective and to not let the swirling, whirling, fast moving world overtake me. So I go to this sanctuary with Jesus. He is the source of my calm and peace during all parts of the day, not just at the end where I can return to my small sanctuary with Jerry and rest in his arms. What is your small sanctuary?