Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reflections of a life...

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 childrens lives unfolded before me. I'm not sure if the memories were triggered by a day spent with precious new mother's, who are experiencing their own lifetime of firsts, or by the celebration of another year of my marriage to Paul. Perhaps God just wanted to remind me of His love, and the journey He has taken my family on.
Our lives started out with some dark stuff...Paul with his own before me, and then together we had more. There was Charles death right before our wedding...then finding David dead in his room in our apartment not too long after that. Then the Fear overtook me and stayed too long. Those first years were hard.
Then the joy began...real joy...seeing Paul cry as he held our first baby, a little girl, in his arms. I still remember the smell of her. I could do nothing but just hold and look at her for hours. I watched Paul change her diapers, sing her songs, and take her on tractor rides. I saw her at one, already precocious, sitting on the floor in red panties and blue knee socks eating a plate of Cheetos. I saw myself lying on the sofa, as Paul rubbed my huge brown belly wondering what the baby boy inside me would be like. I saw Paul cry again as he held our baby son in his arms for the first time. I watched ReAnnon hit a ball off a tee, and dance around in her Michael Jackson t-shirt to Paula Abdul and La Bamba over and over while her baby brother sprang and laughed from the jumpy in the doorway beside her. Memories of watching ReAnnon run across 2 acres when her Dad whistled from his tractor with a big glass of ice tea as my husband mowed our yard and the two that bordered our property every weekend for an extra $40. He would take us out for hamburgers and ice cream.
I watched Michael as he sat on the soccer field picking grass and chasing bugs and then jump up and turn all serious when the ball came his way. I saw ReAnnon dressed like Madonna, and Michael as Teen Wolf. Our little family, so full with our drama queen and bug catcher as our lives took on new purpose.
And then Michael, barely four, his eyes so full of excitement and wonder came running from the Van to show me something. He was carrying a bullfrog by its back legs that was almost as big as he was. I had not slept the night worried about my baby boy. (Paul took him on an overnight frog-gigging expedition where they sat in a canoe from Midnight to 2am and waited for the frogs. Then they would shine a light in their eyes to paralyze them and stab them with a giant spear) No wonder I didn't sleep. And can you just say…”Redneck!”
Then I saw my little girl at age six as she placed her suitcase, packed and ready, by the door. She was so eager and excited to leave home for the first time. She was going to fly on a plane from Oklahoma to California with a Great-Grandmother she barely knew, to visit her MIMI, my Mom. And I remember can she leave me so easily?
After that...times got tough again. Paul lost his job and couldn't find work. He got depressed. I got pregnant. Family and friends stepped in to help as they could. Our priest gave me a key to the food closet at our church. I would go while Paul watched the kids. I told them I had gone to the store. I stood in lines with other pregnant mother's for WIC vouchers. It was humbling and hard.
Then another gift from God came to us in the form of a baby girl. Her hair was the color of fire, and again, I saw my husband cry. But this time it came from a place even deeper than before. My broken man needed that baby girl at that moment in our lives, and God knew it. I remember begging the nurses to let me stay in the hospital just one more day so I could have her to myself, and they did. I cherished those last 24 hours with her because I knew too well what it would become when I took her home.
Then more joy as I watched her sister and brother fall in love with her, and Paul got a job working at an art gallery. Our lives moved on. I began cleaning a Montessori preschool so ReAnnon and Michael could attend. My niece, Tiffany, went there as well, and she became one of my own as she stayed with us after school while my sister Kay worked. She was clumsy, precious, beautiful, and so smart. Our love for her grew as she became part of our little family, and I knew that she would hold that place inside my heart forever.
Not too long after this, we got a visit from some relatives in California. And through them, God opened a door. Paul said goodbye just a few weeks later to begin a new job in California, He would return for us 4 months later after ReAnnon finished 2nd grade.
I can still pull up the memory of Paul backing out of our long driveway that day with tears in his eyes. Eight month-old Chandler settled on my hip, as I held tight to one of Michael's hands while he wiped away his own tears with the other. Our little/big girl stood just in front of us and waved goodbye smiling, trying so hard to be brave.
That next four months was tough. Michael missed Paul so much. 
Because of Chandler, I couldn’t do the things that Paul had always done with him. The boy things, so Michael was mad a lot. But the time went by fast, and before we knew it Paul was back, and this time, we would all go with him.
I have another clear picture of our little family in Paul's Mother's black Thunderbird, as the four of us entertained Chandler by singing ourselves across the country to our new home. “James Taylor, Roy Orbison, John Mellencamp, The Beatles.” And as I remember how we all sang the song, “Tweeter and the Monkey man," I say now with a smile, “Thank goodness Lord for your mercy.”
A new 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 we could count, and so much snow. So many moments of awe and wonder. Memories of tearing down a wall so that two, two-bedroom apartments could become home for our little family. Memories of laughter among the hardships. Chandler's first words...her beautiful and crazy red hair. How ReAnnon and I would laugh about it. Kids hiding food under the table leg.
Michaels first real soccer game, and then we watched as he hit a baseball the way a baseball should be hit. He was a natural athlete. Everything came so easily to him. .
ReAnnon got her first part in a musical. She performed in her first dance recital. Paul and I watched as our beautiful daughter came alive on the stage. We had never seen anything like it before. Her gift shined from the inside out, and it was magic. Their sister, my little best shadow...content to happily cheer them both on.
Then times got tough again. The snow stopped coming to the mountains. Our little family moved into one of the motels Paul managed. We were now, “On-site and on-call.” I hated it...grieved for my children. Cried myself to sleep, so afraid that we would never have a home again. Yet still, among it all, are memories of laughter and joy. A fluffy white puppy who we thought had run away the first day we got him.
My five-year old boy with a towel for a cape in tighty-white underwear diving off the check-in desk onto the lobby sofa. "Welcome to the Wildwood Inn", I would say to the guests, “I hope you like kids and puppies”.
Memories of sleep-over’s and swim parties, Chan in her pink Barbie car that we couldn't afford, Michael and ReAnnon in the parking lot learning how roller blade. Michael were three sizes too big and still he skated better than his sister. Their first real bikes. Michael so smart, so good at everything but always negotiating and pushing the limits. Always pushing the limits.
Chan's first day of preschool. Her first song. Her first dance recital. Her first musical. A shadow of her big sister, and our little family, celebrating each milestone right alongside her.
We dug in deep. A friend’s son moved in with us. A high school baseball player. 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. Struggling through too little money, long hours and broken promises. Doing what we had to do, trying to stay focused on the blessings.
I wrote letters to my kids with a dream in my heart that I would one day turn them into a book for them. I wrote inspirational essays for the Mammoth Times. Shared little snippets of our lives. and yet always ...always...believing God for more.
ReAnnon began to drive...went to her first dance.
Then the Motels sold and we were without jobs again. Our children were settled. They had friends. What would we do now? Where would we go? So when God opened another door of opportunity, my husband wanted to take it. I remember walking into the Sierra Nevada for the first time hoping that my husband wasn’t crazy. Praying that he wasn’t. My husband the visionary. I will never doubt him again.
The next years were fast and furious, as I watched Paul make his dream come true. Our investors were paid, and we were blessed with something I never though we would have in California. A home.
Stress came too, a kind I had never known before, and an intense responsibility. Our employees became like family to my husband, and years of hard work followed. Memories of too much togetherness. Issues with partners...issues with employees...always trying to fight the fights with integrity and truth. Watching Paul struggle to give everyone what they wanted. My husband became my Boss and I didn't always like it. I no longer had holidays with my family.
More athletic successes for Michael...more dances...musicals....swim-meets…plays. My read-headed sweetheart.
Kids struggling with school, with friends. An angry husband. An angry Boss. A wife and mother who didn't want to do it anymore. And yet somehow, God always showed me where He was in the middle of it. He called out to me. And even when everything swirled into one big torrent that was our life, I felt His presence.
Then, through our oldest daughter, God brought us to a new church, and my husband took our family on a mission trip to Ecuador. I began to make new new perspectives. There were changes in hearts, in minds. I had a new relationship with Jesus. Renewed faith. I learned a new and different way to pray.
ReAnnon graduated high school, worked for a while, and then made the decision to go through the Ywam program where she learned what it is to have a servant’s heart.
More long years working too many hours, fighting too many fights, but settled. We tried to do it with integrity and honor.
A championship football season for Michael his senior year. College in his future...Money we didn't have....I can not count the days I walked and prayed over that. A season of learning to be faithful and learning how to trust God.
Then our daughter got engaged and we planned a wedding. A big, beautiful one. Friends and family came from all over the country and we were so Blessed. Our son-in-law, a gift from God.
Then we had one last horrible season of the worse snowfall in our Mammoth history. A mother and daughter from our community got lost in a snowstorm. People gathered and looked for them for 3 days before they were found, but the daughter died after getting out of the car to walk for help.
Our business was more chaotic and stressful than ever that winter, and then God ended it as only He could. As our baby was getting ready to graduate high school, the vision my husband had all those years before became a reality and our business sold at the top of the market.
The season that followed, God's gift to us of rest and blessing, surpassed anything we could have hoped for or imagined. I was given the home of my dreams, and I have become a gardener. Last year, Paul and became grandparents, and a new love has blossomed inside me like no other love before, and it takes my breath away.
I do not know what the rest of my life with Paul is going to look like. I don't know what the future for my children looks like either. I know each of them will have their own set of trials and lessons to learn in the process, but I also know that God's promises and His faithfulness are real and true. He is sovereign and sufficient.
So I am thankful for my journey, with its darkness and its light. Through it, God has shown me who He is, and taught me how to trust him with my life.  I am humbled by it all. So thank you God, for your unconditional love, your mercy, and the gift of our salvation through your gift of grace! I give you all my praise!

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