Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting Acquainted with Christin

My recent trip to the States afforded a wonderful opportunity for my family to do what all my Asian friends have already done, long ago: Meet Christin! It was slightly ironic that many random strangers have met my daughter and my family members had not, yet. But that all changed when I flew back, and wow, am I thankful for that time together! My parents had not anticipated meeting Christin until we returned next year for a planned time in the States, and by then she would have almost been two years old. So this was truly a divine opportunity and I cherished each moment of watching Christin interact with my family members!

The night we arrived back at my parent's house, my mom was up waiting for us despite the fact that we walked in the door about midnight. Though we were tired, Christin found some new energy when she saw the toys that Grandma had gotten ready for her!
Smiles on both faces!
You can tell my mom didn't mind at all staying up late to welcome us in!
My dad and I drove the next day to Missouri, where my Grandma was living, and stayed with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Dave. Here Christin is getting a little snuggle time with Grandpa after breakfast! Dad and I worked out a system. Whenever we would arrive somewhere in the car, he would get out, open my door and wait for me to unbuckle Christin and hand her to him. Then he would carry her while I gathered my purse and camera. Christin got used to this new system really quickly and after a few times was going willingly to Grandpa on arrival somewhere. I don't think Grandpa minded a bit, and it sure was helpful to me!
My dad and I had a tradition growing up of him taking me (or my brothers individually) out for breakfast each Saturday morning. I was always so excited for those Saturdays that I got to go with him, even though it meant that I had to get up earlier than usual. There was something so special about having Daddy-daughter time. Though I can't remember any significant conversations or "turning points" happening on a Saturday morning, it was just a great time of being together and enjoying a meal out--fairly rare in my growing up years. Anyway, we were able to continue this tradition by eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel on our way back to Iowa. Christin ate a TON! She ate almost all of my cinnamon apples, a big portion of my hash brown casserole, some egg, some biscuits and gravy, even sampled my sausage. I think she is now a fan of Cracker Barrel and breakfast out!

We then returned to Iowa, where Christin got acquainted with more family members . . . Grandma Ann, Auntie Sarah, Uncle Mark and Auntie Beth, and cousins Marin and Annika!

To be continued tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Life Well Lived

It's been a few days now, and I have had a bit of time to think through my Grandma's passing and reflect on her life. Hers was truly a life well-lived. I want to share a few of my memories of Grandma and honor her life and her Lord.

I was blessed to have quite a close relationship with my Grandma. She was only 53 when I was born, so throughout my growing up years she was still quite young, active, and involved in my life. She and my grandpa lived a short 3.5 hour drive from our family, and so I can remember making many trips to their house--for Christmas celebrations, for visits in the summertime, and especially when I would drive back and forth to college, Grandpa and Grandma's house was right on the way. Grandpa and Grandma made an effort to attend lots of my special events growing up--they were there for some of my recitals, the Sound of Music my senior year of high school, my eighth grade and high school graduation, and many more.

I can remember so many times visiting Grandpa and Grandma and getting up early on a summer morning. I would sneak downstairs, crawl into bed with Grandpa and listen to him tell stories about his adventures on the Gunflint Trail while the aroma of frying bacon would drift into the room. Then after breakfast we'd help Grandma wash the dishes and then go outside to play croquet on the lawn or help Grandma in the garden. Grandpa and Grandma lived on a country road and had a lake right across the road complete with a little beach facing their home. It was a beautiful, peaceful place that I loved to visit!

My Grandma was always a welcoming, friendly person. She was faithful in praying for people, and faithful in sending cards and letters to those whom she cared about--which was a lot of people! She would always underline the key words or phrases in the card--a funny trait that I looked for when she'd send me a card. She took very seriously her responsibility to pray for her family. I always knew that she was praying for me, praying for me by name each day.

Now it is amazing to see the fruits of Grandma's prayers. She has three children, all of whom are walking with the Lord, married Christian spouses, and taught their children about the Lord. She has eleven grandchildren, two of whom have already gone to be with the Lord (my brother Dan and my cousin Keri Joy who died tragically at 14 months), and the rest of whom are walking with the Lord. Of those who are married, all married Christian spouses and have children (Grandma's Great-grandchildren) who are now being taught to walk with the Lord. That is quite a legacy! I realize more and more as I grow older how rare and special that is!

My Grandma's influence shaped our family in significant ways. One particular way was through a family tradition that she and my Grandpa started way back in the late 60s. They invited their children (my Dad, my aunt Judy, and my Uncle John) and their spouses to spend a week "Up North" Minnesota in a lakeside cabin. This tradition continued as everyone started having children, and the children started growing up. So as I grew up, it was a given that we would spend the last week of July/first week of August (depending on the year) from Saturday to Saturday at "Lake George," a resort on the lake outside Park Rapids, Minnesota. We always stayed in the same place and did the same things--fished, swam, played sand volleyball, had a bonfire on Monday night, had a family worship service, tried to listen to the Twins on a static-y radio, took naps, read books, watched Grandpa play horseshoes, ate Grandma's yummy cooking, played games, and just generally had a great time. The cousins loved hanging out together, and we all enjoyed eating the bucket of chocolate chip cookies and bucket of chex mix that Grandma made for every cabin. Going "Up North" was a huge part of my growing up years; a tradition that shaped me and our family in great ways.
Now I realize that going up north for a week wasn't the easiest way to have a vacation, especially for my mom and Grandma who had to plan and prepare all the food and do all the packing for the week. But Grandma was immensely organized and had a list that she maintained from year to year. I think basically my Grandpa made sure the fishing tackle was packed and Grandma did everything else! We loved Grandma for it!

Grandma had a real, living, vibrant faith, and it spilled over to people around her. Her Bible was well-worn. For her funeral, my Aunt Judy had found a paper where Grandma wrote out some of her wishes. One of the hymns she requested was "Blessed Assurance." I think it sums up well what was most important to Grandma and her hope for eternal life.

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!
O, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long!
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Emma Joy Roelofs
April 29, 1923-May 13, 2009
I loved my Grandma. She will be missed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Some Encouraging Signs

To all of you waiting for more stories from my recent trip, you will have to wait just a bit longer. Tonight I want to just briefly share (before I forget the details) some encouraging signs of the Lord's work that we have been seeing in Clara Anne.

While I was gone, John took the girls on a Sunday afternoon to meet some new friends. Afterwards, Clara Anne asked why they were meeting these new people, and John replied that it was because these friends were also Christians. Clara Anne said, "Daddy, I hope I can be a Christian someday." He talked with her further about it but I'm not clear on the exact details.

Then a few days ago in a taxi, I was alone with the girls and Clara Anne said to me, "Mommy, I want to be a Christian someday." I asked her, "Well, what do you need to do to become a Christian, Clara Anne?" She replied, "I have to trust that Jesus died to save me from my sins." I affirmed her that this was correct, and asked if there was anything else she had to do (wondering if she would get mixed up at this point. Remember the "obey Mommy for the whole long week and then you can go to heaven" line she gave Christin?), and she said "Then I have to fight against sin." I again affirmed that this was certainly true, and reminded her that it was Jesus' power in us that gave us strength to fight.

Last night, as we were putting the girls to bed, as usual we gave the girls an opportunity to pray. Chloe said her usual: "Thank you for this day, Mommy, and Daddy, and Ayi, and Uncle Kevin and Aunt Becky, and Amen." Clara Anne, however, prayed a long and heartfelt prayer. I don't remember all the specifics, but she essentially laid out the gospel. She recounted all of the details, how our hearts were sinful and had darkness in them, but in God there was no darkness at all, only light, but we love the darkness because of our sin, but God hates the darkness and wants us to have light in us (the darkness and light business went on for quite some time). Then she recounted how Jesus had to die for us "on the judgment tree--it was really a cross made of wood because trees are made of wood" and how now if we believed in Jesus then we would be with Him forever. It was a long and remarkably theological prayer; she wasn't being silly (as she has sometimes been in the past) and she seemed to truly take comfort in the things she was saying.

John and I talked briefly about it last night and agreed that, while we wouldn't yet confidently say "Clara Anne became a Christian!", we do see signs of progress in her, evidences that the Spirit is working in her heart. We feel encouraged by the signs!

As well, for the last few months or so, Clara Anne has had occasional times where in the morning she will tell me that Jesus came and talked to her during the night. I have tried not to express doubt or discourage her in any way when she's said these things, but just to treat it as if it were a really normal thing. In fact, if the Lord is truly working in her heart, I hope that she is having times of hearing His voice. This morning she also told me this. I asked her what He said, and at first she couldn't remember, but then she said, "Oh, He told me that He will always be with me if I trust in Him." Well, that sounds pretty good to me! Clara Anne had such evident joy on her face as she told me about her conversation with Jesus, it was wonderful! I certainly am not going to discourage that, but rather rejoice in what I see the Lord doing in her heart!

At some point, perhaps, if she continues to express a hoped-for wish to become a Christian, there will be a point of encouraging her that if she has believed on Jesus, His death and resurrection, for the forgiveness of her sins, surrendering herself and her life to Him, that in fact, she IS a Christian! We hope and pray that this will come soon, but for now we are just so encouraged at what we see happening in her young heart. PTL for His faithful work! May He continue to draw our dear Clara Anne to Himself!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going Home

I am back in our Asian home again after a whirlwind trip to the US. It almost seems like a dream that I traveled that far and now am back again! Or maybe that's the jet lag talking. . .

It was a wonderful trip. I will try to post some pictures and tell some stories in the upcoming days, when I am feeling a little more on top of things, but for now let me just say how thankful I am that I was able to go. My time with my parents, my Grandma, my mother-in-law and sister-in law, and my brother and his family, was precious beyond words. I am so thankful.

I was able to spend some good time with my Grandma. She was weak and mostly confined to her bed or wheelchair, but she didn't complain about her situation. She expressed how glad she was to see me, to meet Christin, and we got some beautiful pictures together. She also asked several times about John and the girls and was concerned that they would be missing me. . . which they were! It was such a blessing to encourage Grandma with Scripture and pray for her.

And now, my Grandma has gone to her heavenly home. The day that I was leaving the US, we got a phone call around 2am from my Aunt Judy. The hospital had called saying Grandma had taken a turn for the worse. Aunt Judy and Uncle Dave immediately went to be with her, and she recognized them before slipping into a coma about 4am and passing away at 8:15 on Wednesday, May 13. By that point I was just completing the first leg of my four leg journey back to Asia.

I can hardly comprehend that I was able to see my Grandma and spend time with her, and then four days later, she slipped away. Isn't the Lord so gracious to us, always? I am so very, very thankful for the time we had together, brief though it was. I am so thankful that my husband encouraged me to make this trip and for my house helper, Lou, who kept things up at home with help from my dear friends so that I could go and have this last time with my Grandma.

So today I am experiencing afresh the emotions that go along with grief; there is a sense of shock, of unreality, of sadness, and yet of joy and thankfulness for my Grandma who loved the Lord, prayed for me and all our family so faithfully, and now has gone to her eternal reward. For her, I am glad. In His perfect timing, her life on earth is complete and now she has truly gone home. Praise Him for His glorious grace!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

An Unexpected Trip

Tomorrow morning I am leaving, with Christin, on a quick trip back to the US. I know, I know, I am almost as surprised as you. But in the last few months my last remaining grandparent, my dad's mother, has been declining in health and now her health situation is not looking good at all. After discussing things with John, we decided it would be worth the time and expense for me to travel back to see my Grandma, probably for the last time on this earth.

At this moment, my feelings are somewhere between nervous (to be traveling alone), excited (to see my family and just to be in America), sad (to think of my Grandma being near the end of her life), and somber, wanting to respect and honor my Grandma for her long life and persevering faith.

All of the details are arranged, and my time will be very full since I will only be back for one week, a big part of which I am spending with my Grandma. My parents are excited to meet Christin for the first time, and hopefully the jet lag will pass quickly or be nonexistent so we can fully enjoy our brief time back.

If you think of it, I'd appreciate any prayers you might lift up for me and Christin. I have four flights there, four flights home, and they are through some airports that I am not as familiar with. As well, of course, it will be me alone with Christin on the way so that will be interesting (read: exhausting). Hopefully she'll be doing a lot of this, even though she won't be in her comfy bed:

So thanks for your prayers. Trusting Him for a safe and meaningful trip!