Saturday, August 27, 2011

God knows when we sit and when we rise.

My anniversary was on Thursday.  21 years with the same man.  But when I walked down the aisle I wasn't just committing my life to John but to being part of his entire family.  While John and I formed our own family we also became part of one another's family.  So for 21 years I have not just been a Hardacker in name but I have been part of the Hardacker family adding another mother, father, sisters and brother.  Having started dating when I was 17 that means I have been part of this family for over half my life, 23 years to be exact.

So when the surgery was scheduled to remove the cancer invading my father-in-laws body on my anniversary there was no question I would take the day off to spend with the family, my family.  Unfortunately John had classes all day and it was agreed he couldn't come but the wonders of modern technology would make it easy to keep him in the loop as the surgery progresses.

We had all just gotten comfortable in the waiting room having finally eaten something after a very early morning arrival and were relaxing and enjoying catching up with on each other's lives while putting together the border of a puzzle we found in the waiting room when the surgeon arrived to talk with us.  It had been barely 2 hours since we left Don for a 4-7 hour procedure and when she suggested we talk in another room we knew it wasn't good.  The cancer had spread outside the stomach and they would not be proceeding.  From here on we will only be managing the cancer, trying to keep it at bay as long as possible until the inevitable occurs.

It was hard to hear.  It is hard to say.  My first thoughts were that God is in it. Don is a wonderful godly man, he knows the Lord and is an example to all who know him. His future is not unknown but secure and good. However, I admit it was hard to see exactly where God was at that moment. All I could think about was how hard this was going to be for Don, what a difficult death this would be. The nurse who came to talk about it with us, who specializes in this type of cancer, called it an "ugly" cancer. It all felt very hopeless.

But home alone I searched for God and found Him.  He is in this.  I don't know what will happen the next few months or years.  But God knows.  And I know He will be with Don every moment.  While going through this difficult process God will be there bringing Don comfort, loving him and caring for him.  And while it may seem hopeless from an earthly prospective with God all things are possible, full of hope and we can still believe in a healing that is beyond any doctors skill.

When Jake was in Panama a few weeks ago I prayed each day that the team would see God working but also prayed that when they returned home they would continue to look and see where God was working each day as God does not just work on missions trips but everywhere, everyday.  As I thought about the journey Don will be on going forward I had the same thought.  What is God doing?  How is God using this experience to further His kingdom?  Can we look to see what He is doing everyday?

I think Thursday was a gift for Don.  We all agree he didn't really want this surgery.  He is at peace with his future and is ready to see his Lord.  This day was for all of us, the family, who are not ready to let him go.  Sort of like God letting us do In-Vitro even though His plan was for adoption.  I needed to firmly close the door on my own ability to have children before I could open my eyes to adoption.  We all needed to firmly close the door on the possibility of a quick surgical healing before we could open our eyes to what God is about to do.  Whatever it is.

I am excited to see how God works in the coming months and years.  How will Don and his faith affect those around him?  What will God do, where will He be working each day as our family looks cancer in the eye and sees only the Lord and His plans.

The pastor who came to pray with all of us before the surgery reminded us of Psalm 139.  God knows us and knows everything about us, we are not alone.  A wonderful reminder as we go forward.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord."

"Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

"you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well."

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast the sum of them!"

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

21 years ago

Today is my anniversary.  21 years ago today I was doing up my hair and making up, putting on a fancy white dress, posing for pictures.  I walked down the aisle and committed to spend my life with my high school boyfriend.  The one with the long hair and questionable fashion sense.

(sorry couldn't get my scanner to work for a wedding picture but I just love this terrible picture of the 2 of us from high school which is already on my computer)

We couldn't have known then what life would hold for us.  That we would have a baby 4 years later and not be able to have any more, that John would spend almost his entire career self employed, that we would adopt 10 year after having our first child, help start an Anglican church of all things and love it, go to Africa.  We probably could have predicted that we might have financial struggles since we married so young but could not have known we would also have financial triumphs and be living as well as we are considering where we started out.

What is probably most surprising about a long lasting marriage is that through the ups and downs, the trials and the triumphs, not to mention the day to day doldrums, I love my husband more today than I could have even imagined possible 21 years ago.  What we have here after 21 years together is a life, a life I love.  It is something that cannot be build overnight.  It is build every day, one step at a time through the good and the bad, sickness and health, while going about your days.

Thank you John for 21 wonderful years of marriage.  Thank you God for bringing me such a wonderful man and being present in our marriage all these years.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good Morning Beautiful

Every morning Isabelle comes out of her bedroom and finds me (usually on the computer) and I say to her, "Good morning beautiful".  This morning I was distracted and just said "hi".  I was corrected.

Good Morning Beautiful!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I am getting out of this

This week I was asked an interesting question.  Noting that my husband gets to go back to school I was asked, "what do you get out of it?"  Honestly I was momentarily stunned by the question.  I simply do not think in those terms.  What do I get?  I have been home for 17 years raising my children, drinking coffee with friends, spending my days at zoos, museums, pools, teaching, playing, learning, growing.  I have been free while my husband has been tied to a desk, a hammer and demanding clients.  The question is not what do I get but what can I give?  How can I not give my husband 6 years of my life when he has given me 17 years?
There is a lot of danger thinking in terms of "what do I get" as we proceed through life because we will never get what we think we deserve and will  never be fully satisfied.  When you think about yourself and what you can get you sometimes miss seeing what you actually have.  Life is filled with blessings.  Everyday all around us.  We can choose to see them or ignore them but they are there.

Too much focus on myself and my needs, trying to be sure I get something from all I do and give has never brought me peace or joy in my life.  Instead it has brought disappointment and frustration.  Only when I trust God to care for me and turn my focus to serving Him has my cup been full and my joy made complete.

So what I "get" out of John going back to school is far more than I am giving.  I "get" the joy of serving the Lord and the privilege of experiencing His care for me while I work.

What more could I want?

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.--St Francis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One more week!

Ah the beautiful August days of summer in Minnesota are upon us, hot sunny days and cool quiet nights. A time of year that is usually simultaneously busy with school prep and relaxing as the lazy days of summer settle upon us.  While my southern sister has been talking about mid-August school starts for years, up north we start school after Labor day.  However, both my boys start school at Normandale Community College next Monday!  We are not used to these early school starts and are not at all prepared for our lives to change so much in 7 short days.  Yikes!

It is going to be interesting.  Both boys are taking 14 credits, Jake is doing it in 3 classes and John is taking 4.  Jake is taking 2 hybrid classes with both class and internet work so his actual clocked time in school is only 9 hours a week.  What exactly he plans to do with all this time alone at home we haven't exactly figured out but I am foreseeing myself having that live in chef I have always wanted.

John on the other hand wasn't sure he was ready for internet classes after so many years out of school and will be clocking in all 14 hours of class work every week.  He did manage a schedule with one day of no classes and 2 other days with only a couple hours of classes which is important since he will also have to find about 20 hours a week for work.  Not to mention studying.

I have had a wonderful, supportive husband and son all summer long as I transitioned from a homemaker to a working mother, I am seeing the end of this phase and the beginning of a phase in which my husband will need that same support from me as he becomes a full time student.  (Interestingly he hasn't been a full time student for almost the same number of years I haven't worked full time.)  While I am still grieving the loss of my time at home in some ways I have come to find the routine of my new life comfortable and the job is keeping me busy enough that the days go quickly.  I realize I no longer have the time I once had to accomplish things but I am learning that if I am patient in time everything can still get done.

So I prepare to move back into the nurturing wife and mother role that I have been able to put on the back burner for a few months knowing that while it won't look the same I will be the same.  And I love taking care of my family.

Of course, I do still have one week left so I think I will let John put Isabelle to bed tonight while I get to bed on time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Teaching parent

When Jake was 3 months old I joined MOPS at our church.  I was a new mom working 3 days a week and while i adored my baby boy I was really struggling to get a vision for exactly what my purpose in life was as the mom of a baby.  As Jake approached one year old and the MOPS year was coming to an end they had a speaker come in that changed my life.  She spoke on being a teaching parent. This mom had home schooled, public schooled and private schooled.  At one point all at the same time!  But she wasn't talking about school age kids she was talking about pre-schoolers.  Teaching my little baby boy how to discover the world.  I finally knew what the point of being at home with my child was.  Now thinking of your purpose around the idea of "teaching" your children might not be what inspires you, maybe you prefer to think of the word "nurture" or "guide" or "shepherd" but teacher definitely hit for me.

Preparing my son to face the world, to succeed in school and in life, exciting!  Sitting around trying to keep a 1 year old entertained, boring.  Putting rings around a peg was about as dull an afternoon as I could imagine but, teaching my son to put rings around a peg because he was learning fine motor skills which would serve him all his life was exciting.

I didn't know this would lead me to homeschooling a few years later or that I would become so opinionated on the subject of education, I just knew it would forever change the way I viewed my job as mom.  And it has.  Of course I still believe I am nurturing, shepherding, guiding or whatever word inspires you but "teach" is the word that is under everything I do.  When I am frustrated with my children I ask how I can teach them the skill they are missing which is causing the problematic behavior.

I think this is actually what led me away from homeschooling and into the internet school Jake spent many years.  I wanted to focus on identifying areas he was struggling in and let someone else teach him the details that were not a problem.  His school teachers got to work on math, geography, science, etc.  I got to help him learn to prioritize that school work, to understand why a 5 question 10 point quiz can significantly affect your grade when you have one every single week, to not get overwhelmed by a big project but take it one step at a time.

Over the years I hope I have taught him life skills, how to do the laundry, make his bed, clean the bathroom, etc.  But also some skills that are a little less concrete, to take a risk, try new things, not be afraid to fail, not take yourself too seriously.  Most important to seek God in every situation and trust Him no matter what happens.

Teach your child the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Prov 22:6 (my version anyway)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #1

In the course of a couple weeks I had 2 friends ask about books that have changed my life.  While I know there are several I really couldn't come up with a comprehensive list off the top of my head.  But as I was thinking recently a couple came to mind so I thought as inspiration hits me I would share some of my favorite books with you.

"The Read-Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease definitely tops my must read list.  The first half of the book will inspire you to read aloud to your children not just when they are little and can't read but throughout their childhood.  Sharing wonderful stories with your children giving them a love of reading, learning and dreaming. 

It even inspired me to read aloud to my husband on occasion when I come across a particularly good passage in a book or article I am reading.  Sharing those stories and knowledge brings us together, and has caused my husband and I to enjoy a few books together. 

What is really fun is when the tables turn and your child can read to you!  I remember around 3rd grade Jake and I were reading "Mossflower" by Brian Jacques.  It was getting really good and Jake wanted to just read it without me but I wouldn't let him.  I was too busy to read to him so I proposed he read to me while I worked on my project.  What a treat to have your child read aloud to you!

And he doesn't just talk about picture or story books but encourages you to read all different genres.  I found myself checking poetry books out of the library after reading this book.  While I haven't passed on as much poetry to Jake as I would have liked the book caused me to give him an introduction I would have otherwise avoided.

The second half of the book is basically a reading list.  A "treasury" of read aloud books.  He lists hundreds of titles with brief descriptions starting with a listing of "wordless" books and moving through picture books, novels, poetry, etc.  You couldn't possibly read them all before your child grows up.  I bought my version at a garage sale and it is an original from 1982 when first published but I know I have seen updated versions which probably have updated book lists with even more books.

I must confess that Isabelle being a typical second child has not gotten nearly the attention in the book reading department as Jake did.  If I try to read to her in the middle of the day she starts crying and telling me it is not her bed time.  But while watching Isabelle this summer my mom has taken up the mantle and has been working through "The Secret Garden" with her.  I taught her a few of my favorite tricks used with Jake:  Tell her you will quit reading after 2 or 3 chapters if she doesn't like it (we never didn't like a book by that point) and let her play quietly with another toy while listening.  Some kids are happy to sit and listen but if Jake wasn't also playing with Lego's forget it.  I knew from conversation and the fact that he at times begged me to keep reading til I was hoarse that he was listening and learning so I was happy to let him do other things.

Now head to your nearest library and check this book out.  Definitely on my must read list.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Growing in Maturity

Jake turned 17 in June and I didn't post anything about him! For his birthday we made our now traditional birthday poster and used it to announce his gift. Tickets to a Christian music festival in our area called, "Sonshine Festival" which he wanted to attend but couldn't afford.

(Confession:  I forgot to photograph him on his birthday so I made him pose for these a week later.  Not that you would know this otherwise but I like to share my failure as a mother by pointing out when I forget to take any birthday pictures of my child.)

We sent him and a friend off to this weekend festival with a tent, camp gear and food all packed and purchased by Jake.  He drove himself an hour out of town, set up his tent and cooked his meals for 3 days and 2 nights.  While the parents of one of his friends were there he was basically on his own.  He made a few mistakes (like forgetting the ticket at home) but we decided not to rescue him (we couldn't have if we had wanted to since we weren't home) and instead let him problem solve or suffer the consequences. (The festival looked up his tickets online and let him in.)

This week Jake is in Panama on a mission trip with our youth group who partnered with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).  They will be doing mainly children's VBS type programing but will definitely get a little adventure mixed in when they are canoed into a remote village for some ministry time and will spend one night there.

This is Jake's second over seas mission trip and 4th mission trip in general.  He is a seasoned pro.  The first trip our church youth did was 5 years ago when Jake was going into 7th grade.  They partnered with YWAM that time as well to help with clean up in New Orleans after Katrina.  Jake was the youngest on the trip which had more girls than boys.  Fast forward to today, Jake is now going into 12th grade and among the older kids on a trip of mostly boys.  This time instead of looking to everyone else for leadership they will be looking to him.

This is a hard stage for parenting.  I know I am preparing him to leave the nest in a year or so and I am starting to worry.  I see him every day.  I know his immaturity.  And sometimes I must admit I focus on that more than the maturity.  Despite letting him go off with no worries to Sonshine I was worried this time about whether or not he would know what to do and do it.

In the past I would be home to micromanage the preparations.  Make sure he packed what I thought he needed, the way I thought it should be packed.  Bring what I wanted him to have and all the while fill him with advice and wisdom I feel he will need while away.  But this time I didn't have those opportunities.  I did manage to take him out and buy bug spray, sunscreen and a second pair of shorts for the trip as well as a new suitcase but otherwise I totally had to trust him to make it happen.

When we arrived to drop him off several parents and staff commented on the plan to look to Jake for leadership on this trip.  I wanted to tell them why he was totally not mature enough and they might want to be sure and check on him regularly.  But then I thought about it.  He is ready for this responsibility.  He is mature.  He has traveled out of the country before and although this is a different country with a different culture he has the experience to take it in and do what is needed. 

So I decided to stop worrying and trust.  Trust my son, trust that he has learned the lessons we have taught him over the years and trust God, that He will be with him every step of the way.

I am looking forward to the return of my mature son and of hearing how God used him and revealed Himself during this week as He prepares Jake for his future.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gardening with Melanie

Remember right before I started work when I had some sort of crisis, cry for help moment and planted a garden?  I thought you might be wondering how it was looking so I took a couple pictures this weekend:

Let's pretend it has looked like this all summer.  Weeded with the rows all still neatly lined up and I didn't weed for a hour before taking this picture.

Let's pretend I meant for the sunflower to grow through the chicken wire and turn at a funny angle so that now the chicken wire is the only hope it has of staying upright.

Let's pretend that after an hour of weeding the yard doesn't look like a yard that needs its weekly weeding.

Let's pretend that huge grassy area in the back of this photo isn't a giant weed pile we can't take care of because our mower and weed whip have gone the ways of mowers and weed whips.

Let's pretend that this garden isn't growing a huge thistle plant.

Which is so large I cannot pull it even with a gloved hand.  I think it asked me to feed it while I was out there...

So as you can see planting a garden was a perfectly logical thing to do this summer and hasn't at all called out my failures on a regular basis.  The truth is I just planted that lettuce to look at and planned to let it grow beyond its ripeness and let it rot in the ground.

Although I have to admit that getting outside on a beautiful Saturday morning, digging in the dirt and getting dirty while cleaning a spot in my yard was in fact slightly relaxing.  But don't tell anyone I said that because everyone knows I hate to garden.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One step at a time

When Jake was in 2nd grade part of the curriculum was that all students pass timed addition and subtraction tests by the end of the school year.  The point being to assess whether they had learned and memorized their math facts or if they were still figuring out each fact on their hands.  Although I knew Jake had memorized his math facts he continually failed these tests and often by large margins.  We decided to work on his math at home.  I had a math-it curriculum from when I was homeschooling him which was essentially a timed math game.  He had cards with the math problems on them and a board with the answers and was supposed to lay them all down in a minute.  I watched my totally capable son choke under the pressure of the ticking clock many times.  I could see he just didn't believe he could finish in 1 minute and was panicking.  I realized I needed to prove to him it could be done.  I took the cards started the timer and calmly and slowly laid out all the cards finishing just before the timer went off.  His first comment, "you didn't hurry."  Nope, there is plenty of time.  He finished faster than I did the next time and passed his timed tests at school with ease.  In the panic of believing he couldn't finish on time he wasn't actually focusing on the task but dwelling on its impossibility.

I have thought of this many times over the years, having done this many times and seen many people do this in their lives.

When I was at home I would feel overwhelmed with all the responsibilities before me.  My house needed to be cleaned but simultaneously I was home to care for and nurture my children who wanted to play with me.  Dinner would need to be made soon , what should I make?  Plus church called asking me to organize the next potluck and my girlfriend's life is falling apart so she wants to go have coffee.  And now my husband car broke down so I need to stop everything to go get him and we will spend money we don't have to repair it.  With all those tasks to perform it is easy to believe that there is not enough time to complete everything and start to panic.  It has landed me on the couch staring at the walls many times.

What I finally figured out is that, like Jake and his timed tests, the secret isn't in going faster, it is to just keep moving.  Many afternoons I would lay on the couch and tell myself to get up and do everything which led to me doing nothing.  When I finally started telling myself to get up and do one thing, go do the laundry, and do it at any slow pace I wanted I was able to get up.  When I was done I would decide to do one more thing and one more and pretty soon I had done all I needed to do in less time that I had anticipated.

A body in motion stays in motion.  Once I lay down it is hard to get back up but once I get back up it is much easier to just keep plodding forward one step at a time.

Now that I am working I see this truth even there.  I noticed one day I had several things left an hour before the end of the day.  I wanted to say I didn't have time to complete them all and sort of slack off but instead I just kept going.  I didn't know if I would finish but I was going to see how much I could do.  Even when there was only 10 minutes left I began my final task unsure I would finish.  Turns out that task only takes me 8 minutes because I found myself staring at the clock the last 2 minutes of the day with nothing to do.

I would say here that life is not a race but I Paul actually uses that analogy to tell us it is a race. Still the one who wins the race doesn't just fly forward in a panic but runs very specific and intentionally putting one foot in front of the other.  Paul also tells us to press on:

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 3:12-14

Forget what is behind you just get up and start pressing forward today.  One step at a time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting Around the Leaf

Just thought you would like to know how it is going at work.  I continue to learn and understand but would be lying if I didn't admit I often feel like this:

If the work I am given deviates even a little from what I was shown I am lost.  Stopped.  Cannot go on.  Do not know what to do.  I need someone to come and directly me around the leaf.

Slowly as I learn and understand I am finding myself navigating around the leaf by myself on occasion and that is getting exciting. 

Maybe someday I will even be able to lead someone else around the leaf. 

But not today.