Thursday, November 29, 2012

Don Hardacker

There they are.  In the glory days at Isabelle's 3rd or 4th birthday way back 3 or 4 years ago.  Before cancer.  When diabetes was Don's only problem and he walked laps around all the malls in the area all winter making friends as he went.  Front pockets of his shirt full as always, the full beard and mustache I had never seen him without, glasses on...teeth in.  Standing proudly with his arm around his Patty.  His love, the woman that has stood by him and with him through more than we could even begin to enumerate.  The woman he was still flirting with less than a week ago as his mind came and went.  They did a lifetime together.  They were passionate about each other.

Tuesday he began a new life, a new chapter, one without his Patty, without his children or his friends, save One.  He went to be with his Lord, his friend, his love.  Someday we will all join with him in the joyful praise and worship of the Lord, the life he is now living.  Until then we celebrate who he was and the blessings we all received from knowing him and being part of his life and his stories.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Death Sucks

My father in law is dying.  I know I have mentioned it before but now it is getting serious.  After a year and a half of threatening to die I think he actually might go and do it in the next few days.  And I am exhausted.

Why am I exhausted?  If you are family and reading this you might be really thinking that.  I mean I haven't been sitting at the house for 8 hours getting up and down with him and mom, I haven't taken any night shifts, I wasn't there last night for all the crying out in pain and emotional turmoil as they waited for someone to deliver the morphine and the wait for it to take affect.

I  have done nothing. Literally. I have done nothing for the past few days.  I am just standing at the ready.  Afraid to involve myself in any project, just sitting and waiting.  A million things on my to do list, my son home from college and yet here I am.  Waiting.  My job is support.  I mainly support my husband but try to have a loving word or scripture for the family as well.  But mostly I am just waiting for John to come home and talk to me, tell me the latest, and experience the emotions.  Normally I get to break down but this time it is his turn and I will be the rock.  And it is exhausting and I don't want to do anything.  I don't even want to write this but I am trying to force myself to do something this afternoon and I usually find it helpful to write out my feelings.  So I am sharing with you that I would rather be doing something destructive.  Eating everything in sight or, better yet, a little retail therapy, buy everything in sight!

So now that you know I am totally not feeling it right now I am none-the-less going to share a few scriptures that I am finding encouraging.  I  have brief moments where I decide not to run away from my emotions and here are a few things I have found during those times:

Ps 100:4-5 "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and is love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

I am calling that one the verse that starts off for Don and ends for the rest of us.  Don is going to enter the Gates of heaven but his faithfulness, Don's steadfast and unwavering devotion to the Lord, continues through the generations that come behind him.  The generations that he has influenced.  And while we are quick to think of his family Don has made a difference in the lives of men and women well beyond his family through his teaching both of the Word at church and through his teaching of Advanced First Aid (now EMT) at Normandale.  Many a Minneapolis cop got their initial first aid training from John's parents in the last 80's and early 90's.  How thankful we all are, how blessed and rich our lives have been because of the gift of Don.

I read other things and think of Don:

Is 21:3-4 "At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor; I am staggered by what I hear and bewildered by what I see.  My heart falters, fear makes me tremble; the twilight I longed for has become a horror to me."

I know, that isn't encouraging at all.  But I love how the bible can express pain as well as give hope.  I don't know why some people have to die so painfully.  It doesn't seem fair.  This is not a man who deserves this death.  Even yesterday when I was over there we were laughing as he started asking John's mom if she knew the Truth.  As his mind goes what is left is the Truth of God's love and his continued need to share it with others.  John drove their car home last night as Jake and I both needed cars yesterday.  On the floor of the passenger side are the scripture memory cards his parents continue to read and memorize. When I mentioned Ps 100:4-5 at the house John went to get the bible to read it.  John's mom kept saying, "recite it".  I bet she already knew what he was going to read.  God doesn't promise us freedom from pain or trials in this life on earth but he does promise us that freedom in heaven and soon Don will follow Jesus through those gates and into that peace.

And finally, and again this isn't really for encouragement here just something I read and thought about,

Proverbs 25:20 "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."

When someone is struggling, it isn't helpful to be cheerful.  This sucks!  Watching this man die sucks.  Even if this wasn't a hard and long death, if he has simply died peacefully in his sleep, this would suck.  I will not be denied the right to grieve nor will I deny my family that right.  We are not alone, God is with us, and one day we will sing songs again but today we will feel and experience these moments of pain and grief and be stressed and overwhelmed.


Off to switch the laundry.  I like to be prepared with clean underwear in all situations.

Eagle Scout Court of Honor

Well it is done.  NOW, my son is officially, officially an Eagle Scout.  We have all the stuff now.  Of course I still haven't gotten the picture of him with the flag.  The one they hang in the scout office headquarters of  all the eagle scouts.  I guess that will happen at Christmas.  I can only do so much during a 4 day Thanksgiving break...

I have many more photos than this of the ceremony and such but apparently I have used the maximum amount of storage space for a free blog.  Who knew it was even possible.  So I am going to have to research next options, something I don't have the energy to do right now, and give you more photos another day.  In the mean time you can enjoy a photo of Jake and I after the ceremony with him wearing his official Eagle neckerchief and pin on his left pocket.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Keeping Room

As I have been sharing here for the past year and a half, my new favorite quote is, "most people over estimate what they can do in a year and under estimate what they can do in 10 years."  We are living there daily at our house pushing ourselves to keep taking that next step as we walk down a 10 year path to the reinvention of John's career and our life.

One of the places I find inspiration to keep walking this path is from the stories of people who have done what we are doing.  Who have set 10 year goals and made it to the other side.  Today I want to tell you about my friend Jen.  When her kids were just starting school God planted in her heart a passion to return to school and get a Master's degree in psychology.  Her faith had been growing during those pre-school years and God had given her a desire to provide true Christian counseling to hurting families.  She started, one class at a time pursuing this goal.  Keeping her priorities in order and letting God lead the process, she raised her children while pursuing her Master's degree.  Along the way God refined the vision and she began developing a purity ministry for young girls.  Starting with one small group of girls she now leads several groups of girls and a group of boys, encouraging in their walk with God and their understanding of His plan for relationships and purity.

I will admit that over the years her classes just became part of her day to day life.  While I knew they were leading to a goal, it was easy for me to loose track of that and just see this as what she would be doing forever.  But she never lost track of her goal and was constantly preparing for the day she would move from student to counselor.

This past year she did it.  She graduated and became a Christian Counselor in the state of Georgia.  A long pursued goal.  She didn't do it in a year or even 2 years.  Honestly, I lost count but I am thinking it was 8 years of schooling.  Without missing a beat, and because of her ability to set and pursue long term goals, she moved flawlessly into the next phase of the plan, build a counseling practice while growing her small but growing purity ministry.  This fall she launched a blog to promote her business and her ministry called, "The Keeping Room".  A name she came up with way back at the beginning of her education.  It really is excellent.  Short, simple but powerful messages to help you grow in your faith as you live daily life.  Check it out at

So with 8 years of education behind her but with 4 years until her youngest child is out of the house, she continues to live in that long term goal.  A goal that wasn't to get an education but to build a successful Christian counseling practice to work in when her children were grown.  As we sit at 1-1/2 years behind us, just at the beginning of starting to strategically think about how the choices we make in the next 6-7 years will affect our ability to launch John's career, I can look to examples like Jen and be encouraged that we are really going somewhere, we will really be standing on the other side of this educational journey someday and it will most definitely have been worth the effort.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A run through the neighborhood

I love running outside around our neighborhood.  Besides the fact that I love the fresh air, the wind on my face and the sense that I am actually going somewhere, I love getting to know my neighborhood.  It is different knowledge running slowing through my neighborhood physically seeing each house, tree and crack in the road than to quickly drive by.  When I drive I see the houses and the trees and the road but I don't really see them.

As I start my mile loop I walk by the first of several patches in the cement road and see BJ's initials.  I don't know who BJ is but in the '80's this kid made his mark on the neighborhood road patches.  I usually start my run at the big pine tree in the yard across from my friend Judy's house.  As I go around the corner the face on the tree of her neighbor always makes me smile.  I run a gentle downhill slope for several blocks noticing how different each of the homes are.

It took several months of running by one of the homes to figure out he had a business in his garage and after a few more months I figured out that he does iron work.  Which also explains why he has so much beautiful iron work around his house.  I wave at him as I run by although we have never spoken.  But I have stolen a few lilacs off his bushes in the spring.  Shh don't tell.

As I loop around and turn to go back up hill I hit the part of the road that could use some new patches and have learned where to veer right or left to avoid twisting my ankle and having to hobble home.  I contemplate the names of the streets, Susan and Lois Lane (the second never stops being funny), and I wonder who the women were that the roads were named after.  I imagine they are the daughters or wives of men who wanted to honor them as they were developing the area.  I know where the fire hydrant at the crest of the first steep hill back toward home is, the one I fix my eyes on when I am pushing up that hill.  And I know that even though the rest of the run back to my house looks relatively flat, it is actually a gentle uphill climb and when your legs are tired it can feel like a cliff.

Then I turn down the horseshoe road my friends live on.  Although I don't know everyone on my street, I know most of the women on this block.  I think of and pray for these women and these friendships as I run down this block.

As the road curves around I run by the park.  The place where I told Jake we were adopting Isabelle because he was such an awesome kid we wanted to experience that awesomeness again.  Where Isabelle and I have spent hours and hours both alone and with friends, a place where we reconnect with neighbors on those first warm days in May when we all come out of hibernation and flock to the park.

I can see some of that just driving by but the connection I have with my neighborhood because I slowly run through it, seeing, experiencing and taking time to think about each thing is so much stronger.

I am currently reading the book of Isaiah in my quiet time.  The other day I came across the very classic Christmas passage, "For to us a child is given, to us a son is born..."  I knew it was in Isaiah, I have heard it and read it many times.

The bible is a big book, and it is confusing and sometimes it doesn't make sense or doesn't seem relevant to my life.  That is especially true as I read Isaiah or the genealogies in Numbers or dozens of other passages.  Yes, everything in the bible is relevant and the inspired word of God useful for teaching, rebuking and training in righteousness (2Tim3:16) blah, blah, blah. But when I read it doesn't always feel that way.  I am not a theology student, I don't study the details.  I do rely on other people who have but on a day to day basis I just want to know how this applies to my life today, this morning, right now as I read before the family wakes up and the crazy circus that is my life begins.

I realized reading Isaiah slowly, one chapter at a time, that I am getting to know it in a whole new way.  Like getting to know my neighborhood on a run.  I have driven by Isaiah many times,  I have been to some of the homes along the way but I don't really know Isaiah.  I had never read that passage in context, I am not great with specific references and couldn't have told you where in Isaiah it was.  A general idea will probably get you to the right passage in Ephesians but Isaiah has 66 chapters, I wasn't going to stumble upon it.  If I don't know the whole book and how it is put together I could never pull this verse up with any efficiency.  But now I know it is in chapter 9, and specifically it is near the beginning of Isaiah.

Yesterday as I came across that familiar passage foretelling the birth of Christ in Isaiah I thought about how connected I felt to it as I read it in context, as I slowly walked by it rather than flying over it.  I have beamed directly to it before, I flew over it a few years ago when I was reading the bible in a year and just getting through my daily reading but, yesterday I got to know it.  There is certainly value in just focusing on one verse and I loved the overview of the bible I got the year I read it all.  But yesterday I realized how much I am really getting to know the bible by just walking through the neighborhood, taking my time and seeing and experiencing the details.  I love when I come to a verse that really inspires and speaks to me in my reading, like bumping into an old or new friend on my runs but some days it is just about exercising and getting to know the neighborhood and being strengthened for a new day.

So today I learned that even though not every book, chapter or passage I read in my slow walk around the bible feels significant, I am getting to know the bible, and in doing that I am drawing closer to the Lord the author and resident of this book.  And really that is why I pick up my bible each morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembering before it is over

Last year John took Comp 101 and we discovered he is really a very gifted writer.  His dad was literally diagnosed as terminal the second week of class.  He wrote a couple things about his dad during this class but hasn't written since the class ended.  However, today, as we enter the last days of his dad's life, he posted this on facebook and I thought it was worth sharing:

I often wish people could hear the wonderful things that people say about them at a funeral. In the movies there is usually the camera aerial recede that makes it appear like they can. I think the reality is, it is better to say it before they are gone, before you lose the chance to say what you will only wish you had later.
All that to say, I was at my dad's this weekend. It was a good visit, it may be our last. I hope there will be more, I hope there will be chances to laugh over the funny Halloween costumes we had as kids, or relive the time my older brother sprayed the cold water hose over the top of the shower on dad. More important, I want everyone, especially my dad, to know how much he has meant to me as a boy growing up, and as a man, still growing up I suppose. If not for my father, I would never be the man I am today! He is the one that taught me how to fix my bike, how to sweat a pipe, how to hit your hand with a hammer while working and still keep working. He showed me how to sacrifice for my family, he showed me that hard work can really pay back more than money. Dad taught me to fight when the time was right, and that the time was almost never right. He showed me how to love my kids, even when they aren't being very lovable, he demonstrated how to love your wife, and most of all, how to love God over all else.
I will miss having my dad to call when I am having some plumbing problem I can't figure out. I will miss having his dry sense of humor at family functions, his quick wit at the least expected time, I will deeply miss the support he provides for my mom. Most of all I will miss the man himself.

I love you dad!
You are a great man, you have been a great influence in my life, and you will continue to inspire me throughout my life.
p.s. No hurry, the Lord is patient, he will wait a little longer if you are up to it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Veteran's Day at Wheaton

Because I actually have friends not on facebook who I know will enjoy these pictures:

Proud Mama.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Holiday Bear Hunt

It is funny how some books seem fun when you are reading them to your kids but as you live life you find the message of the book to be so deep in such a simple way.  Over the past couple years I cannot tell you how many times I have thought about the book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen.

Over and over they come to obstacles and over and over they say, "we can't go over it, we can't go under it, I guess we'll have to go through it."

Life is hard. We come across mud, rain storms, snow storms, obstacle after obstacle.  Like the bear hunting group in the book we can either turn back or we can go through.

Last night I told my husband that I would like to fast forward through the next 2 months.  Yes those would be the months with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I would like to skip through them this year because while there will be joy and celebration there are so many hard things surrounding the holiday's this year.  There is so much planning, so many relationship issues to deal with this year, the financial responsibility of our day to day life is challenging but add in Christmas and it is overwhelming, And on top of it all we are at the end of my Father-in-Law's life.  Last night he told us he believed he had reached the end.  I don't know that we are quite at days but we are definitely at weeks. Few weeks.  He will not see Christmas with us this year.  And with his death will bring so much emotion and responsibility.  Things we want to experience and do but which become another thing on our already too full list.  After a year of what I have referred to as "pre-grieving" the time is near.

So I would like to fast forward to January.  Wake up one day with all these things taken care of.  Hard experiences experienced, hard conversations had, inexpensive yet imaginative gifts made, bought and delivered.  Don buried, problems solved and the walk through life continuing.  Life will still be challenging in January, we will still be grieving, we will still be financially tight and life will still be hard but, it is the deviations that can really throw us.

But that is not how it works.  We can't skip it, can't fast forward through it.  Can't go over it, can't go under it, so I guess we are going to have to go through it.  And truth be told, I wouldn't have it any other way.  We learn and grow through these times.  Bond as a family, experience love, joy and God's peace and presence.

The verse on my kitchen chalk board right now is from Is 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you."  Life might be hard but I do continually experience that peace in my life as I trust the Lord.  No reason to think that will change as we go forward.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Scenery

 A couple weeks ago we looked out the kitchen window and saw this beautiful sight.  I don't normally feel like I am able to capture it but this time was perfect.

And while I was out there I got a shot of our woodpile.  This is from the tree in our front yard.  Plenty of wood to keep cozy this winter.

Just thought I would share some lovely pictures with you today.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Family Weekend.

Last weekend was Family weekend at Wheaton and we trekked down to the land of the windy city with my parents to see how Jake was doing in his new home and new life.  It was a wonderful trip full of blessings, adventures and time with family.  Last summer when we were preparing to send Jake to Wheaton I sort of imagined a scenario where we powered down to drop Jake off and powered home a day later and then just messaged and skyped until we saw him again at Thanksgiving.  But a friend urged us to experience the parent side of college life and go through the whole parent orientation when we dropped him off and to return for Family weekend.  She told us that Family weekend is when you go and see how things are doing, make changes if necessary and encourage your child going forward.

When we were there for orientation I kept thinking about how much my parents would love to see Jake at Wheaton.  Jake is the oldest grandchild and no more came along for 4 years after him.  And that one was in another state so really it was 8 years before Jake had any real competition on a day to day basis.  As a result Jake was a shared child.  Grandma and I were both in there telling him what to do and how to do it.  But also both in there loving and encouraging him.  Directing him down the road God was paving for him.  Teaching him and preparing him for adulthood.  So I was thrilled when my parents called and told me they wanted to go down to family weekend.  We have all had a hand in shaping Jake into the young man he is today and we are all so proud of him.

We arrived on campus Friday morning with no idea how we would find Jake.  His phone had been broken for a couple weeks and he doesn't really check email and doesn't always reply to facebook.  We knew chapel was at 10:30 and I guess we were just going to stand outside the building and hope he tripped over us as he was walking in.  But God was present for this trip as he has been for so much of this Wheaton experience and as we are signing in at the parent weekend table who should walk by but Jake.  He had just finished  one class and was preparing to kill a few minutes before chapel.  I didn't know how much I had missed him until I almost started crying when I hugged him.  I didn't want to let him go.  We ended up going straight to the bookstore because we discovered that morning we hadn't brought a coat for Isabelle.  It was nice, low 50's, but that still requires a coat since we would be walking outside quite a bit.  They had sold out of her size a couple weeks before during homecoming and we were about to give up when my mom glances at a clearance rack they have outside the store.  There for only $14.99 is a pink Wheaton sweatshirt in Isabelle's size.  A gift from God.  She wore it all weekend.

After a lovely chapel Jake went to his class and we did a little campus walk around.  We decided to hit the Wade Center which is a little museum that highlights 6 christian authors.  Mainly highlighted is CS Lewis.

This is the wardrobe from CS Lewis' childhood home.

Dad checking out some Movie artifacts.

Mom reading about the authors

Reading about CS lewis under the watchful eye of Aslan.

Of course we needed some family pictures at the Wheaton sign.

After lunch we bought Jake a few supplies and headed back to his dorm room.

John couldn't wait to see and play with Jake's ROTC gear

Grandma couldn't wait to try the pillow case she had made on his pillow. 

Isabelle couldn't wait to climb up to his bed.

  I couldn't wait to call Verizon and get a new phone sent out to him.

Isabelle also tried on his gear.

And we all had fun hanging out at Jake's house.

Before dinner we went to the Student Center for coffee and Jake checked his mail. 

Isabelle adores her older brother and was beyond excited to see him and be part of his life for a couple days.  I don't think I appreciated how much she really missed him until we were there.  And he was wonderful with her the entire weekend.

Saturday we decided to take a trip into Chicago.  It was a typical Hardacker family adventure.  We made a very loose plan, did a couple random searches online and then showed up 30 minutes late for the train into Chicago.  Had to wait around another hour for the next one but we had coffee and enjoyed time together.  Once there we gave the map to Jake who had recently aced his Land Nav course and is now an expert map reader.  He figured out where we were and which way we needed to go to see the two sites we had in mind.

First stop, Millennial park to see the bean.  It was a fun display.  A classic Chicago experience.  Well not too classic since it is a newer attraction which Grandma and Grandpa had never heard of but still fun.

You don't need someone else to take your picture.  You take your own picture in the big shiny mirror in front of you.

But Grandma took our real picture anyway.

Grandma and Grandpa

The men

My men

Then we went over to the Art Institute of Chicago. 

I would love to return someday when I have an entire day to spend.  We just had a little over an hour but were able to see some very famous paintings.  Like this one.  So cool.

We are only posed in front of this random piece of art because this is where we were all together with a camera.

While we all had a great time I think we might have pushed Grandma and Grandpa a little far that day power walking miles through Chicago.  They took us out for pizza when we got back and then dragged themselves back to the hotel to pass out.  We went back to Jake's room with Isabelle and the ACU's Sam and Lauren had given her several years ago when Sam entered the military.  They still fit, actually finally fit, and we knew we had to get pictures of them together.  Isabelle's are in a little better shape than Jake's and he hadn't actually washed them since his last drill crawling around in the rain so we didn't get too close but the pictures turned out great.

Sunday morning we went to church, had lunch and hit the road back home.  I don't think I ever realized how special it is to worship with my children until we weren't worshiping with Jake anymore.  I love going to church with him.  It was a really special trip.  We were so blessed to share it with my parents, to meet some of Jake's friends and see him doing well and enjoying college life.  Jake is busy figuring out his life, his future and how everything fits together and we are privileged to be part of this wonderful young man's life.