Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Sunday, April 24, 2011

O Glorious Day

Today was a day of Rejoicing! for our family because of two very special reasons.

First of all, it was Easter and Jesus Christ is Risen! and Alive! and One day He is coming again ... 

Now that is something to Celebrate! and to look forward to.

Because that will be one Glorious Day ... as it was over 2,000 years ago.

And secondly, today our youngest child, Luke Robert Grade, turned 8-years old. 

A birthday on Easter Sunday! - now that is something to celebrate - yet, more importantly, I celebrate:
His Life!

The Story of his Life is worth sharing with all of you, my readers, because it is a Story worth telling.

If it weren't for the gift of Luke ... I, Lori, would not be who I am today. 

My heart wouldn't have been "stitched up" in the way it has ...  

Healed

My soul would still have a wound on it that I know I never would've recovered from.

When Luke was placed in my arms safe and healthy on this day 8 years ago, I knew what a priceless gift I was truly being given. I knew how many buckets and buckets of tears that I had shed in order to get to that place of holding him in my arms. I knew how hard that broken road had been to walk on. I knew how many times that I had fallen off of it and just couldn't get back up.

And I knew that saying Thank You to my God would never be enough.
Those two simple words for all that we had been given.

As my tears soaked the top of his sweet little newborn head ... and his eyes & heart connected with mine ... and I took in all of his newborn smells & noises ... all I felt was Joy... indescribable joy...something I never experienced before. Not like that. Not in that way.

I simply felt heartfelt gratitude for being given the opportunity, the privilege, the honor ... to be his Mom ... after all that we had lost.

You see ... Luke came into our family after we had walked a very long road of grief, sorrow and loss. It began when our daughter, Emily Rose, died on July 4, 2001 - just 5 days before my due date. An autopsy showed no obvious cause of death. 

We were left with many unanswered questions.
In one single moment our lives were changed forever. 

Then we had to also say good-bye to our twins on 11/29/01 ... as well as another baby in the spring of 2002 and also on July 4, 2002.

I fell into a "pit" that I never, ever thought I would be able to get out of - this is called Grief.

After all, parents aren't suppose to bury their children first. It just isn't suppose to work that way. 

But unfortunately, it does - all of the time.

Yet, that is the hand we were dealt, and it hasn't been an easy hand to play. But I have had to learn how to play it in the best way I knew how - one foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

 I do know for sure that I have never walked it alone ... the broken road that led to the birth of our son, Luke.

Because I know that all 5 of our precious babies are in a really good place ... a place that my own finite, human, limitless mind can't even possibly imagine... a place called Heaven ... and that all is well ... 
it is because of this belief that I have peace.

That peace is also what allowed me to press on ... to Hope again ... to trust that weeping may endure for a night, but joy does come in the morning. That promise from God Himself from Psalm 30 is what I clung to in my darkest, loneliness nights. 

Because that is all I had. He is all I had. And He has been faithful to me.

So when Luke was placed in my arms by Dr. Margaret Carr at St. Joseph's Hospital 8 years ago today,  it just felt like our world was made whole once again. 
A new life ... a new beginning ... 
All at the perfect time with spring in the air and everything else coming to life as well.
 


So today as we celebrated Easter with our family, we also celebrated and embraced the time that we've been given with our Luke.
As his mom on his birthday, the one who his life came through, I would like to shower some love and praise on our little boy who's name means Light.

Luke just has this Light about him that Shines right on through his small, tough little boy body. He is tough - that is for sure! He is "all boy".  He is not afraid to get dirty. In fact, the dirtier, the better. He has so much energy and a zest for Life that I stand in awe of him. 
He can take down his older brother Matthew in a flash {who by the way is 6 years older than him}!
Yet, he has such a tender, soft side to him that will just simply melt your heart. 
He is always the first one to notice when someone's feelings are hurt, or when someone needs help. 

He just loves so simply and so freely. 

So as this day comes to a close and the kids get tucked safely into their beds, I think over this day and all the wrapping paper flying here and there... and Luke 'practicing' on our kitchen floor with his new roller blades ... and all the sugar he has consumed in just a 24-hour period! ... to time spent with loved ones ... to celebrating our Risen Savior and Lord ... and all I can say is that this was a day lived really well.  

A day worth remembering. A day worth Celebrating

I hope it was for you and your family too.
Happy Easter to you & your family~

Happy 8th Birthday, Luke Robert Grade !
Shine your Light!
You are LOVED beyond measure!




Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friendship

In the past few days while I have been "chauffeuring" the kids here and there in our last lovely Wisconsin April snowfall/hailstorm {I already know what you Wisconsinites are thinking!}, I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations called k-love.

I love this station because they only play positive and encouraging music.
And I definitely need to fill my mind and heart up with that, especially while I'm driving~

I, particularly, love listening to the conversations the DJ's get into with each other, and of course, the people 'out there' who are listening.
Many times they encourage and challenge me to really think about something in a whole different way. 

They were naturally discussing Jesus and Easter because we are in what Christians call Holy Week.
The radio DJ's were discussing just what Jesus all endured
in just one week's time!

Of course, we all know about His Death & Crucifixion & Resurrection, but what they got me thinking about on a much deeper level was this idea of Friendship.

Naturally, my mind and heart did go to that place of what Jesus must have really truly felt when his closest, dearest friends betrayed Him in the worse possible way...at the worst possible time.

I've been there, too, and I highly doubt that I'm alone in that.

Ouch!
The first betrayal involved the “worst” of the disciples as some might say: Judas, who betrayed Jesus with a "kiss" for thirty pieces of silver for his execution. The second involves Peter, who would deny his connection to Jesus 3 different times out of shame or embarrassment or fear
{who knows right?}

I guess I don't blame them. I would like to think I would've been the bold, brave one to stand up for Jesus, and do the right thing.
Yet, I am now all too familiar with my own shortcomings and weaknesses; areas I need to grow in.

I will admit that I, unfortunately, may have done the exact same thing as them...in those circumstances...at that time in history.

Yet, He was Jesus, God's Son, and therefore, Perfect and showed us how to do it the 'right' way.
Yet He did it so well! I think, and It is so hard to do!

First off, I know Jesus probably did what I would've done, and I have many times when I have felt that all too familiar "sting" of judgment, betrayal, or rejection... and that is to just simply cry.

I imagine it to be like one of those gut-wrenching cries that we would never let anyone see.

Yep! Been there, done that. One too many times.
And it is a tough place to be in.

I realized that I, unfortunately, have gotten stuck in that place; that hasn't served me or others well at all. 

I can so easily imagine and go to "what Jesus must have felt like" when I read what His friends did to Him, but when I look at it from a different vantage point, that being... not my own...

I think, How many times has it been me doing the wounding? {gulp!}

 Yes...I remember how many times it has been I, Lori, who did the 'stinging'...with my words, or the tone of my voice, or just simply my body language.

But what Jesus did so easily and so freely and so Amazingly Well was to simply Forgive.
And He didn't even need to ask Why? a thousand times, like I've always felt the need to.

Jesus just kept on forgiving over and over...as many times as it took... 

In fact, He says we should forgive 70 X 7 times, which if my math skills are serving me correctly, then that means 490 times! Yikes! That's a lot of times.

Now that is hard to do, especially when the wound cuts very, very deep...
and especially when it is from the same person.

With that being said, Jesus never promoted being a "doormat", either. He taught about Balance.

I've had to learn the hard way about this ... there is always a balance to everything.

And what simply Amazes me again - is that when Jesus came out of the grave, when He rose again, He told Mary to go tell His disciples and Peter! Yes...Peter - His friend who denied even knowing Him.

Now that is Forgiveness.
Now that is Love.
Now that is Friendship.

And I think Peter could simply not resist the pull of  Jesus' Love - it was just too hard  to resist! :)

Anyway, when I think back over my Life - to all of my Friends that have come and gone...some already in Heaven... many have stayed awhile... and have taught me lessons that I never would've learned otherwise...
Some I've had to let go for one reason or another; I will always treasure the memories.

Then my heart returns to the present moment, the Here and Now, and I think of all of the people in my Life currently who I like to call Friend...

Or I call them my kindred spirits...or my "team"...my Best Friends...
{male and female alike...young and old...wearing skin or fur...blood relatives and not...'blasts' from the past...wearing white lab coats or not}

And I realize that just like Jesus, they have loved and accepted me for "me"...unconditionally, without judgment. They have extended mercy and grace to me when I didn't deserve it.

They were silent, even when they sensed I may be walking straight into a mistake, yet knew "me" and my heart's intent well enough to know that it was my mistake to make... and my mistake to learn from ... and then my mistake to hopefully grow from.

They forgave me for the times I hurt or disappointed them because they loved me so much.

It is as simple as that.

And I like to call that Friendship.

The real kind. The kind that you can trust wholeheartedly in. The kind where it is safe to share your heart.

The kind that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

I like to think of them all as "gifts" - straight from God Himself from Heaven above straight to me, Lori...
my Friends...

I would like to end this post with this note to my Friends...
{I hope you know who you are!}

Thank you...

Thank you for showing me what true Friendship looks like, and for showing me how to do the job of Friend well.
The kind of friend that I want to be and
the kind of friend I continue to strive to be.

P.S. If you've never tuned into the television show that airs on Lifetime (or you can get past seasons at the library) called Army Wives...then you are truly missing a "gem" of a show about Friendship, plus much, much more!
And yes...I'm talkin' about the real kind!

Friday, April 15, 2011

I love P!nk...the color and the singer

I love the color Pink! It is so girlie. So feminine. So fun. Not that men cannot wear Pink. That isn't what I'm saying at all. In fact, wear pink! Go for it! It is an awesome color! And because of my love for this color, I also happen to have a Hello Kitty fetish.{Oh no...my secret is out!}

I have come to accept that it is completely okay & acceptable for a grown adult woman like me, who is about to turn 39-years old in June, to love Hello Kitty. Why not? It is Fun~

I do draw the line though. Megan keeps trying to get me to wear Hello Kitty jewelry or buy a purse. Not! 
A simple cell phone charm will do just fine. Well...maybe not - we do have Hello Kitty car mats after all. {Thanks Karie!}

Because of my love for the color Pink, I have naturally been drawn to the actress who calls herself Pink. I don't even know her real name or much of her background. 
What I have learned about her, I learned through her music and only watching one video of her.
I am sure many of you know who she is and are familiar with some of the songs like So What and I Am Still a Rock Star! I do know that when she wrote these songs, she was going through a very difficult time in her marriage, and her anger and pain just radiate through her music.

If you never got to see her performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards - it is worth watching...twirling in acrobatic style from the ceiling, twirling in the air with water spraying all over the audience... all while singing her hit Glitter in the Air...a song about Life.

Because of my own personal belief system and convictions about modesty, I wouldn't suggest to my daughter, Megan, to go out and expose her body in that way, not by any means. I also wouldn't encourage my kids to listen to music with swear words in them. I also wouldn't encourage them to even get certain lyrics stuck in their heads. In fact, this is what I discourage.
However, with all of that said, Pink inspires me. She just does. People like her.

I love that she is courageous and bold enough to simply be herself...despite what people think or say about her. She says what she feels she needs to say, in the way that she feels she needs to, and she does it through her music. She is willing to just be herself, and she is willing to be vulnerable & transparent.

Her latest hit called Perfect leaped at me through the radio frequencies because I got this sense that Pink finally "gets" it. And I also have the knowledge that she & her husband got back together so her newest hit is even more inspirational to me because I get this feeling that healing has happened in her life - and that's a good thing! 

I get a sense that Love broke her walls down too.

When I listen to the lyrics, the clean ones that is, I realize how her message is so right on! Please Pause the music from my play list at the bottom of the page before playing~

 
I get this sense that she has finally realized that it isn't about everyone else...that she is okay and perfect just the way she is...as she was created to be...with all of her numerous tattoos all over her body...and her crazy hairstyles...and simply, her uniqueness. 

And the thing is, I could so easily apply her lyrics exactly to my own life as if it were God talking to me! 
And I have, and so can you. 
Just stop believing the Lies.

And that is when Healing comes...at least it did for me - when those words, that message sung through a singer named P!nk...the message that   
You are Loved for who you were created to be... and not for what you do or didn't do or will do or will become...  
but for Who you are!

 God calls that Perfect!
Perfect to Him

I hope that P!nk encouraged and inspired you in some way like she has done for me. 
I hope today when you see the color Pink...or maybe even dare to put on the color pink...
that you will smile big and feel happy & warm all over...
I believe that you will.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Check out the movie Soul Surfer

I took the kids to see this newly released movie yesterday called Soul Surfer because they were off from school for Parent/Teacher Conferences. It was to be a "fun" day instead of "clean up the house" day.

It was actually quite Amazing! and I am so glad we went. I would highly recommend it. Watch the trailer here:




The movie is about the true story of a teenage girl named Bethany Hamilton who practically lived her entire life in the water in Hawaii as a surfer just like her parents and brothers. It was just their way of life. {Can you imagine?}

It was her love...her life. She is faced with her dreams coming to an end when a shark literally bites off her arm, and she is faced with the likely possibility of never surfing again.

It is the story of great Courage and Bravery and Strength of a young girl when faced with insurmountable obstacles. It is the story about Family; without that she couldn't have Soared like she did. It is the story about true Friendship.

It is a Story about FAITH

The belief and faith Bethany's family & friends had in her was impressive actually, yet I think what was most special of all was what she learned from her Dad; their relationship. What he taught her about herself. What he believed she could do, even when she couldn't believe it in herself.

So, I hope you get a chance to go see it if you haven't. I think you will leave the theater looking at the world in a whole new & different way!

And I highly suspect that the Sun will just seemed a bit brighter to you as you are walking (or maybe skipping!) back to your car - like it did for us!

This feeling of Hope in the air...

Just this feeling of being Inspired to doing something big!

And really... that all really is Good.

Recently, I myself have personally discovered at a whole new level what this movie truly represents ~ the message it is bringing to the World...~ Bethany's message to the World...what Life is really all about...

Love

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Courage & Change

I learned a great lesson this past week about what it really takes to make a Change in our lives from
a complete stranger.
{I just love when this happens!}

His name is Andrew (I never did get his last name) and he was our AT & T U-verse Technician. He was scheduled to come to do a 4-hour installation job, but ended up staying the entire day, plus having to return the next morning for several hours. 

And all of this at no fault of his own.

My job as a Reference Checker at MRA - The Management Association involves "interviewing" references for the sole purpose of weeding through who our member companies do and do not want to hire. I have a series of questions to ask that the hiring company wants to know about this person; they want details.

They are paying good money for this information after all. 

They are after Truth so they can make a wise decision - all in the name of saving money and time, which is critical - especially now in our current economy - for everyone...hiring companies and candidates alike.

One of the questions they want us Reference Checkers to ask is:  

Was the candidate adaptable to change?

This is a big deal to hiring companies when they are considering whether or not they want to go out on a limb for a person.

Another question is:

Could you evaluate his/her Work-Related Character?

Naturally, our other questions involve rating technical skills, quality of work, accuracy and productivity. They are asked first, in the proper order in report format - all very, very good and much needed answers to know.

However, what Andrew taught me in our time spent together, literally sitting around our kitchen table "waiting" for help to arrive on his end {interesting how quickly a stranger simply becomes a 'stranger' no longer} is that being a flexible person in work and life is a big deal but what he taught me most importantly is that there is something far more grander and valuable and that is called...

~Character

 And I'm not just talking about work-related character here. 

I am talking about  
Integrity...  Attitude... Work Ethic... Trustworthiness...

Andrew shared with me his daily productivity quota (I told him about my job) and how he was personally going to take the 'punishment' per se for the "job" taking 8 hours instead of 4. 

He shared personal stuff with me about his life and future...sort of what was holding him back...I shared the importance of education...he nodded in agreement.

He said this all with not a 'hint' of poor me, this job sucks, this company sucks, all of this time and money wasted sitting around... my productivity being affected...

I will admit to you that this is NOT what I was thinking about AT & T at that moment! My mind had immediately went to who I would be calling Monday morning on the behalf of Andrew.

What? I thought and probably said to him. Are you kidding me? None of this is even his fault. In fact, it is partially my fault, yet now he is going to have a 'mark' against him on his productivity record... 
and in this economy where jobs are so few and far between!

Oh...and I just have to mention here that I was baking homemade oatmeal raisin cookies - trust me, this never happens! - and since he was there ALL day I thought he must be hungry... I had already offered him coffee, lunch...all he would accept was a glass of water.

I kept saying, Come on, it is a homemade oatmeal cookie!!!

I realized later that this was one of their "rules"...very understandable, yet how he must have been tempted by the luring, delicious, yummy smells in the air....
I sure was & fell into the temptation {I just couldn't help it! ;)} and ended up eating both of our portions! ~

As Andrew finished the job up and I had a sense of what I would've been feeling if I were him:  
I just want to go home and eat dinner and be done with this job! Get me out of here!!

But instead - do you know what he did? {Blind-sided me - big time}

Even though this was to be our 3rd company for Cable T.V. of some kind, and Andrew already knew I pretty much "got" how to operate the remote and work through the menu and guide...

He still went through it all with me

He even went through very specifically and thoroughly how to do 'parental blocking' all with the knowledge & understanding that we have kids and of the importance of this very important "tool" for parents.
He left, and I was simply Amazed

I had just witnessed real live work-related character, customer service and integrity in action! 
Like in my own house!

Unfortunately, later on after he left, I came to realize that Andrew doesn't see it. He doesn't see his potential. He doesn't see his worth..his value...

And neither have I - many, many, many times...this lack of belief in myself...and I now know and understand that that is what has stopped me from moving forward when I am faced with a change.

And what Andrew taught me most importantly, as well as others have this past week, is that the missing piece to really moving forward, really making a change, really being Free is:
Courage

It takes Courage to make a Change. It just does.

And the thing is~ we all have it in us. 

The ability to Fly.

Anyway, the job got done and it got done well...all thanks and appreciation goes to Andrew...
for going above and beyond!!
The kids are happy with some "new" channels we now have...life goes on~

My hope for Andrew is that he sees what I saw in him. I saw that he already has it in him...

My prayer for him, a person of his Integrity and his Character is that he Soars...

~I just have this feeling that he will~

Now that makes me smile big from ear to ear.

I have 3 people in mind as I wrote this post and as I close~

Congratulations Deb on your new Nursing job~!...my dear friend-sister...
Thank You for your service to our community as a Nurse and what you have dedicated your life to. You've already done a good & praiseworthy job - a job well done on so many levels ~ 
more than you may ever know...
All who know and love you like your brother & I do, know exactly what I mean...how special you are...
You have what it takes to Soar, just like Andrew ...
Don't be afraid of change - sometimes it is just what we need...just grab hold and take it...
and you will Soar -
I have no doubt about that!
And of course, Andrew - our "Technician" - thanks to what you taught me about real life stuff...
Courage & Change...teaching me what it really takes to Fly...

Most importantly though ~
Happy Birthday Doug!~Son, Dad, Husband, Grandpa, 
Father-in-law
Thank you for showing all of us the way to do it well.

I will leave you all with this~ because it will make you smile like it did me~
I finally did get Andrew to take a cookie, but he would only accept just 1 and only after his job was done.
 Character
That is what Andrew has and what it takes to 
Change and Fly

I feel honored to have met him.
That is who I would want to hire & keep around if I were a boss, wouldn't you?

Yes, indeed!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blessings in disguise

It has been very easy to for me to fall into a place that I like to call the "pit" where I can only see the world from my own vantage point, especially lately with chronic sleep deprivation really taking its toll on me both physically and psychologically.

So I've had to fight hard against going there...and it hasn't been easy...and I've fallen into it many times...and I know it will be a continuous struggle of being tempted to go there, however, the heartfelt prayers of those that love me have lifted me up and out of my "pits" many times.

I press on with Hope for what is to come... what awaits.

Please click here to watch, listen, enjoy this very inspiring and encouraging you tube video...because it is songs and videos like this one that have literally pulled me out of my pit time and time again...
It is called "Blessings" by Laura Story.

My sister, Tracy, sent me this song/video because she intimately knows the path I have walked in my Life...and she has walked it with me...many times having to do the "carrying of my load" for me...and because she knows that I am currently in the throws of  many "sleepless nights"...

She just knew that I needed the encouragement and uprooting this song brings. I hope you found that too.

I think we all need a little bit of that right now in our world, wouldn't you agree? I think of what is going on in Wisconsin alone, and how that affects our family being apart of a union...then my mind turns to Japan...and then to the Police Officer recently killed in Fond du Lac in the line of duty...and as I drive around my city I am reminded of it all when I see half-staff American flags flying everywhere.

As I take a step back and I look "outside of my own little world" to just the needs of our closest loved ones, friends, and neighbors..and then out to the world, my heart simply breaks.

Because I have realized personally that sometimes what Life has to offer just really stinks! Sometimes worse than stinks. Much, much worse than that. And it can be really, really hard to walk in it and through it...

Oh! But that's when the "message" of Laura Story's song comes to life!

What if the Trials in my Life have really been mercies in disguise?

And then I am challenged to think and ask God...does that mean every single one?
And then I begin to list them for Him...one after the other...

I have bowed on my knee before my God and I have prayed desperately with my tears and with no words for healing...peace...wisdom...to hear His Voice in my sleepless nights...relief...to just take it from me...please...

And I have been known on many occasions to have shaken my fist before Him and at Him ... just letting my anger flow out of me...and then I realized in a big way - like a smack upside my head - that He is God after all. And He can take it. Not only can He take it, but He asks us to hand it over to Him so that He can carry our burdens for us. After all, it is His Yoke that is easy, not mine.

And in His great love, grace and mercy, He has just simply allowed me to beat my fists on His chest over and over and over again...until I had nothing left...and as long as it took.

I easily become overwhelmed by it all - don't you? don't we all?

But I have learned that when I fall into the "pit"... I then begin to question and doubt God's goodness...His Love for me...us...the world...and I choose not to even go there anymore because I have learned that that doesn't serve me or anyone else well at all.

And then He reminds me tirelessly in Love that He has given me so many Promises...and He has been Faithful to me so many times...yet I act and think as if they are not enough...that He is not enough...

Hmm...I wonder. Maybe that is and has been my problem all along.
Discontentment. Ingratitude.

A not-so thankful heart for all that I have been given.

And then in a whisper He humbly reminds me that in each and every tear, in each and every devastating loss that has scarred my heart to its core, in each and every disappointment, in each and every dream that died, in each and every sleepless night, betrayal, scar, physical symptom of Lyme disease....

In it ALL...I have never walked alone. Not one step. In fact, I know for sure that most of the time I have been carried because He knew that is what I needed. I just couldn't - nor can do it alone anymore.

What I have learned through my Healing and through my deepest heartaches is that
This is not my home, nor yours.

Now THAT is something to smile about...that is something to focus on...
that is something to take heart in...that is something to press on towards!

Heaven awaits...it just does...and there we will have everything we need...everything.

So I challenge myself often with these ideas and wrestle with the answers I am given: What IF my Healing has indeed come through all the aches, scars, wounds of my life? What IF my Healing has come through all of the Storms of my Life...What IF every trial truly has all been Blessing in disguise?

What IF all of my trials have in fact been my greatest teacher?

Well, since I enjoy a "challenge"...and if all of that is indeed True, which I know it is~ then that means:

It has all been a blessing. And it has all been good because it has all been filtered through the arms of Love...

I say YES! to that.