Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My Grandma

My darling Grandma DeLores Seger went to be with Jesus on Saturday the 14th of July.

The last photo Grandma and I ever took
New Year's Day 2012
I have wanted to sit down and write everything out of me for the last few days but every time I have tried, the blank page has just stared up at me, gapingly empty, and the words haven’t come. But now that flights are booked and things are sorted for my departure tomorrow, it’s time.

My baby brother Jonah and Grandma being cute together
in 2009 :)
She was in so much pain. Due to a few fractures in her back which had kind of worn out over time from having osteoporosis. She was also going into kidney failure after years of medication for her congestive heart failure. In the end, she was back in the hospital for a blood pressure which had dropped dangerously low and kidney levels which had skyrocketed much too high. I spoke with her from her hospital bed on Skype Saturday morning—praise the Lord. I didn’t know it would be her last morning this side of heaven… I’d been praying these last few weeks when she was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes that God would miraculously touch her and relieve her of the horrendous pain. I guess He did. She’ll never know pain again… 

But the world seems a very mean place without her gentle, enthusiastic, abundantly loving presence in it. 

She was nearly 81 years old. She had lived a long, full, and happy life. She had known the faithful love of one good man—high school sweethearts—and over their 61 years together they had raised 4 fine children, and loved well their 12 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. Her world really seemed to revolve around us, her family. She gave her heart generously to every one of us grandkids, each in our own way. 
Dancing the night away at grandchild Caleb's wedding in 2009
Grandpa and Grandma arm in arm in 2009

Staying over at Grandma's house in 2004
When I was little I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, and with my regimen in those early years of insulin injections and finger pricks and specific diet, attending summer camp like the rest of my siblings seemed out of the question. So instead, I left my family for a week of having Grandma and Grandpa all to myself at the old farmhouse. And after that week, I would repeat the experience as often as possible :) My cousin Jackee and I spent every chance we could being spoiled and coddled at the farm, and Grandma was our constant playmate, taking us for rides on the 4-wheeler around the idyllic, sunny MN farmland, and even teaching us to drive—just telling us when to let up on the throttle so she could do the shifting :) She always remembered to pack the cupboards with all my favourite Diabettic-friendly treats—canned pear halves, vanilla wafers, and diet root beer :) She patiently taught us every card game under the sun as soon as we wanted to play, and she frequently let us win :) 

Grandma and my "little" cousin Dylan
Grandma made all of our birthday cakes to order. Over the years she’s decorated mine with kittens, rainbows, and even an up-standing Barbie in a cake shaped like a dress. For my sister, she once decorated a birthday cake with a picture of our new baby brother :) Whatever we asked for, she would make happen. She made every birthday for us so special.

I can distinctly remember one visit to Grandma's when I was climbing up into the "weeping willow" tree next to "the big rock" (you cousins will know what I mean) and feeling so proud of myself because I was climbing so high, higher than all the other cousins. But then it became time to come down, and when I turned around, I could see no way down in sight! I started to panic and cry, stranded up there SO high. My cousin ran for Grandma and out she came in her kitchen smock and instructed me down, her presence a reassurance and her arms waiting for me at the low branches... Just having her there made everything alright.

Jackee and I always stayed in “The Green Room” upstairs at the farmhouse—so named because of the thick green shag carpeting laid in the 60’s, and the green and white floral print bedspread. One of my favourite things in the world was the way the sun would shine through the farm trees and wake us in the morning. Grandma would invariably already be up and working on one thing or another, having seen Grandpa off to work bright and early with a packed lunch and a kiss. She let us raid the green room closets and try on old dresses of our mothers’. And then she shamelessly took us to church dressed in these relics of the past, and proudly told all of her friends about her little granddaughters wearing their mothers’ dresses—as if it were the cutest thing she’d ever seen.

Grandma and I with my darling nieces, 2 of her
great-grandchildren, in 2007
Grandma was known for proudly telling all of her friends everything. It’s always made me laugh when I would hear her repeat the same amusing anecdote 5 times in a day simply because 5 different people ended up ringing her on the telephone after whatever it was had occurred :) Oh, Grandma could laugh!

I can hear her voice even now. It was very distinctive to me. I could always find her in a room of people if I just listened out for my Grandma’s voice.

I think my Grandma may have been the most perfectly-suited-for-cuddles-grandmother that God ever made. There was nothing quite like the security of snuggling into her. She had the softest hands I’ve ever known as well, which is somewhat surprising as I only ever remember her being busy using them for one thing or another—except for when she’d sit in Grandpa’s big green chair to “rest her eyes” while we kids played beauty salon on her hair :) I used to hold her hands and memorize the stones on her rings. She’d recite to me what they were each meant to remind her of, and she would snuggle me to my heart’s content. She was just everything a Grandma is meant to be.

Christmas 2008
When I was a bit older, Jackee and I started a yearly tradition of joining Grandma and Grandpa for their summer trips down to Nebraska. When Mom asked what I’d like to do to celebrate my 13th birthday, I said I’d like to spend it with Grandma and Grandpa, but they were headed to Nebraska for their high school and family reunions. So, we concocted a plan for Jackee and I to take the trip with them and spend the week at Aunt DoDo’s in a sleepy little Nebraskan prairie town. We never could have guessed how much we would love it—and so every year after until my late teens we continued to make the trek, playing Beatles music on repeat in the backseat of the car until even Grandpa was singing along (albeit, changing the words to suit his humour :), and “running into blizzards”-- as Grandpa would warn us before a stop at Dairy Queen. Grandma and Grandpa delighted in showing us their love by spoiling us rotten, and we delighted in being spoiled :)

Grandpa, Grandma, Jackee, and I taking another special trip together
to visit a Laura Ingalls homestead in 2009

Me, my sister-in-law, my brother, and my sister out playing
Bingo with the Bingo Queen :)
When I was small I wrote my Grandma a poem which began, “Grandma, you’re my greatest friend and I hope this friendship will never end…” (and she carried it around to show all of her friends for ages after, of course :)) but I think as I grew older, I really came to appreciate that friendship in new ways. Grandma was a great telephone-talker and as I grew up living about 2 ½ hours away from them, this was a good thing! When I got my license, I quickly racked up  miles on the old Dodge Dynasty going back and forth from Milaca to visit grandparents and cousins, to continue to play a lot of cards and even take some forays into Bingo with the Bingo Queen herself :)

When moving away to follow a call of God into ministry in Europe, Grandma was always such a support and encouragement to me. When I would come home to visit, she would show me the binder of all my letters and newsletters she’d been saving to show to her friends. She frequently told me that she couldn’t wait until I published a book one day. She just knew I would.

My grandparents and I at Jackee's wedding in 2009
My heart aches when I think she’ll never hold that book in her silky-soft hands. And I so wanted to share my wedding day with her—to watch she and Grandpa out there on the dance floor and marvel at what over 60 years of loving and supporting one another looks like. I dreamed of coming home to introduce her to my babies one day, and to see her cradle them and ooh and ahh over them like she has so many of us over the years. To listen as she picked up the phone and began to share with her friends her pride and joy at these precious moments. Grandma’s presence in my life has always been one of constant encouragement. And it’s been a blessing to see in the out-pouring of condolences how so many people I didn’t even know knew her have been touched by that same generosity of spirit, thoughtfulness, and love she gave out. I am reminded of all the things I love about my Grandma, and all the ways I’d like to be more like her myself.

My baby bro Jonah and Grandma 2009
It just hit me today that I have never had to try living in a world without her in it. In all of my 26 years, from the very first day I drew breath, she’s been there. Constantly encouraging me, supporting me, loving me. There is a gaping hole in my world today, now that she’s gone. 

It’s times like these when the beauty of God’s grace shines all the more radiantly. Because Grandma knew and accepted Christ as her Saviour just as I have, I know this separation is only a temporary one. And the comfort in that is unimaginable. I’m so thankful she is free of the pain. The last few years she has just been wearing down more and more. She was ready to go and meet her Saviour. And I can only imagine the wholeness and joy she’s experiencing now. I just wish she could call me and tell me all about it :) 

The first time I left for Europe, for 2 months when I was 14, Grandma came to the airport to see me off. When she wrapped me up in a hug, she whispered to me, “May 10,000 angels surround that airplane and protect my little Lee-Lee” (the name that was only between Grandma and me). I realized today that now Grandma is surrounded by those scores of angels, praising their King together, and the image brings tears to my eyes.

My adorable grandparents renewing their vows after 60 years of marriage
June 4th, 2011

I love you, Grandma. You have left a lasting legacy of love and encouragement and support in my life (and you’ve also made a lot of cakes, driven a lot of miles to be there for holidays and milestones, let me win a lot of hands of cards, patiently taught me to cross-stitch, and how to make your delicious potato soup, and so much more).

I think I will miss you as long as I live.
Thank you for being all that you've been to my life...

Grandma with one of her great-grandbabies, Emily, in 2008
Grandma, Jonah, and me in Nebraska in 2011
With another of her great-grandchildren,
my nephew Tucker, in 2009
Grandma and great-grandchild Emily, 2009
Grandma and great-grandchild Kenan 2009

Grandma and her oldest daughter, my mom
New Year's Day 2012

Grandma and great-grandchild Tucker 2009

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Photo Challenge: Days 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22!

"In His Eyes"

"Mama-Duck at Slottsberg Mosse"

"Young at Heart"

"His & Hers Fruit"

"Taking in the View"

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

In Honour of a Visit from My Handsome Man

My man being handsome on our trip to Ireland in May
So, I stumbled upon an old blog entry from 2010, written after a 4th date with Charles but 13 months of friendship, but before we decided to let this relationship be serious. It's so crazy to think all that has transpired between us since then-- and all the romantic dates all over Europe and America that we've had since then :)

Still, I thought, why not share with you the fractured thoughts I wrote after those experiences in our early days, in honour of his arriving in Sweden tonight (can't wait!!) :)


10 October 2010:
"...I saw a certain someone. We planned a day out together for the Sunday afternoon. We'd been looking forward to it for weeks. Goodness, I had missed him and couldn't wait to see him; hoping we might talk now, seriously, about what *this* is and see that we're on the same page. And just to spend time with him, face to face, figuring out who this man is who has slipped so quietly into my life but so solidly so that it's hard to imagine my days without him in them now...

But that day... I felt a bit disappointed. It was a beautiful day. We met up at London Bridge station and hugged hello and then... I felt awkward. So much had passed between us in communication since we last saw one another in June, we'd both shared many a time how we felt about one another, yet we were still there, standing before one another not sure what to say. Hehe. Oh, the awkwardness. It's kind of cute, really.

We made our way over to Greenwich University on the DLR to visit his old campus. Very impressive! They were filming the new Pirates of the Carribean movie there so much of it was blocked off but we wandered where we could and I loved seeing this bit of his history (well, let's face it, it was a beautiful old university and I love that sort of thing enough as it is :)). I hope I never lose my wonder at the beauty of these masterful old buildings Europe constantly presents to me.

University of Greenwich from the Thames

The stunning University of Greenwich in London, my man's alma mater!

Then we walked up to Greenwich Park and all along I wondered if we would hold hands or... anything. It confused me a little that we could talk as we do, so deeply, so daily, and with so much intention, and then get together and act like... none of that had happened, in a way. We spoke now rather shallowly, joking back and forth, talking as people who are involved in one anther's everyday lives do, but... we avoided anything "us"-ish. Which annoyed me because that's what I wanted us to talk about most! As if... if only we were to speak about it all, sort out what exactly we are, then I would know how I can behave with him, what I can consider us and my relationship to him, and so know how to treat him. Hmm. Instead, I walked along in a puzzle.

Standing across from one another on the Prime Meridian
We made our way up to the Prime Meridian... because I'd never been and it runs right through London! Just in case you need a definition, it's basically the longitudinal line on the map where it's zero degrees longitude (0°). The prime meridian runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich, England (the location was established in 1884 by international agreement). The prime meridian divides the globe into the Western and Eastern hemispheres. So, we waited in the queue to take photos standing on the dividing line :) I joked about how fitting it was, with our cultural differences, and he, being very British, teased about all the tourists making such a big deal about a little line, so I, in turn, teased him about being so very British and cynical :)

I love the easy joking back and forth. But I distinctly missed the depth. And so then of course I started to worry that maybe we weren't as well-suited as we seemed to think... Hmm. Just go with the flow, Leah! Spend a bit of time just enjoying it ;)

We wandered back down the hill to Greenwich and found a lovely little Indian place for supper, sitting across from one another like a real date, but nervously not being romantic at all. Oh dear :) As he prayed over the meal all I could think was what a pleasant voice he has, with that gorgeous accent as well. hehe. A darling little child came over to my chair and said bye-bye in the cutest British accent when we left, and I hoped my own kids might someday speak with such an accent :) Oh my!

We meandered down to a walk along the Thames. We have a good track record with the Thames :) Tonight was no different. The sun was setting above it and set the sky afire with hues of pink and gold from a masterful Artist's hand. We sat on a bench and watched it fade into darkness as we talked. There were times of silence, as there had been all day. Usually I don't mind silence, but today it made me nervous. I think because I felt like we really had so much that needed discussing and neither of us were quick to bring it up... 

The sunset that evening as we sat along the Thames

He started to get very cold as the night settled in around us and... I don't know how it happened in me, really, when I was so shy, nervous, unsure, but I asked, though it was obvious, "Are you really cold?" And when he said yes, I just went, "Right, then I'm going to sit closer to you" and, *gasp*, I moved close enough so we were touching! hehehe. Our own awkwardness makes me laugh :) But he's always saying lovely things to me when we're apart about how he just wishes he could hold me. So... I thought surely he wouldn't mind... He did go a bit silent at this point. Haha. But conversation picked back up. And then when he was still obviously very cold, I threw all caution to the wind (ha!) and snuggled into him properly, my arms thread through his one on my side and my head on his shoulder. He leaned his head on mine. And we sat there like that, chatting that way, so cozy in the night, for ages. I remember thinking to myself, "I should remember this moment" and memorizing the pattern of the light thrown from the victorian street lamp above us on the wet cobblestone before us, the white of my hands against the black of his sleeve, the way his voice sounded with my ear pressed to his shoulder... I recognize that regardless where we decide to take this from here, He is a significant man in my life now. These are significant moments.

He walked me back to my train and we hugged goodbye in a hurry. He called me precious. He always writes to me as precious.

Then off I went to finish up my trip to England, but I had to go back through London on my way to the airport 2 days later, so we made plans to meet on his lunch break.

So on Wednesday when I got into London, I made my way down to Canary Wharf on the Underground and found my way to the rather legendary building where he works-- the tallest in the UK and distinctive in the London skyline (update: This is no longer true! There was a new London skyscraper built since the time of writing this and it now holds the record :)). He came down straight away and we went to Starbucks, sat across from one another, and caught up on the last few days. Somehow this time around it was so much easier, less awkward. Every little bit of face-to-face time helps :) Apparently his new job is awesome and he's pretty free to do as he likes between projects (he's a web-developer), so at one point he went upstairs to check on things, and then he just came right back down to me (saying that he'd been missing me for 20 minutes. Haha :)) and we went to grab some lunch before I had to head back to Victoria. He got us French Crepes and we sat at a table by the water in the sunshine in the middle of the intimidating financial district of London, eating, talking, enjoying.

When we finished, he went to dispose of everything and then sat back down across from me at the table when, all of a sudden, as if on impulse, he stood, took his chair, and announced, like I had on Sunday night, "I'm going to sit closer to you with the few minutes we have left." He placed his chair next to mine and then wrapped his arms around me, so I was leaning back into him, like it was the most natural thing in the world :) We watched the boats go by and though I felt conflicted about the fact that we still hadn't discussed what we were to one another, I didn't want the cuddle to end... We had exactly 7 minutes. Hehe. Then we were hugging goodbye, and my courage went so far as to say, "When you come to Sweden in November, we need to talk..." hoping he'd just somehow know what I meant. He said, "Yes"... Somehow, I need this talk before I can let go and treat him like I'd want to treat the guy I'm with. I need to draw these lines saying, "Yes, we're together" before I can naturally behave like we're together, talk like we're together, treat him like he's mine and I'm his. At the moment it's such a weird tension of being sort of in and sort of out...

But there we have it. The unfolding drama of learning how to let go and let myself be loved. The Lord is so gracious with me. This man has the most tender heart. He seemingly views me through eyes which look and see only treasure. It doesn't add up to me and makes me feel insecure even while feeling precious. But again and again as I seek the Lord about it all, I feel Him speaking to my soul somehow, "But this is how I look at you. This is what my love looks like, Leah." And somehow Charles has become a part of His healing for me, regardless of how it all plays out.

But somehow, despite all the things I think we need to talk about and consider before we decide what we are, more and more the doubts get lost in reassurance. His heart is so good. So beyond anything I could ever deserve. And that is the most important factor...

So, we'll wait some more (we've been on this journey for 13 months now) and just see what He does as we continue to communicate, how He moves us as we have this significant talk when he visits in November. And in the meantime... I will be cherished, and though it rubs a little like a brand new shoe now, I think maybe it might feel more comfortable, this being cherished-business, as I walk in it a while...

"Dating is risky. Getting close to someone can be terrifying without the rituals of courtship or the fleeting comforts of casual sex. Healthy intimacy involves living in the tension of authenticity and uncertainty. Being honest and open with no guarantee of a positive outcome is intimidating and sometimes crazy-making. It's easy to get hurt. That’s the sort of risk healthy dating involves. Courtship rituals reduce ambivalence and uncertainty. Cheap sex does the same thing. Dating requires courage. It means trusting God not to drag you toward a mate, but to keep you anchored to your First Love during the journey... " -- Stephen W. Simpson, Ph.D.


And here we are, nearly 2 years later and God is still teaching us every day about loving well and being loved well. It is a harder journey than I think we expected, but a more beautiful one too.

... And I cannot wait for that handsome man to step off the airport bus tonight!

The last time Charles was in Sweden

Sunday, 8 July 2012

And I Wait

In the bitter waves of woe,
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors that faith has cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast
To the things that cannot fail.
And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that truth and right
Have the universe on their side;
And that somewhere beyond the stars
Is a love that is better than fate.
When the night unlocks her bars
I shall see Him-- and I wait.
--G. Washington Gladden

Saturday, 7 July 2012

It Is Possible...

"To be like Christ. To displace self from the inner throne, and to enthrone Him; to make not the slightest compromise with the smallest sin. We aim at nothing less than to walk with God all day long, to abide every hour in Christ and He and His Words in us, to love God with all the heart and our neighbors as ourselves... It is possible to cast every care on Him daily, and to be at peace amidst pressure, to see the will of God in everything, to put away all bitterness and clamor and evil speaking, daily and hourly. It is possible by unreserved resort to divine power under divine conditions to become strongest through and through at our weakest point." -- Bishop Handley Moule

It's that last sentence that hits me the hardest. It is possible by unreserved resort to divine power. 

He's been bringing it to my attention all over the place how much really does rely on divine power. I don't think of it that way very often. How much of our walk with God is through supernatural means... Incredible. And how much I try to just take on for myself anyway. What a joke.

In a bible study I once did on the Fruits of the Spirit, He taught me that even the ability to love Him is a supernatural one, because we are only made capable of it through the Spirit. And, of course. I found in my own life that when I began to pray a simple prayer of just falling more and more in love with Him, it happened. I found myself in Love.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 really sets my heart on fire. When I am weakest, then I am strongest. Not just words. Not just religious jargon. Practical, day-to-day Truth. It's a matter of reaching for that power that rests on us in our weakness. Paul said He'd boast all the more gladly in his weakness so that the power of Christ would rest on Him. This kind of verse leaves me no excuse. I have all the strength and grace I could possible require for every single challenge, temptation, trial, whatever, right there in the Spirit. Right there in Jesus.

My precious King, thank You. Your grace is sufficient. In the Spirit I can do what I couldn't, feel what I wouldn't, think what I didn't... Your strength never wanes. I love You.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Photo Challenge: Days 16 & 17

I spent the afternoon of my 4th of July chatting over the webcam with this little honey :)
My 2 year old nephew Kenan.
He loved to show me his little tractors and trucks and tell me about the cows. hehe.
And my heart is just SORE with adoration of this little man.
Incidentally, he looks very very much like his mommy, my sister, in this picture of him on the webcam :)
Oh! I love him!

I have spent today reading through old journal entries, and taking sustenance from the encouragement our beautiful God has given me in the past...
Goodness, how much He has for me to learn!

Encouragement When You Need It

So I found an old blog of mine today. And one of the last posts I wrote on it is resonating so much today that I had to re-share it here.

This God of all Hope is so incredibly kind to reach into our ordinary days, isn't He?

Wednesday, 07 April 2010

It's becoming just a bit too much again.

And lately He's seemed a bit distant.
And my soul can bear almost anything but that.

So, of course, He sent along His servant "D" to me again tonight. Ha. I shouldn't be surprised. D does go on and I can never remember half of what he said, partly because his Bulgarian accent is so strong, partly because he explains things in a very unclear, D style :) But we were at our friend's birthday party, and I'm feeling ill, so he offered to drive me home, blessed man, and at one point on the drive-- me having spoken nothing of the particular discouragement I've been wading through today-- he turned to me and said, "The Lord knows it's not easy. The Lord knows what you gave up. But He also knows His way is the very best way for your life, and He wants the very best for your life."

I laughed a little at God and at D. Naturally, he'd send someone along to speak up to me and make everything make sense for a few minutes again. And the thought just made me feel light...

He also reminded me-- again, without knowing what's been going on inside of me-- that the enemy goes after extra hard the ones He calls. He goes after them in whatever way will discourage them the most. But that Christ has made me His! So the enemy has to go THROUGH Jesus to get to me. And I can just throw my arms in the air, toss my head back, and shout for His rescue, knowing that He doesn't allow ANYTHING in to my life that He hasn't thoroughly checked out first. I am His. I am His. I have the sentiment tattooed to my very body and I still lose sight of the truth. I am His!! I belong to the King of the World!!! How can I dream of being discouraged or alone?

Oh, Lord, Jesus. Teach me. Teach me. Teach me. I'm Yours. Teach me how to live in such a way that SCREAMS that I know it to the very depths of my being! I AM YOURS!!! And you love me, and You desire to use me! I don't have to strive to get it right, I just have to rest in being Yours! O Lord God, thank You...
He spoke to me so strongly on Easter Eve (2010)-- one of those moments where He speaks so startlingly clear into your spirit that it's unmistakably Him.

I've been struggling with striving, and feeling not enough. And it's such a trap. On Easter Eve before leading the vigil, I was out walking under the stars and delighting in His beauty with a childlike joy and He just kind of seemed to lay on my heart, "See, baby, THAT's the kind of faith I want in you. Faith like a child. A child looks to its daddy and just trusts him, whatever he says. It just obeys because it knows its daddy's voice. I know that sometimes obeying me can feel like being crucified, and the consequences of that obedience can feel like death.... but look what happened 3 days later...." And I had chills raising the hair on my arms.

My spirit was just floored. So simple, but so stark and deep to me that night. I don't think I've ever appreciated all that this holiday represents so deeply and profoundly before.

Look what happened 3 days later.
Christ overcame death and evil and all of satan's discouragement and rose in all His glory, freeing the ENTIRE human race from the wages of sin in one fell swoop. All because He obeyed His daddy when He asked Him to do the seemingly impossible thing, the consequence being separation from His father and DEATH. Woah. And 3 days later, what His obedience accomplished is the continuing hope of all mankind... The obedience He asks of us is never acting against that hope...

And I am so thankful that He is Who He is. And that I am His.
Like D said in the car tonight, "It's God and you. It's just God and you."
I love You, Abba. Show me how to walk when I feel like falling...

Monday, 2 July 2012

We All Need the Reminder Sometimes

Photo Challenge: Days 14 & 15

Fiskebäcks Småbåtshamn
(The nearest beach to where I'm house-sitting. This is GOOD information to have :))

A Surprise of Sunshine
(One of the flowers Charles had sent to me which totally brightens my heart :))

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
--Henry Drummond
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