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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Natalie's Walk of Hope

I had the joy and privilege of participating in Natalie's Walk of Hope this past Saturday.  It was a fundraiser to help Natalie's family with her medical expenses. Natalie and her twin brother, Evan will turn two this week.  Two months ago Natalie Osborn was diagnosed with tumor wrapped around her brain stem.  The tumor was successfully removed and she began her 3rd week of radiation treatment this week. Her recovery has been filled with challenges of many types. The Walk was a fundraiser to help with the enormous costs involved in Natalie's care and treatment, but it was so much more than that.
I have been hard pressed to understand, let alone articulate well, why I have felt so compelled to come alongside Natalie's family in this journey on which they find themselves. I know the family through Natalie's aunt, my friend, Tracy.  I had never met Natalie or her parents, Sarah and Brian, before Natalie's Walk, yet I have felt so connected to them through Brian's tweets (Twitter) and Sarah's online journal at .  The Walk included refection points along the way with scripture and prayers taken from Sarah's journal, all well marked and a poignant reminder of why we were there - a journey much longer than our symbolic two mile trek.
It was a joyful sight to see Natalie and Evan and their cousins playing and enjoying a beautiful Colorado morning at a local park.  Strangers would never have known to look at Natalie what she has been through and continues to battle through. She seemed to simply and deeply enjoy being with her brother and her cousins and feeling the sun on her face.
I expected to be an outsider of sorts at Natalie's Walk of Hope.  I imagined a close knit group of family and friends, and friends of theirs, gathering together to visibly show support of the Osborns and rally around them and give their time, support and whatever donations they brought.  I busied myself taking photos, as I often do, and tried to blend into the activity.  As I had opportunity to visit with other people I was so surprised to learn that all were not close friends of Sarah and Brian's.  The women who organized The Walk were part of a Bible Study that Sarah sometimes attends.  Sarah and the sister of one of them are in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) together.
One woman that I visited a long time with only learned about The Walk three days prior, when she attended a Bible Study for the first time.  She too felt compelled to be there. She told me about her cousin, who was diagnosed with a tumor similar to Natalie's when he was seven years old.  She shared his struggles to re-learn normal activities again.  She said he is now 24 and his parents are still paying on his hospital bills. She understands all too well the financial challenges that accompany providing medical care for a child with a life threatening disease.
I tried to find another woman who had organized a wristband fundraiser for Natalie, but no one I asked knew who she was or if she had even come to The Walk.  I knew she planned to come.  We had been sharing fundraising ideas via e-mail and I just wanted to put a face to a name.  It wasn't until later in the day, when she tagged one of my photos of The Walk on Facebook, that I knew she had been there.
Clearly there were close friends and family there, but it was also clear that even Sarah and Brian did not know everyone.  There was a greater call for people to come and be part than just friendship or family ties, at least earthly family ties.
I came to feel a deeper sense of purpose and belonging than I anticipated with these 85 or so people on The Walk and the others they represented.  I got a glimpse in a new and different way of God orchestrating His people, His family, to come together, not just on this day, on this Walk, but on the journey that Natalie and her family are on. For me, it became a Walk of Hope, not only for Natalie, and her family, but for me, and for the family of God.  In a world that seems focused on differences, grudges, unforgiveness, and revenge, it refreshed my soul, revived my spirit and breathed hope into my life about what can be done when we listen to God and obey, even when we don't understand - maybe especially when we don't understand.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Because of Natalie

For the past several days my heart has been gripped with Natalie Osborn and her story.  I have not yet met Natalie, but I know her through her aunt, Tracy.  Tracy and I are friends. We met through a MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group to which we both belong. 

Natalie is 22 months old.  On July 21st an MRI revealed a tumor on her brain, wrapped around the brain stem. Last Wednesday, July 27th, surgeons successfully removed the tumor. Natalie remains in ICU, where her parents, Brian and Sarah, have kept nearly round the clock vigil since the surgery. Brian has been tweeting updates to over 100 family and friends throughout the long days and nights.  People around the country, and maybe around the world, are praying for Natalie's recovery and for her parents, her twin brother, Evan, her grandparents and close family who comprise the support team for Natalie.

Natalie's story touches my deepest fears as well as my deepest pain.  My deepest fear is that of something happening to my daughter, Emma.  Maybe that is normal.  I really don't know.  She is my only child - a miracle in many ways.  I can't imagine life without her.  I know she is a gift from a loving God and I know her life is ultimately in His hands.  We're called to raise her to know Him and trust Him for herself.  I recall a phrase from a book I read recently, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body." (Elizabeth Stone) That is so true.  I can empathize deeply with what Brian and Sarah are experiencing.  I cry often as I read Brian's tweets or the online journal entries from them and as I pray for Natalie and for them.  I know they would take Natalie's pain on themselves if they could, just as I would do to spare Emma pain. But they can't do that.  They must watch and pray and hold her and rock her when they can.  And cling to memories and hope for the days that lie ahead.

Natalie's story also touches my deepest pain - the loss of loved ones.  Though I am a person of faith and I truly believe in a glorious life after this one on earth, grief has carved deep places within my soul.  Two months before I turned four and ten days after he turned two, my brother, Vic, died from pneumonia and complications from a fire at our home. I really don't remember everything that I thought and felt, but life was never the same - not for me, or my parents, or for the siblings to follow, who never knew "little Vic".  Two months before Emma was born, my sister's youngest son died, at age 22. It all seemed surreal.  I still have no words to help heal my sister's broken heart.

I continue to pray for Natalie and her family several times a day, though I long ago ran out of anything unique or original to pray.  I ask God for her complete healing and recovery.  How could I ask for anything less?  "You have not because you ask not" (James 4:2). The updates help me pray for the specific needs of the moment. I rejoice at the good reports and cry with the not so good ones.  I am so glad she has a family that not only loves her, but loves God and truly knows Him. It really all comes down our utter dependance on Him.  We are called to pray in faith and we do our best. I find myself vacillating between "without faith it is impossible to please Him..." and "Lord, I believe... help my unbelief." We give however we can to lighten the burden on Sarah and Brian and support them.  I believe there is an Army of prayer warriors of all descriptions surrounding Natalie and them, concentric circles from those closest to Natalie to those who only know of her. But ultimately God is the one who holds Natalie and all our lives in His hands.  He is the Healer, Abba Father ("Papa Daddy", and El Shaddai  (more than enough).

Natalie and her story have helped so many of us regain our perspective about what really matters.  I hug my daughter more often and hold her a little longer whenever I can. Brian was right when he wrote in the online journal  "Stuff is stuff, money is money, work is work, annoyances are not so annoying...."  I thank God for the privilege of prayer.  I still don't really understand why a sovereign God chose to unite Himself to us in prayer, but He does and our prayers matter.  "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5: 16).  So we pray and will continue to pray.  If you have not joined us, will you?  Natalie needs you and you need Natalie.!/NatalieBrookeOz

Friday, May 20, 2011

When Seasons Change - Five Minute Friday

When seasons change...
at least half the time I am happy about it.
My favorite season is fall.  There is something about the mellowness of it and the beautiful colors - gold, brown, yellow and the diminishing hint of red and green - that calls to me.  I was born in Fall, so maybe that is part of it; it speaks to me of mellow beginnings (and middles and ends...) My next favorite season is Spring - reminders everywhere of new life, rebirth, hope - be it hope for major life changes or just warmer weather and longer days to enjoy the outdoors and each other.
So at least half the time I am happy when seasons change.  The other half of the time I think I am reminded that life is full of seasons within seasons and I get to choose whether I will revel and celebrate or whine and ruminate.  Most of the time I think I choose to revel and celebrate in God's daily goodness to us.

Friday, April 29, 2011

If I knew I could, I would - Five Minute Friday

If I knew I could, I would
- write another book of poetry and not be content with an occasional blog
- talk to strangers more, unconcerned about their perception of me, just focused on them and bringing them a bit of joy
- sign up for a family missions trip to a foreign country (in a few years)
- start a home business, designing and developing Christmas letters for people too busy or too unorganized to do it for themselves
- try my hand at writing worship songs, or at least collaborate with more talented friends to do so
- learn how to digiscrapbook (or whatever they call it, whoever "they" are)
-love more and expect less

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Mom's Easter morning musing

I got up early on Easter morning, early for a Sunday that is.  I needed to iron my daughter's Easter dress and put together her Easter basket.  I really didn't mind.  In fact, I enjoyed it.  The house was peaceful and quiet and I felt unhurried to get my tasks done.  I got to savor doing special things for my girl.  My mind wandered to my own Mom and the times I saw her up late sewing or ironing or doing laundry for us.  She worked full-time and did everything related to caring for us, for as long as I was living at home, I think.  I wonder how many things she did that I never even noticed, let alone thanked her for doing.  I am sure there are thousands.  I don't think I was a particularly unappreciative child.  I was probably pretty normal (although I won't put that out for a vote from family...). I just didn't notice and I just didn't think much about it.  I don't expect my daughter, Emma, will notice either.  I think a lot of the things I do just come with the territory of being a Mom, and that is fine with me.  At this point in my life, I am so blessed that I am a Mom, and I am glad to do things to care for Emma and make special memories for her and with her. She probably won't really understand until she is a mother herself. As I pondered all this, my thoughts turned to His Mom.  She was so young and endured so much, watching His life and ministry unfold.  I wonder if she learned early to hold Him loosely, but how could she.  He was her son, her flesh and blood.  I wonder if she could even imagine Easter morning when she was in the midst of Good Friday.  Makes any of my sacrifices pale in comparison.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Hard Love - Five Minute Friday

(Ok - it's Saturday, but I just didn't want to miss out)
The Hard Love
Any real love has its hard moments
- when you care enough about the other person to risk the relationship for the sake of honesty and what is best for the other person
- when you love enough to let go and leave the one you love in His nail scarred hands and trust Him to take care of your bruised or broken heart
- when your limited ability to love reveals your utter brokenness and absolute need for Him, His wisdom, His grace
- when you finally realize or realize again His gift and His love are what give any significance to your life and your ability to love

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of Bad Mommy Days

My only child, a daughter, is two years and nearly five months old, and I know I have had my share of bad mommy days in her short little life.  Some of those were just bad days for mommy and some were days mommy was just bad, not the mother I envisioned becoming for so many, many years.  We survived a rocky start with breastfeeding.  We breastfed for 14 months and have a wonderfully healthy girl.  We survived all the immunizations (harder on Mom than Emma, I think).  We survived numerous transitions and challenges all along the way.  These days we are in the process (emphasis on "process") of potty training. To be honest, I was totally unprepared for how hard it would be for me and how long it would last.  Emma has moved through every other transition (move to crib from bassinet, giving up the binky, cross country move...) with such ease that I mistakenly thought she would master the whole potty training thing in two or three months.  The unpredictability, the setbacks, the accidents have undone me on more than one occasion.  I have joked that potty training has certainly brought out the "poop" in me.  I am not joking anymore.  I have had to face some ugly things in me - control issues, unrealistic expectations, frustration that becomes anger, inability or unwillingness to control my tongue- all things that transcend my precious daughter and potty training.  This just happens to be what revealed the depth of these things lurking in me.  I say it has been my undoing, but I am learning to view it all differently.  I think perhaps it will be my salvation, at least as a mommy an hopefully as a woman.  Seeing these things has humbled me and drawn me to my knees, seeking God's forgiveness, strength and wisdom and asking Him to stay after me, to refine me, to mold and shape me, not only into the mommy I want to be for Emma, but into the woman He designed me to be from the beginning.  I guess it is about time, huh?

Friday, April 8, 2011

If You Met Me - Five Minute Friday

If you met me -
you might not be able to guess my age, especially if my daughter were with me, or you might think she was my granddaughter
if you met me
you might think that I am quiet and reserved, until you got to know me better, then you might forget you ever thought I was quiet and reserved
if you met me, depending on the setting, you might learn I can be witty and funny
if you met me, I would hope you found me authentic, "the real deal"
if you met me, you might sense that I love meaningful conversation, and do "small talk" mostly in hopes that it will lead to meaningful conversation...if you met me
we could finish this conversation

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Favorite Things - Five Minute Friday

Hmm, my favorite things -
These days most have to do with my two year old daughter:
her deep blue eyes and long dark eyelashes
listening to her conversations with her animals on the monitor - "are you listening to me?" (where did she hear that?...)
watching her skip through our yard with reckless abandon
quiet songs together in the rocking chair
rowdy songs together as we run errands in the car
her hugs and completely unprompted "I love you, Mommy!"
"can I rub your back?'
some others:
the quiet of the early morning and the late night
Colorado mountain views
friends, always and forever friends
fresh decaf auto brewing when I come out of the shower
and time again to write about my favorite things

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Kid in Town

The first time I moved I was six months old.  The most recent time I moved was six months ago.  I don't even want to count the number of moves between those two bookends.  I will say I have learned a few things along the way.  I have learned that there are good people everywhere.  I have also learned there are jerks everywhere.  So you cling to the good folks as long as you can and avoid the jerks whenever possible.  There are a few things predictable about moving.  Relationships, meaningful relationships, take time.  There are no shortcuts.  There may be people that you seem to click with immediately, but it still takes time to build a significant relationship.  It takes trust and personal investment and it takes time.  You need to share some history and walk together for a while.  It takes time.  These days, a lot of people don't want to take that time. Life is busy.  People have priorities and sometimes the new kid in town isn't one of them.  When you move, your life is basically turned upside down; not so much for the people in your new place. Their life continues relatively unchanged by your arrival in their AO (area of operations - Army speak). You are still painfully close to the last place you lived.  Most likely, it is some place you were known - your character, your strengths (weaknesses too) and your unique gifts, which were celebrated and appreciated (hopefully).  Now you are an unknown, at least for the time being.  You are not trusted, not yet anyway.  It isn't that you are mistrusted, just unknown. There is a difference.  You left a network of friends (that by the way took time to build) and though you knew ahead of time, starting again would be hard, you maybe forgot how hard it is at the beginning.  You remember the end - after the investment in others, the shared history and yes, time.  The great thing is that old place was once the new place.  It was hard in the beginning, but it became the place that meant home, the place you didn't want to leave and the place that held a special place in your heart.  So it will be with this new place. It will become the place you know as home, the people you don't want to leave and the place where you are known.  No one will likely remember when you were the new kid in town. It just takes time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflections on my Mom

I remember my Mom as a sophisticated and elegant woman.  She was an artist and an exceptional seamstress.  She was also very private about her emotions, not easily given to sentiment, perhaps as a defense against the hurt and disappointment she endured over many years of her life.  I knew her much better in the latter years of her life than when I was growing up.  I owe that to a friend, who lost her Mom to cancer when my friend was barely eighteen.  My friend encouraged and prodded me to pursue more of a relationship with my Mom as an adult.  And I did.  I am glad I listened to my friend.

My Mom and I weren't close as I was growing up.  I think I knew too much about the broken promises of alcoholism and too little about the unrelenting addiction of it.  In childlike naivete, I thought she should have protected us (my siblings and me) better from the toll it took on us.  I knew it took a toll on her, but didn't have the maturity to really understand what that meant or how hard it was for her to do what she did to keep the family together and help provide for us.  I didn't understand about the sleep deprivation and energy requirements of motherhood.  At the core of it, for far too many years, I thought I was a disappointment to her because I was so unlike her.  My passion was sports.  Hers was the arts.  She was a beautiful woman and I was a very plain girl.  I was cute as a young girl, but as pimples replaced freckles, I lost any sense of being beautiful, at least on the outside.  I was good at sports before it was acceptable, let alone encouraged, for girls to be athletes. (I am so glad that has changed!) I knew she loved me, but as a kid it is easy to feel like somehow your parents have to love you.

As an adult, following my friend's urging, I got to know my Mom better and we talked about numerous things, even my feelings of being a disappointment to her.  She did her best to quickly reassure me, that I was not a disappointment to her.  She admired my strength and my athletic ability.  She made choices and helped me learn to make choices so I could stand on my own and stand up for my beliefs and values. She did her best to help me overcome the effects of alcoholism on our family. I believe now she did her very best to help us grow into loving, responsible adults.

Nine years ago today we lost my Mom to cancer.  We were blessed she didn't suffer long. She was a smoker most of her adult life and we knew her death could have been long, drawn out, and painful.  It wasn't.  I do believe I will see her again, but most days my feet are very tied to earth and often I miss her.  She never even met my husband or had a clue that I would find such an amazing person with whom to share my life.  She only knew about the broken engagement and broken relationships.  She had no idea I would give birth to a beautiful daughter of my own.  She only knew of the two failed adoptions when I was single. I believe her heart broke with mine as I walked through those seasons.  But that was not the end of the story.  My wonderful daughter, Emma, has shown me in a way no one else could, the joy of motherhood, which I also brought to my Mom.  I am my Mom's first born also. Because of Emma, I know in the deepest part of my heart that I was not a disappointment to my Mom, though I was so different from her. I know first hand that the love of a mother for her child is deep and enduring and independent of our similarities and differences. I love Emma with all my heart, period, nothing added, no qualifiers, no conditions.  And I always will.  What a gift my girl has given to me, the certainty of my own Mother's love for me.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Memories in Shades of Chocolate

after watching
a three year old
devour a chocolate ice cream cone
i am convinced
it's not what's on the inside
what's on the outside
that counts

as she smiled
through several layers
of chocolate
i couldn't help
but envy her

it has been
a long time
since being covered
in chocolate ice cream
didn't bother me

(c) 1974 Kathy Jo Schramm

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Battle of the Bobbin

The battle of the bobbin is over and I won! I actually sat down at "the machine" yesterday and read the instructions and created my first bobbin (in over 40 years).  I went on to mend a pair of my husband's athletic shorts with rather mediocre results.  I realized that it isn't using the sewing machine that intimidates me or makes me prefer to do many other things rather than sew.  What frustrates me is all the precision prep work. I now have a rekindled and even greater appreciation for the true seamstresses in my life.  I see the qualities that make them good seamstresses spill over into other things they do: patience, persistence,  commitment, generosity, vision. I don't have any ambition to so anything beyond simple mending, but who knows.  It certainly would do me good to develop more patience and persistence and a number of other qualities.

Boomer Sooner

The Oklahoma Women's Basketball team plays at Colorado tonight.  I will be at the game.  I have been looking forward to the game since October when I checked the Colorado schedule and saw the date.  It will be a historic game in at least a couple of ways.  It will be the last time the two teams meet during the regular season as Colorado is moving to the Pac 10 (or Pac 12 or whatever it will be called) beginning next year.  It may be the last time I get to see the Oklahoma team play in person.  Although I will be cheering for Oklahoma, I must admit I have split loyalties.  I taught Army ROTC at both universities over the years.  I was a season ticket holder at both schools. I was at Colorado when they missed advancing to the Final Four by three points.  My first year at Oklahoma they did advance to the Final Four at San Antonio and I was there. Oklahoma has been back to the Final Four two times since then, while Colorado has struggled over the same time period to be competitive in the Big 12. My experience at both universities was positive, yet I know I will be cheering for the Sooners come tip off tonight.  Perhaps it is a human tendency to go with a winner. Oklahoma is a winner.  Colorado can be again, but I don't think it will be tonight, or even this season. And I will cheer for them in the future. But tonight is my night to be a Sooner in Colorado country.  Boomer Sooner, GO OU!

Post Script:  I was wrong in my prediction.  The CU women upset the OU women in a great game last night.  Could be the beginning of great things for the Buffs and first year coach, Linda Lappe.  It would be wonderful to see the CU women turn things around and return to the top 25 themselves in another year or two.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grandad's Lap

one of the best memories
that i hold
is as a three year old
climbing up on Grandad's lap
while he sat in the rocking chair

he'd wrap me up
in my favorite beach towel -
the pink one with seahorses on it -
and we'd rock

i don't remember
whether we talked or not
it really isn't important

what i do remember
is the security and love
and well being with the world
i felt as i sat there
with my Grandad
and we rocked

even now
it's that picture in my mind
sustaining me
as i bring my hurts
as well as my joys
to You
and climb up on Your lap
and from that perspective
learn what real security
and love are

(C) 1978 Kathy Jo Schramm

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Rocking Chair

One of my fondest memories of childhood is that of being rocked by my Grandad in a wooden rocker.  He would wrap me up in a beach towel, a pink one with seahorses on it and we would rock.  Somehow that made everything all right.  I think I was 3 or 4 years old, and it was a time of significant turmoil in our family, but the rocking chair with Grandad helped me feel safe and secure.  It was that perspective that helped me many years later, only it was God the Father's Lap, where I needed to spend time.  If I ever figure out how to post poetry here, I will share the poem I wrote that captures the essence and connection, of those two experiences. It is interesting to me that my two year old daughter also gravitates to the rocking chair when she needs comfort, be it hurt feelings or a physical "boo boo". She asks one of us to "sit in the rocking chair" meaning hold her and rock in the rocking chair.  So we hold her and reassure her and talk and listen.  When she is ready (sometimes ten seconds, sometimes ten minutes) she gets down and goes on with her life. It really isn't much different than my Grandad and me or my Father and me.  He always has time to hold me and rock and listen and talk and reassure me that He is with me and always will be. He lets me get down when I am ready and go about my life, knowing He is there waiting in the rocking chair.

The Sewing Machine

The sewing machine sets on the dining room table, where I pass by several times a day.  We are getting acquainted.  I have had "the machine" for several years, but have yet to sew a stitch on it.  My sister, an expert seamstress and quilter, gave it to me as kind of a long term loan many years ago.  I hauled it from her house in Texas to mine in Oklahoma, then moved it to Colorado, to Virginia and now back to Colorado.  The last time I sewed on any machine was probably 40+ years ago - maybe 7th grade or maybe earlier.  I sewed so I could earn my sewing badge in Girl Scouts.  I know one of my projects was a three arm-hole dress.  Does anyone remember those? Tells you a lot about my fashion sense (or lack thereof).  As soon as I earned the badge, I was done with sewing and back outside playing basketball. I have done hand mending and sewn on a few buttons since then, but absolutely nothing with a machine.  It seems like now it would be handy to be able to do some bigger mending jobs.  I have no higher sewing aspirations than that.  I did buy thread over the weekend.  Now I have to actually sit down at "the machine" and figure out the bobbin thing and do some sewing.  My mind wanders back to my childhood and memories of my Mom.  She too was an expert seamstress.  She made clothes for us and did all the mending.  As with many things, I have a much greater appreciation of all that she did for us, now, when it is too late to tell her.  She worked full-time much of my childhood and yet did all the laundry, cooking and a lot of sewing for us.  I can remember getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and there she was in the laundry/sewing room, folding clothes or working on some sewing project. I am glad those type of expectations have not been placed on me.  I will make "the machine" my friend and I will relearn how to sew well enough to handle our mending.  I will pay Aunt Julie to make Emma's Halloween costume this year.  I would still rather be outside playing basketball.  And I am okay with that.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Small Beginnings

I survived my teen years by writing. I used to write daily and then life got busy and busier and I don't write much anymore. My mind still composes things and sees life in interesting perspectives, but those thoughts rarely make it to paper these days. I want to change that. So here is my small beginning. I am excited about the journey.