Heidi

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday and saw it. A post that said my cousin, Heidi, had passed away.

Suddenly I feel like the little girl I was when I knew her most. When we sat in church together in Corona, California. When we spent the day riding all the slides at Raging Waters in San Demas and she had to remember to take her pills so she could eat when it was time. She was fun and funny, a bit mischievous, always with bright eyes and a big smile.

I remember always worrying and wondering when she was going to die. She was born with Cystic Fibrosis and her sister Nikki, whom I barely remember, died when she was five.

She is actually my second cousin and her dad is my first cousin, although he has always felt more like an uncle to me. He and his wife Sharon are those wonderful people who give big hugs, listen better than most and make you feel like you are loved when you are talking to them. They make you feel loved even if you only see them once every ten years.

Facebook is an interesting thing, it allows you to journey life people you don’t ever see anymore and it connects you with those who you love but have long ago lost contact with. For me, that is my dad’s side of the family. I moved away when I was eighteen and never really came back other than scattered holidays. The Hanson side of my family are so much fun. There is a lot of them, they are all so very different but love each other because of, in spite of and regardless of.

I miss them.

When my Grandmother was alive, we got together often and had big loud family holidays complete with all us young-ins running around together in the Southern California sun.

Now we are all married with children and I have been living my life apart from them for most of that time. Except that I haven’t. I watched and read, commented and liked, prayed and rejoiced with them as Heidi had a lung transplant last year.

She wrote this beautiful book which made me feel like I was right there with her once again and she was tagged in countless pics showing that big smile and bright eyes.

Then the posts that begun a few weeks ago – the ones saying she has pneumonia and couldn’t breath, I began to earnestly pray. As the news came that she was on life support, I worried. And every day, I searched FB for information. Why didn’t I just call?

I think because for the most part, I feel like a stranger and observer. I am a cousin but distant at most and disconnected at least. I don’t want to bother or add to their stress but I prayed and wondered and worried all the same.

I was still surprised when I saw the status update from another cousin yesterday. I was still shocked. I am still shocked. Because no matter how much you wonder or worry or hope or pray- death is always a surprise. It is always a shock. And whether you knew someone or knew of someone, a part of you grieves their loss.

I am very sad and find myself felling like a little girl who has lost her friend.

Knowing that she is breathing free and clear in heaven is a priceless comfort. That she is healed and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord and Savior that she knew, depended on and worshipped here while she was with us.

All who knew her will miss her until we meet her there.

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A Bouquet of Newly Sharpened Pencils

This morning I am sitting in the midst of school supplies yet to be unpacked and distributed between one sturdy old backpack and one brand new backpack of two very special boys, my own.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” said the character of Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) to Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in You’ve Got Mail directed by Nora Ephron.

I don’t know if I love New York in the Fall. I know I love it during the Spring, as I got the opportunity to take a jaunt over there this last May. I am pretty sure that I would love New York in the Fall too. Although, I have it on good authority (the Director’s commentary on the DVD) that they did have to paint some of the leaves brown and gold for a couple of scenes in the movie because they really filmed it in the late fall/ early winter.

I digress. This post isn’t about New York in any season (sigh). I should write one but this isn’t it. This post is about sitting in the midst of school supplies in one of the hottest weeks of the summer in sunny California.

Here, we don’t send our children to school in the Fall but during the hottest, most miserable time of the year anywhere – Mid August. My boys will probably say when they grow up, “Don’t you just love the 110 degree weather? It makes me want to buy school supplies…”

In Vegas, Nevada, where we lived for the first 9 years of the boys lives, we started school in late August when it was still a brutal 110 -115 degrees. I remember going to pick up the boys from Kindergarden and First Grade armed with small bottles of Gatorade so that we would all survive the walk from their classrooms across the melting black asphalt of the parking lot to the car parked down the street. At least here in Northern California, I have the hope that the temperature will come back down to a pretty warm midday bookended by beautiful cool breezes in the mornings and evenings for the start of the school year.

Ugh. I am very ADD this morning….pencils, I am writing about newly sharpened pencils and the smell of scotch tape. I am writing about tearing through the flimsy plastic wrapping of 8 &1/2 by 11 lined notebook paper so that it can be put into the back of a brand new 2 inch binder. I am writing about breaking through the cardboard back of a neon highlighter set to release them for use.

I am writing about the nervous anticipation of the unknown future and the tools that trigger powerful emotions. As a child, I experienced mild nervousness and the excited awareness that soon I would soon be back in the classroom. I loved school. Now, I get to experience theses moments with my boys who are sad that the summer is over and very nervous at what the new school year might bring. They are excited about the new shoes, new binders, new highlighters and so many # 2 pencils that I could make a beautiful pencil bouquet of out of them.

I am excited, too. It is time to launch into a new season.

What does the smell of “new sharpened pencils” invoke in you? Are you ready to launch into a new season? What tools or preparation would help you get ready? What do you need to do to be successful in it?

Dancing on the Edge of Glory

We are all dancing on the edge of glory whether we recognize it or not. My mother-in-law was admitted into the hospital late Monday night and moved into ICU yesterday. After years of battling asthma, countless bouts with bronchitus & pneumonia – her lungs are scarred and weak. She was having trouble breathing when we were there on Friday and got worse over the weekend. She is stable now and doing much better. They hope to move her to a regular room today. I am so thankful and relieved.

Yesterday, I went through a gamit of emotions: fear, anxiety, panic, anger (I don’t know what I was angry with exactly- I just want to acknowledge that it was there) and inner restlessness. I prayed and wondered what was going to happen. Then placed all of it in God’s hands and waited. Every time, panic welled up, I beat it back.

If there is one thing I am hyper aware of this year, it is that if it is your time to cross into the glory of eternity, nothing can stop it. If it is not, then you won’t go.

This year I have been impacted and touched by the deaths of those who have quickly passed into eternity. One minute they are here, the next they are gone. My friend’s dad, our worship team member’s husband are two people that seem plucked out of earth without a moments notice. This time last year a friend of ours, Ron Cross, was in the throws of pancreatic cancer. He had lost weight but not his persevering spirit and went with us to the satalite Willow Creek Conference at Lakeside Assembly. That was the last time I saw him. I think it was cardiac arrest that actually took him, not the cancer.

Since then, it seems like over and over I am reminded that we are always dancing on the edge of glory. We don’t know how or when our time will come. The hope that fuels our faith is for God’s great mercy on this side and His eternal life on the other side. The eternal hope we carry with us isn’t for the temporary healing of our bodies but the eternal healing of our souls. It is the eternal life promised to us on the other side of the veil of mortality.

Hear me– I believe in praying for healing and have seen the hand of God touch many bodies and restore them to health. I believe God wants to heal our bodies in the temporary today and completely in the eternal tomorrow.

The miracle of salvation that is the hope of heaven is what transforms our life on earth, not the other way around.

A transformed life on earth does not lead to eternal life in heaven, it is the evidence of it.

Eternal salvation is a gift from God that holds within it the freedom, forgiveness and hope that releases us to truly live abundant lives on earth.

When I pray for healing, my trust lies not in the healing but in the Healer. I am praying for full healing for my mother in law. I love her and want her here with us for as long as possible. I will continually communicate this to God, he is my Heavenly Father and as his daughter, I am going to talk to Him about this a lot. I am also aware that I am not the author of her life, God is. He knows what her story will be and how it will end. He is author of mine as well. We only see the pages that are written on this side of his glory and wonder at the mystery of eternal life on the other side of it. What it will be is a mystery.That it will be is a promise.

“[Resting] in the hope of eternal life, [life] which the ever truthful God Who cannot deceive promised before the world or the ages of time began.” (Titus 1:2 AMP)

Since we are all dancing on the edge of glory- dance with all joy and no shame. Throw off everything that weighs you down and hinders your groove. Dance with your whole heart and keep your focus on Jesus who knows the moment the music of the temporary will stop and the music of eternity will begin… then dance on in.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(Hebrews 12:1, 2 NIV84)

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The Fifth of July

I spent a few years growing up in the small horse town of Norco California. There were more dirt paths than sidewalks and a horse hitch outside of the fast food joints. Every year the Norco County fair would set up in the deserted field on the end of the main street. It seemed as if it materialized over night with it’s crickedy ferris wheel, rows of booths and whirling rides invading the space. For days and days the lights would flash, the rides would spin and the air was thick with the sickly sweet smells of carnival treats.

Then, it was over. You wake up one morning and the quiet unassuming yellow field lies beaten down with only a few scraps of trash rustling in the wind to remind you that something magical was there.

The fifth of July in the church parking lot feels a lot like that. There is still evidence that a party transpired and delicious BBQ, classic potato salad and amazing red, white and blue desserts were consumed. The burnt spots on the ground reminding me that children were ecstatic to hold sparkling fire torches and the adults were delighted to hand them over. The fountain spewed sparks and tiny flower like bursts of colorful fireworks that mimicked their big brother fireworks (i.e. the illegal ones). Everyone (around 80 people) applauded as the last, the biggest, the loudest and the longest fountain that was lit.

I watched my boys play together with the special nostalgic eyes of motherhood and thought back to the early days when fireworks were too loud and scary for them. This year, Justin was allowed to light the last big fountain (the grand finale’) and it felt like a rite of passage to him. Near the end of the night, Kyle sat on my lap and he barely fits anymore, his long legs dangling to the floor over mine.

Then, it is over. We wake up to a quiet parking lot an empty fireworks booth and bits of trash strewn here and there that refuses to stay in the overflowed trash cans.

Now we work to clean up, move home and get settled back into our normal life. Who am I kidding? My life is not normal. Of course, a normal life is never something I have really ever wanted.

Happy fifth of July.

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Delayed in Dallas

I am sitting in a quiet corner of the Dallas/Fort-worth Airport on a soft seat with a useless power outlet next to it. Halfway home from my East Coast Excursion and the flights have been delayed all day. My first flight from Philly was delayed 2 hours and this one from Dallas to Sacramento is delayed four hours. It is the weather as the planes are skirting storms and such. So I am sitting in the airport thinking about delays.

I can’t remember where I read it or who said this, but the statement that comes to mind is:

“Delayed obedience is disobedience”.

The reason I remember it so well is that my personality lends itself to the analysis of everything. I am not an impulse buyer and I am not an impulse obedeincer. I know that is not a word, but it should be. Early on in my walk with God, I was challenged to learn to hear His voice speak to my heart and challenged to obey when it moved me to action. But I would not. I would analyze, do a pro and con list, think about it, debate it and so on.

However, on most things, when the Lord prompts you to do something it is because you need to move on it. Do it. Step out in faith. Very often, whatever He is prompting you to do is for someone else’s good and has a time limit. The opportunity will be missed.

I have worked hard at listening for His prompts and moving on them. When it lines up with God’s Word and helps someone else, really, how much do you need to analyze it? Worst case scenario is someone feels cared for and loved.

Being delayed in Dallas isn’t so bad. It only means that it will take a while longer to get home to my family. Being delayed in obedience costs a lot more- fear gets a stronger foothold in my heart and whomever was going to be blessed by it misses a divine intervention.

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Celebrate love

Everyday.

Happy Valentines Day, my friend!

I woke up today in Southern California today. Of course, that was because we drove half the night to get here. On the spur of the moment we decided to celebrate Valentines Day at Disneyland. Our passes expire at the end of the week and, well, that was a good enough excuse to run away
and spend time together.

The sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. The boys are growing up too fast. So today we are taking time out, slowing time down and cherishing the gift of each other. I am so glad.

However you celebrate Valentines Day, I pray that you will know that you are LOVED, CHERISHED, PROVIDED FOR, and DELIGHTED IN.

Live loved.
Happy Valentine’s Day.

Today’s Reflection

I am always reflective on Fridays. This Friday morning, the rush of getting the boys to school is done and I am hoping that they both have good days. Kyle has been struggling so much since school started back. Little blue notes sent from his teacher- he is talking too much, poking a pencil in his dry eraser, distracted, not paying attention. I went in a talked to her yesterday and she said that academically he is doing fine, but he is just acting like a space cadet. I know what she is saying- he is acting that way at home too. I ask him to get his shoes on and 5 minutes later he is in his room looking for a toy. I’m used to this with Justin, but not with Kyle. Kyle is growing and eating everything in sight. She is going to move his desk closer to the front and we will see. I hope he has a good day.

Justin went outside to pick up the dog’s poo and stepped in it. It is the second time this week that he hasn’t realized it until he has tracked it in the house. Then he scrambled to put all his stuff in his backpack and it just wouldn’t go in right- stuff went in sideways, fell out, etc. It was that kind of morning for him.

Last night we rented the movie Reel Steel. It is like Rocky for this generation. You should have seen the boys watching it, it was more fun watching them than the movie. They were so into it. Kyle was literally sitting at the edge of his seat captivated and Justin couldn’t sit at all- he was jumping up and down screaming and cheering. We do loud really well. It was so much fun.

We don’t usually rent a movie on a school night but last night I just felt like it. I felt like sitting together in the living room with a fire burning hot in the fireplace and popcorn for all.

This might be part of the why:
A wonderful lady who plays the keyboard in our worship team lost her husband yesterday. No warning, nothing was wrong that they knew of- he was a cop. We are thinking he must have had a heart attack, but really I don’t know. I know that it sudden and unexpected and now her whole world has changed. I had just published yesterday’s blog, “Volcano” when I found out.

On this side of mortality, this loss brings into focus the preciousness of what we have, who we hold. I don’t really know what is on the other side. We have glimpses and promises, a knowledge that there is another side but even with all we know, how can our finite mind understand an infinite eternity? There will be a day I know. A day I will understand. A day I will see God beyond the veil of mortality. I will get it.

Today is not that day for me. Today I see as through a glass dimly, I peer into the mystery of eternity with questions.

Today I deal with dog poo on shoes being tracked in the house and a son whose struggle to pay attention worries me. Instead of it stressing me out, I smile and simply appreciate the life I have.

I am praying for my friend, Lesa Johnson and her family who are in shock and pain. I keep thinking that her husband knows now. He is in the presence of God and knows.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:12, 13 NLT)

Scrambled Eggs and Ham

Yesterday morning while I was groggily scrambling eggs for breakfast on the first day of school for the boys after vacation, I thought about Grandma Mary doing the same for us a couple of months ago. It reminded me of a story my Mother-in-law, Caron, told me. She said that for years when she made a ham in the oven, she cut off both ends and put it in the pot. One day her mom (Grandma Mary) asked why she did that and Caron told her it was because “I saw you do that when you cooked a ham.” Grandma Mary replied, “Well that was because my pot wasn’t big enough- so I cut the ham to fit”.

My mother-in-law stopped cutting the edges off her ham. She took the new information with a chuckle, applied it to her life and we get more ham to eat:)

Sometimes we need to do the same thing with our beliefs about God and ask ourselves, “Are there things in my relationship with God that are based more on tradition or past experience than truth?”

I know in my life there has been many issues that when the time was right, God whispered in my heart and said, “Why are you doing that?” and followed it up with a gentle nudge to examine my belief and adjust it according to the truth.

He is so patient and loving. If God is pointing out a core belief in your life that needs to change it is because He wants you to walk in more truth and freedom.

“So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.”(John 8:36 MSG)

Jesus was talking to the religious Jews who thought they knew God. He was constantly challenging people to get out of a religious mindset and get into a relationship one. He does the same in our lives.

Be free to grow in your relationship with God, let go of the past and cook ham in a new way, if the situation calls for it.

First Monday

Good Morning, my friend.
How are you doing on this first Monday of the new year?

I am doing good. I rang in the new year snuggled in between two excited boys under the warmest softness white blanket that I got for Christmas. We all watched Kung Fu Panda 2 then watched the ball drop in Times Square a few minutes later. A few minutes after that, we dropped the boys in their beds after a hug, a kiss and a quick New Years Prayer.

I usually sleep in on New Year’s Day and wake up just in time to watch the last half the the Rose Parade on TV. But this year was different. We all got up early and groggily shuffled into the car. Then we drove though the quiet empty streets to Starbucks. Oh yes, nothing better a good cup of Awake Tea to start the year. After a stop at the McDonald’s drive through for the boys, we headed to the church.

On this special Sunday, instead of doing services for the Jr. High and High School, we pulled a team of students together and had them help us do two Children’s services for grades 1st-5th. The youth team did such a great job and it reminded me of the outreach days of long ago. During the second service and with everything running smoothly for the kids, I got to sneak out and sneak into the adult service for worship. I closed my eyes and got lost in the words of “I Surrender”.

Start as you mean to go.
Surrender is a good place to start.
In that moment, I surrendered my controlling fearful mind, my doubtful wavering heart, my aging and unpredictable body to God. I surrender. Less of me and more of God.

I missed the Rose Parade today, but I have to say, a sincere moment of surrender isn’t a bad way to start the new year off.

Have a wonderful first Monday!