Wanted: A New and Improved Tree House

 

Summer 2017

Last year my husband built our youngest granddaughter a tree house.  He called it “Odd Squad Headquarters” as she was a fan of the show at that time.

20543923_10212225280020666_5488311340080735466_o

She was so excited and she spent the first day going up and down the stairs so much it made me tired just watching.

20616930_10212225286660832_354077952399114433_o

We celebrated the opening of Odd Squad Headquarters with a bubble display.

20626572_10212225009413901_3870656936776208620_o20617207_10212225013734009_5840512221778481796_o20617179_10212225009453902_351179157313822527_o

This was followed by a puppet show and then we read books.

20626919_10212225017934114_5321088983389913838_o

20543923_10212225280020666_5488311340080735466_o

We even had visitors on this opening day.

20626140_10212225298221121_6761458720862121119_o

During the puppet show her Papa kept interrupting her and making silly comments.  Finally she told him he was kicked out for disorderly conduct and being a nuisance.  It was such a fun day – one we will always remember.

We ended the day with pizza before closing the Odd Squad Headquarters for the day.

20616915_10212225300581180_7986889545700864135_o

She wanted to sleep in the tree house but the old folks overrode that idea.  As we headed into the house for the night she informed us that she was staying for five nights and four days. Don’t think it’s because she loved Papa and Grandma so much as she loved the tree house!

Fast forward to summer 2018

Her Papa had anticipated several years of enjoyment for her in the tree house he built with such love.  However, this week she just moved with her parents to another state.

Although she was sad to leave the tree house, she has a plan!  She told her mother:

“Papa did a good job on the tree house.  But now that he has experience building tree houses, he will build me a new  one.  It will be much better than the old.  The old one was good but this one will be even better.”

Not sure what Papa will say about this but I think he needs to get busy with the blueprint for a new and improved tree house.

 

The Day I was Mad at God

I remember the moment I held my daughter in my arms.  It was overwhelming to realize I was a mother, personally responsible for this tiny baby.  Looking at her, I whispered that we were going to be the best of friends.  I shared with her my hopes and dreams of the hours we would spend reading, playing in the park and listening to music.  Four years later I once again held another daughter in my arms.  How happy I was – two beautiful daughters!

1456491_10201958453716425_1932540929_n

My girls were my world.  As a mother, there was nothing I would not do to make them happy.  As time passed, my oldest daughter and her husband gave me the joy of being a grandmother.  Robert was born and his first year was filled with precious memories watching him beginning to walk and say his first words.  One year later a beautiful granddaughter was born.  As I walked into the room where my daughter lay holding this new grandchild, my heart skipped a beat when she held the baby out to me and said, “Mother, meet Barbara Rose!”  She was named Barbara after me!

In the midst of this joy, my heart was torn.  In just a few short weeks I would have the honor of dedicating this little child to God.  However, a few days after the dedication I would get on an airplane with my husband and youngest daughter and fly to the other side of the world to serve as a missionary in the Philippines.

10498337_10152209112893364_5111308972805854519_o (2)

Several months before Rebekah had become pregnant with Barbara, God had opened a door for my husband and me to work in the Philippines for a couple of years teaching in a Bible College.  At the time I felt everything would be okay because by the time we left Robert would be over a year old and Rebekah and Rob would do fine as new parents with this little boy.  While I would miss Robert, I would have had that first year to share and treasure while we were gone.  But now my daughter, who had married very young, had not one, but two children less than twelve months apart.  She and her husband were both college students.

As I looked at them struggling to keep up with their home, their studies and two little babies, I wondered how can this young couple make it.  Holding Barbara Rose on dedication day, my heart ached as I realized I would not be there to see her sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words.  When I came back, she and her brother would not know who I was.

Yet, I knew God had called us to go.  I thought of the verse in the Bible that speaks of loving God so that in comparison it may seem we hate our family.

Rebekah and Rob went with us in the airport as far as they could go before security barred their way.  The last look I had was the two of them standing there, each with a baby in their arms, and the saddest, forlorn look on their faces.  I felt my heart would break.  I was deserting them when they really needed me.

We settled in the Philippines and while my heart still ached, I became busy in the work and prayed the time would pass fast for them.  A couple of months later, we had a call from my daughter.  Our little granddaughter was having digestive issues and it looked as if she might have to have surgery.  How I longed to go home, but we had just arrived and our budget did not really include money to make a trip home.  Rebekah assured me they would be fine and did not need us, but I could hear in her voice the longing for her mother.

Hanging up the phone, I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and told God how mad I was at Him.  I said, “I sold everything I had, gave up my time with my grandchildren to obey You.  The least you could do is take care of them.  I feel as if I am turning my back on my daughter.”

God did not strike me with lightning for speaking that way.  That’s the beauty of a relationship with God.  He knows our hearts, He understands our pain and He loves us.  I have never understood those who feel we cannot be totally honest with God – as if He does not already know our very thoughts.  He understood the love of a mother for her children.  He loved me in spite of my hurt and anger.

But quietly I felt that “still small voice” of God speaking to me.  He said, “I turned my back on my Son for you.”

For the first time in my life I got a little idea of how much God really loved me when He sent His Son to die on that cross.  John 3:16 took on new meaning for me.

And the end of the story – Robert and Barbara quickly developed a love for Grandma and our relationship is very close.  God also has given me many more grandchildren and I believe the example we set putting God first in our lives has had a tremendous influence on my children.  Putting God first is sometime hard, but always in the end, brings great blessings.

226718_1027030809507_6026_n (1)904829_10200477241527046_199482150_o

378840_3007937316620_810684864_n

Pray to God….sometimes it helps

My little seven-year-old granddaughter spent the night with me.  She has a stuffed character from Dr. Seuss that always joins us for games.  When she was very little we bought this character for her.  I named him Willie, gave him a voice and she began interacting with him.

As time has passed Willie has become a part of the family.  He goes with us to the movies, colors with us (I, of course, have to use his hands to help him color) and we have some great conversations between the three of us (Willie, my granddaughter and me).

37713911_10155762583738364_2472709704208351232_n

In the afternoon we started to play a game and she wanted Willie to join us.  Although we searched all over the house we could not find him.  It was hard to believe we could not locate him since we have packed up most of the “stuff” in our house in preparation for moving and there is not a lot of places he could be.

After a few minutes of searching my granddaughter stopped right in the middle of the living room and said,

“I’m going to pray to God.  Sometimes it helps.”

She then proceeded to pray a simple prayer.

“God, help us find Willie.  Amen.”

After the prayer I turned around and immediately saw Willie.  He was sitting behind my recliner.  We had walked around that chair several times and had not seen him.  But there he was.

I had to laugh to myself at her comment….”sometimes it helps.”

I thought of how much we probably all need to take that attitude.  When problems arrive, too often I try to figure out what I can do, I talk to family and friends for solutions, and I even “google” it.

Not that those things are wrong but what if I first said,

“I’m going to pray to God.  Sometimes it helps.”

 

When I Get to Heaven I’ll See….

Recently our youngest granddaughter had a sleepover with us.  We took her to a children’s museum.  On the way home we started playing a game we had played with our children when they were little to pass the time on a road trip.

My husband started by saying “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to take….”  He named something you would take on a picnic that started with the letter A.  I then repeated what he said and added an item starting with the letter B.  He then had to repeat those two items and add a third item starting with the letter C.  We continued going back and forth going down the alphabet.  Our young granddaughter loved it!

A few days later as my husband and I took a drive to a restaurant in another town that we love, he decided to play the game with a twist on it.  (He said this game was good for us old folks as it would help keep our minds sharp.)  Besides, it is fun.

The twist he gave us was “When I get to heaven I’ll see….”

When we finished the game (we had to skip the letters X and Z) I thought back over the things we had mentioned.  Interestingly, the items we mentioned were not mansions or harps or things that people often associate with heaven (although I’m not sure any of that is Biblical).

Rather we named our three grandchildren who died before we had the privilege of holding them in our arms.

  • Jacobi
  • Precious
  • William

We named family members that we cherished and that died way too young.

  • grandparents
  • Keith
  • Lonnie

We also thought of many that we have read about in the Bible that we would love to meet.

  • Barnabas
  • David
  • Moses
  • Naomi
  • Obadiah

For me that is what will be the wonder and joy of heaven.  The first joy, of course, will be to see our savior face to face.  But then just think of it:

  • To finally meet those precious grandchildren and share stories of our life and how we loved them.
  • To share with our loved ones the memories we had and also began a new relationship, one that will never require us to say goodbye.
  • And to meet all the saints who have lived before.
  • Can you imagine sitting with Moses and hearing him tell in his own words how he felt when he saw the burning bush?
  • Or Ruth when she left her family and home and set out with Naomi to Israel?
  • I’ll have a few questions for Paul about exactly what did he mean in some of his writings.
  • Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, William Tyndale and all the millions of people we have never heard of but who, like us, have stories to tell and experiences to share.

Some people think heaven will be a dull place.  Not me!  Since I am by nature a history bluff I will be busy talking with all those who have lived long before me – to hear in person their stories rather than just reading about them in a book.

  • Do you believe in heaven?
  • Are you looking forward to heaven?
  • What/who do you want to see when you get there?

 

 

 

Wisdom from Zoe

Love playing school with my granddaughter.  Although we have to play by her rules.

She tells me what character I will be – and she tells me what I am supposed to say.

So really I don’t have to use my imagination – I just follow Zoe’s scrip.

This week we had a music class.

She was the teacher – Mrs. Z.

Our stuffed animal friend, Willie, was himself – Willie.

I was Susie Q, a not very bright student.

student

She drew the treble clef on the chalk board and proceeded to explain to me how to remember what notes were on the different lines.

clef

For anyone who has had some music lessons you know we were taught that little sentence

Good boys do fine always

to help us remember the notes on the five lines were g – b – d – f – a.

She said we needed to come up with other ways to remember the notes.  Since Susie Q is not too bright, she could not think of any other sentences to remember the notes.  (Maybe that’s because Susie Q is really not a young student, but an old grandma whose mind is stuck on that sentence she learned years ago as a young child.)

But not to worry.  Mrs. Z is very intelligent and she had a new way to remember it.

Good burgers deserve fries always.

After this we had a math class and Mrs. Z tried to show Susie Q how to do the “new” math.

math

Needless to say, school ended very quickly after that as Susie Q could not understand the new math at all.

By the time school was over, Susie Q was exhausted and needed a nap.

Mrs. Z a/k/a Zoe must have enjoyed it because she told her mother:

I need a sleepover at Grandma’s.

We have set a date and I will need to spend some time trying to think of a new sentence for the treble clef lines, try to understand the new math and – most importantly – get a good nap in before she comes.

granma

 

 

 

Collecting Joy

Joy Journal

A gift from my youngest daughter

March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both.  It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday.  It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.

One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson.  Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:

Stick a ger

and

Humor Me

Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal

This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life.  When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down.  When someone pays you a compliment, write it down.  When you remember nice things from the past, write them down.  Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love.  When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet.  Joy is everywhere.  All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.

Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.

Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes.  Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity.  In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award.  Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!

So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it.  Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right.  She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.”  And it has.

Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them.  Here are just a few that make me smile and I  hope they will also bring a smile to your face.

DSCF0153(1)

Matthew and Robert – my ‘little grandsons now all grown up

March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc.  After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!

January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum.  On the way there he just kept talking and talking.  I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter.  So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.”  His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh.  He said, “It’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.”

DSCF0156(1)

My beautiful granddaughter who is also my namesake, Barbara

April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall.  Brought her a necklace and a headband.  We had tacos and sundaes.  She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me.  As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow.  I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good.  I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

DSCF0009

Granddaughter, Abby, has a lot of musical talent

I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us.  Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away.  Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?”  When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!”  Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.

There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading.  But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times.  Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.

As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

Get busy looking for joy!  I wish you good hunting!

 

 

What makes a man a Grandpa?

Scan_Pic0119

My daughters “Shadow” and “Giggles” with their beloved Grandpa

I remember his big hands.  They were very large, yet always gentle.

I remember the love and care he gave my daughters after their father was killed in an accident.

I remember the nick names he gave to both of them.  My oldest daughter was “Giggles” and my youngest was “Shadow.”

I remember how he understood my deep grief and sorrow after my husband’s death in a way no one else in the family did because he had also lost his first wife in death.

I remember how he just stood by my side in silence with his big hand on my shoulder in the days following my husband’s death while others in the family would be sharing their opinion on why God had allowed Lonnie to be taken from me and my little daughters.   Or, how he would give me a hug at family gatherings when my heart ached for the empty spot at the table where my husband would have sat and no one else in the family even mentioned his name.  It seemed at times as if they had never seen him as a part of our family.  But I knew that Grandpa Gerling missed him along with me and my girls.  He never had to say a word.  His hand on my shoulder, his hug, his whisper to me “It will get better in time” said it all.

Scan_Pic0079

My mother and step-father — Grandpa Gerling

He was not biologically a grandfather to my girls but if love counts for anything, he was their grandfather.  My husband’s family seemed too lost in their own grief after his death to offer any love or comfort to my daughters.  My own father had deserted me and my mother when I was 13 and although he came back into my life later he was always very negative when we were around him and critical of me.  My hair was too short.  My slacks were too tight.  So the only love they were shown by a grandfather was my step-dad, Grandpa Gerling.

He has been gone now for many years, but I still miss him.  I often think how much he would have enjoyed seeing my daughters’ children, how much he would have showered them with love.

This time of year I always think of him.  In the fall he would always fix us his goulash.  My girls and I now make that dish – and remember his kindness and love to us.

He was not their “real’ grandfather.  They shared no DNA.  But he was the only “real” grandfather they knew.  Because what makes a man a grandfather is more than sharing his DNA, it is sharing his love.

So as fall comes and I think about the trips at this time of year to Mom and Cliff’s house for goulash, I thank God for giving my daughters a “real” grandpa.