Mother love

There is an essence to raising children that calls forth something within you that you didn’t know was there.

Childbirth alone is something monumental and terrifying but somehow we do this big thing that seems in the last moments insurmountable.

It is exhilarating and the end result is nothing short of a miracle.

What that little miracle of a life requires of you as a mother is beyond description or measure.

Sometimes I feel like a pretty capable mother and other days I wonder what on earth I’m doing.

These last few days, crippled with grief, I have been unable.  Unable to see or meet even the needs staring me in the face.  My own mother (and my father) stepped into my life and basically took things over.  Despite her own sadness as her mother’s (my grandmother’s) health was failing rapidly in a hospital across the country, she hopped on a plane back here and stepped in as only a mom can do.  Many asked what they could do and sometimes I could put together a request.  But mostly, I could not.

And that is where my mom and dad stepped in.  They and my sisters made sense of disorder.  They gently put pieces together and figured out what to do.  Mom told me where I should be and made it work for me to be there.  They loved our children.

Last night, completely without an ounce of energy, patience or anything left in me.  I went to bed.  Chris put Kyler to bed (and Rylee too I thought).  But then he was gone and they were quietly whispering a soft conversation in the hallway.  The quietest whisper I’ve ever heard from them.

I mustered all I had and told them, from my own bed, to go to sleep.

Rylee offered to tuck Kyler in.  She did and then went to bed.

Three minutes pass and Kyler is stealthily tip-toeing into my room.

Deep breath.

I can’t even lift my head or move any of my limbs I am so weary.

I say nothing and listen.  He stands right near my head and starts singing “Mommies, Daddies, brothers and sisters….please come back.”

He sweetly stands there singing and whispering my name for several minutes.

I finally turn my head.  I want to be frustrated and snap and tell him to “GET IN BED!”.

Then I remember.

He is sad too, in his own little 3 year old way.

So I muster every ounce of energy I don’t have, get out of bed, take his chubby hand and walk him back to bed.

I tuck him in, rub his naked soft back and play with his hair.

I get up to leave and he says in the most un-whiny but slightly desperate voice, “Mama, I’m askin’ please.  Please, please will you lay with me and snuggle me?”

And despite having nothing left to give and our policy of “once you’re tucked in you stay and bed and go to sleep”, I say yes.

Little life lessons

As we meander through our days, we’re learning new things along the way…

Like choosing Charlotte’s Web for our movie selection as the kids snuggle in my bed and I answer phone calls and emails was probably not the best choice for such a week as this.

Although it would seem to me that Kyler is relatively unscathed by the sadness surrounding him, as he watched a movie he’s seen and enjoyed many times, his response told me his little 3 year old heart is hurting too.  Rylee described it all to me later in the day:

“Mama, first he cupped his face in his hands.  You know, during the part of the movie where Charlotte dies?  Then he started weeping with tears down his face.  And then, he was weeping loud and I had to come and get you then.  He was so sad.”

Sweet little boy, I cradled him a long time and we shared some serious love.  No words.  Just lovin.

I also learned that when the heart is in agony, the stomach is very unhappy as well.  Cheese pizza from Costco is surely the worst thing to feed a stomach when one’s heart is hurting.  It may sound good.  But it is a very bad idea.

In general, Costco on a busy Saturday when life seems to be crumbling is not the best place to be.   A bottle of wine, one of my father-in-law’s favorites, nearly undid me and tears were so very close.  I started to recall the conversation we had just weeks ago about screw top wine bottles versus corks.  The recalling brought tears and I hid my head as I recognized someone I know but don’t know well enough to want to cry with in the wine aisle.

And as if I needed another reminder, God gives the sweetest little gifts in the midst of great pain.  As we were perusing dinner options, I heard my sister say “SHUT UP!”  but in a good way, as in I-can’t-believe-this-NO-WAY!  She ran into a precious friend who was only in town from out of state for 2 short days who she wouldn’t have otherwise seen.  They caught up for a bit and it was wonderful.

As my sister talked with Rylee who was struggling to understand why we were still sad, she reminded her that in a few months she would have a new baby cousin to play with.  It was a beautiful reminder of how life works and that there is great joy in our life as we anticipate the arrival of a new member of the Jorgenson family.

Rylee, our question asker, keeps asking questions.  They are sweet and tender and repetitive and hard to answer.

But she needs to ask them and we keep answering.

Even though we don’t have the answers.

The power of presence

It was July 2006.

I had just become the mother of three.

Kyler joined our family July 6 and we were just settling into our new life together.

He was a peach of a baby.  Mellow, sweet and beautiful.

A few short weeks after he was born I opened my email folder and read an email that broke my heart.

I could blame it on post-partum hormones or any number of things, but I sat immobilized at my computer and wept.

It was from a dear friend, the friend who when I described her to other people (she lived just north of the border in Canada) the words I always used were “She’s pretty much the sweetest person I’ve ever known in my life”.  And that summed it up nicely.  Shauna had quickly become someone I loved spending time with in college when I went to school in British Columbia.  A pending wedding brought me to finish school down here.  In 1999, she stood with me as a bridesmaid in that wedding of mine.

Fast forward a few years and we were still emailing and writing and meeting halfway for coffee and peanut butter pie.

So when she emailed me in July of 2006 to tell me that her father had died instantly of a heart attack while golfing, I was shocked and couldn’t imagine what that would feel like.

Despite the fact that Kyler was just a few weeks old, I asked Chris if I could go to her dad’s funeral.  It would involve flying across our state, renting a car, crossing the border into Canada (which is tricky sometimes with a new baby and without that baby’s dad), getting to a hotel in a town I’d never heard of before.  At the time, none of that seemed to matter (now it sounds just a little crazy!), I only knew one thing –  the service would take place on a certain day and I simply had to be there.

You see a couple of years prior I had experienced something very painful that left me with an indelible mark on my heart.

When my grandparents died, they lived very close to us, and almost no one came to their funeral from the church where my husband pastored at the time.  Virtually none of our friends came.  I had no idea it even mattered to me that they would be there.  I would have told them “Don’t come, don’t worry about it” had they specifically asked.

But in the moment when I walked in the door behind my grandfather’s casket – 6 months pregnant with Rylee – I was sad.  Not just sad from missing him but sad because people that I loved weren’t there to witness with me and honor the memory of his life.

I realized in that moment how much power there is the presence of people sharing in the important things of life together.  There is something deep and meaningful that is communicated by simply BEING somewhere with someone you love who is hurting.  Even if you didn’t know their grandpa, you know them.  Even if you have something else you’d rather be doing.  Even if you have no idea what the right thing is to say.

So I went with my new baby northward to a darling little town called Nelson, BC where I discovered they roasted great coffee and where I could live out love to my friend.  And I will be forever glad that I did.  Very few of her friends were able to come because of how far away it was from where she lived.  Getting to smile at her and hug her and share the experience of that day with her made it all worth it.

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Thank you to each one who is sharing this journey with us.  We feel like we’re headed somewhere but we don’t know how to get there and we didn’t have a choice in the destination.  Such is the nature of grief I suppose.

We are forever grateful for your prayers and kindness.

Gerald Blaz Strovas

Gerald (Jerry) Blaz Strovas of North Bend, WA died on January 20, 2010.  He was 70.

Mr. Strovas was born on April 9, 1939 in Black Diamond, Colorado.  He married Jacqueline Riley in Borger, Texas on June 4, 1959.  They were married for 50 years.

In addition to his wife, survivors include his sister, Fran Braden of Borger, Texas, brother, Denny and his wife Carolyn Strovas of Amarillo, TX, his daughter, Carissa and her husband Deke Crews of Birmingham, AL, son Christopher and his wife Karissa Strovas of Bothell, WA and six grandkids – Sarah and Cole Crews, and Rylee, Caleb, Kyler, and Audrey Strovas.  Preceded in death by his infant son Jerry Lynn Strovas.

Mr. Strovas was a loving husband, father, and grandfather.  After growing up in Borger, Texas, Jerry and Jackie moved out west with the Mobil Oil Corporation.  After many years with Mobil, Jerry owned the Paul Bunyan Market in North Bend, WA.  His most recent years, Jerry has sold real estate in the Northwest.  However, family and the outdoors were his passion.  He spent the last number of years spending precious time with his grandkids in Washington and Alabama and hunting and fishing in Washington and Alaska.  Jerry had a smile and a laugh for everyone he met.  He will be missed.

Remembrances may be made to the American Heart Association.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, January 27th at 2:00pm at Calvary Chapel North Bend, 1556 Boalch Ave NW, North Bend, WA 98045.  A reception will follow.

Aquarium woes

So that I calm down and can regain some mental clarity, let me share about our morning…

Going to the aquarium is somewhat of my nemesis.  I wrote first about it here.

Today in an effort to provide the kids with some welcome distraction from all the tears and the details that are taking over the lives of everyone right now, we headed to the aquarium downtown.

It was a decision made by me but without my complete permission.

I almost let Caleb get in the car in his pajamas.  No one brushed their hair.  I did not pack snacks and waters for everyone as usual.

Life today is simply not life ‘as usual’.

We got there way too early, I was so not with it that I never even looked at the clock.

In my current state, I set my phone and Audrey’s sippy cup down in the hood of the stroller.  In 5 short minutes I noticed dripping.  My phone was immersed in 2 inches of water.  I took it apart and took a deep breath.

It was fried.  We walked into the aquarium, tried to dry it out on an air vent.

My dad offers to go to T-Mobile and get me a new phone, I have no choice but ‘yes’.  With all the details and plans of the week, my phone is my lifeline, my greatest tool for getting done what must get done.

We set out for tidepools, as shaky as I am I hold on to kids with two hands as I dangle them over the water to touch some starfish.  My phone in water is bad but one of my kids in the tidepool might certainly be my undoing.

Dad is back in what seems like no time and as soon as he sets the new phone in my hand it rings and I answer and continue on the path before me …. someone has found shoes for my boys to wear on Wednesday.  Beat up tennis shoes are not proper funeral attire and I am thankful again for the gift of people and the extended arms of Jesus.

Little blessings.

Five minutes pass, we round a bend and continue toward the exit.  I’ve been counting all morning rather neurotically “one, two, three, four” out loud or in my head.  Determined not to lose one of my children.

But alas, Kyler is gone.  I look and count and everyone in our group is up ahead.  He is not there.

I start retracing my steps and begin sure and sudden panic.

I find him and hold him as the mama who was with him releases him to me.  He is sobbing.

I hold back tears and hold on tight to my little boy.

I realize then that I’ve taken on more than was reasonable but it’s a bit late for that to matter.

We survive lunch and make it safely to the car and really, everyone is okay.

Deep breath.

No aquarium for a while.

Another deep breath.

We will all make it through this.

Joy intermingled

As always, when life seems to stand still in the midst of heartache and loss, it keeps on moving and there is forever joy mixed in with the pain.

For instance,  my kids have been loved on and cared for more in the last 3 days by other members of our family than me and they think it’s pretty cool.  They are aware of what has happened but cannot process much of the reality of it.

Rylee tells me “Mama, are you sure this really happened?  It doesn’t seem like it could be real. Is Grampy really gone?”

Her words take my breath away and I respond on my knees at her level…”I feel exactly the same way.”

The boys still think it’s funny when someone farts at the dinner table.

Or when Kyler comes out of the bathroom having taken all his clothes off.

Or when they see Audrey pick up the cat by her tail.

The smiles will return for us.  The laughter that fills this home will come again.

But for the moment grief lives here and I know that is okay.

I thought I would faint with heartbreak as I watched my mother-in-law wring out and hang her her husbands clothing on the line to dry.

We don’t know how to walk this road.

How does one summarize the life of someone so dear in a couple of paragraphs?

Aren’t we too young to know how to do this?

Are we ever old enough to know how to do this?

Probably not.

The news that long time friends of my parents after 12 years of trying to get pregnant and two successful adoptions, are pregnant brought joy-filled tears today.

Finding an appropriate dress to wear to a funeral in a few short minutes of looking off the clearance rack  was one pleasant little gift of the day.

Abundant food, enough to cover our kitchen counters and table and two chairs left me sobbing in the kitchen yesterday.  I’m pretty sure food=love.  In a very complicated way actually, that food was like a piece of healing to my heart.  After a less than wonderful departure from our 10 years in ministry at church last fall, it was hands from that community that brought food to nourish us on this incredibly painful road.  It is so like God to bring things full circle….and rarely in the way I expect.

Although I missed the girls getaway with 3 of my best friends in Denver this weekend, I was blessed beyond measure to know that many there including my favorite author Sally Clarkson (who put on the conference) were praying for our family to get through these days.  Sally even sent me her latest book, signed by herself, which again was a sweet gift in the midst of it all.

God is good, all the time.  There is a constant swirling together of joy and pain.  In these moments of deep sadness its easy under the weight of it all to miss the good.

But it is here.

Just trying to breathe

(I wrote this on Thursday….the writing is helping me stay closer to sanity)

It was all I could do to keep breathing today.

Waiting, hoping, longing for good news.

My sister (almost 5 months pregnant) offered again and again to come in the middle of the night.  I kept saying no, wanting to not need her because needing meant things not going well.  Wanting it all to work out okay.

Finally I said yes.  I felt my heart calm when she walked in the door.  I felt like the younger sister for once.  I quit wandering and refolding the same shirts.  Even at 30 years old and beyond the comfort a sister can bring overwhelms me, I am so thankful I have two of them.  We nestled into my bed with fresh flannel sheets and chased elusive sleep in between constant cell phone updates.

No news.  No news.  No news.

My sister had to go, to care for her little boy at home so her husband could go to my husband over the mountains to help search.  To bring love.  To bring family.  Her sacrifice freely given and gratefully received.

Then news.

The strain in his voice when he called.

I pictured his face and fell to my knees.

The only word I could seem to find was “no, no and no”.

I kept blinking my eyes.  It isn’t real.

But it is.

In one instant our life is forever changed.  No warning.  No getting ready.  No goodbyes.

Just gone.

Agony in waiting for the one I love to walk in the door many hours later.

Obsessive housecleaning.

Confused children with really hard questions to ask.

Food, warm and nourishing, prepared with love and tears.

A hug that lingers long and speaks multitudes into my soul.

Tears run down both our cheeks and I am again touched by a friend who breathes the character of Jesus to me.

Compassion.  No trite words.  Listening.  Loving.

More waiting then they come.

His mother.  A widow.  In one moment, life is never the same.

His face so weary and broken I feel my heart sink to the floor as he walks through our door.

Cheek to cheek my breath leaves me as I think what his eyes witnessed today.

He whispers.  My body wraps his with everything I have.

Long embraces.  So many tears.

I gently remind everyone they must eat.  They say no then take plates and eat everything.

Sadness covers our home despite the busy laughter and buzz of small children playing.

It will lift.  I know.

There is One who will turn our mourning into dancing who will bring peace and comfort beyond words.

Just not today.

Under a mountain of sadness

A missed return home.

A wife’s worry.

A phone call.

An empty truck.

Dark, cold rain.

Hours on the road.

Hope.

A son.

Looking.

Not finding.

Desperation.

Waiting.

Searching again.

Finding.

Without life.

Despair.

Grief beyond measure.

They are only words and they are few at that.  It may not make sense to you but it’s my minds best way to process.  Process that which I cannot understand or fathom or explain.

A mountain of sadness and loss.

He read my blog every day.

Sometimes he told me it made him laugh.

That made me smile.

He gave life to the man who holds my heart.

He raised a boy whose name became mine.

“I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees” (Mat Kearney)

I guess we are.

In that instant I screamed.

No.

Not happening.

Knees hit the floor.

Yes.

It is real.

He is gone.

Prescription drug conspiracy

I realize conspiracy is a strong word.

But that’s the word I deemed appropriate last month when I filled several prescriptions as I fought a wicked bilateral kidney infection.

I am well aware that money drives the pharmaceutical industry in America and frankly that money drives most things in America.  But when the reality of it was staring me in the face I was mad.  Really, really mad.

My mom had sent me a Consumer Reports article last year about drug costs and the incredible mark ups.  I brushed it off, we hardly ever get prescriptions for anything.  I momentarily thought it unfair for the chronically ill and the aging population in our country and then forgot about it.

Fast forward to December when after an utterly incompetent doctor provided me with such inadequate care that I ended up in the ER in the wee hours of the morning and likely incurred notable damage to my kidneys (and a $2,000 ER bill despite having insurance!).

On the way to fill another round of antibiotics I remembered what I’d heard from my mom and other various places and had it called in to Costco instead.  This was the result:

7 days of generic CIPRO antibiotic from Walgreens $46

7 days of generic CIPRO antibiotic from Costco $6.50

How is that possible?  How could it vary that much? Don’t they care about the old people who need 10 different prescriptions daily to stay alive and live on small, fixed incomes?

Because prescriptions are the prime money maker for Walgreens, Bartells, Rite Aid and the like.  Everything else is fairly superfluous.  Costco has taken heat for their low prices and their unwillingness to stick it to the American drug consumers.  And because when you don’t feel good, going to Costco to get drugs is less appealing than the pharmacy on the corner in your neighborhood.

As if I didn’t love Costco enough already with their giant carts and humongous packs of toilet paper.

I know that there is so much more to this issue but just thought it might be helpful to pass on!

Incredible inspiration

At the thrift store last weekend I grabbed a couple of the books from this series, it was published by YWAM so I figured I would probably enjoy it. There are 25 books total in the series, called Heroes for Young Readers.  It is written in rhyming form, so it’s very catchy and easy to read out loud.  As I read the kids the story of Gladys Aylward and her incredible journey through the hills of China rescuing 94 orphans from the Japanese invasion, I wept to the point I couldn’t even talk.  I was blown away by her faith and by the difference her life made in the lives of those children.

Finding non-fiction that is appealing and interesting to 5 and 6 year olds is harder than I’d expected.  And I love reading Little House on the Prairie and The Boxcar Children, but there is something very inspiring reading about something that really happened.   Rylee requested for more yesterday, she asked “Can we read about the heroes again, please?!”.

So if you are looking for a short, powerful story to read to your children about men and women whose lives made an amazing impact in the world around them, try and track some of these down.