NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Granny

Today, as my grandma gets closer and closer to passing on, I’ve decided to write about her. Maybe I’ll be able to work out a poem or something in her honor eventually, but for now I’ll share this:

We share a middle name and have a similar height and facial structure. I found an old photo of her when she was young and we look so similar. She liked to garden, go polka dancing, and play Dominoes. In her later years she was quite fond of puzzles and made one with African animals probably a hundred times.

She also had a sweet tooth and would eagerly eat anything with chocolate and peanut butter. We’ve made her chocolate peanut butter shakes for the past few years, and she would almost always ask for more.

She was very supportive, always ready to help when we got in a pickle or needed some cash, or when my parents needed a babysitter or wanted to borrow her big van for family road trips. She loved to give us gifts, and support us on mission trips, or encourage us to travel.

She did a lot of traveling herself. I’m told she went to Alaska twice, Europe, New York City, and Colorado. I remember flying to Hawaii with her. She was so excited to go with us and see the beautiful scenery and wear a lei.

I don’t remember her watching TV very much, if she joined others to watch something, she would often fell asleep. But I do remember going to an actual movie theater with her to watch The Adventures of Tintin and she just loved seeing the little white dog barking and running around.

She owned doxins or dachshunds and cats and I’m pretty sure some other animals at different points in her life.

And she was always very welcoming of new family members. Whenever someone got married, she made the new in-law feel part of the family. I know my dad would call her mom, even though she was my mom’s mom. And I think it’s a trait she’s passed on to the rest of her family. When my younger brother married, his wife was welcomed in as part of the family, free to call my parents mom and dad.

More recently, my grandma told me that her grandma only spoke German, and she had to speak German to talk to her. She would often recite the first 10 numbers in German to herself and tell us ‘good morning’ or ‘tastes good’ in German. I’ve actually started trying to learn some German now, partially because of my Grandma’s heritage and influence.

Even though she wanted to be called Granny, she accepted other names from her grand kids, particularly Nana.

She also had a great sense of humor. When we’d ask her how she was feeling, she’d hold up her hands and say “With my fingers.”

I’m going to miss her when she leaves us. I know it’ll be sad and hard. But I’m also a bit excited for her. Soon she’ll get to be with Jesus, and see all the people who’ve gone before her and are waiting to welcome her to her home in heaven.

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Death is not the end

Hopefully I’m not ruining the new Avengers movie for anyone, but if you haven’t seen it and don’t want any spoilers, maybe you should wait to read this blog post, although I won’t give anything too specific away.

This last week has brought a lot of change for me and a lot of interaction with death and it’s nearness. Last week my grandma started getting hospice treatment. She started with still doing her normal routine of coming to the kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But she soon had a harder time walking to and from her room and then last Sunday we had her moved into a hospital bed and our nurse said she’s not leaving the bed. That was a big change for me. I didn’t realize how fast this was going to go. I knew she had liver cancer and she was slowing down and eating less, but going from walking to bedridden was a big step and seemed to happen too fast.

Since then we’ve learned all about caring for her while she’s in a bed, how to help her sit up and move around and get changed. And hospice has been great with helping us through that. But in only a week I’ve seen her go from a bit of conversation, eating, drinking and even playing dominoes, to barely responding to our voices and mostly sleeping. We’re getting close to the end now. Last night our nurse came to check on her and she said it’ll be about a week.

I’ve done a lot of crying, especially when all her kids and grandkids gathered to sing, pray and share stories with each other and her on Saturday. It’s hard to let go, but I know she’s going to a better place and this is not the end.

And well, in the middle of all this I saw Infinity War. In the movie a lot of characters die, but the first time I watched the movie I didn’t cry at all. It’s like I just knew this isn’t the end and there is hope, partially because there is a part 2 to this movie and the next one will probably have a lot or all of the characters come back to life.

But I just found it interesting that with the movie and my grandma I can still find hope even in the midst of the death. It is sad and I don’t want to say goodbye. But for those in Christ, we have a sure hope that there is a Part 2 for us too, that there is a future for us, one without pain or suffering, or death. I also was finishing reading Revelation this past week and it was so nice to read about the new heaven and new earth and what all I have to look forward to.

So in case anyone else out there is going through something similar. Here are two verses that are bringing me comfort.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'” Revelation 14:13

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One Step at a Time

This past week has been hard. Little by little my family has discovered what’s going on with my grandma. It started last Tuesday, right after my last post. I started noticing that my grandma was looking yellow. My mom thought it could be jaundice and told my grandma’s doctor. He quickly ordered a blood test and then we had to wait for the results.

The next day we got the results, my grandma was definitely jaundice and the doctor guessed it was from liver cancer. But he said we could run another type of scan to make sure it wasn’t something else. She got the scan Friday and we again had to wait for results. Meanwhile, my grandma’s 87th birthday was on Saturday and since it was highly likely this would be her last birthday, we went all out. Relatives came in from out of town, we had cake, pie, brisket, and huge balloons. I think my grandma enjoyed it, and I’m glad she hasn’t been in any pain.

Then Monday, while I was taking my mom to her eye appointment, she got the call from the doctor. He said the scan did show a growing mass on my grandma’s liver and at her age he wouldn’t recommend surgery or other cancer fighting options.

So now we’re looking into Hospice and that whole thing. It’s been weird trying to process all of this. Like part of me is just like everything’s normal and I go about my life and work routines. And in a sense I’ve actually been preparing for this for a long time. Ever since my grandma came to live with us, I’ve seen her slow decline in health; her slowing down, sleeping more, having less of an appetite, forgetting the day or time, or even people.

But having a doctor give us an actual diagnosis and timeline is different, it makes it more real, more important to spend time with her while she’s here. And some days I cry, but I know this happens to everyone eventually and that God will be with us through this too.

So anyway, I’m just taking this one step at a time. But I’d appreciate prayers for my grandma and family.

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The Bird on the Wire

Have you ever seen a bird on a telephone wire? I’m sure you have, it’s so common that I often don’t notice it. But today I did. It’s windy today and as I watched, the bird swayed with the wind, buffeted back and forth, sometimes I was surprised he still hung on. I found myself thinking, “Just let go, just fly. It’s what you were made to do.”

But still the bird clung to the wire. And suddenly I saw myself as that bird. I cling to what’s comfortable, holding on to my little piece of wire. Then when the winds come, and life gets hard, when I feel like God is giving me more than I can handle, do I let go and trust Him? Or do I hold more stubbornly to what I want, what I think I need, what’s comfortable? Because when I do let go, I find I can fly. I have a faith that can move mountains, a hope that soars, a joy that can laugh at adversity. But I never experience that thrill if I don’t first let go of what I think will make me happy and trust that God really does have what’s best.

This past week my pastor said we don’t see how great faith is, until we’re in the storm. And as I look back on my life, I can see it’s true. When life is rolling along, everything fairly manageable, my faith doesn’t seem as important. Sometimes I forget it’s actually needed. But when those storms come, when the relative gets cancer, or the friend’s marriage is falling apart, or you lose your job, that’s when faith shows it’s strength. There’s a certain peace, or confidence God gives His children in the midst of suffering that you don’t experience until you’re in those moments. And even though it’s still hard, it’s also really good. The closest to God I’ve felt, has happened when I’m going through a hardship.

So that’s what God has been teaching me today; that He designed me to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him and that I’ll be happiest when I let go of all the other stuff, and choose to love and trust Him. Even if it takes a storm for me to do it, it’s worth it. because knowing Him is worth everything.

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A Cure for Fear and Ability to Forgive

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So there was a bombing in my neighborhood last night. I didn’t even know it had happened till friends started texting me. Then I saw the news. It was weird. I’ve heard plenty of stories about bombings or attacks around the world, my country, state, and even my city. But this one hit close to home. I told my friends I was safe, but part of me didn’t feel safe anymore. I went to bed with helicopters circling overhead and the knowledge that I wasn’t allowed to leave my home until daylight while the police and FBI investigated.

It’s hard to feel like your sense of comfort and security is taken away. But as I thought and prayed about the situation, I was reminded again and again of God’s presence. He promises to never leave or forsake His children. His love drives out fear. His security never fails and even in the midst of these bombings, He is in control. I can’t see all that He sees and I don’t know exactly what He’s doing. But I know I’m not alone and that I belong to Him and I’m safe with Him. He doesn’t promise I won’t face hardship, pain, grief or suffering. But He promises to be with me through it all. And that knowledge gives me hope and peace.

And so my fear has subsided, and my trust and faith in God has been built up. And even though whoever is doing this should be caught and stopped, I also know that whoever it is needs Jesus too. We all need His peace, comfort, love and forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives and redeems, I want to forgive whoever did this. So, yeah, I’m still processing what’s happened but I thought I’d share my feelings. Maybe someone else out there needed to hear this today.

So if you’re scared, spend some time with Jesus. If you’re worried, rest on His promises. And if you’re facing an enemy, choose to forgive, just as Christ forgave.

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Spring

I haven’t had anything I really want to write about this week, probably because it’s Spring Break here in Texas and I’m ready to just take a break. But I like being consistent with these blog posts, so why not write about the Top 5 Things about Spring in Texas?

5. The time change. Now I know some people don’t like the time change, and I actually agree with you. I’d be alright with getting rid of it all together. Getting up early on the first Sunday is especially hard. But I love how the days just seem longer after the time change has happened. Like suddenly we have an extra hour of sunlight and it just feels like we’re a huge step closer to summer.

4. And the Weather is perfect! Not too hot, not too cold, perfect for taking long walks and exploring the new growth.

3. Speaking of new growth, the Wildflowers are starting to come out! This is definitely the most beautiful part about spring. Not only do the colors give an excitement to the scenery but the smells can be amazing as well. My favorite wildflower the bluebonnet is already popping up everywhere.

2. And then there’s all the new life, whether it’s birds, butterflies, little critters, or bigger creatures. Spring starts the process all over again and I love seeing all the baby animals.

1. And the best part about Spring is Easter! And it’s not because of the chocolate and egg hunts. It’s because the hope that Easter gives us for the future is real. One day there really will be no more death and we will have eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus. I think ultimately this is what Spring is all about. It points us to the hope we have in Christ, that there is life after death and something amazing is coming.

So on that note, I hope you enjoy the Spring weather and if you have it, the Spring Break too.

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Maturity

I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be mature. There are many different expectations that people have for a ‘mature’ person. In our American culture, there seems to be an unwritten expectation that to be mature, or considered a real adult, you must be able to afford your own place to live, and support yourself financially. For many people, this just isn’t the case, either from poor job availability, or the expenses of an apartment or house, sometimes you just can’t make it on your own.

Now maybe living by yourself isn’t the real test when it comes to maturity, maybe it’s being smart, knowing the answers to lots of problems, or being confident in yourself, but either way I think our culture has a real obsession with independence. When you can do what you want, when you want, that means you’re grown up. It means you can make your own decisions and take care of yourself. Isn’t that what being an adult is all about?

I don’t want to say all of this is wrong, I think working and contributing to society is important. But something my pastor said last week has been stuck in my head. “Maturity is measured in dependence on Christ, not independence.” As humans we want control, we want our way, we’re selfish and self-centered and obsessed with getting what we want. But when we are in Christ, we put to death this old way of thinking. Instead we recognize that it isn’t about us and we have never been in control and never will be. God is the One who holds it all together and His plan is the one that will come to pass. And the more mature we become in Christ, the more we are okay with that. We are happy to let God have control and to rely on His help and guidance in all things. The more we depend on Him and not ourselves, the more mature we become.

I’ve seen this at work in my own life. When I try to be independent, and make my own plan for the day happen, every little hindrance gets me so frustrated and short-tempered and I can end up acting like a little kid who didn’t get their way. But when I give up my desire for control to God, and trust Him with how the day will go, I find that all the little unexpected bumps don’t matter. He already knew that traffic jam would happen, or that mess I need to clean up would occur. And He has a purpose for me in it. Then I can sit patiently, knowing He will get me where He wants me, when He wants me to be there. And some of those interruptions, are actually opportunities to do His work, show His love, be kind and display His glory to those around me.

So anyway, I hope my ramblings have encouraged you today and reminded you that you don’t have to have everything together or always know what to do or take care of yourself. Let go, and let God be in control and trust that He will work things out in the best way.

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Pondering Pets

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, it’s been a rough week. One of my cats got very sick and stopped eating. We took him to and from the vet multiple times and he ended up in an animal hospital over the weekend, but finally we had to just face it. He wasn’t going to pull through and it would be better to just put him down. I’ve never gone through this with a pet before. We used to have indoor/outdoor cats so they usually just disappeared or got hit by a car. We never had to be the ones to make the decision. And now I can see how hard it really is, and how drawn out the process is. We kept having hope that he would get better that different treatments would work, but they didn’t help. And even though I’ve cried more in this past week than I have in… a long time, I’ve also learned something.

I think sometimes how we love our pets can be a picture of how God loves us. It’s not a perfect picture, but there are several similarities. Like a pet owner, God owns us, we belong to Him and He wants what’s best for us. He loves us even when we make messes or need help and He delights in giving us good things that we enjoy. A book I’ve been reading called “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller goes into this further. In it I’ve seen how much God loves and cares for us, like a shepherd does for his sheep.

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And although we may get annoyed by that incessant meow, bark, or whimper, God never tires in caring for us and wants us to speak to Him in any circumstance through prayer. And though we may not know exactly what our pets are trying to tell us, God knows your very thoughts and exactly what you need.

And I think that just like I enjoy when one of my cats shows me affection and wants to be near me, get petted and maybe sit on my lap, God enjoys when we just want to be near Him and spend time with Him and sit in His presence.

So anyway, hope you are reminded of God’s deep love for you by my random thoughts today.

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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.

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Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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