Joy and Crescent Rolls

My phone rang yesterday while I was working in the kitchen.  Of course, it was Aaron making one of his several calls from his day group…calls in which he updates me on his doings, reports good times or bad times with friends there, asks me when I’m coming to pick him up, and stresses that he wants me to come EARLY!!

Since this day was Friday, and since Friday is the day we usually have a special meal of Aaron’s choosing, this phone call greatly concerned food.  He also wanted to know if we were going on our Friday Wal-Mart trip to buy him his “end-of-week and beginning-of-weekend” snacks.

“MOM!!” he began.  “Are we going to Wal-Mart after you pick me up?!”

I assured him that we were.

“MOM!!” he continued.  “Can I get some Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to have for our supper?”

I assured him that we could.

“MOM!!” he added.  “Not the kind in the box but the kind that you bake in the oven.  Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!”

I assured him I understood.

And then he chuckled…his deep-throated chuckle of pure delight.

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls filled him with the greatest joy at that moment, a contagious joy that was passed on to me as I joined him with a laugh of my own.

One thing about Aaron that continues to teach me so much about handling life is his joy in the simplest of things…things that I often take for granted.

I typically don’t play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but for the past few years I have caved somewhat on that standard.  Two days ago, while cooking supper, I turned Pandora to a Christmas station.  Music has always, from my childhood, been a huge part of my life.  I listened as I prepared our meal, waiting for that illusive “Christmas spirit” to wash over me.

Instead, though, I was soon brushing away tears.  Silent Night was playing, and that song above all Christmas songs, reminds me of times past and of my parents and of how I miss them and of so many other memories.  Sweet memories, but memories now…people and events of the past, not the present.

And the present…the now…is where I wish they still were.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season, above all other seasons…with its music and traditions and memories…is so very full of emotion and expectations.

Expectations that often don’t materialize and so leave us with sadness.

In November of 2004, my parents called with the unexpected news that dad’s cancer was no longer in remission.  Doctors had found inoperable cancer in his liver.  All our close family was devastated at this news.  Gary and I decided to quickly change our Christmas plans that year.  We loaded up our van the next month just before Christmas and traveled the long distance home to West Virginia.  All of us wondered if this would be Dad’s last Christmas.

This long, sad trip was very hard for Aaron in all the ways that change and travel have always been hard for Aaron.  The most stressful aspect for Aaron, though…for all of us…was the raw emotion that we couldn’t hide.  Aaron doesn’t like crying and on this visit we couldn’t successfully hide all our tears from him.  The early morning that we left Mom and Dad’s to return to Kansas, we all stood in a circle as we held hands and prayed.  And we all cried.

Except for Aaron, who sat off to the side rocking in a recliner and saying over and over, “Crybabies!!  Crybabies!!  Crybabies!!”

To borrow an Aaron phrase, it was half sad and half funny!

Yet a very sweet moment with Aaron happened during that trip.  As Mom and Dad opened their Christmas presents, they unwrapped a framed poem of sorts that someone had given them.  Aaron saw it and he held it carefully as he began to read.  We all sat still and listened to him read every word in his monotone voice.  It was good that he was looking down and didn’t see my parent’s tears, and ours as well.

 

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I have this precious piece now and was looking at it the other day as I did some sorting.   I thought of it as I listened to Silent Night and my heart filled with emotions about what used to be and what isn’t now.

I know that I have a choice to make.  I also know what God has told me to do.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (I Thessalonians 5:18)

As the poem said, happiness is all around us.  I like to substitute the more meaningful word “joy” for happiness, for joy is a fruit of the Spirit in my life and is possible no matter my circumstances.  But whichever word you use, know truly that there is joy and happiness all around us, every day, in sometimes the smallest of ways.  Yet small things are huge when we look at them through the lens of thankfulness.

Over the years, life changes…a lot…but joy with a thankful heart should be a constant for us.

 

Aaron has seizures, but we are thankful for good doctors:

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Thankful for yummy and very cheesy chicken enchiladas:

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Thankful for God’s amazing creatures in our own yard:

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And thankful for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!

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Dad’s Bible

Eight years ago today we got the news that my Dad had stepped into heaven.  And for eight years before that, Dad had fought a hard fight against the cancer that eventually took his life.  So many stories of that time in our family…..so many memories of the month I spent with him and Mom before he died.  I’ve written much about it in the past.

This past Thanksgiving our family gathered in West Virginia, in our hometown.  Some still live there in Princeton.  Others had far to travel.  It was an epic gathering, really, and the first time many of us had seen each other in years.  Mom and Dad would have loved it, we all found ourselves saying over and over.  Wouldn’t they have been so happy that we did this?!

And look how we have grown.  This picture was taken in the mid-90’s.

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The below picture was taken this Thanksgiving.  Yes, we have multiplied!  And we were missing a few who weren’t able to come!

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We had a wonderful time, all too short, of hugs and laughter and lots of talking as we tried to catch up with each other.  The day was over all too quickly.  As nice as it was, though, I felt like something was missing.  It just didn’t feel the same.  I realized, as I thought about it, that the something missing was actually someone who was missing……Mom and Dad.

In the past they were the center of everything.  Stories…..laughter……teasing……singing.  So much of that revolved around them, and now for the first time this very important part of all our lives was gone.  That was the huge difference that I felt.  It just wasn’t the same, and I guess it just couldn’t be without Mom and Dad there as our focus.

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I’ve been thinking today about Dad on this anniversary of his death.  And remembering the very poignant part of our recent Thanksgiving meal when my brother, John, read to us out of Dad’s Bible.  He told us this story before he read Psalm 145.  In John’s own words:

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Regarding Dad’s Bible, it started on Thanksgiving of ’15, when I reached up to a shelf at home to get a Bible to read Psa 145 for our family.  I knew it was Dad’s Bible, but didn’t remember that he had carefully marked his daily readings with the dates on which he read each section (including the introductory notes and the 500 pages or so of study notes at the end).  When I looked at Psa 145, I noticed he had read it on Nov 26, 2000, exactly 15 years to the day before I was set to read it to my family.  There was something about that divine intervention that touched me very deeply.  When I got ready to read the same chapter to our family this year, the thought hit me to check his detailed medical journals to see what he was experiencing at the same time he was reading those passages of praise in Psalms.  He was right in the middle of his radiation treatments from his first bout with cancer.  He had already had the surgery to remove two-thirds of his right lung, and had already finished the grueling chemo treatments.  Now as he took radiation, he was circling verses like Psa 116:6, 116:15, 121:7, 126:3, 127:3-5, 131:2a. 138:8, and 139:16.  What a window into his soul to see the verses that God was using to comfort him, giving him hope and trust in the greatest challenge of his life.  And so characteristic of Dad, he was not talking with everyone about this.  It was a very intimate journey with his Lord that bolstered his soul as his body suffered.  I found myself thanking God for the man he was, and wishing I could talk with him about that journey.  I probably missed him more then than at any time since he had died.  What a treasure, though, to have that record of his triumphant faith in the midst of adversity.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m so glad John shared that with us.  Dad’s “triumphant faith in the midst of adversity” never wavered as his body wavered and finally succumbed to this disease that we all hate.  Dad remained true to the Lord, to Mom, and to his family.

And now today we five children carry with us his heritage of faith, as do many of our children and grandchildren.  I’m so very thankful for that!  Of all the many things to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving Day, that would be one of the biggest.

We miss you, Dad, but we know we’ll see you and Mom again.  Thanks for showing us the importance of following Christ, and for living out your own faith so beautifully and consistently.

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A Thankful Moment

 

I was winding down a long day of cooking on Tuesday night when Aaron came bounding into the kitchen.  “Mom!” he said.  “Will you print off some cheat codes for me on your computer?”

 

Now the last thing I wanted to do at that point was go down to my computer and start looking up cheat codes with Aaron.  So I pretty well told him that.  But Aaron doesn’t take no for an answer very easily when he’s so set on something as important as cheat codes for his Star Wars Legos game.  I know that about Aaron, and therefore I was soon in my computer chair with Aaron hovering over my shoulder.  He instructed me on what to type in order to arrive at the correct site.  We printed a page but it wasn’t right, so we printed again and thought it was right…..but soon I could see that look on Aaron’s face that told me this looking up cheat codes job wasn’t finished yet.

 

I was really too tired for this.  I had reached that point of bone tired frustration.  I just leaned over then as Aaron typed in the correct information himself.  Sure enough, there on the screen popped up the precise cheat codes that he needed.  It was just two pages.  I clicked the print icon while Aaron gleefully rubbed his hands together.  He held the two pages with as much delight as if he was holding the title to a new car.  I stapled them together and we were done.  Thankfully done!

 

“Thanks, Mom!”  Aaron said.  He thumped with his usual loudness up the stairs to the kitchen, while I more or less dragged myself behind him.  There was the counter full of pot and pans and other sundry dishes that wouldn’t fit into the dish washer, waiting on me to dig in and get them washed.

 

“Mom!” Aaron turned and said.  “Since you helped me, I’ll help you.  I’ll dry the dishes!”  This unsolicited offer to help was a surprise to me.  He was so sweet about it and so sincere that I wouldn’t dare say no…..even though the temptation was there.  His drying skills are sometimes lacking, while his talking skills never are.  I knew he would be halfway drying and all the way talking.  My bone tiredness wasn’t looking forward to that scene.  But the look on his face and the willingness he showed kept me from refusing his offer.

 

I told him that of course he could dry the dishes, but he noticed the time then.  Shower time!  So he hurried off to take his shower with the promise that he would return to dry dishes.  And sure enough, he did just that.  After his shower, he stood beside me with the drying towel and dried each dish to some degree.  And he placed them in a stack on top of the stove or on the counter, laughing at how they might fall over and talking all the while about whatever came into his head.

 

I realized that I wasn’t thinking about how tired I was.  I was enjoying this time with Aaron as he did his part to help.  Then I thought about Pastor Bob’s sermon on Sunday…..how the ten lepers were healed by Jesus, but only one returned to give his thanks to the One Who had healed him so miraculously.

 

It would have been expected for Aaron to hurriedly take his shower and then get right back on his Star Wars game, using his brand new cheat codes, without a thought in the world for dirty dishes that needed to be washed and dried.  But he didn’t.  He knew that I was tired and he knew that he could help.  Plus, it was his way of saying thank you to me for printing the cheat codes.

 

In a sense, Aaron was the one leper who returned to give thanks.  Aaron, who usually only thinks of Aaron, thought of me at that moment.  And he saw a way to say thank you…..a tangible way to express his appreciation to me.  How could I say no to that?  I’m so thankful I didn’t!

 

It was another unexpected blessing from Aaron….a side of Aaron not always seen.  We shared some thankfulness that night during this season of being thankful.  It was good for Aaron, and it was especially good for me.

 

May I remember to not only BE thankful in every situation, but to allow Aaron the opportunity to also express his thankfulness in the ways that he can.

 

Happy THANKSgiving, everyone!

 

In Everything

Teaching our children to say thank-you was a lesson that we started at a very early age.  Most parents do, I’m sure.  It was so cute to hear their little voices say those words, and very gratifying as parents when they said them without prompting.  Like all of life’s early lessons, though, it had to be taught.  Very few children will just naturally be thankful.

Sometimes Aaron is demanding.  “Mom! Come here!”   “Mom! Look!”  Mom! Bring me my coffee!”  I remind him all the time to say please and thank you.  Why are those words sometimes so hard for him to say?  And how often, after handing him something, do I stand there and wait?  He might notice me waiting and he might not.  If he doesn’t notice, I’ll eventually say those words that all of us have said many times.  “What do you say?” I’ll ask.  Then comes the thank-you, but not without my prompting.  An unprompted, spontaneous thank-you would have meant so much more to me.

How often, though, do I do this same thing to God?  How like a child I am in my relationship to Him!  For me, it’s easy to say thank-you for the obvious.  My husband, my children, my home, my health, my friends, food………..   The list can get long.  But I know there are times when God stands beside me waiting for me to say thank-you.  Sometimes I just forget to say the words.  Yet many times the thing He wants me to thank Him for is not something that I necessarily AM even thankful for. 

There He stands, waiting.  Waiting on me.  The eventual stirring in my heart is when I imagine Him leaning down toward me.  “What do you say?” He whispers to me.  And He waits for me to remember that He has said, “In everything give thanks.”  Not just the obvious……….not just the pleasant……….but in everything.  And when I finally remember to say thank-you, or I finally get over my hurt or stubbornness and say thank-you, I know that He is very pleased. 

He loves me.  He wants me to know that “in everything” He has my good in mind.  Saying those words isn’t a magic formula.  It’s instead an acknowledgement of trust on my part.  Even when I don’t feel thankful, just saying the words to Him opens my heart to a level of trust that I hadn’t known before.  I trust that this thing…….this situation…….is sent from God for my good and for His glory. 

What do you say?  Thank You, God.  Thank you.

 

 

What IS a Tootsie Roll?!

Yesterday was a typical day with Aaron.  But is any day with Aaron ever really typical?  I guess that depends on your definition and experience.  Let’s see…….

He was up early, as is usual anymore.  When he came downstairs he was full of talk concerning his keyboard, knowing that if he showers and does his other routine morning duties then Mom just might put in the keyboard so that he can play a game before we leave for his day group.  I urged him to just sit awhile and take his time, and yet I knew that this could backfire on me.  If I take too much of Aaron’s time, then he will get angry when he has to get off his computer later, saying that it’s my fault that he didn’t get to play longer, etc., etc.  I was already into the balancing act and he had only been downstairs a few minutes.

I had the radio on and was enjoying the Christmas music.  “That’s dumb,” Aaron informed me in his monotone voice. 

“What’s dumb?” I asked, although I knew. 

“Playing Christmas music.  It’s not Christmas yet!” he replied.

No amount of cheery talk of Christmas would change his mind, I knew.  I’ve allowed Christmas to come early for us this year as I’ve already worked on decorating the house, a job I’ve always done after Thanksgiving. The decorations don’t seem to bother Aaron, but the music is a different matter.  It’s not the first time that he has told me that this Christmas music doesn’t fit right now.  I get it, Aaron, I get it.

The rest of the morning went well, with Aaron getting his chores done and then being allowed some computer time.  Before we left the house, I saw that he had a small tootsie roll in his hand, which he unwrapped and popped into his mouth.   “Mom, I haven’t had a tootsie roll in a long time!” he declared.  And so this simple experience became of great importance as we drove to meet his group.  Do any of you remember his mayonnaise/mustard dilemma that I have written about in the past?  He still has such a hard time figuring out the difference in these two condiments.  What is mustard?  What is mayonnaise?  Is mayonnaise white mustard?  And at Subway he has asked for white mustard on his sandwich, to the great confusion of the one doing the sandwich fixing and the great delight of me as I have watched this scenario unfold.

So the tootsie roll issue reminded me of the mayonnaise issue.  “Mom, what’s a tootsie roll?” he asked.  I told him that a tootsie roll is a piece of candy.  Seems simple to me, but nothing is ever really so simple to Aaron.  A minute later – “But what IS a tootsie roll?”  OK, I thought……he needs more. 

“Aaron, a tootsie roll is chocolate candy.”

“So it’s chocolate?” he asked with surprise.

“Well, yes,” I answered, “but not chocolate like a Hershey bar.”

A few seconds of sweet silence.  Then, “So what’s a tootsie roll?”

And I realized that we were back to square one.

“It’s candy, Aaron.  Chocolate candy.”

I hoped it was enough.  It wasn’t.

“But it’s squishy.  Would you say it’s squishy?”

“Yes, Aaron.  It’s chocolate and it’s squishy.”

“So what is it?” he asked yet once again.

I knew he needed more from me, but what else could I give?  How else could I describe a tootsie roll to Aaron, who needed more precise information, obviously, on tootsie rolls? 

“A tootsie roll is sugar……and chocolate……..and other stuff……..and it’s squishy.  It’s just……..CANDY.”

Aaron pondered this for a few seconds as we neared our destination. 

“Then it’s licorice!” he exclaimed as we turned at the light.  I remember the location precisely, because these momentous moments stay ingrained in my brain.

Licorice?

Is mayonnaise white mustard?

Is a tootsie roll licorice?

Aaron has a way of narrowing my life down to these questions.

“No, Aaron.  It’s not licorice.  It’s a tootsie roll!  Tootsie rolls aren’t licorice.  They’re chocolate.  And there’s your ride!  Have a good day!  We’re blocking traffic.  Hurry!  Love you!”

Whew!

I’m hoping he’ll forget the tootsie rolls for a while and think about………turkey.

I can hear it now.  What is turkey?  Is turkey a bird?  What kind of bird?  Does it fly?  But birds fly.  Geese fly over our house.  I know!  A turkey is a goose!!

See what I mean by typical? 

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your turkey……..no questions!!

I Am Thankful For…………

I wanted to share this Thankful List that Aaron typed up when he was nine years old.   It was 1993, and Gary was stationed at Fort Leavenworth.  We had just returned that spring from living for six years in Germany.  This is a copy of Aaron’s list that we had given to my parents, with Dad’s handwritten date at the top……..so we wouldn’t forget.  I’m so glad he did that.  And I’m glad that we have this very endearing record of just what Aaron Moore was thankful for at the wise age of nine.   I know it’s not the best quality but I hope that you can read it.