Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Three-Year-Olds

In two weeks we would have a three-year-old in our house. I've been thinking a lot about what that would look like. I LOVE three! I was just telling someone the other day that it might be my all-time favorite age. They are so excited about life! (They still love their Mama!) They're so verbal and the constant attempts at new vocabulary end up with the cutest expressions. Their tiny little life-perspectives are exemplified in all the ways they try to learn new things-pulling on what they already know to make more assumptions, often either completely wrong or shockingly profound. Soaking in all the grammar around them like little sponges. And always so cute. So, so cute. As I was mulling over all of this, I stopped, in total awe of their tiny little life perspectives-TINY little life perspectives.

That's me, I thought.
I'm three. 

"You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You  discern my going and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain."
Psalms 139:1-6

Your knowledge, Lord, is too lofty for me to attain. YOU KNOW ME BETTER THAN I DO!
My three-year-old perspective is vain in comparison to your all-knowing, all-seeing eyes. 

My heart wandered back to my three-year-old. The ways he would test and learn, try and try again to grasp this life just a little more--explore with his speech, ask with his eyes, search with his actions. I would laugh with him, smile with him, marvel in his tiny little thoughts, cry with frustration, agonize over the trying times, all the while teaching and showing truth and more life. The perspective would broaden. Connections would be made. Vocabulary would grow, and progress, and we would keep guiding him through this life.

So I cry out to my God for more eyes to see, more ears to hear. For a three and a half-year-old's perspective, instead of just a three-year-old. Show me the big picture, Lord!

"How precious to me are your thoughts,
God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of
sand--
when I awake, I am still with you."
Psalms 139:17-18

Once again I'm left longing for the eternal perspective. The one I can't have yet. This birthday that will come and go without anyone here to celebrate-what is the Lord whispering?

"You'll have a thousand birthdays with him again someday." 
"Trust me."
"This is like a drop in the bucket."

But also,

"I hear you." 
"I feel your ache." 
"You are not alone."


"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the 
depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were
written in your book
before one of them came to be."
Psalms 139:13-16

All the days ordained for me...before one of them even came to be. I will praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 


Friday, May 19, 2017

Picnics & Cemeteries

I've been promising the kids for  months now that when the weather finally gets nice we could take a little trip up the road to the hidden cemetery.  It's less than a mile away and it's tucked back behind old, overgrown trees.  It's quaint. It's cute and we explored it with compassionate eyes this afternoon. We packed a picnic and put on running shoes, because Emmitt's request was that we "take a run together". We drove to a closer pull out since our road is deadly and packed the stroller for Asher. He caught us off guard with his snores in less than 10 minutes and we spent several minutes strolling the old stones reading them together. 

"Mom, what's this one say?" 

"How old is this one?"

"When was he born?"


Most of the headstones were old. We brushed off some thick moss and did our best to read them. Tiny little headstones with just initials from the 1800's had been replaced with communal family headstones listing all their loved ones with birth dates and death dates. Babies. So many babies that just read, "infant of..." in fancy cursive writing. Reading each made me wonder what that day looked like for each family. One family we found had buried four, FOUR children all under the age of five, all in a different year, and the mother lived to be 95. I read it three times cause I kind of couldn't fathom it. Another family buried a six month old, a five year old, and then the wife died 17 years before her husband. I read them all to Madi and she looked at me with pained eyes, "Mom, that's a LOT of suffering for that man!" Yeah, baby, I whispered. That's a lot of suffering. 

We kept wandering and we talked about whether these people were with Jesus in eternity right now. I looked at each one and I hoped they were. Some of these people had lived a couple years, some had lived decades, a few had rounded off a century, but they all had one thing in common. They certainly weren't here anymore. I thought about my restlessness with this world and I wondered if they were ready to meet their maker. 

Cemeteries give a weird aura. You either enter their presence and feel the urge to turn and run or the desire to wander and wrestle, almost like you're acknowledging that it will eventually be you on the other side of the dirt. I can't say I've ever minded them. Strange, maybe, but the longing to know each story has always drawn me in. I think that's how Madi felt today too as we read through the names and talked about the years. 



Finally, we found an old oak, threw down the blanket and pulled out the goods. We chatted and ate and the kids pulled down maple leaves to make brooms and fans and we wandered again before we left.  "This place sure is sad, Mom," Madi commented, but she never wanted to leave.

I agreed. There was certainly an element of sadness to it. But we talked about how that's real life. Finding joy, but always acknowledging the hard. The sad. The brokenhearted... because they are all around us.

That's what really keeps us hoping, right? Hoping that all the pain and sadness and heartache around us will someday be gone, truly gone? Hoping that there must be something better? 

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." C. S. Lewis

Indeed, C.S. Lewis, indeed.




Oh, also, there were BEES! :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Home, Lord, home, Lord - ALL THE WAY!"

My dad turned 65 last week.  Ten years ago that sounded old, and twenty years ago it sounded really old.  Neither of my grandpas made it to their 66th birthday, so as a kid my perspective was slightly skewed (not to mention anyone over 18 just IS old when you're little). So I suppose what I'm saying is that as I ease closer to the halfway mark of 65, I've realized it's actually not that old. (You're welcome, Dad ;)

Several months ago we had this one super sunny day in the middle of February. You probably know it if you live around here, because there are literally no other days to get it confused with. Anyway, in the excitement of the moment I sent a text to a few friends and low and behold we all spent our afternoon at the park soaking in the rays. It was glorious. The kids played and we chatted about all the things. Somehow dying came up and I announced that I couldn't wait to die and that my goal was 65 - I felt that was a fair age for me to aspire to as it still feels like forever but at the same time I really don't want to be 90! I think one of my friends may have choked on her water and they basically all assured me that was probably too young. I kind of agreed to disagree and we moved on with the conversation.

A few nights later it was my birthday (remember that almost halfway to 65 part?!?) and I had the opportunity to steal away for a couple hours and listen to whatever I wanted to all by my lonesome in the car. I turned on a podcast that I'd been wanting to get to and soaked in every breath of this sweet lady's words. Jill Briscoe is almost 82, grew up with bombs being dropped all around her during World War II, and has spent countless days in countries all over the world sharing Jesus with strangers.  She read this poem she wrote at the very end of one of her recent trips to India:

One day in India after a traumatic and wrenching ministry visit, Jesus asked me a hard question. It happened like this:
Shaken, drained, discouraged, sickly
Tired and troubled and depressed, 
Glad the time of serving over,
Now I’ll go home and rest.
Hot and humid was the weather
Sad and needy was the crowd, 
Feeling I had done my duty,
Earned the time of rest allowed. 
Soon I could return to family
"Yes," tomorrow I’d be gone, 
Sitting in the last hot meeting,
I tuned in to what went on.
Listened to my husband preaching,
My, it was a great last talk, 
All about the call of Jesus,
All about our life’s “faith walk.” 
Stuart opened up the Scriptures
Talked of Jesus’ pain and loss, 
How He who was our great sin bearer,
Bore our guilt upon His cross.
What a great word for the students!
Hoped “they’d” listened, yield their hearts, 
They were young, their lives before them,
Now their turn to do their part.
Time for prayers of dedication,
I was tired, so late at night,
Shut my eyes and wished it over,
When a picture sprang to sight!
Saw a cross alone, discarded
Lain at rest against a wall, 
Who’d lain down such holy symbol?
Who’d abandoned life’s “faith call”? 
Then a voice so dear – familiar,
Asked a question – pierced me through, 
Who is it that you’re expecting
Carrying it home for you?
How could I lay down that crossbeam?
How to think that no one saw? 
Who did I expect to lift it,
Carry it to heaven’s door? 
"Jesus, Jesus, please forgive me,
Carried Thou your cross for me, 
All the way to hell to save us,
Help me carry mine for Thee!"
"I’m no hero – special woman
Just a lady, old and gray, 
But my cross, Lord, I will carry,
Home, Lord, home, Lord – ALL THE WAY!" 
Spoke His voice so quiet – but clearly then:
"All the way home, Jill; all the way, all the way home!"
I sat there and wept in the car. "Home, Lord, home, Lord, all the way!" I whispered. The conversation fresh on my mind of dying at 65 creating a much needed conviction about whose life this really is.

Here's the truth. For the last two and a half years I haven't really felt like this is home, and I am so thankful for that perspective. We moved shortly after Zekey died and people were often asking how much we loved our  new home and if it really felt like "home" yet. I often smiled and said it was getting there, but deep down I've longed and prayed for nothing to ever feel like my "forever home". I know it's not here. I might be here for ten more years, or twenty or even forty more years, but I won't be here forever. I long for the day I'll be home, really, truly home, and if that means I'll have wrinkles and gray hair, then BRING IT ON old age!!! I know it's healthy to want to be with Jesus. I know deep down that to die would be such a gain {for me} but what I hadn't been focusing on is all that can be gained, for Him, while I'm still here. I want to be whole. I want to be free from sin and pain and all the evil in this world, and I want to spend my days in the presence of the Lord, but I want it to be in His perfect timing, and I want to carry my cross to the end. "Home, Lord, home Lord, all the way!"

So this is my cross - to dig deep into his word, to point my kids toward Jesus, to love my husband, to beg Him to show Himself to me more and more and ask Him to reach deep into the lives of my friends and family, to take big deep breaths and say, "You are good", even on the days that hurt, and to long to be made whole.

Jesus, help me carry this cross. I can not do it alone! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Five-and-a-half

We have a five year old in our house who is just dying to be five-and-a-half! He’s been asking wih eager anticipation now for months and we’ve basically had a count down until that day arrives… Because obviously five-and-a-half sounds so much bigger than just five!
I remember so many things about November 15th, 2014. For just an ordinary day, I can recite what we did almost hour by hour.  But sometime that afternoon I pulled our oldest up onto my lap and I said with excitement, guess what tomorrow is?!? It’s YOUR half-birthday! That means you’ll be exactly five-and-a-half! She squealed with excitement.
We don’t necessarily celebrate our half-birthdays, but we do get excited about them…at least the kids’! Milestones are the best when you’re a kid. They make you feel old and extra special, and it seemed so old to think about my biggest baby being five and a half already!!!
Little did I know that that day would be marked by much more than just a half-birthday. It would come and go without me ever exclaiming with excitement, You’re five-and-a-half! It would be a half-birthday forever marked by the sting of death.
So as we ease up to Emmitt’s half-birthday, the same half-birthday that marked such tragedy for Madi, there’s a part of me that gasps a little with the thought of Emmitt reaching this milestone. Could my second possibly be this big already? Has time really just kept marching by?  Will February 24th be another catastrophic landmark in my life or just another half-birthday in the books?
The thoughts are all over the board and the sentiment is high. Emmitt was so little when his brother died, just barely over three, but he’s always been the chattiest about Zekey. He often exclaims how he wants him back again and just this week he asked me with deep sincerity, “Mom would Zekey be playing Legos with me if he was still here?” The disappointment of that reality stung a little as I assured him he probably would be.
Yesterday my almost-five-and-a-half-year-old was taking pictures and videos of his baby brother on his watch when he exclaimed, “Mom, I should keep these ones, huh? Cause that way when Asher dies before I do, and I’m still alive, I’ll have pictures and videos to remember him with!” and I whispered, yeah baby, keep those pictures.
Five-and-a-half is here, and I’m excited to celebrate you, Emmitt Matthew!




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Death - Oh Your Sting

Today marks two. Two. Whole. Years. Two years since the air hasn’t smelled the same. Two years since the leaves started crunching a little different. Two years since my heart was broken -- shattered, into tiny little pieces.  I’ll never forget that morning, or all the things I did that week leading up to that day-when all things came to a screeching halt.

Death.  It doesn’t just sting. It downright hurts. It comes and it takes and gives nothing in return. It robs us not just of what we had, but of what we thought we had.  All the future memories. Gone.  The birthdays we were going to celebrate, all the Halloweens we had left to dress up. Death takes it all, and replaces it with tears. Buckets and buckets of salty tears.  And two years ago today marks two years since death came and it stung hard.  It tore away the baby in my arms and it left me gasping for air. It burned. It gouged. It was more than a sting.

So today we just sat and reminisced. We reminisced the burn, because today, today it’s just a sting. We reminisced the memories, and we reminisced the memories that came instead. The ones I never planned--not the birthdays that didn’t happen--but the relationships that DID. The tears that have been spilt, and the conversations that have come. The friends that have stood --stood tall like oaks, and the family that has been faithful. The love that has been poured, poured all over us, because of the sting.  


And just like that we celebrate being closer, TWO YEARS CLOSER to eternity. Two years closer to having every tear wiped away. Every. Salty. Tear.  There’s a song I can’t sing without crying and it goes, “When we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and TEARS ARE NO LONGER. We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring. You’re bride will come together and we’ll sing YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL.” And like clockwork the tears pour, because my tiny little soul can hardly imagine a day where death will be just a memory. It can hardly believe a day when the tears will never come. It can hardly believe a day when the STING will be GONE!

"'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" 
Revelation 21:4-5

Sunday, February 7, 2016

141...again

Today, I'm having my very first "guest blogger", and he doesn't even know it! :)

My dad sent this to me first thing this morning. It is beautiful and captures so much, so perfectly. I don't know how to encapsulate this day, besides to say I'm happy to see it come and go. Although there's a part of me that feels a twinge of jealousy and guilt to see my little Asher soar past this milestone, it is exactly what I want, all at the same time. Thank you, Jesus for 141 days...again. We love you and miss you, oh so much, Ezekiel James. We love you and celebrate you, oh so much, Asher David.

From my dad...

Asher at 141

Woke-up sometime after 5:00 AM as I did for so many months.
Asher is clueless today, to what this means, to what he reminds us of.
A celebration that this day has come, and that it is going.
Like the Angels in Heaven celebrating for the one lost soul that is redeemed but doesn’t know that a joyous party is going on. A day with a huge hole in our lives, now still a wound, but getting smaller.
Emmitt’s words when learning of a new baby brother: “This Baby is NOT going to die!”
The events of the day we lost Zekey are simply dreadful to recount. The 2:00 AM call. The anguished cries in that hospital room of our beautiful daughter and wonderful son-in-law. “He’s perfect!” She cried as the waves of grief crashed over them and into us.
And so he was, and is still, ever perfect in the arms of a Loving God. The same one who entrusted him to them and to all of us from the start.
But fear and grief want to say, to whisper, “It could happen again."
But it didn’t. Not this time. Not today. It could have. Yes, there is a risk in living that leaves us vulnerable to devastating injuries. The God-created antidote, the medicine, is turning to, not away from, the great healer, Jesus. He was for a time in Palestine a health-care machine, and is so today.
Thankfulness to our God, gratefulness is the Rx with love and time for this wound. Reach too far, stretch in the wrong way, and the wound re-opens. Grief is always waiting in ambush when least expected and least wanted. Sometimes we know it is coming, waiting for us and we are in anguish in anticipation of another smaller Tsunami of feelings. Christ is our Breakwater. Thankfulness is our response, because it turns us to Him and puts our loss, my loss, in His perspective, where it is appropriate.
This is it. Today is it. Gratefully we live through it. Saying again to the High King of Heaven, "Thank you for Ezekiel James Olson, and thank you for Asher David Olson.”
Thank you Emmitt, because you are right. This baby is not going to die. He’s not going to Heaven too. Not yet.
Asher will never know what he, and this day mean to all of us. He is at once a reminder of the sting and the ointment. 
So… smile today. Laugh for us to hear. Cry for your needs as you do so well. Remind us. Help us to say again, aloud, "Thank you Lord for 141 days! Twice."



Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Christmas Letter From The Olsons

Dear Friends & Family,

            We hope you had a merry Christmas, friends! By the time you’re reading this letter, you’ve probably already started tucking the tinsel away for next year.  I usually have an epiphany moment every December when my thoughts finally feel clear enough to sit down and write. This year that day felt like it was never going to come, but alas the Christmas letter lives on…
            Matt’s still enjoying his job at Stayton Middle school where he does his best to keep kids outta trouble…or get kids in trouble, I suppose it depends on whose perspective we’re talking about. A few weeks ago Emmitt and Madi started to get into a fight and I overheard Emmitt tell his sister, “It’s okay. I’ll just tell dad when he gets home cause he’s REALLY good at getting kids in trouble. That’s his JOB!” I figure it might be time for me to go back to work, because prior to that comment I was pretty sure that was my job too and that I was pretty good at it, but alas Dad pulls the trump card.
            Madi’s had a super busy year losing teeth, and attempting to regrow them. We’ve had every situation imaginable from, mom, mom, Emmitt just kicked out my tooth! To a half-asleep child stumbling into our room and saying, Dad my tooth fell out and I can’t find it! The tally is up to NINE and our dentist has assured us that there’s nothing abnormal about our lifestyle, teeth just don’t last very long around here.  Cue the look of an orthodontist rubbing hands together with excitement…
Our sweet girl continues to be the BEST big sister. She’s usually found playing school at home and kindly but firmly giving orders to her brother. She still loves to dance and performed in her third Nutcracker this month. Her latest accomplishment of a straight-leg-and-pointy-toed-cartwheel can be seen just about anywhere, including the grocery store if you’re there on a good day.  Please don’t do a cartwheel in the middle of the store. Is just another one of those statements I can add to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself saying. We’re so thankful for our big six-year-old and all the JOY that she brings to our lives.
Emmitt has grown so much in the last year! He still loves all things sports and since he is still too young to play any organized sports he’s chosen to use his knowledge by telling his sister EXACTLY how she’s supposed to do things. (She takes it like most first-borns do – she already knew that!) We spent lots of time in the water this summer and our four year old has added swimming to his list of accomplishments. However, he still likes to argue with me about how deep a body of water needs to be before he could drowned in it, to which I ALWAYS reply, ANYbody can drowned in ANY water. So please feel free to reiterate my statement whenever you see my son.
When this boy is not burning calories, or saying, mom, I’m hungry (which has been calculated at an average of 15x/day), he absolutely loves to talk about heaven. Last week he came running into the living room at my parents’ house with anger all over his face, Mom, Jude is LYING! He thinks we’re gonna live in heaven forever and that’s NOT true! We’re gonna live on the new earth again AFTER we go to heaven!  We assured the boys that in theory they were both right, heaven will just move TO the restored earth. They both seemed satisfied and went right back to playing. We’re trying to encourage more grace in his conversations, but obviously we have a ways to go…
Our latest addition to the family, Asher David, arrived on September 19th and has brought lots of screaming (mostly on his part), but even more JOY to the family. He’s extra spicey and seems to like things to be done in a timely fashion. He’s also equally sweet and always needs to be right in the middle of whatever is happening. We love everything about him.  We chose his name because it means “happy” and “blessed” and the smiles he has brought have been irreplaceable.
I struggled with writing the Christmas letter this year because I hated the idea of not painting reality in the midst of highlighting our highpoints this year. The Christmas season came upon us in a hurry and my initial thought was to curl up in a ball and hide until it was all over.  For some reason it feels like pain is magnified when happy is all around me, no matter how hard I try to fight it.
Thankfully, the anticipation our children had for Christmas was Off. The. Charts. And as I stood back and watched their excitement unfold, my heart began to mirror their anticipation, not just for Christmas, but for the reality of what the first Christmas really brought…Christ coming again, not as a baby, but to take us home forever.
We sat around the breakfast table the day after Christmas and Emmitt said, Mom, Dad, is Christmas over? All those days leading up to the 25th, the days where he asked seven or eight times how many days it was until Christmas. The days that he begged with all that was in him to open just one present. The days he could hardly fall asleep at night because he wanted it to be Christmas so bad. They were over and it was obvious he found himself somewhat dissatisfied.  We took that moment to explain to him how much our hearts long for the day of seeing Jesus face to face and how we will have absolutely NO disappointment on that day. None. I love these children, and I love how the Lord uses them to mirror our relationship with our Jesus.
We hope you found yourselves just a little bit restless at the end of this Christmas season. Not because your day wasn’t wonderful and filled with the love of family and friends celebrating Jesus’ birth, but because we really do have something even bigger to anticipate.  Merry (late) Christmas, Friends!

With Love,


The Olsons




Monday, November 9, 2015

A different kind of Fall...

Fall has always been my favorite. Always. I even have my kiddos trained to notice every tree that's turning colors. We ooh and ahh every Wednesday as we drive to ballet over our favorite street that is lined with the most gorgeous array of yellows, reds, oranges, and greens. The sunsets and the sunrises speak thousands of words in just one glimpse. There's no doubt of our faithful Heavenly Father's hands as He seems to speak the loudest through all of His creation during these days. I love it. 

Every year as summer wraps up, and the air outside begins to change scent, a mix of first rains, burn piles, and cold crisp dew, we get excited about the festivities of Fall. Talks of trips to the pumpkin patch and picking apples at the farm begin to bloom. Football games, hot cocoa and homemade caramel corn never sound so inviting.

This year, the beauty has been at an all time high. Or maybe my senses have just been tuned lately. The overwhelming sunrises seem to come at just the right time, taking our breath away before we've even gotten up for the day. The sun has been dropping right outside our kitchen window leaving an incredible evening sky, night after night. My memories drift to years past and all the trips to Beilke Farms that we've taken. I've picked apples there since before Madi turned one and every year we've come home with at least a bucket more than the previous year. Hours and hours are then poured into chopping, coring, and boiling apples until they've magically evolved into smooth warm sauce. Smells that bring me back to my own childhood and the excitement of helping my mom smash apples through a metal sieve.

But for the first time in over half a dozen years, we didn't take a trip to the apple farm. We didn't take a trip to the pumpkin patch. And although we went to a handful of football games, it wasn't the usual dozen.

Don't worry, we've started in on new traditions, like raking 5,000,000,000 leaves (number not exaggerated) into endless piles and bounding into them. And I suppose we'll work our way back up to our traditions of years past, but for now I'm reveling in memories. In memories that were made before these sunsets seemed to scream so loudly. In memories made when I thought I had control over this life. 

I'm thankful for my memories, and for these beautiful fall colors, and I don't find it ironic one bit that the Lord took our boy home during this most beautiful time of the year. Our last memories with him include doing some of our most favorite things, during the most gorgeous season, and that, that was planned.


So when I glance out the back window and catch a glimpse of purples, oranges, and a hundred other shades of gorgeous, I smile to think that sunrises must be even more gorgeous in heaven... and the most gorgeous when this earth has been transformed to perfection one day.