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Tag: Reflections

Growing Up

Growing Up


When does growing up turn into growing old?  Is it a number of birthdays, a state of mind, or a place in the generational family tree?


Grandparents have been heavy on my mind and heart recently.  When Nathan was born, Than and I had eight grandparents all living independently.  We were thrilled to introduce our new baby to these special people, knowing it wouldn’t last forever.


When Katya came along, we still had all eight!  Each of them was a memorable and distinct person to our toddler son, and we wondered if our infant daughter would know them as well.


By the time Katya was 4 and Nathan was 7, four of the eight had moved into senior facilities of one kind or another.  Both of my kids knew and loved them.


Shortly after Katya’s 6th birthday, just before Nathan turned 9, we lost two of the grandparents in quick succession.  There was sadness over the loss, more sadness over watching people around us grieve, and lots of questions about heaven from the kids.


Now, with Katya 7 and Nathan almost 10, one more face is missing from the lineup.  Two of the remaining five are currently in rehabilitation facilities following serious health challenges.  Life continues to change, and as my kids grow older so do my grandparents.


I am so grateful to these grandparents, both the ones that are mine by birth and those that are mine through marriage.  I am grateful to be part of a family that is tied together–in places, still four generations deep on this side of heaven.  I am grateful for these wise people who have patiently shaped and molded my parents, and in turn me.  I am grateful for the opportunity to watch 8 different colors and styles of aging, 8 different men and women farther along the road that I too am traveling, 8 different stories that feed the roots of my own story, 8 different faith journeys that still point to a faithful God.

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The most dramatic spiritual conversion story I have ever heard can’t top the power of a life given to God all the way through to the very end.  I am privileged to be watching these stories playing out, and challenged by the ways I am needed to be part of their lives.  I wonder what my own road will look like, if it will be as long as theirs, and how I will act and live when I am in their shoes.  I welcome the lessons I am learning, and wonder if the “Thoughts on Aging…” notes in my journal are at all close to the thoughts I will really have when the end is so much closer than the beginning.  I hope that I continue to grow up, and I am grateful for the growing up that God still has in store for my grandparents.


(Note, all the photos in this post feature my Grandpa Topping.  I’ve lined them up in chronological order, starting when he went to serve in WW2 and ending with Katya’s Bible presentation at Christmas.  The baby and the girl with the glasses are me.  Gramps is the one most in my thoughts today, and he’s the one I have the most photos of!!)

A Pounding…

A Pounding…

Late last night, an evening rainstorm turned nasty.  Eventually the pounding of hail on the roof woke both kids, sending them looking for comfort and reassurance as the heavy barrage continued.  It was really hard to soothe my crying daughter when, on the inside, I was feeling sad and angry myself.  I hate hail because it makes me feel so powerless and trapped, and it is so destructive at a hopeful “growing” time of year.  I didn’t even want to look out the window this morning, so Than went out to survey the damage first before I could bring myself to check it out in person.  This isn’t the first time my garden has been pommeled, and I am sure it won’t be the last.


An event like this fills me with questions.

Why do I plant a garden when I know it will probably get damaged?

Why do I get so sad when things are destroyed, even though it happens every year?

Why does God allow such destructive storms?

What right do I have to be upset when the yard is purely for beauty and pleasure, not something my family depends on for sustenance?

What right do I have to be upset when, just a few blocks away, the hail was so deep that a front end loader was needed to dig out the cars?  (Check out these photos-unbelievable!!)

Does this help me to be more compassionate to others in “crisis” or is it presumptuous to even begin to compare 30 minutes of suburban hail to natural (and man-caused) disasters around the world?

I know petunias are not nearly as important as people, but is there room for sadness about temporal, physical, “minor” losses even though the big things in life are going right?

What is the point?  What should I learn?

Will the sun ever shine for more than 48 hours this summer?!!!

Am I going to stop whining and finish this blog post?


I don’t have good answers.  All I know is that we will clean up the yard (when the rain gives us a chance) and more plants will survive than I thought, although more are damaged than I would like.  It is National Donut Day, so we celebrated in style, and time goes on regardless of what is happening outside.  Heave a big sigh, munch a fresh free donut, and say thank-you to God for so much that is good.  Eventually my feelings will catch up with the logic of all of that!


Catching Up–Christmas Preparations

Catching Up–Christmas Preparations

In all that happened because of the basement flood, I was surprised to find that being forced to set up Christmas ahead of schedule was one of my most grumpy moments.  I don’t know why it mattered, since we were only a week ahead of our normal date and we were going to be out of town then anyway, but I was just grouchy and irritable about having to decorate the house because the boxes were damaged and the tree was wet, instead of decorating because I had been anticipating and looking forward to the day when it was finally time to usher in the Advent season.  Go figure.  In any case, my children we exuberantly excited, my husband was very patient, and with the addition of some real homemade peppermint cocoa, I finally felt part of the fun by the end of our Christmas set-up day.


A few weeks later, as Than and I were talking after a date night to a musical version of The Christmas Carol (which, incidentally, was excellent), I reflected that maybe my attitude had something to do with the reason that Christmas tale is such a classic.  My idea was that everyone feels a bit like Scrooge each Christmas.  Some people more, some people less, some people for the whole season, some for just a moment here or there, but it seems that there is a process of not really looking forward to part or all of Christmas, and then eventually realizing that there is something about the celebration of Christ’s coming, both past and future, that can win us over to joy.  I know the Scrooge story isn’t a strictly religious one, but as with all good stories I think there are deep strains of godly truth even if they came from a more secular pen.

Anyway, enough ruminating!!  Here are some more pictures of later Christmas preparations.  (Who needs more words to read?!!  I know, I know, just post kid pictures and stop yapping.  OK.)


Decorating the already-assembled gingerbread house that magically managed to stay intact in the mail, all the way from St. Louis!


Lots of candy eating as well as decorating, which is half the fun of a gingerbread house.  (And I got to decorate the Christmas gingerbread cookies at the same time, fun for all!)



My faithful chef’s helper, in our new matching aprons sewn by a loving grandma.  I was surprised how different it was this year to do the bulk of my Christmas baking alone, with my girl at school all day.  Not terrible, not wonderful, just different!


Our kickoff to Christmas vacation was a visit to the Botanic Gardens light display, which was spectacular.  Very cold, but worth the shivering!  We got to enjoy a later trip to the display at the Arboretum as well, which was even more impressive.  Hooray for the gift of a garden membership and the gift of people to come with us!!



The merry bakers, at it again.  This time they were testing out a brownie baking set kindly given by a friend at church.  They managed to make brownies from scratch with my supervision but with no actual work on my part!  I felt like the Martha Stewart mom on the front of the box, with kids in matching aprons working away with cute color-coded baking cups and spoons!


My sweet pair, dressed in their festive best and ready for the Christmas concert downtown, a special treat each year.


And I couldn’t resist one more cooking picture–Katya with the cookie trays she helped me assemble to bring for Christmas Eve services at church.  I love that tradition!!

Sorry for the super-long post, but I’m trying not to make two months worth of catching up drag on and on.  There will be more Christmas pics before this is all finished, but enough for now.  Stay tuned for more in the next post!

Changing the View

Changing the View

As I was downloading the flood pictures (see this previous post, or watch a video of me walking through the mess) I realized there were some other photos on the camera from a few weeks ago.  Thinking about the drama of the damaged basement, I realized they captured some of how I am thinking and feeling about things.

In the wake of the upheaval, chaos, disruption, and loss, sometimes I see this…


Things have been destroyed.  My happy green office is no longer the place where I am sitting to write and create and think.  There is a long road of repair ahead and a battle to find resources to pay for it.  Holiday traditions have been disrupted.  The upstairs feels crowded.  My home is not the calm, peaceful, settled place I love.  The hard work of my loving family has been cut out of the walls, ripped off the floor, and thrown away.

However, I can also stand in the exact same place and see this…


People have been kind and concerned, thoughtful and compassionate.  Nothing irreplaceable was lost.  My kids are happy and healthy, no one was hurt.  I live in a country where there are laws that can still help, and we have time and knowledge and resources to cope and rebuild.

Sometimes I’m so sad, looking at the dead stuff.  Sometimes I am deeply encouraged and grateful, looking at the sky.  Most of the time, though, I am somewhere in the middle, just standing in this moment, making it through the “right now” and looking for the grace I will need again tomorrow…


At My Table

At My Table

When I see this…

I am thinking “abundance… anticipation… possibility… fellowship… laughter… camaraderie… goodness… nourishment… flavor… encouragement… potential… relationship.”  I hope you can come sit at my table soon!

Beauty in the Leaf Pile

Beauty in the Leaf Pile

One of the pre-Thanksgiving chores around our house is getting the leaves cleaned up before the heavy snow comes.  The task fell more in my lap this year, since Than ended up using the day we set aside for that to procure a new basement freezer instead!!  (A whole different story there, but anyway…)

As I started the job with my two kids in tow, I saw a bunch of dead leaves carpeting the yard. I heard whining and complaining from my helpers and felt the cold wind cut through my coat.  Not a great beginning.  But as we worked and I reflected, I realized I was surrounded by beauty.  Katya started it by discovering these, huge and brilliant, buried under all the rest…

Once I began to look, the list grew rapidly…

…the outfits of my work force, very unique choices for the job ahead.

…the roar of military planes overhead, flying in observance and ceremony rather than conflict and fear.

…bright red against the brown.

…bright orange too.

…progress, both in lawn cleared and in attitudes changed.

…peace and quiet on a perfectly still street, kids inside cleaning and me outside with a chance to think and listen.

…grey clouds giving a still hush and sending much needed moisture (but kindly waiting until we were nearly done.)

…bright beauty to bring inside long after the rest of the flowers are gone.

God has surrounded me with His beauty.  I’m so glad when I see it!

Random Quote

Random Quote

Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.  –Leonard Cohen

It is convicting to realize how much value I place on perfection even though I am fully aware that I am not and will never be perfect.  I worry that the gifts I give aren’t expensive enough, the projects I make aren’t professional enough, the time I spend with my kids isn’t quality enough, the food I make isn’t healthy enough…so many flaws!  And that doesn’t even touch all the issues of attitude and character and motivation.  The sobering part is to realize that God understands my flaws, has made atonement for my sin, and gives me the perfection of Christ.  I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

May my numerous imperfections show forth the light of His grace!

First Grade

First Grade

Well, my son, tomorrow you head off to 1st grade.  Where has this year gone?  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that I sent you off and ran back to the car to cry?  (Hopefully this beginning is a little less dramatic on my part!)

In just one year, you have…

…learned to read, ride a bike, tie your shoes, and add up to 10 and beyond.

…made 22 new friends, and chosen a few of them as special playmates.

…memorized facts about countries, continents, presidents, and all sorts of other things.

…developed good ways to play with your sister (as well as good ways to drive her crazy!)

…followed the rules and learned much in ways that pleased your teachers as well as your parents.

…learned to play several songs hands together on the piano and attended your first Suzuki Institute.

…spent hours looking at books, playing with trains, enjoying the Wii, hugging Buddy Bear, running around the yard, practicing piano, doing math homework, and giggling with Katya.

…filled my heart with hugs, laboriously written notes, smiles, and gap-toothed grins.

…asked hundreds of questions as your mind explores nature, geography, history, literature, music, and most importantly faith.

I’m so excited to see what the next year brings!

A look back at last year…

The First Day

The First Week

Thanks for Coming!

Thanks for Coming!

If you’ve ever visited our home we’re glad you came.  Honestly!  I love having company because…

…you notice all the nice things about my house when I notice just the dirty and broken things.

…you encourage me to sit down and talk instead of walk around and act busy.

…you bring fresh ideas and new conversations that couldn’t happen without you.

…you give us a reason to go play tourist in our own city.

…you give me motivation to vacuum.

…you give me an excuse to try new recipes.

…you justify the time I spent cutting and fresh flowers from the garden  (or the time I spent rearranging and lighting the candles, if it is winter).

…you play with my kids and find them funny and cute even when I’m finding them irritating and difficult.

…you let me enjoy God’s gifts to us by passing them on.

Thanks for coming, and come again soon!