Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mr. Carlson

by the grace of God, i grew up in a home in orange, CA...
across the street from a man named Mr. Carlson.

this evening i returned home from a memorial service for a man whom i respected deeply and loved very much.  a man who poured so much into me that my life is forever changed by the love he showed and shared with me.  i don't believe that i can find words that would describe who Mr. Carlson was, but as my husband was driving our family home i was looking through my Bible seeing scriptures that stuck out that reminded me of him.

romans 12:9 "Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never lacking in zeal, but keep your spriritual fevor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."

1 corinthians 13:4 "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered it keeps no records of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices int he truth.  It always protects, all trusts, always hopes, always preservers."

titus 1:8-9 "Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."

hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

hebrews 13:16 "And do not forget to do good and to share with others for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

Mr Carlson loved the unlovable.  And i know because that was me.

i lived across the street and i was at the Carlson house a lot.  not just a little.  but really a lot.

Mr. Carlson never turned me away.  he never didn’t have time for me. 

Mr. Carlson helped me with my math.  He warned me about boys.  He told me every blond joke that he knew.  our family shared a horse for awhile.  he taught me how to whistle a whistle that could bring in every neighborhood kid with in a mile.  i call my kids to me with this same whistle.

 i was playing charades with his daughter - my friend, trisha in the front room one day, eating a peppermint candy, i inhaled and choked.  (right before that we had been laughing hysterically) she took my hand and walked me back to her dad.  he did the abdominal thrust on me and saved my life.

about a month ago i was sharing my testimony with a group of women. after hearing about different things i had gone through one of the ladies asked – “how did you know Jesus' love?”  i responded “Mr. Carlson.”

as i sat at his service with another 800 plus people i bawled...  i was overwhelmed with the love that i felt from him as i grew up.  isn't that how it should be?  that young ones feel so loved and special by the adults in their lives?   amazing that the Lord can and will fill this need when someone needs that.  story after story was about how he showed Christs endless love for others.  i am so grateful to have seen this and have it modeled to me.  even though i really hadn't seen him super regularly in this last 20 years i had my first 20 years pretty continual with him.

Father God - thank you Jesus for your mercy.  for planting each one of us right where we are to be.  Lord, as Mr. Carlson learned to follow you and to be used by you for your glory, please do this in me, in my children, and in the children that spend hours at our home...

i have endless stories of him.  i am so grateful for the saving grace of Jesus and the hope that we have in Him. i know that Mr. C is in heaven worshiping our King. when i get there i am grateful that i will be able to walk across the street of gold and get another hug from Mr. Carlson.

(left to right) Bob Carlson, Trisha Carlson, Michael Carlson, Joanna (Arneson) Caldwell, Gail Arneson, Mary Carlson, Jenna (Arneson) Smyth, David Arneson

no doubt this is one of Mr. C's jokes he's explaining as he is chopping my hand?

"Tiata" and Mr. C.  Notice he is barefoot...he usually was.

Friday, February 27, 2015

And the Curtain Closes...

you know how when you are the symphony and the musicians play such an amazing song...  it moves your whole body.  your hands wring with emotions, your eyes swell with tears unable to keep them from falling.  you feel it in your chest and neck trying to keep from sobbing of all that stirs within.  the song ends.
you jump to your feet. bravo!  bravo!  clapping with all you can.  you shout encore! encore!
once again  the performers give just the last several measures of what they had just triumphantly completed - bravo! bravo!

and then it's over....
that's it...
you sit...
try to gain composure.
the last song has been played.  it's time to get up, take a deep breathe and move on.
the curtain closes.

this happened as i sat for the last performance my sweet "baby girl" played her violin in the symphony orchestra.

it happened again tonight.

tonight a man came with excitement to pick up our piano.
as he came in my girl was triumphantly playing "joyful joyful".  i stood there in the room staring at her - tears streaming, flooding down my cheeks.
she can play this piece amazingly.  and i love it.  every time, i love it.  every thousand times, i love it.  she plays with passion, with all that she has.  sometimes i wonder how the keys can with stand the amount of passion that's played on them...  but they do and they lift the sound of praise to our Heavenly Father.
i'm in awe.  looking at this girl who has grown to be a young woman.  so musical.  so talented.  and i cry knowing that hearing that, seeing that in my life every day is coming to an end.  the piano now gone.  just a year and a half ago our oldest daughter was wed and started her own family.  the sound of the violin left.
it's not just the music of course - it is the ones who play it...
they grow up.  the seasons change...

hours and hours and hours, the children have played music.
piano, violin, cello, mandolin, a little bit of accordion, ukulele, drums, guitars, banjo,
it's just been part of the atmosphere of our home.
and it's changing...

it's ok.  there will still be music.
i am sure someday there will be another piano and the littlest girl (who is three right now) will make "joyful joyful" sounds on it as well.

i am grateful for the sweet gift of music in our home.

thank you Lord for blessing our house with song.  constant song.
thank you for the joy it brings and the millions of memories that come over me when i hear certain songs.  especially the ones my children have played over and over again.
Father God - please Lord - help me never to forget the joy of my children playing songs.  beautiful ones, off key ones, just learning songs, noisy songs - and please let me never forget the sound of their voices singing to YOU.
and Lord, as the curtain has closed with that little brown piano on the other side, please don't let me forget and please don't let them stop playing...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pack up the Tents

we have moved many times.  how many?  many...
it's been in a time period of 20 years...
and here we go again.  and it is good.
and it is clear.
we have been in southern ca for 5 years now.  we came from the central coast with a job transfer.  we said "oh Lord, we will go anywhere but l.a."  hence why we are in l.a.
and it's been hard.
and it's been good.

we are transferred again to a mountain area.  we are going to be mountain people.  imagine.  we will live on a strong slanted hill where it would really be a bad idea to sled down it considering it's a pretty busy road at the bottom.  we won't really have a yard, but the forest is close, right??  checked out the library and it looks like it will be a good fit for our family.  small town libraries are the best.  it is a 950 sq. ft. cabin.  3 bedrooms.  2 bathrooms. (that part is a gift from the Lord - thank you)

i feel like the Lord has told us, "pack up your tents.  time to go.  your work is done here and I've got things for you to do".
and it brings a big sigh.
this probably has a lot to do with the fact that our two oldest boys have lived in the back yard in a
ti pi for the last year and half - yes, by choice.  they wanted to brave the storms of winter and the blazing heat of summer.  we learned we were moving so one afternoon while the ti pi was dry it was time for it to come down and for the men to move back inside like civilized folk.  terribly hard to sleep for the first few nights with having a comfortable bed and all.  the ti pi came down, was rolled up and packed away for a indefinite time until it comes out of the "long term storage" pile for the next set of adventures, late night book readings and midnight rat captures.

this last five years living in this city life place has been a huge season of loss for us.  loss of our babies, loss of three amazingly loving grandparents, loss of a relationship of one dearly loved & missed, loss of friends, loss of a child of a friend, loss of health for several that we love.  it has been a heavy season. it has been a growing season.  a season of listening.  a season of waiting.  a season of questioning.
and we still have hope.
hope in our Savior.
trust in his plan for us...

i keep thinking of calling my grandfather to tell him of the new things going on and he isn't there.  but still, his christmas present sits on the mantle wrapped...i think i will leave it a bit longer.  not ready to move it yet... strange how it takes so long to adjust.

i seek the Lord, searching His Word, asking for a word from Him.   i wait...ask Him to release me from the fear that i have entangled myself in.  asking Him to heal the holes in my heart knowing and trusting that He patch it perfectly.

i look forward in anticipation of what He is leading us to.

it has also been a season of joy...
we have been so blessed to have our family grow with a son-in-law and a bright, blue-eyed baby grandson.
blessed by our neighborhood,
blessed by our lay-hands-on-you-and-pray-in-the-name-of-Jesus-neighbors.  (yes! that's you!)
       by this we have been most blessed; people confident in our God's good and perfect plan for each one of us.
blessed by the home fellowship group we have been able to be a part of and for the dear friendships made there that we hope will last a lifetime.
we have had the great joy of a growing and loving marriage - soon to be 20 years.
of reunited friendships,
a special relationship with a most dear auntie & uncle,
time with our folks,
and now a season on mountain living.
we are truly blessed.

our sweet "baby girl" & our grandbaby

Friday, December 5, 2014

We Played In the Rain

                                             at grandpas's 100th birthday - october 30, 2014

a  week ago i left my 100 year old grandfather's hospital room and on my way out he stopped my husband and me.  he said "keep taking trips.  go on picnics.  be together as a family.  that's where the memories are."

two days ago my mother told me that grandpa had officially been put on hospice care.  my children were just finishing their lunch and we talked about the new information we knew about grandpa miller.  we went to the front porch to watch the rain pour down.  it was amazing.  the curious slowly left the cover of the porch and inched their way out to the lawn looking back to me to see if the were going to get called back or not.  i let them play.  soon there were big splashes in the river of a gutter that was rushing down the street.  they were having a good time.  right there i had a choice.  was i going to go with in or live?  i did change my clothes real quick and joined my babies out in the rain. even the big guys came out. we splashed and kicked the puddles at each other.  we floated a plastic duck down the stream.  we had a great time.  we were making memories.  maybe crazy memories but we were making them none the less and we were having a great time in the process.

today i went to see my grandpa.  i told him about playing in the rain with the children as per his instructions to make memories.  he smiled and patted my hand approvingly.  with that my mom began to share fun times that she remembered with her dad, my grandpa while growing up.  it was a sweet time. a day that i will treasure always.

december 4, 2014 at 7:05pm Jesus our Lord and Savior pulled back the veil between heaven and earth and ever so tenderly invited my grandfather, Paul Kenneth Miller, to join Him there.  we are saddened as we will miss grandpa more then i think i can even comprehend at this moment but we truly rejoice  that he is not in any pain, that he is worshiping the King of Kings and that he is in eternity.  my grandfather was a man who loved Jesus, loved my grandmother (married for 74 years) and loved his family very much.  he was a man of integrity, great character and a hero to many.  not a perfect man, but a real man.  i am so grateful for the many memories that he made with me, my husband and our children.

thank you grandpa.  i love you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Have You Suffered For Nothing?

i ran into a girlfriend at the orthodontist yesterday.  she was willing to have a cup of spontaneous tea with me.  what a treat!  we sat for a couple of cups and caught up on life.  she asked me about a piece of art work that i made several years ago.  art wise i think it was a good piece.  mixed media stuff.  i was happy with the layout, layers, etc.  what it said was completely different.  i was at one of my very lowest points.  lonely.  self focused.  not realizing that i was self focused which of course always increases the self inflicted pain that causes.  i felt like i had been hit by a truck, left in the gutter.  kind of like that pitiful cat from the musical CATS.  seen that?  remember her?  gnarled and all.  as my littlest daughter would say "ba-lah.  blahhh!"  meaning ick.  down right ick ick ick.  it was sinful thinking.  and that my friends is ick.  what's that smell?  oh!  that's my disgusting flesh!

i didn't really share the turn from that piece of art work with my friend. so much has changed since than.  God has healed hurts.  restored relationships.  opened my eyes to His faithfulness to me.  restored the joy of my salvation.  blessed our family with unity.  provided a group of believers to fellowship with.  as my physical body slowly continues to heal from a couple of years of shakiness my soul feasts at the table of the King and i am ever so grateful for the fullness i feel in Him.

as i spent time in God's word this morning He brought me to galations 3:3-5.
"Are you so foolish?  after beginning with the Spirit, are you trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered for nothing - if it really was for nothing?  does God give you His spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believed what you heard?"

i was struck by that "have you suffered for nothing?"  no!  i know that the trials that i have gone through, even the ones, mostly the ones, that were caused by my own selfishness, inward thinking, lack of service, fear, PRIDE (that one is the ugliest) judgment of others, control in my marriage, God will use this.  God is using this! as i have repented and have been given the gift of a repentant heart from the Lord i can share what the Spirit has taught me through His Word. if this brings anyone to the foot of Jesus, to the cross and they can have a repentant heart than i have not suffered for nothing.

a young gal i'm acquainted with lost her sweet baby boy just one month ago similarly to how i have lost my sweet daughter.  a mutual friend put us in contact with one another.  sharing with her the hope of heaven, that that's where our children are and the sharing the comfort that Jesus brings.  that made it so my suffering was not for nothing.  may God be glorified even in our pain.  may we rejoice as we know that "trials of many kinds develop perseverance.  perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  i still long for and miss all my babies i have lost, but i am able to see the many blessings that have come out of that hurt.  one of those blessings being how drastically our perspective on children changed to what a blessing they really are!  God used this to change even our words with our children.  how we talk to them and how we talk about them.  even in a joking manner.  we want to, and try to lift our children up with our words..  not tear them down by saying ill words.  we value them in such a different way and try to take our responsibility seriously as we understand it in God's word.

i often wonder why in the world should i write?  isn't there a book already out there on just about everything?  don't we have thoughts and opinions spread all through out this world?  why in the world would anything i say be different than the next gal?  my husband answered this for me.  sometimes he has to speak in "joanna language".  especially when we are talking math, money craziness.  he puts it into words i can get with my artistic brain.  he told me to write because maybe someone will hear the love of Jesus in their language.  maybe God will use me.  Lord please use me.

final thoughts...the trial you are going through right now, God can use this.  will you allow Him too?  is your suffering for nothing?  often it is so hard to see what some of the blessings are on the others side of the trial.  remembering that our Lord is faithful, has been, is now, always will be, this is some of the truth that we need to focus on.  not the feelings of "ugh, i'm sinking in this".  i am trusting more.  trusting, believing.  knowing that there is a specific purpose for the road God has us walk. are you going to trust that He has you on the road you're on for a reason?

Monday, October 27, 2014

More rules...but these are for Mama

Earlier this month I wrote about "House Rules" for the children that we have collected through out the years.   Here is a new list.  This list is for Mama...

1.        Remember that this season of life is only a season.  It is over too quickly and before you know it this beautiful bundle you hold in your arms will make you a grandma.  This is true.  Just ask your mother. 

2.       The goal in the middle of the night is not “get the baby back to sleep”.   The goal is to comfort and love and enjoy this moment.  Fulfilling this high calling of motherhood.  For these moments of a wee one at the breast will be the moments you cherish when you think back on the early years.  I have often asked God to help me remember specific moments of nursing, a toddler hand in mine, He has gifted these memories to me.

3.       Littles climbing into your lap while having morning Bible study is not an interruption.  It is a divine appointment.  Welcome them in.  Read Deuteronomy 6.

4.       Smile.  A lot.  There is so much that can weigh on a mama’s mind.  Don’t let their memory of you be a furrowed brow but rather smile and have a sparkle in your eye.  Do this with Daddy too.  There is so much that can weigh on a daddy’s mind.  This sparkle only comes from Jesus.

5.       Littles want to help with everything.  Dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking…  If you are faithful and patient to teach them while they are little you will not sigh a big sigh of distress when baby is a teen wondering why YOU have to do everything. 

6.       Daddy’s play differently than mamas.  This is a huge gift.  Don’t correct daddy with everything he should or shouldn’t do with baby (at any age).  This is a sure way for discouragement.

7.       Dishes, laundry, cleaning, “stuff” will wait.  It will be glad to wait for you.  Littles don’t wait.  If love tanks aren’t filled they will find something else to do.  Be flexible. 

8.       Love Daddy.  One of the greatest gifts you can give your little one is love and respect their Daddy.  He is a hero to his little one.  As mama we can encourage this or break it.
(see rule 6) Ephesians 4:29   Proverbs 14:1

9.       The world, and even the church sometimes, does not always see the job as “mother” as one of a high calling.  It is.  Be cautious of the thinking or even joking talk that says children are a burden, so much work, too expensive.  Psalm 127:3-5  “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior (Pastor Wiemann says “launch them in the correct direction”) are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”  (emphasis mine)

10.   Share your secret chocolate stash with your littles.  Doing this will make them feel so special and they will definitely remember how it is you made them feel.  When they are big they will bring you more chocolate or if you’re lucky a grande nonfat latte!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Miscarriage Remembrance Month

quote found on pintrest

Did you know that October is a remembrance month of miscarriage, stillbirth, pregnancy loss and infant loss?   Did you know that chances are that those mamas (and daddys) that have lost babies through miscarriage, or stillbirth still think of those little ones that that they never got  to hold at their breast and rock in the night?  How do I know?  Because I am one of those mothers.  1 out of 4 mothers lose their babies to pregnancy loss,

I have five babies in heaven.  Three of them I have named.  Two of them I have gone through labor and delivery  I have held them, wrapped them in blankets, stroked their tender cheeks, kissed their sweet faces.  I have buried them.  I have been swollen with milk unable to nourish my little one.  My body still bears the stretch marks of pregnancy.  My arms still long to hold the babies.  At night when I rest my hand still lays over my empty womb waiting to feel the flutters that won't come.  I say "I" in all of this but the loss is ours.  My husband and I.  We have gone through these losses together.

When I have had pregnancy loss I really haven't had a question of why but fully believe that it part of God's perfect plan for my life.  For my families life.  I still grieve.  My heart still breaks.  I still think of and long to hold my children.  BUT I know that the Lord is faithful.  He has yet to leave me.  He gives me soothing peace as only a heavenly Father can do.  He reminds me of His love for me. Reminds me that my children are with him free from the confusion of this world.

For the last two deliveries with my children at home I have sung during labor and delivery.  I know that sounds strange but i grew up singing.  loving to sing and was able to block out hurt or distraction with song.  So i tried this with the intense pain of labor.  the morning of knowing that I would need to delivery a baby whose breathe was gone I walked around the block of our neighborhood.  I needed to be alone with the Lord.  Wondered if I could get labor to start moving.  I remember feeling like I was on a death march.  Knowing there was no turning back but that at that moment the Lord God had it planned for me to go through this storm.  My Jesus can walk on water and He can calm the storms. The song "Captivate Us" by Watermark   came on.  I locked it in on my phone and that would be the song that we would listen to for the hours of this journey.  My husband and I were able to quickly learn the words as we would sing together. Crying and holding each other we would continue to worship.  Now, a year latter, when that song comes on we reach for one another's hand.  Praising Jesus for the little girl that song reminds us of and missing her terribly.  Her name is Maple Clara.  A little sister to three sisters and four brothers here.

Chances are you know someone who has lost a little one that they love and still miss.  Why not send them a handwritten note to let them know you haven't forgotten and you know they haven't either.  I know for me it is healing to talk about my little ones - especially as it is so recent to have lost them.  I have lost three babies in the last 19 months.

I am still awaiting the due date of my fifth last miscarriage. I was four months. October 25, 2014.

Have you lost a little one?  Your child? A grandchild? If you like please honor them by writing their name in the comet list below.

Monica 14 weeks 1995
Matthew David 7 months February 2000
Easter baby 8 weeks March 31, 2013
Maple Clara 5 months October 20, 2013
Baby Caldwell 4 months April 14, 2014