Friday, November 21, 2014

Life Lately

It's that time of year again! The time of no blogging! 
Haha, no, actually, the time of the intense preparations for our church's annual Live Animal Christmas Play.
Which...actually ends up translating to almost no blogging anyway, so I guess I might as well stick to that description. =)

The last two weeks I've been living, eating, and drinking Christmas Play. I've been cooking for all the actor recording practices, which has been super fun because first of all I love to cook, and secondly, it is super fun to be here and get the behind the scenes scoop on everyone's recording parts. There's seriously nothing quite so fun as listening while someone else tries to nail their part, because I totally know the feeling of having to do my part over and over again while a whole group of people are watching and laughing when I butcher my lines. =)

As always, acting is one of my favorite things and recording/acting opposite one of my dear friends has been a highlight. The time period for our scenes is one of my favorites (Edwardian era, like 1905-1912ish) As I type this I am listening to the soundtrack for our opening scene song, which we are all supposed to be practicing individually.

I'm also working with my Cassie friend (us above!) to pick/design/purchase all of the costumes needed for the twelve actors in the opening scene. We are having such a grand time doing it together--we went to town the other day and got a great start on the costumes. Now it is "divide and conquer", and scour every single thrift store and costume store within a sixty mile radius. =)

On Wednesday while we were shopping we gave ourselves a little treat at the end of the day by taking advantage of Caribou's awesome "buy one get one free from 4-7pm" deal. (for those of you locals, this is at the waterfront HyVee Caribou, in Iowa City) 

So that's just a little rundown on life lately. Between all of that and still balancing my job + home responsibilities, life is staying quite peppy! (and rehearsals haven't even started yet!)
It is wonderful, though-there is absolutely nothing better than being busy in the work of the Lord. 
And speaking of the Christmas Play, here is the whole rundown on the details. Would love to see some of you there! Visit the website for more info!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends! 
-Chels

Saturday, November 15, 2014

TODAY

TODAY....
-grocery shopping
-running errands
-buying chocolate and tea to send to friends to remind them I love them
-drinking peach tea at this favorite place while writing letters to my mom's uncles & aunts
-mailing packages and afore mentioned letters to the great-uncles & great-aunts
-stopping by a cousin's house to give her a carmel macchiato & chocolate & a hug
-playing games with my little siblings
-writing a note to my sister
-making supper for my family + two groups of hard-working people at our church
-playing Christmas music
-lighting pumpkin spice candles
-making hot chocolate for a brother who was out late working
-giving hugs and kisses just because I can
-being thankful for the cold weather + promise in the air of snow to come
-having plans change, and change, and then change again. #farmerdaughterslife
-getting upset over a very insignificant problem + having to apologize later
-learning lessons the hard way
-remembering my cousin, and his memory challenging me to just soak up every moment

And that was a bit of my today. 

I leave you with my current gmail status: 
"Only one life to live for Christ. Never promised tomorrow. Live like today is the last. The only thing I can take to heaven with me is relationships. That's the most important thing."

-Chels

Tribute to Michael

I'll be honest, friends---I've been putting off this post. Wanting to write it, but just not ready. Sometimes grieving + pain takes awhile to work through. I'm definitely not through, but its time to come back, and write, and learn, and keep going.

Life is different, somehow. I think of everything in a new way. The word RELATIONSHIP has taken on a whole new meaning. Somehow, I just can't get enough now. People I loved before are twice as dear to me now. Things I wanted to do before with people but just didn't get to, are TOP PRIORITY now. Hugs and kisses and notes and phone calls and little kindnesses and just taking time to talk, have become so important to me. It blows me away how death changes things like this; how it makes us just stop in our tracks and re-evaluate relationships.

Michael's funeral is so hard for me to describe. Friends asked me how it went and I honestly just struggled with putting it into words. It was the most beautiful, most meaningful, and the most heart wrenching of funerals. As I sat with the huge tribe of cousins + uncles + aunts + grandparents up near the front, and listened to the soothing instrumental music playing, I kept thinking it must just all be a dream. But that casket was a very real reminder that it was not a dream. It was real. I held it all together until two of Michael's friends got up to lead worship. At that point the pain just hit so hard. And yet, the peace of God hit hard too. One of the songs we sang was a favorite of mine, "Bless the Lord, O My Soul". The second verse...I may have cried through the whole thing, but it spoke to my heart:
"And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near, and my time has come,
STILL MY SOUL WILL SING YOUR PRAISE UNENDING
Ten thousand years and then forever more."

So POWERFUL. Just think about that a minute. So much meaning in that verse!

Later, I stood in the line of cousins + friends waiting to take a turn shoveling dirt over his grave. The cold November wind whipped around us all and I shivered, wanting to somehow pinch myself and wake up finding that this was all a horrible dream. But it wasn't a dream.

It was such amazing comfort to have so many of our cousins there. In times like these family just pulls together and it was incredible. We hugged and cried and hugged some more. Nothing needed to be said; the bond was enough and volumes were communicated without even speaking a word. I felt it in each hug, "You are loved. I'm thankful for you".

Afterward the burial I was sitting with a group of cousins eating supper and reminiscing. We were talking about how difficult it is to explain to people the loss of one of our cousins. Most people don't have many cousins and then the ones they do have, they aren't close to.
I have talked about this before but I am one of the most blessed of girls to have the world's greatest group of cousins-on BOTH sides of my family. We have this common bond of knowing JESUS, and it is just amazing. I recognize that it is so rare, and I am so grateful for it. But when you have all this in common, and you are so close, losing a cousin is just like losing an extension of your family. You all grieve together, because that cousin was a part of all of you, and so loved.

Nights have been difficult to sleep through. It was at 2am just over two weeks ago that I got the call that Michael had died. And now multiple nights since I have suddenly woken up in the middle of the night, afraid that my phone is going to ring + it will be another call to tell of a loss. This may sound crazy, but to those of you who have been through it-you know. Death has happened to someone I loved; someone that was so dear. And when you see this, how life can be ended so quickly, how its so fragile...it really just changes things.

The picture at the top of this post...ah, I remember that moment so well. (Michael is in between Denver & Allison in the picture)
It was time for our family to hit the road once again, after spending five days in one of our favorite states with some of our favorite people-the New York relatives. 
As always, I was sad to leave. We had made so many memories that week. Cookouts, work parties, countless games of prisoner's base, Dutch Blitz, & football, long conversations, sitting on the hill overlooking the lake watching the fireworks on July 4th, the morning us girl cousins cooked for the guys while the aunts + grandma all went out to breakfast....and the list went on and on. So many special moments to treasure. As usual we had waited til the last minute to load up, cause its just hard to tear yourself away from these amazing cousins, you know? 
I remember everyone starting to head for the door and I yelled out after them "just one last cousin picture...please?!" It wasn't even like we were all there or anything; it was just a random collection of some of us who had been together for supper. I guess it was just the photographer in me that had to have "just one more picture". Or maybe it was something else. 
I will never regret it. I had no way of knowing then that it would be our last picture with Michael. 
I am SO THANKFUL for this time we had with Michael & his family last Thanksgiving.  (above picture) It was a last-minute decision for them to come visit and I remember how excited we were. It had been so long since they had been out to Iowa.
Now, I am just doubly grateful for that time together.

I remember my last conversation with Michael this summer. He was leaving to work with this ministry and he gave me a couple of his prayer cards just before we left. I remember that we talked for a few minutes about the ministry he was going to be a part of, and I remember how excited he was to go and make a difference in the lives of these struggling boys. He was excited to do the hard things in life. He left a great job, a great family, and a great community, to go and MAKE A DIFFERENCE for Jesus Christ, to give his life for others.

And make a difference he did. It may have been short in our human thinking, but in his twenty-two years he made a difference. Not just in the lives of these boys he mentored and discipled, but in the lives of everyone he knew. His funeral was such a testimony of that. It seemed like relationship was just the key word. Michael was 100% into living life with passion and zeal. He was always the life of the party and pretty much ALWAYS had some child either on his lap or running after him. He was always laughing, and always up for a challenge.

He left such an amazing example. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to know him and to have him as my cousin. I think of him and his family everyday. And everyday I am challenged by his memory to love people more and live life to the fullest.

He is so sorely missed, but how thankful I am for the hope + promise of life everlasting for those that know the Lord! It is such a comfort to know that he knew and loved Jesus with all of his heart, and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is now rejoicing in glory with the King of Kings!

Love you all.
-Chels