An Overdue Update for TeamRZ!

Dear friends,

IMAG4280So much has happened since we last spoke, I don’t even know where to begin. First, let me say this – Ed and I are doing great! Ok, now for the nitty gritty.

question-mark-mapSince about the spring of 2015, Ed knew that he was ready to leave the military, and pursue a civilian career.  We talked and prayed a lot as a couple about this, and both felt God pulling us to something new…yet what that new thing would be, we had no idea!  We were excited for the future, and tried to be open to any and all possibilities – would God call us back north to Chicago?  Near our old family and friends?  Maybe Texas – Ed had several job options out that way, and it would be wonderful to spend time with my dear relatives in Austin.  Maybe Equidor, or Chili…I mean, everything was on the table at one point or another.  My secret hope was that we would stay in the warm weather as I am now thoroughly spoiled by the Florida.  Or someplace with water.  I love the water.  From our home by Orlando, it was about 50 minutes to any beach on the East Coast, and I went as often as I could!

Well, after all this consideration, prayer, and sudo-planning…Ed landed a job…in Florida!  He actually had several possibilities, but the best full-time offer came from a Christian news outlet just a little further south…in a beach town!  It’s that amazing?  Even from Chicago, I prayed for a warmer home, I built my business around a sailing theme, I dreamed of life on the water…and here we are.  From out new home, it is 15 minutes to Ed’s office, 15 minutes to the one and only Panera, (it’s a small town, only 2 Starbucks big), and 10 minutes drive down the road and over the bridge to the Atlantic!  Ha, can you believe it?

IMAG4354Now, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I mean, it’s Florida, so many days it is, but there is plenty of rain – literally and figuratively.  When Ed got the offer, we had to finalize paper work with the army for his separation, (he served 2 full tours, 8 years total, so it wasn’t retirement, just finishing with honor), we had to find a house to rent that would take our dogs, we had to get out of our current lease, (only a month left, but still), and all of this as soon as possible because they were ready for him to start immediately.  Well, I looked for houses, but as this is a snow-bird town, and the grannies had all flown south for the winter already, options were slim – only about 3 homes that fit our criteria from week to week, so there was some stress trying to make trips to see something, fill out paper work, and still wait on his military paperwork.  God is good, and I believe His timing and plan is perfect, so I will say that I had a lot of inner peace in my heart about this whole move – I still do.  However, there was a LOT of external stress when Ed told me the day before Thanksgiving that all the papers came through from the army, our housing application was approved, and were were moving that weekend.  WHAT!?!  Why are husbands so crazy??

IMG_6377So, I cried.  What else is a girl supposed to do?  Then I called moving companies, friends, and favors in before the holiday to see who could come help us over the weekend.  Thursday, we spent a beautiful relaxing day with friends, and gave thanks.  Then, Friday, we woke up, and began Oporation Move-Out with zeal!  I had some help to pack all day Friday and Saturday, the movers came Sunday, and I drove back to close up and clean the old house on Monday.  Then, that was that.  Our new life, post military had begun.IMAG3927

By the way, my health held up through all of the moving process, but by Christmas, I was toast.  The last few weeks have been up and down, I think my body and brain are still trying to adjust to everything that has changed.  New place, new schedules, different food, (I miss our local organic stores!  The selection is not as good here.), and still organizing boxes.  Also, the new place might be beach-friendly, but is almost half the size of our last place.  Soooo, still trying to figure out where to put stuff, if there is anything to get rid of, and where to store everything else.

IMAG4287When I feel ready to complain through, I just step outside, and feel the wind whipping across the grass from the ocean only a mile away…and yup, life is good.

 

I Will Never Judge a Mom Again…

(At least not for a while!)

This is it, right?

This is it, right?

Last night, I baby sat a kid…and I liked it!  Kind of.  But I will tell you, that baby-sitting someone else’s child when you are at the “I could have babies” phase of your life is really different than when you’re 13.  Here’s what happened, some of the thoughts it stirred, and why I have so much compassion for mothers everywhere.

In order to protect the innocent, I shall simply say that a small child of about 3 ended up in my house unexpectedly last night.  I was expecting a house full of men, had planned to finish my cleaning, and retreat to my girl friend’s for a round of dress-up before the ball next week, (another story for another time – but don’t I sound just like Cinderella?)  As I was walking out the door with a pile of gowns in my arms, one of the boys greeted me with, “Morgen, thank you so much for letting us come over, and all this…. ”  Sure, of course” I replied good-naturedly.  I did honestly enjoy having a full house.  He continued, “and the kid too, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know about that til last minute”,  “Oh, ok…” I was trying to nod and smile and look around…then I was made aware of a short, sweet presence as a smiling creature with cocoa skin and short, tight, black hair waddled down the hall with the person watching him who had came to visit my husband…and of course, several more guys arrived and the house filled with barking dogs, cooking in the kitchen, and rioters laughter as they laughed at their own jokes.

I sprang into “mommy-mode” and separated the “scary dogs” – the big one went outside, the little one went to the bedroom, and once the “nice kitty” realized what was afoot, she insisted on bedroom sanctuary as well.

This COULD have happened I feel...

This COULD have happened I feel…

Ed and I locked eyes over the heads of our guests as I took the little one by the hand, (his care-giver was the chef for the evening and already engaged in the giving of orders to the others with a pot in each hand).  Ed voiced my thoughts aloud, “we….don’t have any toys do we?”  The little one had apparently come with a juice box, swim trunks, and that was it.  Some assembly required?  I found 2 picture books in our book-case, Ed stole a little-used stuffed toy from the dog box, and I sat the baby down in the living room with these meger offerings.  He was thrilled with the books, but of course, wanted me to stay and read them.  I explained I would be back soon, and with a last lingering glance at our wedding goblets perched toddler-eye-level, and blowing out a candle as I past, I gathered up my garments again, and called into the kitchen, “I’m leaving for an hour – I expect the house standing, dinner made, and the kid alive when I return!”  My decree was met with gafaws and more jokes.  I rolled my eyes and retreated hastily to keep my appointment.

Dresses are fun, and girl-friends are funner, and I had a great time talking hair and nails with my gal pal…just like the old sorority days!  Our husbands are in the same company, and there was a small military ball thing the following weekend. So we discussed how best to allocate resources – she was most concerned with nails and hitting the gym, I was thinking my hair needed a touch up but I would do my own nails, and yes a few good work-outs for those shoulders was in the cards.  We traded some dresses and and shoe options, agreed we would not spend money on either, for something like this, not worth something new.  I left feeling like I had a plan, and was happy to hurry along so she could get back to a relaxing night with her hubby, and I could embrace the chaos at home.

Well, sure enough, the men were all loudly saving the world around the dining table with quite a feast prepared and pouring out of every pot and pan I had!  They seemed to be taking care of themselves just fine, nothing seemed to be out of order.  Perfect, my symptoms had been flaring all weekend, and I was looking forward to laying down and cooling off…but then there was the little one…with no one paying him much attention, just quietly looking on.  Oh come on!  He was just so precious!  So of course, I sucked it up, and tried to entertian him as best I could.  I tried to feed him, (he was not impressed with the offerings and demanded cookies that we didn’t have), I took him outside to read, but then he told me “I have to pee”, and before I could take his little hand he had stood up on the chair and let it fly.  Whelp, that was something I hadn’t seen before.

I doubt caution tape would actually do anything...

I doubt caution tape would actually do anything…

After clean-up and changing into the afore mentioned swim trunks, I returned to where I’d left my dinner, only to find two of the guys explaining that the “big dog” had gotten in and eaten the food, and what used to be the bowl was in the garbage. Ah well, I didn’t like those bowls anyway.  I grabbed an apple and my new little friend, and took him for a walk around the neighborhood, while he pointed out bugs and was scared by a duck. He had peed in his shoes, so I alternated between having him walk and carrying him where the ground seemed rough. When we – or at least I – was sufficiently tired, we headed home and retreated to the office.  Now, here is the turning point.  I said I wasn’t going to be one of “those moms”, and Ed is constantly annoyed when he hears about people plugging their kids into a show…but my friends…sometimes…you just need a break. So I logged into Amazon, and after questioning the young lad, we choose Madagascar, and I plunked him in front of the computer, (we don’t even have a tv).  I also gave him a pile of fake gold pirate coins we had left over from a party thinking that would keep his hands busy, and an old derby hat from a past costume which he immediately loved!  This all seemed to be working, so I escaped to the yard to clean up the chair…but when I came back inside it was “potty time” again.  “Oh good!” I praised, he’s telling me this time.  Only to discover that again, it had already happened, and the shorts were wet and so was the carpet.

Me in 20 years

Me in 20 years

I cleaned everything up as best I could, threw his shorts in the dryer, and sat him bare-bottomed again in front of the movie, and helped myself to a glass of the wine the boys had left in the kitchen.  Yes, I did, and I’m not ashamed!!  But as I sat there sipping, and contemplating, I wondered – what is this kid’s life like on a normal day?  He certainly doesn’t seem to bothered by everything going on around him.  He took to me quick enough, he would beat me and call me daddy with a smile when he needed something…so maybe he’s used to different people around?  Not too shy, but not too chatty…what if we adopt a kid this age?  How much of an impact does that former life have on them?  Would they really grow to love you as a parent in that special way?  Would I grow to truly see them as my own?  Ed thinks we will adopt one day, and I’ve always wanted too…but I know it’s a difficult process.  We’ll just have to wait and see what God does in our lives.  I have to get my health sorted out a little better first – that’s for sure.

Back to my little friend – his dad was his normal care-giver, but was at a funeral for a relative who had been killed in a drive-by last week.  I wondered if his mom was around too. I know there are many ways to make a family, and I know it often takes  a village – and there should be a community involved in taking care of a child.  But at the end of the day, I just don’t think anything can quite replace the balance of a loving mom and dad working as partners to give guidance, fun, wisdom, admonishment, insight, and un-selfish love to their little person. I get it – life happens, and we have to make the best of it.  And I truly believe that God can redeem any situation if we let Him.  But I also think that kids need – and actually deserve – a lot more intentionality from their parents then they often receive.  It’s too bad that we’ve often made life so complex that it takes parents away from their children so often, and we try to make it cool, or fine, or more socially acceptable for kids to be raised by the system, or TV, or themselves, or friends…but those things should just be there once in a while when we need them.  Our society should be doing more to support parents having healthy babies, healthy relationships with each other, and actually planning and enjoying being a family the best way they can.

Moms – to you a raise my glass.  Dads who stuck around – for the kid, and the crazy momma – I give you a pat on the back.  You are both heros in my book, and deserve all the support we can give you.  This next generation depends on it.

~ Morgen

Not My Best Speghetti

Feelin' fit - 2 weeks ago

Feelin’ fit – 2 weeks ago

Dear friends, 

I would like to thank all of you reading this for sticking with me on this journey.  I know it hasn’t always been easy, there have been several posts that raised an eyebrow, or illicited concerned emails…and I just can’t believe how much you care!  Thank you for your prayers, your patience, and your compassion.  Ed and I are so thankful for this community that shares life with us.  I always welcome your feedback, your own stories, and your questions.  We all learn to do life better together after all!

Here is what I learned today: (see, isn’t this nice?  I’m jumping right to the moral)  Today I was reminded that sometimes, not my best is better – than not me at all.  I’ll elaborate….

For those who follow me on Facebook, you know that 2 weeks ago I was hit with some kind of food poisoning or 24-hour bug that give my Crohn’s a nice little upset, and it hasn’t settled down since.  Right before that hit, I was doing great! Biking, hiking, back to a work-schedule…I felt like ME!  Praise the Lord.  Well, yesterday, I was so fed up and frustrated to be back in the “sick place” that I sobbed to God to “get the devil out of me”, and then tried drinking less, eating more, and changed up my supplements.  It seems to be helping, and today I feel a little bit better.

IMG_20150130_105526

Personal Best for Morning Afro

My husband – who likes to pretend that I’m always healthier than I look – had delegated me the task of making a post-work-out snack for his future soldiers today.  He said the snack should be spaghetti, and that I should make it for 10.  Ok, well, I said I would do my best thinking, even if I wasn’t feeling great, that wouldn’t be too hard.  Spaghetti is hard to screw up right?  I put out the meat to thaw in the morning, then did some work, ate lunch, and cautiously began the process.  Would my stomach hold out?  In general, for me, the hard part about cooking when I’ve been ill is just standing on my feet in one spot like that.  Even walking is easier because then you’ve got some momentum to keep you going.

As I boiled the water my husband called.  “Hi honey, hows it going…are you getting started?  Great!  Yeah, it’s going to be about 18 kids.”  WHAT!  I do not have a commercial kitchen with giant stock pot. And there wasn’t enough meat thawed!  Well, I had no choice but to “Be all that I could Be”, and put another pot on the stove.  3 pots, 4 pasta boxes, 3 marinara jars, and several pounds of turkey later, I looked at the finished product.  My dear sweet husband – who seems to think that food magically transforms with the help of the kitchen fairies – had bought the “angel hair” pasta rather than the spaghetti noodles, and even with olive oil and ice it was sticking together.  The marinara didn’t quite cover it as thoroughly as I would like, and the meat seemed sparse – although it tasted good.  The whole thing looked like a clumpy-mushy mess – if I had a casserole dish big enough and a little more sauce and cheese, I could have prettied it up, but it was time and the best I could do was give them one last stir and throw them in the oven to heat back up before Ed came to get them.

Sunsets always bring me to center

Sunsets always bring me to center

After he picked up the pots, I felt the desperate need to be out of that stuffy house and into the fresh air.  I hit the bathroom one last time, suited up, and climbed aboard my lovely new bike.  I might regret it later, but some exercise was needed for my mental sanity.  I was so angry thinking that the kids would probably pick at it, (I’d seen them turn down my organic cooking before), and my pride welled up at the thought that they would all assume “Sergeant Szall’s wife can’t even cook spaghetti”.  I had told Ed not to mention where it was from, just let them eat or reject it on it’s own merits.  However, I’m sure he told them he was “running home” to pick up the food.  Grrrr.  If only it wasn’t angle hair, if only I was feeling better, or my house was clean enough to ask another wife over to help, or if only I didn’t let myself get volunteered for stuff like this!  These kids were starting to cost us a lot of time and money as the months ad up, and I don’t even get to spend any time with them, so there isn’t even the benefit of the relationship in it for me.  It is purely out of Christian/wifely duty that I do this.

All these thoughts churned in my head as I turned the corner and rode towards the sinking sun.  I looked above me and took a deep breath, smelling the leaves and smoke from a grill.  With Pandora on my head phones I began to relax, and I couldn’t help it, I decided to pedal over to the park on say hi.  I’m just too social not to – and I was having a good hair day.

He usually trains them here, not in our neighborhood

He usually trains them here, not in our neighborhood

I swung into the park, and there was my husband, holding court with a group of youngsters sitting in the grass, half of them gnawing our organic green apples, the others scraping bowls.  I looked, and sure enough, on the ground were two empty pots and a pile of marinara-stained bowls.  I smiled to myself as Ed carried on talking with them. I thought about how important food is to community.  We talk about it in leadership all the time.  If you want people to listen to each other, to learn and share ideas, give them food.  The bible talks about feeding the hungry often.  Didn’t Jesus feed the 5000 so they would hang out with each other and listen to him preach?  Couldn’t I feed 18 hungry youngsters?

The most famous verse about food rose to my mind, “Jesus took some bread, and gave thanks for it, and broke it apart for them saying, this is like my body, I’m going to be broken, so you don’t have to. Please accept it, and eat…and whenever you come together to break bread, do so in remembrance of me.”  Huh.  My Savior gave up a lot for me, all he’s asking me to do is cook some spaghetti.  In the end, I didn’t think it was my best, but if I hadn’t tried, they would have gone hungry.  And you know they’d be cranky if they didn’t eat!

Sometimes, it's just what they need. And you know people get cranky if they don't eat!

Sometimes, it’s just what they need.

So I actually think, my friends, although some people may be quick to judge and some may not understand where we’re coming from, giving ANY of ourselves, is truly better than giving none at all. Therefore, ladies and gents, the next time you are given an opportunity, I will hope and pray that you will give whatever you can give.  After all, in the hands of Jesus, it may feed many.

Much love ~ Morgen

At the Gym: I Missed…

“A treadmill is a treadmill…it’s the people who make the work-out.”

 130563-425x282-running-shoes-on-treadmill

Captain’s log:  Week 6, Day 4

Location – Ovideio Florida.

Co-ordinates: Local YMCA, complete with farmers market and prayer breakfasts intact.

Week 6 of post-hospital workouts.  Last month, I it was an effort to jog a few feet during my “hike” on the treadmill.  It was only about 30 seconds, but got the heart pumping!  I’m glad I have no pride left and am totally ok with working out like an 80 year old.  Hey, some of those grandparents have me beat, and good for them!

While I was cruising along…a favorite song came on my headphones, and I felt a rush…memories came flooding back to me, and I realized something.  In my dark moments of being sick, I start to believe that I’m lazy, or that I don’t have the will to do more.  And that’s just not true.  I love to be active – in every way – mentally, physically, socially, spiritually.  Sometimes, my disease gets in the way for awhile, but that doesn’t change who I am on the inside.  Regardless of what your body allows, you know what your heart is trying to do, and that’s what truly counts. So in honor of me…and you…and all the other achievers-at-heart out there, here are some things I’m grateful for at the gym, and regarding working out in general.

  • Muscle + music memory equals grand visions of past of runs.  I can picture the trees, the turns in the path, who I was running with, sometimes what was on my mind.  I remember how strong I was, the work it took to get to that point, and know I’m capable of more than I give myself credit for.
  • I can neither confirm nor deny...

    I can neither confirm nor deny…

    Results? I can’t be the only one who didn’t get the memo that you don’t experience crazy body change after 5 days of working out and 1 cheat day on your diet was I?  Oh, you thought you’d be back to fighting form too?  Yeah, apparently this is a several week process.

  • I love that the old man on the treadmill next to me and I are both laughing out loud uproariously at our own private jokes coming through our headphones as we tried to trot along.
  • That feeling of euphoria as the endorphins finally kick in over the pain of an early morning workout.
  • Some of the songs take me all the way back to college and make me think about how I’ve been taken care of and redeemed so many times over over the years.  The fact that God has brought me back to this place at all, is a miracle.
  • I am truly truly blessed to be able to move and stretch and not feel pain.  Staying thankful is a part of good work-out.
  • How amazing that this morning 40 minutes of walking made me as excited as finishing my marathon 4 years ago. An old friend just yesterday posted the picture of us running together at mile 17… what a sweet reminder and what a way for God to use the random people we meet.
  • My dear hubby was so excited to see me this morning, and ready for our work-out. As an army guy, staying in shape is a favorite aspect of the job, and he is a great teacher. He’s so confident and secure in himself, in a way that just makes you feel comfortable doing anything around him.  I was in a little bit of a dark place when I woke up, and that was just what I needed –  his excitement to see me like we’ve been separated for a week was precious!

So until the next work-out…may you stay grateful, hopeful, and moving to the beat of that old song in your head!

~Morgen

4 Minutes of Focus

Anything worthwhile…worthy, worth doing…takes a little focus. It takes a little effort, and a little decision.

social-media-multi-tasking

I am so in the habit of flying into my thoughts for the day, or a task, and then when it’s not going well, I often just keep barreling through ‘multi-tasking at whim’ when we could vastly IMPROVE what we’re trying to do with just a little focus. For me, it was my favorite soothing music, (literally like one 4-min song), and some improvised breathing/yoga stretches to try and relax my sore back and ham-strings that provided something “worthy” to my day.

In my soreness this morning, even after pain meds, I had tried to just get my hubby to take care of it all for me – make the tea, put food in the oven, etc…but by 7am recruits were blowing up his phone, so I sighed and prayed and forced myself out of bed. Morning chores were rough, and it was Ed who admonished me to stop and stretch out for a minute  as I hobbled from dogs to stove.

If you're movin' you're groovin' honey! Just let it flow...

If you’re movin’ you’re groovin’ honey! Just let it flow…

Just those 4 minutes – I focused on breathing fully, leaning into my stiffness, and enjoying the music, and just shifting whatever whatever I wanted!  Sorry more evolved friends,  “True Yoga” intimidates me. By the time Pandora had switched to the next song I was ready to shmimmy up and with a little shake and feel a smile warm my face as blood flowed and tingled down my spine.  I’m cured!  Kind of, for now.  Just then the kitchen timer alerted me to a hot breakfast waiting – beautiful.

Worth it!  Just a little focus, effort, and decision…now I can relax with my breakfast and hopefully remember this lesson tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday friends!

~Morgen

Grandmother Wore Green…and other things

Before we begin dear friends – I apologize for the over-use of pictures, it is for memories sake after all!  Don’t give up on your browser. .And secondly, you can cry if you need to.  I did, and I won’t apologize for it!  If there is anything built up in your life that makes you angry or heart-sore as you read, just let it out.  Please.  Ok, now read on and I am sorry about the length! 

Me,  Cousin Aaron, Cousin Chelsey, Brother AJ, and Grandmother Reynolds

Me, Cousin Aaron, Cousin Chelsey, Brother AJ, and Grandmother Reynolds

I think  nothing makes Heaven seem as sweet or as real as imagining it for someone we love.  Although I do think about the shortness of life quite a bit, I have not spent much time imagining it for myself 0ther than that it will be better than here.   I also think that Heaven is not about how fast we get there, or what route we take, but about who we bring along the way. Well dear friends, today my family will lay to rest a matriarch – in the truest sense of the word – knowing that she is already resting in Heaven as I write, and has brought many with her along the way.

I am here in Florida, and cannot be with my family today as they share together my grandmother’s memories in Iowa, so I take to the page to reflect on the amazing legacy of a grandparent – perhaps the grandest title one can achieve for many reasons.

 

Not quite...but the sentiment is right.

Not quite…but the sentiment is right.

Grandparents seem to be able to love their gand-kids generation (not all legacy’s are left by blood) with a special kind of un-presuming love that refelcts Jesus in a tangible way.  Parents have to take their kids a little more personally, because of course they are trying to live up to their parents before them.   Your kids are a direct reflection back on you all the time -and that mixes a little pressure into the love sometimes!

See?  Worth it!

See? Worth it!

But Grandparents don’t have anyone looking over their shoulders,

so they just get to love.  They love reliving those first-times as little ones discover the world, the can really imagine what the future holds having seen their own kids gone on before.  And for this reason, I wish that we Grandkids would take our roles a little more seriously.  We DO reflect our grandparents, we ARE their legacy if we allow ourselves to be.   Now I was ridiculously blessed to have two very loving sets of grandparents growing up, my paternal grandfather is still with us and well Praise the Lord. However, it is only now as I’ve gotten older, as life is slowing me down, that I can truly appreciate what our grandparents can leave to us, and I know there are many of you who have been brought up by grandparents and had the ability to see that early on.

Here are a few things about my Grandmother Reynolds, my Dad’s mom, that I would like to remember, hope that I may learn from, and have already inherited:

  1. Wanda Tindale Reynolds

    Wanda Tindale Reynolds

    She started a Library.  Yes she sure did, back in her small town in Oklahoma when my dad was boy.  They didn’t have one, so she went door to door, wrangled up ladies and books, and started a lending library that she later ran for years.  Eventually when they all moved east, she took her skills to the public libary in Dubuque and had a long history of instilling reading and the dewy-decimal system in children.   I have many books as gifts from her, all inscribed with love.

  2. She was a barrel racer!  Now I ride, and love horses, but I have never torn down a row of barrels on a sliding stallion going 40 – that’s like sky-diving without the tandem.  Aside from the equestrian affinity we obviously share, Grandmother wasn’t afraid to do things.  So many people just think, and never do, and Wanda Reynolds was someone who had the get-up-and-go to make things happen.  May that always inspire me.
  3. Happy bachlorette Grandma!

    Happy bachlorette Grandma!

    She was a devoted wife – who wore green!  I only recently discovered this when I went to visit her in the nursing home during my bachlorette weekend in Galena. My MOH and I swung by to bring her a little tiara and some pie, and I asked about her wedding and marriage to Grand-dad who passed 26 years ago. He had been in the army, (so was mine!), they were married by close friend, (so was I!), and wait for it…she wore green!  No white dress, those were the war-times honey and they were just so excited to get married and had a nice big cake and reception at their friends home, and she wore a green skirt-suit.

    Maybe white for you other guys, but it was a pronounced peacock for me!

    Maybe white for you other guys, but it was a pronounced peacock for me!

    I hadn’t known this when I chose my own dress, and the thought that we shared even that small connection through time will long stay on my heart as a badge of honor.

  4. Wedding party, and friends beyond!

    Wedding party, and friends beyond!

    She was independent, yet selfless, and made family matter.  What?  Women can do all that?  She moved around the country with her husband’s work as a pastor, army, gaurd, never invoking a move for her own sake.  Yet she always found a job, or volunteered in their community, and made trips to see family by herself after my grandfather died of battle with cancer.  I loved when she would drive out to stay with us Easter weekends, dressed like the Queen of England in her Sunday suit, and help us find Easter eggs, make ham and pecan pies, and remembering all my parents friends at their local church.   She also drove out for dance-recitals, birthdays, and all those times I went to the hospital as a kid, she took turns with my parents they could divide time with my brother and me.

  5. Easter-day fine!

    Easter-day fine!

    She was a spiritual mentor to me.  You may assume that since her husband was a pastor, she had no choice, but I always found her faith to be her own. Her life left a little trail of bread-crumbs that seemed to always lead back to a loving God who was worth knowing.  Grandma made it “ok,”, and even “cool” to ask about God.  She gave me my first Bible, and was so supportive of my decision to be baptized when I was 8.  Later, she stood by me with pearl-bracelet in hand as I was confirmed in the church.  To she and I, these weren’t just religious ceremonies.  These were commitments I was making to the God who had saved me, and who she showed me sustained her.

  6. James and Wanda Reynolds on their Wedding Day

    James and Wanda Reynolds on their Wedding Day

    She met it with a smile.  My grandmother was so good at being gracious and plucky regardless of the situation.  She could jump right in with any conversation, and she often took my rudeness in stride and just kept right after me to behave myself. (I was a little impatient and willful as a child – can you believe it?)  What has made us feel like we are a better person when we get crass or turn the rough edge to someone who may run us the wrong way? That wasn’t Jesus’ way.  Grandmother had the strength and courage to keep on being her best self, and trust that others would learn to do the same.  I’m trying to do better.

Look Grandma, it's for you!

Look Grandma, it’s for you!

Finally, I’ll just share that this last season of getting married and moving so far away has been so much harder than I ever imagined.  I’ve been sick so much of that time, and have struggled to stay in touch.  Wanda had been in the nursing home for the last few years – finally giving up her little apartment and bright red car she loved so much, (again, where do I get my independence from?), and about a month ago, my parents let me know she was transferring to hospice.  I couldn’t bare the thought of not saying goodbye, of making sure that she knew I really missed all those weekends I was working and couldn’t come visit, that I remembered all she had done for me.  So be the grace of friends, husband, and the Lord, I was able to make a trip to see her and the rest of our family over mother’s day.  It was wonderful to be all together after I’d missed all the holidays, but the most precious moment was on Sunday afternoon, just one good friend and I stayed behind with a little card, and I tried to share with her as best I could what she meant to me.  It’s never enough, and there  just is never the words, and I didn’t want to make her feel like this was really, “IT”, just because I didn’t know when I’d make it back…but I think she understood.  I think she got what I was trying to say, and that I was far away yet holding her so close.

This pecan pie is soo good!

This pecan pie is soo good!

The last time I spoke with my Grandmother, was the night before she passed.  I was able to call her from my own hospital bed, and pray with her for just a few moments…and it was both heartbreaking and blessing at the same time.  Later that night, as I lay in my own pain and prayed for her, I thought, she’s past all this.  She get’s to go home, she’s done.  She has lived a full life loving those around her for the sake of her Savior, and she has done it alone for many years.  Now, she gets to rest.  She gets to be taken care of, she is at Home with her husband, and I imagine them smiling together under the watch-care of the One who redeemed them there.  And yes, Heaven is a sweet place to imagine when already filled with those we love.

Until we meet again, Grandmother, I will try to do you proud.

Your loving legacy,  Morgen

 

Living legacies, Cousin Chelsy, Me, and Sis-in-Law Megan.  All married within the last year, ready to start a new generation...

Living legacies, Cousin Chelsey, Me, and Sis-in-Law Megan. All married within the last year, ready to start a new generation…

 

 

Finding Florida

Hello faithful friends!  I see that it has been way too long since I updated, I’m sorry!  My Crohn’s was not treating me kindly the last few weeks, and a dear friend took me for a much needed retreat into sunshine and quiet.  I’ve missed your feedback in my life, so I’ll briefly share some of what is going on.  Specifically, how grateful I am that we landed where we did – and only God knew how perfect it would be.

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This month I had planned for my husband to be gone at training – however, a minor injury kept him here for the time being.  Bonus – I don’t have to miss him yet!  However, I had planned an ultra busy Girl-A-Thon to keep my mind off his absence, so now he’s here in the midst of it!  First, our dear friend Michelle came down to stay for the month and help me manage the house and animals.  It’s been cool to show her our organic market, juicing, and starting garden.  I think she’s still in a bit of shock at our health-focused life-style, but that’s ok.

Next, my MOH4LIFE, (maid of honor, Lorri), came down to wisk me away to a nearby resort so that I could lay in the sun and get some R&R.  We’ve found in the past that whenever my disease gets bad, a few days of complete rest, stress free, with lots of sunshine make a huge difference.  So we hit the pool, took naps, and braved the “lazy river” for a week.  The most excitement we had was seeing a real live Alligator!  Trust me, as a new Floridian, that was a mile-stone for me.  We  got so close! And then a passing golfer offered to get even closer and took a great picture.  I feel much better – but still have a ways to go…

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Finally, we’ll finish the month with my new sister-in-law, Rachele, spending her Spring Break with us.  She’s a senior at the Air Force Academy now, so I warned her our lives are not conducive to an MTV-style vacay.  She assured me she’s looking for the rest and peace we hope she’ll find here in our little oasis.  Sigh, I feel so incredibly fortunate that we landed here.  Since we were married in November, we’ve had at least 1 Chicago visitor a month – sometimes their work brings them, sometimes it’s just for fun, but we’re always glad to see friendly faces and share life while we can!

I think back to this time one year ago….Ed was leaving Europe for good to come to the states, and we’d found out he was going to be stationed here.  When he originally put in his request, we were only a few months into dating, but he asked me to list the top 3 cities where’d I’d like to visit my boyfriend.  We put Chicago, then places in Florida and Texas, (I have other family there.)  When he got the email with his final destination, he was disappointed, and I had mixed emotions.  I’ve always loved Florida  and savored the excuse to visit…but we really had to talk about continuing to make the long-distance work.  That was a hard conversation, I felt laid bare as I humbly asked for his thoughts on the future, bracing myself for the possibility that the reality of dating a girl so far away would lose it’s appeal next to the tanned and toned bodies readily available in his new home.  He never wavered – and I was relieved.  As it turned out, I only flew south once before moving down here – most of our visits were him coming here, (I had to work weekends so it was harder for me to get away), ironic right?

Yet, now that we are here, we’ve met so many people who have made us feel welcome.  The first hair-cut I ever got, my stylist has Crohn’s that she’s healing naturally.  My massage therapist practices homeopathy and grows all her own organic food. Our church teaches taking care of the soul, and the body in natural God-given ways.  How could we ever have known that these individuals were waiting for us?  It’s true what they say, home is where the heart is, and ours is certainly happy right here.

My 2 Cents on Meditation

Feel your inner lotus...or something.

Feel your inner lotus…or something.

Well if you know me, you know I don’t meditate.  I hate Silence.   Sitting in Silence is even worse!  My best prayer times are with music, or writing out my prayers in a journal.  However, Ed enjoys meditation and yoga.  He appreciates silence on his runs and walks.

We’ve been discussing meditation lately, I have always had reservations about it’s usage in Eastern and New Age religions.  I’ve seen meditation lead to communing with not-so-good spirits, and god-complexes in individuals.  However, I’m open minded to the idea applied to Christian practices.  There is a verse in the Bible I don’t pay enough attention to, it says,

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~ Phillippians 4:8-9

Things that are lovely and good...

Things that are lovely and good…

Doesn’t that sound nice?  To spend time thinking about things like that, and allowing God to bring us peace?  Well, I have never made much time or spent much energy exploring this idea, and whenever Ed brought up meditation or yoga (which I have tried and failed at many times), I always pushed it off with a, “yeah, we can talk about that”.  Meaning, let’s talk about it later, and not do anything about it.

All of that changed today.  I was leaving the house to meet up with a friend whom I value very much.  I had not slept well due to Crohn’s issues, and felt tense all morning as I poured over emails and caught up on Facebook.  As I got into the car I thought, this tea-date is really important to me.  I really want God to use it.  So I started thinking about that as I drove.  How could God use this time to His purpose and goodness?  How has He used other conversations with friends to His Glory?  I reflected on the impact good friends have had in my life over the years, and then one particular thought stood out.  God has blessed me with the companionship of extraordinary people my entire life.

Ed is getting ready to leave for 7 weeks of training…that may turn into 5 months.

Oh Chi-Town...

Oh Chi-Town…

 Several people said to me, “well, why don’t you come back to Chicago for awhile?  See your family and friends here?”  I see their point, however, Chicago no longer feels like home.  Isn’t that crazy?  It always will be to some extent – it’s my home-town and made me who I am. But right now, Orlando has my heart. That surprised me as I thought about it!  It’s only been 4 months since I left, but there are dedicated, kind, loving people who have embraced Ed and I as their own.  As people found out he was leaving, they’ve reached out with all kinds of offers and invitations to keep me healthy, safe, and cared about while my husband is away.

So as I pulled up to Starbucks and waved to my friend through the window, I thanked God for how carefully He has orchestrated the relationships in my life.  I was reminded that He DOES have a purpose for things that we can’t even imagine…until we have that one conversation and it all makes sense.   That 10 minutes of meditation in the car put me in a completely different mindset to meet with this dear woman, and share life, and let God do what only He can do.  And sure enough – He did.  It was the most revealing, tender, and encouraging conversation we’ve had yet in our new friendship, and I now see the purpose of letting our minds dwell.

Lace Up Your Boots

Intention and accuracy in everything...

Intention and accuracy in everything…

As I watched my soldier lace up his boots in the wee-hours of the morning, I caught my mind drifting to images of him lacing up those boots in a dusty tent somewhere…or on the floor of a hideout trying not to make a sound…what those boots must have seen over the years.  I wondered, what does he think about while he’s tightening the laces?  What has he thought about in the past?  How many days does he remember…or wish he could forget in those boots?

I think as Army families, it never get easier to watch our warriors lace up their boots, snap on their hat, and walk out the door.  Even once they are home and safe…we remember what it was like when they weren’t.  As I watched him tucking in his pants to regulation, I broadened my musings to include construction workers, nurses, salesmen, soccer moms…what do all of them think of as they lace up (or slide on) their shoes?

Really, none of us know what the day will bring, yet each day we set out with determination to face it.  In whom do we trust when the outcome isn’t guaranteed?  For me, my hope is in the Lord.  It its a hope that stems from knowing I am valuable and love-worthy.  I know I wouldn’t have survived my years of

Ready to march?

Ready to march?

hospitals and surgeries if it wasn’t for a purpose, if it wasn’t for all the prayers, support, and determined effort on the part of many to keep me alive.  I also firmly believe that I would never have met my solider, or been in a emotional place to begin a relationship, if it were not for a Divine Providence prompting both of our hearts to meet.

So at the end of the day, and at the start of our next one, I will pray that we will be strong and courageous, that we will lace up our boots and march into our life with Hope.  May we bring the best of ourselves as we go, the world needs it.

~  with love, Morgen