Tuesday, November 7, 2017

We shall carry on.


He was Big Papa.
 He was Wayne – “wagon maker.”

A craftsman.

A man who built up those around him.

My husband bears his name. My son bears his name. His Irish-Scottish-Canadian-American blood runs through the veins of my daughters who have his slim build and long legs.

How do you go on when the wheels of the family wagon don’t just break, but disappear?

The first memory I have of Wayne is unremarkable – an afternoon of swimming in Wayne and Dawn’s pool as a teenager (since I was friends with their grandson). I’m sure I was introduced to these grandparents of a friend, and never thought twice about how these grandparents would become as dear to me as my own over the following 17 years. The last time I talked to Wayne, he looked at my husband and said it wasn’t hard for him to go because he knew that the people he left behind were successful.

“Carry on,” he told us.

Keep that wagon moving.

Three Christmases ago, my girls received a red Radio Flyer wagon from Wayne and Dawn. The evening was spent with wagon parts strewn across G.G.’s floor and four generations of Bernards constructing the wagon together. You don’t really realize that you need a wagon until you really need a wagon.
That wagon has since been pulled through muddy tulip fields, been used in my annual cherry blossom photo of the kids, and even hauled pavers for our recent patio project. It has bolts that have been replaced and wheels that squeak because my kids weigh too much now, but that wagon keeps going.  Wagons of old were built to provide support and protection – a way to get the work done and protect those doing it.

Wayne was a wagon maker.

Listening to his funeral service one month ago today, I heard his co-workers and church family tell story after story of a man who crafted support systems for God’s work to get done. He worked tirelessly to protect those he loved and believed in.

On Wayne’s 47th birthday, his first grandchild, Bryan Wayne Bernard, was born. 
When we were blessed with a healthy son on June 29, 2016, there was no question about what his middle name would be.
Judah Wayne Bernard joins four others named after B. Wayne Bernard – one of his sons, two of his grandsons, and two of his great-grandsons. These five bear his name, but we all shoulder Wayne’s challenge to “carry on” his legacy of loving others before ourselves.
I remember the first time I noticed that he always did the dishes after the family meals, and how his son (my father-in-law) always helped. He always initiated arms-crossed conversations with Bryan about his work in Corvallis with OSU students. He always thought before he spoke and I never heard him raise his voice. At his funeral service, I learned that Wayne knew plenty about revitalizing churches (since that’s what he helped do at Salem First Baptist), but I never got that impression from him as he would offer bits of encouragement to Bryan when he set out to revitalize our church in Corvallis. Wayne never flaunted his knowledge, but quietly would offer it up for you to take or leave.
My husband is a dreamer – a visionary – a wagon driver.  Wayne was always there as one of those people who would help construct the wagon which Bryan drove. When Bryan dreamed of a ministry house on campus, Wayne and Dawn donated money every month to see that it happened. They donated their couches so college students could be comfortable in the house. The house became a hub for the growing college ministry at OSU.

The decisions Wayne made in life were calculated. He was not an impulsive man, not one to jump into things without weighing the pros and cons. I think that’s why his sudden cancer diagnosis and death come at such a shock to us. Wayne’s death seemed to shock everyone but him. He was ready.

Standing to sing “It is Well,” at his service, I tried not to let my mind wander through the origins of the song because I was trying to hold it together.

Of course, I couldn’t keep at bay the “sorrows like sea billows roll” of Heratio Spafford, writing about the loss of his four children in a shipwreck. My eyes rested on my hands clinging to the chair in front of me. On my right hand, rings bearing the names of my children sang out to me and I thought about the two rings that commemorate the babies we’ve lost to miscarriage. Immediately, I knew that those babies were in Wayne’s arms at that moment because his hands were never empty if there was a great grandchild to hold.
My children are blessed to have many grandparents, but only one they named Big Papa. The name fit him – he was tall and had a big hug and a big smile and a big heart. He loved us so well because he loved his Lord so well. We follow in Big Papa’s footsteps because they were always running after Jesus.

The Lord’s work doesn’t stop with him.

The wagon wheels may have disappeared, but it’s up to us to pick up the load and carry on.
SeaKrest will never be the same without his Big Papa greetings.
Corban basketball games will always be missing him in his blue chair.
 Bryan’s June 5th birthday cakes will never have enough candles.
But we will carry on.

We will make it.

Because we are a family.

We protect.

We support.

We build wagons together.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Worthy

The best part of this Christmas was the day before.
On Christmas Eve morning, we gave the kids a bath and dressed them in their fancy clothes much earlier than we normally would of because we had a date with my Grandma.
In October, my Grandma underwent emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot doctors found the day after her 81st birthday. Since then, she has been slowly recovering, moving around to different facilities and undergoing continual physical therapy and speech therapy.
We haven't gotten to see her since her surgery because the kids have been sick and timing hasn't worked out, but everything fell into place on Christmas Eve and everyone got to come and visit her.
I was a bit nervous.
Right after the surgery, Grandma was partially paralyzed, couldn't speak, couldn't recognize anyone, and was in bad shape. I knew she had improved since then, but wasn't sure what to expect.
I was also nervous about how the kids would respond.
My children are blessed to know all of my grandparents, as well as some of Bryan's and so I didn't know how they would react to the changes in Great Grandma Hunter.
Frilly dresses rustled as the girls raced to push the handicap door openers, and I was thankful that the  lobby smelled of Christmas instead of nursing home.
My mom had gone in before us to get Grandma, whom she'd found roaming the halls in her wheelchair, decked out in her familiar sage green hummingbird sweater.
I breathed a small sigh of relief because she looked better than I expected and was instantly so excited to see us. She reached out for each of us, trying to hold us all at once. She stroked the big red bows on the girls' dresses and they shed their coats and twirled for her. Judah (dressed as Santa) received the greatest doting, as he was instantly in her lap.
We wheeled Grandma over next to the Christmas tree and the girls led us in "Away in a Manger" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain." Grandma LOVED the singing and tried to sing along, even though the words she sang didn't match ours. I could tell she recognized the songs and wanted to sing along as best she could. We spent some more time doing puzzles with her, but it was a short visit, as she tires quickly.
Leaving was hard. She got mad when we wheeled her away from the girls, and it was clear that she did not want to go, but also clear how exhausted she was. I took Cayden and followed my mom pushing Grandma back to her room. Grandma was frustrated, we think because she wanted to say a proper goodbye. She's not the type to take a goodbye sitting down. Every goodbye I've ever had with her has included a hug at the door, standing. But today was different.
The only person at her level was Cayden.
My girl leaned in to give Grandma a hug goodbye and they just clung to each other. Grandma looked up at me with tears as if to say, "This is what I needed."
I lost it.
Sitting there embracing both my sweet 81-year-old grandmother and my sweet 5-year-old daughter, the tears came as a witness to this special moment. It was a long hug. Count right now to 30 seconds. That's an eternity for a hug...and I had worried how my kids would react.
After Cayden, I hugged Grandma myself and my mom reassured her that she would be back the next day to take Grandma to my aunt's house for Christmas.
We could hear her chanting the word she repeats over and over again, fading as we walked away from her room.
"Worthy, worthy, worthy..."
This is the word she greeted us with, repeated the whole time we were there, and even sang at times. She can say about 5 words now, but overwhelmingly, she says "worthy" over and over. Her inflection will change to match what she's trying to communicate, even baby talking "worthy, worthy," to Judah.
When we got to the car, Cayden asked, "Why does Grandma always say 'worthy?'"
I wondered the same thing. Why that word?
It didn't take me long to think of an answer that made sense to me.
"I think it's because she saw Jesus."
"Huh?"
"I think when she was having surgery on her brain, she saw Jesus, maybe in a dream, and now all she can say is 'worthy' because Jesus is so beautiful and the only one worthy of our praise."
For a woman who has lived her life to tell others about Christ's love and sacrifice, I can't imagine it is coincidence that the one word God has enabled her to say with gusto is "worthy."
Thank you, Grandma, for reminding me, yet again, of our Father's love for us, and for giving me an opportunity to communicate that love and awe to my daughter. You are still touching our lives and making this world a better place.

"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom"
Psalm 145:3

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I told you so

Is there anything more selfish than saying, “I told you so?”

Usually, this phrase follows the failure of someone else.

And in saying, “I told you so,” instead of lifting that person out of their failure (like Jesus would), I am choosing to wallow in their failure and remind them how much wiser I am.

Oftentimes as a mom, I find myself using some form of this phrase under the guise of creating a teachable moment for my children.

“I told you not to touch that burner!”

“That’s what happens when you pick your nose too much!”

“I knew you would trip with your shoes on the wrong feet!”

For some reason, in those moments when I’m frustrated (because I DID warn them about these things, and I AM smarter than them), my gut reaction is to scold them and remind them how smart I am. I like to think that the root of my scolding is because I so desperately want them to stay safe without burned hands and bloody noses, but is “I told you so” the best I can do as a mom?

No.

The first words out of my mouth don’t need to be a reminder of what I told them.

The first words out of my mouth need to be addressing the pain caused by their failure or bad decision.

The first words out of my mouth need to give life.

That means stuffing down the first (selfish) thoughts that come to my head and asking, “Are you okay? How can I help?”

Maybe later, after the knees have their bandaids, we can discuss the benefits of wearing shoes on the right feet, but the attitude of “I told you so” just teaches my children to react with selfishness instead of with compassion.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rain

Yesterday, my girls were playing in the pool with the neighbors in the front yard. When I woke up this morning to rain, I thought, yep...that makes sense.
It rained last June 2, as well.
It didn't just rain, it poured.
And it made sense on a day that didn't make much sense.
Last June 2, Bryan and I calmly drove the 8 minutes to the hospital, pressed the 4 on the elevator and were quietly escorted to a room without an incubator where moms come to deliver babies that never give first cries. Down the hall from the rooms where my girls entered this world, I took the pills to induce my labor to deliver our 14-week-old son, whose heart was no longer beating. All day, I stared out the window, looking down on a little garden being drenched by a surprise June rain storm.
At 6:06pm, Hunter Hope finally arrived, and life will never be the same.
Hunter's story is posted earlier in this blog, but today I want to just be reminded that he was and will always be a precious part of our family.
Also, I want to share that God has blessed us with another pregnancy.
Due in 23 days, this June baby is much prayed over, much loved and much anticipated.
We are waiting to find out gender, so this will be a very new experience for us.
Please be praying for peace in my heart over the next month as we rest in the knowledge that Christ's love and sacrifice serves as the anchor for our soul, despite our circumstances.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A family that fails together...

I'd had it with Swiffers.
The third time using my brand new Swiffer, it stopped spraying (the whole point) and so I stopped mopping...until Piper spilled cranberry juice everywhere and it had to be done.
I refused to buy ANOTHER stupid Swifter.
I also refused to buy a real mop (sorry Pinesol lady).

 So I deconstructed my swifter to figure out what was wrong.
Nothing was wrong.

 My daughter Cayden watched me unscrew the plastic cover, inspect the wiring on the motor (I was pretending I knew what I was doing), check for clogs in the tubes, etc. When I pulled off the battery pack, Duracells rolled across my sticky floor.
"Maybe you need new batteries?" She optimistically suggested, 4 years of experience rattling in her tilted head.
I laughed a bit at her innocent solution to everything.
When the internet isn't working, she says we need to change the batteries.
"No, it's pretty new, I don't think it's the batteries..."

There was nothing wrong with the stupid Swiffer Sweeper.
The only thing I hate more than being wrong is when someone else is right.
The only thing I hate more than that is sticky floors.
Long story short, it was the batteries.

We whooped and hollered when the sprayers blasted full power with those new batteries.
I saw the pride in my daughter's face, but also noticed hints of humility as she applauded my efforts, saying, "I saw you had already tried everything else, so I thought it might be the batteries."

Then, giggling, she said, "Usually you know more, but this time, I was smarter, Mommy!"


Sometimes I am wrong. And I'm glad that my daughter saw me accept my failure today, because maybe she will remember that failure is ok in this family.
Family means not ridiculing failures.
Family means stepping in to help when someone has failed.
Family means working together to put the broken pieces back together.

I am thankful for my family.
And for new batteries.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I miss that little person...


Today, I overheard this conversation upstairs between Cayden and her little friend.

“The baby is dead! And it’s all your fault! We need to go to the real doctor STAT!”

The two girls were playing doctor and unfortunately, Cayden’s friend had taken too long to retrieve the life-saving pretend syringe.

Death is an experienced reality in my 4-year-old’s life.

Cayden Elizabeth Ann was named after my good friend and mentor, Beth, who died two months before Cayden was born. Beth’s parents have become like grandparents to my girls, and we often talk about how Beth is in heaven now.

Death came up again when my mom’s dog died.
Then it was the flowers.
Spiders die when she squishes them.
Simba’s dad died.
And baby brother died before she ever got to meet him.

Sometimes when I am chatting with some stranger at Les Schwab about how old my kids are and such, Cayden will matter-of-factly pipe in, “You had another baby too, but he died.” Like I forgot. Like this woman next to me needs to know that information to complete my story.

The thing is, that woman does need to know.
Because the story of my children is incomplete without a mention of Hunter.
But it’s an awkward thing to say.

It catches people off guard.
It catches me off guard.
And it makes me vulnerable.

In an instant, I have to decide how I want to present this sad reality of my life.
I want to be able to share my darkness along with my Light.

I lost a child.
But I have gained so much in that loss.
I have gained strength from a God who also lost His child.
I have learned a whole new level of compassion.
I have experienced how precious life is.

I have held a little tiny human in the palm of my hand.
He wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t alive, but he was a person.

And I miss that little person.

I remember when my friend Beth died, her mom told me that she couldn’t make it through the songs at church (especially the hymns) without crying.

I get that now.

I can’t even make it dry-eyed down the road with K-LOVE playing because there’s always a song with the perfect lyrics for my soul.

The best part is when I’m quietly trying to keep it together up front, and the chorus comes around and my sweet 4-year-old starts belting out, “I WILL CAST MY CARES ON YOU!”

Yes.

And the words from Finding Favour pour through my soul.

“This war's not what I would've chosen
But You see the future no one knows yet

“And there's still good when I can't
See the working of Your hands
You're holding it all

“I will cast my cares on You
You're the anchor of my hope
The only one who's in control
I will cast my cares on You
I'll trade the troubles of this world
For Your peace inside my soul.”

I was supposed to be 8 months pregnant right now.
I was supposed to be able to say, “I’m having a baby next month!”
But sometimes bad things happen.

Sometimes cancer takes our children.
Sometimes bullets take our children.
And sometimes we don’t know what took our children.

What we don’t want is for the world to forget our children.
Because we never will.

It’s ok to ask me about my son.
He was a gift to be shared.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The song

Yesterday, I looked at my calendar to find an appointment for my "big ultrasound" at 20 weeks. It made me wonder how different today could have been, in many scenarios. If things were different, I could have been so excited to announce we were having a boy. Instead, today I am rejoicing that my baby boy is seeing perfection in Heaven, and continuing to bless people with his story down here on earth.
One of the most healing things I encountered in this process was the church service the week after we lost Hunter. Bryan defined "hope" for us as a steadfast conviction that is anchored in Jesus and sealed with a promise. Then, I read my June 2 blog post. Then, with the whole room in tears, the worship team had to get up there, pull themselves together, and sing some amazing songs about hope. It was so beautiful.
The following week, I asked the worship team to record one of the songs: Everlasting God (We Set Our Hope). This is not an original song, but is an original video.
My talented brother, Steven, has a recording studio (Vibe Control Studios) in town, so he helped us make this beautiful sound track.
A big "thank you" to everyone who made this possible.
Please watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/132788186