Thursday, March 28, 2013

How Will You Be Different?

These past few months have been a bit difficult.  Quite.  Starting this summer with the passing of my beautiful mother, taken by the awful disease of Alzheimer's.  Then in December came the awful Sandy Hook tragedy that shook the entire nation.  Just a little after that my sweet friend Erin, at the young age of 29 went home to be with the Lord after some sickness.  Then came March 8th which shook me to my core as I found out my dear friend Angie had gone home to be with Jesus.
There is a common factor as I think about all of these amazing, beautiful, special people, that continues to come to mind.
My mom was a daycare provider for over 22 years at our home.  She was a Sunday School teacher, Junior Church worker and nursery worker.  She loved children!  I think that's where my love for kids came from!  My mom was great with kids, she loved them, took great care of them, taught them so much (even though she had no formal education in childcare), it was just a part of her, just who she was.  She truly cared about all of her children, from her daycare kids, to her church kids.  She loved them...unconditionally!  Many would come back to visit her.  That's what made it so hard to see her with this wretched disease that took her communication skills and her confidence and made her more introverted, nothing like the strong, confident, people person that she used to be.  Though, even with the disease, when she would be around children, there would be a little spark of that old self that would reignite... just a little.  That's why it makes me so sad that I was never able to give her grandchildren, she would have been an amazing grandmother, I just know it!
Then I think about all those children and the staff at Sandy Hook.  Precious, beautiful lives gone senselessly.  Of course I didn't know any of them personally, but just thinking of these lives lost brings such sadness.  First of all, the children.  Children are so loving and caring, they teach us so much by how they can love unconditionally and without stipulations, no judgement.  Twenty children...just think of all that much love ready to be shared with the world, just taken away!  Then, of course I think of the teachers and staff members who obviously loved these children...loved them enough to give their lives to try to protect these children.  They were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice!  They definitely had unconditional love for all that were under their care.  As the stories came out about these precious, sweet children, and the amazing staff, they were all stories of how caring, kind, sweet and loving they all were.
When my friend Erin died, that was tough for me because she was so young.  She was a precious daughter, the only child of her sweet parents.  She was a loving wife, but had only been able to share that love as a wife for about two years.  She was an awesome teacher.  One of her students got up at the funeral to talk about how much Mrs. J meant to her, how she encouraged her, listened to her, helped her, and loved her.  She was someone else who had that unconditional love that she showered on others.  So many students with tear-filled eyes because they were going to miss one of their favorite teachers.  She was so young and I know had so much more love to give and shower on others, but the Lord saw fit to take her home to be with Him.
And then with the recent death of my beautiful friend, Angie, that topic has come up so often.  We are all just in awe of this woman who had so much love to give.  She was an amazing wife and mother and had so much love for her family!  She also shared so much of her love with her church family, she touched so many of the young people's lives in her church!  She had so many friends at church that she enjoyed special times and memories with.  Even with all of that she still had more love to share with all of the students at ECA.  She was the school Mama to them.  I shared in my previous post about how great she was with them.  And then to top it all off, the staff, faculty and families of the school also felt that love.  It boggles my mind how one person can have so much love, shared so equally and specially with so many.  But yet her priorities were right, she loved her Lord most of all, then filtered so much love to her family, then to all the rest of us.  She had such an amazing ability to love unconditionally, and she wouldn't judge...just genuinely loved people!
Did you catch the common factor?  It's simply love.  But not just simple love, each of these people showed unconditional love.  They are no longer here with us to shower the world with that love.  That's a huge bit of love lost in this crazy world!  Who will step up? Who is going to help fill that void?  How can we hear these stories and not want to strive to be different?  This world needs more people like these have truly impacted people and made a difference in their lives, simply by showing them love.  And no, don't worry, I'm not naive enough to think it's just all about love, no.  I know personally, for a fact that a couple of these had to and were willing to do the hard part many times and rebuke and discipline, but that was also done with love so people accepted it with the right spirit... though not all the time.  But they were willing to do the hard part because they loved people enough to help them strive to be exactly what the Lord would want them to be.
These losses changed people (I know they changed me), changed their way of thinking, and made people want to be different.  People hugged more, shared more, connected more, appreciated more, strove to be more loving and kind.  Are we just going to hold onto this for a little while, and then forget, or are we willing to strive to be different and keep these things going?  Unconditional love is not the easy norm for everyone, but are we willing to work towards that end?  This world definitely needs more of that.
Lord, these have been some difficult months, there has been much sadness, and such great loss.  I can't help but think of you with these losses, especially the ones I knew.  They remind me of how you lived your life, coming to earth to love all, even and sometimes especially, the unlovable.  You loved so unconditionally that you were willing to give your life for all, even those who would never love You back.  There is no greater love!  Help us to be more like You!  Help us to remember the lives of these special people you gave to us and strive to shower that kind of love on others, and to be different and to make a difference in people's lives as these wonderful people did for us.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Friend

I don't even know how to begin this.  I'm sitting here still in some form of shock and with swollen eyes and a bit of a headache.  I was so excited to get a snow day today because I had so many amazing blessings that recently happened that I wanted to blog about.  But, as I got on my computer to get ready to blog, I stopped by Facebook first.  I did a couple of things on there, and then saw a post from a friend that asked everyone to please pray for my friend Angie.  It seemed very urgent, so I went to the Lord right away asking Him to please take care of my friend.  I couldn't imagine what could have happened, then I saw another post that said she wasn't breathing, they were trying to resuscitate and the ambulance was on the way.  I cried and offered up more prayer and again asked the Lord to be with her and take care of her.  I put up my own post because the more prayers we could get out for her the better.  I love this woman, and needed for her to be OK.  Not long after my post, my friend Amy called me and told me news that was exactly what I did not want to hear.  She told me that my dear friend had passed away.  I didn't want to believe her, and still I sit here and don't want to believe it!  I'm still hoping for some strange mistake or dream sequence to end, but sadly that's not the case.  My heart is so broken right now, I haven't really stopped crying since I heard the news, and I'm sure that is the case for most of us who knew and loved her.  Angie and I became friends when I had her daughter Raycheal in my class, I can't seem to remember exactly, but I think that was about 13 or so years ago.  Through those about 13 years I was blessed to have had the privilege of teaching all five of her amazing children!
To know Angie is to love her, and I just appreciated her spirit, her support, her love for her kids, but more than that her desire to do right by them, by constantly teaching them to do right.  She was someone I always knew would support me as a teacher.  She and her husband Tim would work with me to help their children along.  She would always say, "Let me know if they ever act up or give you a problem."  I would just laugh at her and tell her, those were the kids whose parents I rarely had to call, because the kids always knew.  The one time I did have to call her, that child was in tears even before I had finished dialing her number so he could tell her what happened, because he knew he had disobeyed and disappointed her, but also knew he was going to be in big trouble when he got home...not the "big trouble" that some parents say.  She meant business and he knew that.  It wasn't even terribly a huge deal, but it was disobedience and we both knew it was important to address it.  She thanked me for caring enough to call her and tell her, and I thanked her for caring enough to take care of the situation.  I never had any other problems with him.  Every time I had one of her children, I felt so blessed, and I'm not just saying that!  They were joys to have in class.  With each year that we knew each other our bond grew stronger.  She's just such an amazing woman, you can't help but to be drawn to her.
She had such a heart for people, and apart from her family she also had so much love for the students at ECA.  I think that was part of the bond that brought us together.  That, as well as our immense love for all things purple, and our shared likeness for bling!!!  We were like the purple bling twins!!  We even have some  twin clothing because we had a similar love for certain fashion.  I can't imagine not being with, laughing with, sharing with, and getting hugs from my purple bling twin!!  My classroom is even an amazing purple color because Angie and another friend Erin highly recommended that color when my room was going to be repainted.
She started helping out at the school, and became our school librarian.  I loved this because I knew at least every Monday, I would pretty much be guaranteed to see her.  She would often be there other times, too, and I know the kids at school appreciated having her around.  She was a mother to all the kids at school.  She just truly loved them and wanted the best for them, and wanted them to grow and serve the Lord.  She was there to listen, hug, encourage, offer Godly advice, lovingly rebuke, or any thing else that was necessary.   No one was a stranger to her, and she would make everyone feel so special.
I was so excited this year, because she was at school more, which just always made me so happy!  Last year she had been going to hairdressing school and couldn't be there as much, which I didn't like.  Just her presence brought me pure joy!  Then part way through the school year, I found out she would be there even more, sadly it was because our beloved friend Sarah had to take a reprieve due to her cancer diagnosis, so it was a sad loss to not be able to have Sarah there for a while, but sweet to be able to see Angie each day.  Angie just stepped right in to take her place.  Sarah was such a blessing and worked hard to bring our lunchroom up a few notches, and got her license to change our lunchroom around.  Well, if she was going to take Sarah's place she wanted to make sure to do it right, so she also went to take her food prep test and get licensed.  She was always willing to do what she could and to help.  She helped so much with the booster club, organized bake sales, worked hard at many of the school functions in one capacity or another.  This was a woman full of life and love.  I so enjoyed getting my daily hugs each day!
So, it should be no surprise that my heart is truly broken and I'm feeling a little lost and shocked and numb, as I heard the awful news earlier today that my sweet friend Angie had passed away.  I have cried so much today, that now as I am writing this my eyes hurt and are a little swollen, my head hurts from all the tears, and my heart hurts because my amazing friend that I love with all my heart took a big chunk of it to heaven with her.  I still can't believe it, and don't want to.  I don't know how I'll walk into that school everyday, and not see her there to give me a hug, some encouragement, or just to listen and care.  I don't know how all these sweet kids are going to be in school knowing they don't have Mama Larson to check on them, care for them, love them, keep them in check, and encourage them.  I don't know what her kids will do without their mom who was such a loving, caring, nurturing mom who would do anything for them.  I don't know how her husband will go through each day not having her by his side.  I don't know how so many friends will get through this time of truly missing a one-of-a-kind amazing woman!  But I do know that with all of these unknowns, I still have to trust and believe.  I trust Him because He has shown himself and his love to me over and over, and I believe He will do what he promises!  And today when I was outside shoveling the driveway, I was asking what are her poor kids supposed to do, how are they supposed to finish school and carry on.  Right after I was crying out and asking that, I felt two big gusts of wind push me forward and I thought I was going to fall forward...they were pretty strong.  And I knew the answer, I felt from the Lord and from my sweet friend Angie, was to just encourage them as well as each other, to go forward!  It's not going to be easy, but we have to go forward...that's what she would want.  She started this great legacy, we have to go forward and keep it going, or else everything that she did, all the lives she tried to touch, all those she counseled and made feel special will be in vain.  We now have to pick up where she left off, though none of us will ever be able to fill those shoes!  But with the things she taught us through her beautiful, too short life, we have to now pick up the slack and carry on, and go forward.
Lord, I don't know how I'm going to go forward, when I feel so stuck and numb right here.  But I know my friend Angie would want that for me and for everyone else she touched with her life.  Help us to trust you, help us to lean on you! Help us to check up on each other, to help each other, hug each other, love one another, encourage one another, lovingly rebuke one another, and whatever else we need to do for one another.  And Lord, help us to help her family, help us to love on them as they will need that!  Please give them your peace, and help us to always hold them up in prayer before you as she did so faithfully!  Please allow me to go forward with the things this amazing friend taught me, and keep her spark and spirit alive!  Help us to be there for others and her family as she was always there for each of us!  It's now our time to carry the torch and go forward!
Angie, I will miss you everyday of my life!  I can't imagine my life without you, it will feel so incomplete, but as I have told you before, I'm so thankful for you and for what you mean to me.  I'm so thankful to have known you and been blessed to call you my dear, very dear friend!  I got your message and we will go forward and encourage others as well as your family to go forward and be strong for you!  I love you so much my dear friend!  So looking forward to seeing you again...and boy do I hope it's soon!  Here's the hug I never got to give you on this snow day! (((HUG)))