Friday, August 31, 2012

Hummingbirds from Heaven

When my dad called to tell me that my grandmother had just passed away, I was sitting outside on the patio enjoying a beautiful Saturday morning.

After his call, I just sat there for a bit, taking in the information, letting the tears stream down my cheeks, when suddenly a creature came flying right at me. I thought it was a dragonfly and that it was going to hit me, so I flinched, but as it got closer, I realized it was a hummingbird.

A beautiful hummingbird! To say it took my breath away would be an understatement. I was fascinated. It flew right next to me and hovered there for several seconds. Long enough for me to take it all in and be captivated by it.

I have only seen a hummingbird in person a few times in my life. And NEVER for such a long period of time. It was just breathtaking.

I am very interested in the spiritual meaning of animals, so, after the encounter, I looked up the hummingbird, and what I read had me in tears. So many messages for me. Too many for one blog article, but, the primary one is the significance of how the hummingbird's wings flutter in the shape of a figure eight. That is the sign for infinity -- eternity.

Seriously. For a hummingbird to "magically" show up next to me moments after learning my grandmother had passed away is nothing short of divine. I'm sure my grandmother sent me that hummingbird to let me know about eternity.

Growing up, birds were our thing. Well, sparrows, mostly. She fed the sparrows at her house every single day, and when I was there I did it too. But she didn't feed her sparrows ordinary bird seed, she bought loaves of bread specifically for the birds!

I loved tearing up the bread into little pieces for the birds and then running inside to the kitchen window to watch them all eat.

She told me her father always told her he would come back to earth as a bird after he died, and that was why it was so important she fed the sparrows at her house. Well, now I have hummingbirds to feed in honor of my grandmother. It just makes me smile.

Hummingbirds also symbolize joy. I think my grandmother is telling me, from heaven, the same thing she used to tell me in person -- savor every moment, every day. Savor your family.

I get chills every time I think about it. Lucky for me, I have a very caring husband who promptly went out and bought a hummingbird feeder. Now we see them every day! CRAZY! He also set up the video camera to see if we could catch one in action, and we did! Check out the video! So cool!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spiritual Journaling: The ART of Compassion

I attended a spiritual art journaling class last night and made this piece of artwork.

For the week prior to the class we were instructed to be asking God for direction in this new season of life ( it could be the kids going back to school or whatever is going on in life).

We were to ask God to lay some things on our hearts and to be paying attention to the repetitive messages he would bring us.

Throughout the week I felt that God was giving me the word compassion to think about. I read that word and heard people speak that word REPEATEDLY all week long. 

He even gave me a verse from the Bible -- Psalm 103:8, which says "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

I took time to reflect on what God was trying to tell me with this, and I think right now it has to do with me being compassionate always.

It's easy to be compassionate toward people who treat you with love and respect. The challenge comes in being compassionate toward those you feel are not treating you well.

This is no small challenge. It means changing your heart. It means that even those who have hurt us deserve our compassion. Maybe it helps to think about what Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

So, the goal of the spiritual art journaling class was to take what we learned over the week and to journal it artistically. We were given an 8x8 canvas, paints, markers, crayons, glitter, stickers, photographs and more to create our artful journals. The end result is a treasure to help remind you of what God is teaching you right now.

Tamara Peterson, the creator of this idea, came up with it because she understands the value of journaling, but has trouble putting her thoughts and feelings into words. She's an artist, so instead of using lots of words, she uses lots of paint, color, symbols, pictures and anything else artistic she can get her hands on. She is so talented! And very fun to be around, I might add!

But you don't have to be a talented artist to journal this way! As you can see from my photo, I am not an artist -- I am a woman of words! But I loved this method of journaling and found it to be very peaceful and divine. If you're interested in learning more about creative journaling, click here.

A Letter to My Grandmother

Today is Saturday, August 25, 2012. The day my grandmother went to be with her husband and the Lord. She died of cancer, but has been living with Alzheimer's disease for many years. I wrote her this letter in 2009, before the Alzheimer's disease got so bad that I wouldn't have the chance to tell her how much she meant to me.

February 24, 2009

Dear Grandma,

Hello. It’ me, Kristina, your oldest grandchild! I am writing because I would like to tell you how much you mean to me. As I watch my children, Tyler (6) and Alyssa (3), interact with their grandparents, it reminds me of all of the wonderful fun we had while I was growing up.

I will always treasure the memories of staying at your house – especially during the summer! I remember beautiful summer sunrises and riding my bike up and down your driveway while you made breakfast or read the paper. I can still smell the fresh air.

I also loved our bike rides, when we would ride near the high school and stop to visit some of your friends. I loved walking down to the park to play … and walking or riding in your neighborhood in general. You know, one of the things I love about where I live now, is that it reminds me of your neighborhood with all of the beautiful mature trees. It makes me think of you often.

I also loved going swimming at “the pool.” I looked forward to our trips to the market and Randhurst – remember how we used to “people watch” – that was always so much fun. I still tell people about how we used to just sit and watch the crazy, interesting people! You were the master – you taught me that!

So many of my life’s memories are at your house. I feel so fortunate that we came down there every Sunday to spend time with you, Aunt Teresa and the kids. Remember how you used to always slip us a few bucks before we left to go back home? I loved that! How lucky were we to all be together like that?

For some reason, my mind is wandering to food – I always loved the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups you kept in the bottom drawer of the fridge! Yummy! And, of course, you always had chocolate milk for us! What a treat that was – and you knew it! While we’re on the subject of food – remember the liverwurst we used to eat? Oh, and the gyros!!! Ahhh, those were the days!

It was hilarious once the families grew so large that we needed two tables to sit everyone in your kitchen, but those family dinners were the best! We had so much fun!

Once I was in college, I absolutely loved that your house was right on the way back to ISU. It was wonderful to stop there on the way back and spend some time with you and Papa. It gave us time to look at old photo albums of your family, which was fun and interesting! I also loved all the goodies you sent me back with – especially the ham salad! It truly made me happy to have that little tradition with you for a while.

Now that I am an adult, I honor you by making a couple of your famed recipes – I always make your yummy sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, and I’ve finally gotten brave enough to try making your potatoes – the ones with the corn flakes on top! Soooo yummy!

I always enjoy our phone conversations. I love hearing your voice – it just transports me back in time. And you always remind me that I should be enjoying my children and my husband. Don’t worry, Grandma, I am! Thank you for the reminders! It really helps!

You have always played such a special role in my life. I can’t tell you with words how much I love you. You are the most amazing Grandmother anyone could ever ask for. I have no idea what I would have done without you. Thank you for always listening and being there for me.

I know it’s hard for you now with Papa gone, but I hope you can hang in there and try to enjoy every day as much as you can. Please know that I think of you often! Call me anytime, Grandma.

I love you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Subject of Trust

In a recent moms radio show I co-hosted with Life Coach Mir Lynne Pietrzyk, we talked about the job of raising children as mothers filled with faith and trust.

During the show, I mentioned a recent experience with trust, and I wanted to expand upon it in writing.

For some reason, I have been confused about the actual date my children were going to start school this year. I knew it was a Wednesday. But I couldn't remember if the date was the 22nd or 23rd. Quite honestly, I wasn't fretting about it. I knew I'd get them there!

It turns out the correct date was Wednesday the 22nd of August. However, that morning, I thought the date was Wednesday the 23rd, so when I got up to work on my devotional, I opened up to the date of August 23rd.

Here's what my devotional said on my children's first day of school, "Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into my protective care."

Imagine my surprise. I thought, "What are the chances my devotional says that on the first day of school?!" That devotional gave me such peace. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I knew it was right. I need to let go and trust God to protect my children when they are away from me.

I am grateful to God for that message, and as I thought about the situation, I realized there was another message for me.

I realized it wasn't an accident I was confused about the date. God knew I needed to read the devotional for August 23rd, so, he allowed me to be confused about the date, so I would read the message he wanted me to read. The message I most needed that day.

So, not only did I learn to trust that God will take care of my children, but I also learned to trust that God will provide for me exactly what I need when I need it.

It's taken me some time in my life to get to this point, but it's such a wonderful, peaceful place to be. I am learning to go with the flow more in life, because everything happens for a reason -- God's reason.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Summer Bucket List

For moms, summer can be a real test -- the kids are home from school all day, every day -- unless you send them to camp, of course. Our kids do attend a couple of weeks of summer camp, but the rest is up to mom!

Although we all look forward to the break from school, it takes a lot of endurance and planning to keep the summer happily humming along.
Tyler and Alyssa making the summer bucket list!
This year we decided to try something new -- a visual summer bucket list. We sat down together at the beginning of the summer and made a list of all of the fun things we wanted to do. Then, we wrote them on small sheets of construction paper, assembled them as a collage on a bulletin board and hung it up in the kitchen.

We checked things off our list as summer went along, and with only three weeks of summer vacation left, I can report that we will get to almost all of them. How exciting!

Anything we don't get to can certainly be carried over into fall! In fact, I like this idea so much, I think I may keep it going for a while -- I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of gal who needs visual, in your face reminders -- and lots of them! That's why this board, displayed so prominently in my kitchen, was so helpful.

The other thing that was great about it was that everyone got to have a say in what they wanted to do this summer, so it created a sense of equality. Plus, the act of making the board was a fun project. It also created the sense of living our summer with intention.

It's been such a wonderful summer, but I still think we will all be ready for the school year to start!

I'd love to hear from you about how you keep your summer fun and interesting!

A couple of people have asked me to share some of our ideas ... so here you go!

  • Go out for ice cream
  • Work on scrapbooks
  • Grill out with the neighbors
  • Purge from under the bathroom sinks (yes, we put a few work-related things on there, too!)
  • Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Menchies Frozen Yogurt
  • Go to the library
  • Catch fireflies
  • Organize the craft closet
  • D'Agostinos Pizza
  • Field Museum
  • Painting pottery
  • Six Flags Great America
  • Cooking fun in the kitchen -- trying new kid friendly recipes
  • Visit a farm
  • Ice skating
  • Roller skating
  • Try Marco's Pizza for the first time
  • Swimming at the pool
  • Downtown Chicago 
  • Arlington Park Horse Races
  • Bowling
  • Try Smashburger for the first time
  • Go berry picking