When the Ground Falls Out From Under Our Feet

Recently, I've been very shaken by all of the news of young children dying in sudden and seemingly unpreventable accidents. 
I wept at the thought of those children in Oklahoma, terrified as the tornado ripped through their school, helpless as the ceiling collapsed and the waters rose. 
Again I couldn't hold back the tears when a landslide left four children sliding into a giant sinkhole, rapidly filling with water. Two boys would reach out for anything they could grasp onto, and find nothing. 
I've ached at the thought of parents who never imagined they'd never see their children alive again. I've groaned for teachers who were helpless to protect the precious, young lives in their care. I've cried for the surviving students, young children who had to watch their friends' last moments. None of them will ever be the same. 
I am aware that I cannot protect my children from everything. I can't keep them tethered to my side or wrap them in bubble wrap or forbid them to ever leave our home. I can pray, feed them healthy foods, take care of them, take necessary precautions, and even homeschool -- but that won't protect them from all of the dangers that are out there. 
If I can't protect their bodies, I will desperately cling to the One who can protect their souls. If I can't shelter them from every danger, I will teach them to abide under the shelter of the Almighty. I will teach my children about Jesus and what He did, so that when the ground falls out from under their feet, they will know Who to call. 

Please be praying for these families; but don't just say you will pray. Please, actually pray. I don't know how a parent gets up the next day after losing a child without supernatural strength. 



On April 9th, my precious Mee-Maw went home to Jesus.

My Mee-Maw* was 91 years old and lived independently up until just a few months before her death when she moved in with my Aunt Jean. She was as funny, quick witted, big-hearted and classy in her last days as when we were kids running around her tiny house on Madewell Ave. 

[*Note: I've chosen to officially go with this spelling of Mee-Maw's name, although there are many versions floating around. But this was the way she signed her name on the birthday, graduation, or anniversary cards that she never, ever forgot to send.]

We always lived far away from Mee-Maw, which made the times we had with her even more precious. The last time I saw her was when we stopped in for a just a couple hours on our way to visit Micah and Missy last summer. She couldn't take her eyes of of her great-granddaughters who she adored so much. 

This photo was from Ruby's third birthday celebration. Ruby is named after Mee-Maw (Ruby Marie Screws), so it was a special treat to have her with us for that. 

When I got the call that she had passed away, I was caught off guard. It happened very quickly and I wasn't prepared for the news. I fell on the floor in a heap and wept for just one more time to see her, introduce her to Silas, see her life with one less leg, and play a game of Hand and Foot. 
But after the initial shock wore off, it became harder and harder to be sad for her. She had wanted to go home. She was ready. She loved Jesus. She wanted to see Anita. Now she's there with them. She is whole. She has her leg back and a nice, straight back and strong hands. Mee-Maw is happy and free. 
My sister Amber, my brother Joe, his wife Becky, and my brother Nate and I caravaned to Memphis for the funeral, along with the three amigos (Isaac: 9 months, Christian: 7 months, and Silas: 6 months). 

The trip was a blessing indeed, as every single one of the Screws family cousins (except my brother Micah, who is overseas) got to be together for the first time in decades. It was absolutely wonderful to have the whole family together like that, although I wish we had done that for Mee-Maw before she was gone. Why do we always wait to come together? At a funeral, it's too late. Someone is missing.
Nevertheless, I think Mee-Maw was watching from heaven and I'm sure she got teary-eyed seeing all of us together.

God was gracious to my mama by allowing her to be in Memphis with Mee-Maw when she died. I'm so glad He is in control of these details and has the timing of our lives worked out perfectly. Here is a picture of Mama and my siblings, minus Micah, after the funeral at Aunt Jean's new home.

Mee-Maw, I love you. You gave so selflessly, loved so richly, and smiled to genuinely. Our lives will not be the same without you here, but our hearts soar with the thought of you with your dear Savior. 
Give Anita a hug for me. Love you. 

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
Because we know our goodbye is not the end

We can grieve with hope
Because we believe with hope
That there's a place where we'll see her face again

Where to begin

I don't even know where to begin; it has been so long since my last post! Most nights I collapse on the couch in an exhausted mess, wondering when I ever used to have time to blog. But I love what I'm doing, so I don't necessarily wish for anything different, just maybe an extra hour or two per week to keep this thing updated. Today is Mother's Day, so I don't feel too badly about using time I would normally use on dishes or clean up to write.

So...where to start? How about with a picture.

There they are, the four best things about Mother's Day. Every day is new. Every day is chaotically beautiful. Well, most days. ;) 

The last time I posted, it was freezing cold out and Silas was 4 months old. Now he is 6 months old, but it is still freezing cold. In May. But not quite as freezing cold as it was the day we went to the Ice Castles at the Mall of America, courtesy of a fun Groupon. 

The kids loved climbing through frozen tunnels, navigating through icy mazes, and admiring the cool sculptures along the way. I remember the ice castles from my childhood being much more impressive, but to them, it was the BEST. EVER.  

This was the first time in three years that we dyed Easter eggs again as a family, and it was so much fun. Everybody got creative, but none more than JP, who was busy trying different techniques and ideas several hours after the kids were done and had moved on to other things. Ha!

One day, as I was sewing up an old teddy bear that had been torn, Rae asked if I would teach her how to sew. I showed her the simple surging stitch I was using and let her try it. She loved it and asked if she could sew something else. I got her a couple scraps of fabric, a needle and some thread, and got her started on making a blanket for her doll. After that, JP taught her a basting stitch, and she made a pillow for her doll, too. Finally, Rae decided she wanted to make Ruby a bag to keep all of her little toys in. With only a little bit of instruction, she hand sewed this wonderful bag for Ruby, complete with a pocket -- because Ruby loves pockets.

I'm so proud of Rae's initiative and for her kind thought to make something so special and practical for her sister. The other day she was climbing a tree and ripped her dress. She came inside, got a needle and thread, and sewed the darn thing up! Amazing.

My Rae Rae is becoming such a young lady. She barely has any "little" girl left in her at all.

This photo was taken before she lost all of her teeth. She currently has a big gap right in front, and has lost six teeth in all. This week will be her last week of Kindergarten. We had fun with the unit studies, but most of the school work was far too simple for her. She is hungry to learn, so we are going to run with it over the summer and keep learning fun. If you ask her, she will tell you her favorite part of school is science projects.

Rae and Ruby with their volcano science project

Rae recently finished her first year in AWANA Sparks, and raised $70 for a young girl in Columbia during a verse-a-thon in which she memorized 10 verses. She's memorized much more than that over the course of the AWANA year, and her teachers comment on how well she retains them.
Tomorrow will be her last day of Level 2 swimming lessons; she already passed the test to move on to Level 3. She is so proud of herself, and so am I. Bring on summer and the pool!
Rae also learned how to shoot a bow and arrow after receiving one as a very cool gift from Grandma Harpel. And she is quite the shot! She likes to pretend she is Merida from Disney's Brave.

Ruby Ann, my tip-toe princess. She is really blossoming lately.

Things that used to make her nervous, she is now more willing to try. Like climbing, for example. She's become quite the little tree climber, whereas even as recent as last fall she would have been hesitant to try. She's also willing to play outside by herself now (with Gideon, the dog, on watch), which she never did last fall.
You can usually find Ruby tip-toeing around the house with at least a dozen very, very small toys tucked in her pockets, in a purse, or in some sort of small box. She loves these little toys and heaps up large collections of them. Then she sits down and goes through her pile of tiny things, playing with each one individually and then creating stories to act out with them.
With just a couple weeks of Pre-School left to go, Ruby has made incredible leaps and bounds in school this year. She is retaining information so much more, and her writing is getting better and better. The way she writes her name warms my heart, especially since 40% of the time she gets the "b" backwards and ends up spelling her name "Rudy." We've started calling her Rudy as a nickname as a result. :)
Ruby finished her second year in AWANA Cubbies and will be a Spark with Rae next fall. Her favorite part is the music, and when she dances, she puts her whole heart and body into it!
Ruby is also finishing "Little Swimmers" for the second time. She passed the first time, but can't start Level 1 until she is five years old.

Johnye Rose -- My firecracker, always keeping me on my toes.

 I see so much of myself in her. I see the way she wants so badly to be big like her sisters, but she's trapped in this 2-year-old body that just doesn't do the things they can do. She wants to write her name, and tries very valiantly. She wants to climb and run fast and play all the make-believe games her big sisters will let her. She loves to dress up in dresses, headbands, and princess heels, and she has a fondness for stuffed beanie bears, all of which have names. Granted, most of them are named Shaka. But a few others have unique names. She hates that I still make her nap, but sleeps long and hard. It kills her to watch her sisters in swimming lessons from the bleachers, but she finds ways to entertain herself by swinging from railings and jumping off of benches. She wants to be the boss, but she's too small. Maybe someday she won't be the smallest. That will be interesting. :)

(see the way she looks at them to see what they are doing?)

Silas bring more and more joy to our lives every day. He is the sweetest, happiest boy -- and he's growing up so fast.

He already has two bottom teeth and just started sitting up on his own. Everything is going into his mouth, and he loves, loves, LOVES to jump. He only fusses when he's getting tired, and he loves to roughhouse with his big sisters. He and Rae have an especially unique bond. She loves to play with him and carry him around everywhere she goes. He gets the biggest smile on his face every time she walks in the room, and nobody can make him belly laugh and chortle the way she can.
No curls yet, but JP and I both maintain it's too early to tell!

I'm a blessed Mama this Mother's Day. Even if I made my own breakfast and then ate it in bed. Even if two out of four kids had pink eye and we had to miss out on all of our social events. That's not what matters. These smiles are what matters.