Christmas, part 3

UnknownSometimes life can throw us some weird curveballs.  My mother-in-law’s death wasn’t really one because we had anticipated it for years.  Mom suggested one time that perhaps we should celebrate her and Dad’s 45th anniversary since no one could imagine she’d make it their 50th.  Not only did she make it to the 50th, but they celebrated their 60th last August!  Who would have ever guessed?

My DNA results were surprising because I never imagined that I had Jewish blood in me. I think it’s cool that I have connections in both the Old and New Testaments.  The Old as one of Jewish descent (though only partial) and the New as a Christian.  I think that’s pretty special.

But last Thursday, December 28, I got a curveball thrown at me from out-of-the-blue that I didn’t see coming at all.

On December 9th I woke up with the right side of my body experiencing scattered numbness with my right hand and foot tingling.  As I walked it felt as though my sock were bunched up; a very annoying sensation for someone who can’t stand even a grit in her shoe. Ugh!  I’d just been to Grand Forks the week before for an adjustment at the chiropractor and now needed to go back because, obviously, something was “out.”  Since it was a Saturday I’d have to wait until Monday.

By Monday the numb spots were getting more noticeable and the tingling hadn’t stopped, so I trekked back to Grand Forks and had the chiropractor adjust me again.  Except it didn’t work.  As I walked out, I could tell that nothing had changed, but hoped that by the end of the day it would be better.  It wasn’t.  By Friday I knew I had to have this looked at because it was getting very annoying and my right shoulder was numb.

I went to see Ashton, a physician’s assistant, who did a full evaluation, blood tests, and neurological screening.  Nothing added up and the blood tests came back normal.  She said to come back again if there was no improvement within a few days.   That was the 15th and the following Monday (the 18th), Mom Spenst passed away so there was no time to think about going back.  I just hoped it was going to be fine and would go away as a similar experience had two years before.

The funeral and Christmas were bundled up into a whirlwind of people, activity, and severe cold weather.  By the time the 26th came, though, I knew nothing had changed and felt it was actually getting worse.  So, I called to see Ashton again, but she was out of the office.  I saw Dr. Emerson who decided it was time for an MRI.  On Wednesday morning at 8 am, in the bitter cold of -25°F, I was led out to the special semi-truck that comes through our rural community once a week with an MRI machine.  They completed the scans, some with dye for contrast, and I went home to wait for results.

Nolan and John had to leave Thursday morning to get back to work.  After having taken off about a week and a half, they really needed to return.  So, they headed out by noon and I went to work at our local appliance store where I work part-time.  That afternoon the nurse called and said the doctor wanted to go over the MRI results with me.  I was able to get the last appointment of the day at 4:25 PM.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had these kinds of tests before, but quite often if all is okay the doctor will allow the nurse to tell you that over the phone.  I had a feeling all was not okay.  My oldest two daughters came with me so I wasn’t alone.

We sat down with Dr. Emerson and he said that the MRI had shown results.

“Tracy, it’s MS.”

 

Christmas, part 2

The second part of Christmas happened on Christmas Day and it was very exciting!  I got my ancestryDNA results!

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WOW!  Not only do I have a heritage, it’s the COOLEST heritage there is!  Jewish!  I’ve always liked Jewish-sounding music (Hava Nagila being the only piano piece I can still play), but never thought it was anything other than just a love of the rhythm.

It turns out that there is an option on the ancestry.com site that I was able to opt in or out of my information being made available for making connections.  I opted out of that for now as I’m not ready to go that direction. Right now, it’s just enough to know where I come from.

Christmas, part 1

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Christmas this year has been a roller-coaster of a time, so I’m breaking it down into parts because, quite honestly, it’s the only way I can handle all that has happened.

On December 16 we received word that Nolan’s mom, Pauline, was in her final days. After a 50-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), her life on this earth was coming to an end.

Nolan had decided several days before that he wouldn’t make the trip to Kansas to try to see her again since we’d been there in August for her and Dad’s 60th anniversary. I called him that morning.

“Love, do you want to go?”
“Yeah, I really do.”
“Then you’d better get to the office and ask for time off.”
“I’m parked outside it now.”

Our son John, who works at the same company as Nolan, decided to go with him and the two of them left that day in hopes of making it there before she died.

They arrived on Sunday the 17th and saw Mom and Dad at the care home in Kingman where they were living. They were able to see and talk to Mom. Mom had been unable to really talk for several days, but the one thing she could still say was, “I love you.” When Nolan and John hugged her, she whispered it to them, too.

That evening at Terry’s they helped answer questions for the obituary and talked about funeral arrangements while they waited for another brother to arrive.

The next day the siblings who could be there were back at the care home. Nolan and John planned to leave the next day as Mom was expected to last a few days longer. While they were looking through some photo albums in the sitting room, Dad walked in and said, “Mom stopped breathing.”

That quickly, in those few moments while Dad was looking down reading something, the room had gone quiet and, looking up, he realized she wasn’t breathing. Quietly, peacefully, and without pain, she was gone.

Mom’s funeral was December 23rd with most of the family here for it. The family service Friday night and the funeral on Saturday were testimony to the love and dedication of Mom and Dad to one another for all of the 60+ years of their marriage. Dad’s loving care of Mom for all these years has been nothing short of heroic. As Mom would so often observe, many spouses of MS sufferers leave them, unable to cope with the growing disabilities of their mate. Such a thought never entered Dad’s mind. He and Mom were just as much in love on the last day as they had been on their wedding day.

At times like these it is appropriate that people express their sympathies at our loss and we certainly agree. Mom’s death has left a huge hole in our world. But our sorrow is tempered with relief that her pain is finally at an end. She is now free! Free from this world and its sorrows; free from the pain of MS; free from living with the effects of sin in the world. So, although we cry when we think of our memories that are never to be repeated, we rejoice at the thought of her finally with Jesus, her Savior and Lord.

And, so, the first part of Christmas 2017 was a reminder of why Jesus came–to conquer death. Mom is now living that reality.

Merry Christmas to Me! The results are in!

 

 The ancestryDNA results are back, and on Christmas morning! According to the results, I’m 39% European Jewish, 27% European West, 19% Scandinavian, and 6% Ireland/Scotland/Wales. Although that only adds up to 91%, all the others are just traces with low confidence.

My mom is going to laugh! She’s always said that she thought there must be some Jewish in me somewhere. 🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Have you ever had a moment in life that instantly choked you up in tears, completely unexpectedly?

A week ago, on Black Friday, I was cruising Amazon when I discovered that the “ancestry DNA” kit was almost 50% off the regular $100 price. My body froze as I realized this was a rare thing. What should I do? I’ve wanted one of these for so long, but what if someone got it for me for Christmas (I’d mentioned it)? Should I ask? Should I wait? But what if they put together the money and here it was for half that? I decided to ask Nolan.

I explained my dilemma and then asked, “Do you mind if I get it?”

“No, go ahead.”

That was it, just three little words, but I instantly choked up.

How do I explain what it means to me to finally be able to find out where I come from? Although there have been times over the years I’ve thought of finding my birth parents, I’ve never pursued it. First, it’s just too expensive. Second, what level of complication would it bring to their lives and mine? Third, do I really have a good reason or a driving need? I’m not sure. What I am sure about is just simply wanting to know where I come from. What is my heritage? Where do I fit into this big world?

I’m a history and heritage person. People’s stories have fascinated me since I was in the fourth grade and discovered the world of biographies. And being a child of America, where everyone comes from somewhere, the closest I could get was that there was some Danish in me. I clung to that! My ancestors were the Vikings! Hagar the Horrible was one of my favorite comic strips just because they were Vikings. Mom and Pop once bought me a Danish American license plate frame for my first car–I loved it! The only problem was, I had no story to go with it. Even in this melting pot we call America, everyone has a story for their heritage. My niece and nephews adopted from other countries at least know their heritage, something they can claim. Mine is only a piece of my birth mother’s information, I know nothing of my birth father except a description of his looks.

The advantage of that is I could dream up whatever I wanted to about what my connections could be. Could I be a princess? Do I have famous relatives? (Highly unlikely, but tell that to an eight-year old!) What’s funny is that my girls would wonder that about me, too! I guess children are the same no matter what generation they’re in!

And so, my dear husband’s “go ahead” put me in instant emotion as I realized I could, at last, find out. But now comes the difficult part. Nolan went on to tell the experience of a co-worker’s partner who, when she did it, discovered she had a grandchild neither she nor her son knew about. My stomach dropped. What if I’m someone’s unknown grandchild? Or sibling? Could I still end up a complication in someone else’s life? After all these years, could it drag up unwanted memories? Or, could it be a blessing? A healing for someone? The answer to a long ago asked question?

My kit arrived a couple days ago. I guess it’s time to find out.

Because He Can

John has given up sugar for Lent and, once in a while, Joshua will ask, “Why did John give up sugar?” John’s response has been, “Because I can.” (Joshua is still puzzled!) That comment came to mind while I was listening to a talk on Confession and the question was posed, “Why does God forgive us?” The simple answer is, because He can. Because He loves us. Because that is who He is and no matter how much or how little we’ve sinned, He wants to forgive us. He longs to do so and bring healing and wholeness to us once again.

God is in the business of salvation. Salvation is the healing of our souls. Unlike Luther’s idea that we are snow-covered dung, we are truly healed and God seeks to remove as much scarring as we’ll let Him until we are whole, complete, and beautiful just as He intended us to be.

I once met a young man who had every bad thing that had happened to him tattooed onto his body—hypodermic needles, alcohol, a prison number, a friend’s suicide method—all there to remind him of the pain of his life. I was completely taken aback that someone would want to engrave all those reminders onto their very flesh. Yet, quite often we’re like that. We try so hard to remind God of the sins He’s forgiven us by showing Him the scars and telling Him again how we’ve messed up instead of letting Him heal them completely.

Guilt over sin is what God uses to bring us to repentance so that our relationship with Him and with others can be restored. Once we have confessed that sin and received forgiveness, it’s gone forever, never to be brought up again. Shame, however, is of the evil one. Shame comes at us again and again with the accusation, “You are a worthless failure! How could anyone love you? If they knew, really knew, what you are, they would despise you.” That is the moment when we must “speak truth” to that voice of evil and choose God’s healing.

This is particularly true when we have already confessed that sin to a priest and received absolution (John 20:22-23). Scripture says that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Those sins are gone forever, removed from us as far as the east is removed from the west (Ps. 103:12). They will never be brought up again by the only One who has a right to do so.

As part of the sacrament of Confession we are given a penance; a way to heal the scar left by the sin. Like an infected wound that has been cleaned out, the sin is gone, but it leaves a scar. If we apply the penance, the scar will heal. Unless, of course, we keep picking off the scab, which is what we do when we keep reminding ourselves (and God) of that sin. Each time we pick off the scab, the healing process is slowed down. Eventually, even if the wound finally heals over, there’s a mark and we look at that and say, “Ah! Remember that!”

Whatever sins we have taken to Confession and humbly said our penance for, even if we think It’s too light (after all, what penance could possibly “fit the crime” anyway?), is forgiven and forgotten by God. We need to do the same, because, after all, we can.

A Week and Half Later…

It’s been a week and half since I deactivated Facebook so I thought I’d do a progress report.

Interestingly, I’ve found the sense of relief of not deciding whether “to share or not to share” stuff has made internet surfing more fun.  I check through the news, but just to keep up with the world without it coming pouring across my screen endlessly.  Although I enjoy watching people’s auditions on the various talent shows, I can enjoy it and go one without feeling on obligation to let the world know how good it was.

Since I’ve not been on FB, those hours have been spent working on projects around the house (the sewing room is almost done!), listening to Joshua read, studying the curriculum I’ll be teaching to our church youth this year, and generally enjoying the  “politics free” environment I’m not living in.  I’ve found I’m feeling more at ease.  This morning as I was driving home from town I thought about how much I haven’t even thought of FB, yet realizing as well how much it had invaded my life.

Now, lest someone think I’m living an un-connected life, let me assure you I have one social media outlet–Instagram!  However, I’ve made it a private account so that I can be very selective and keep it from getting out of hand like FB did.  I have many wonderful friends and acquaintances (let alone family!), but trying to keep up with the 200+ people on FB was a fail and I don’t have any illusions about Instagram being any different.  So, if you follow me on Instagram, don’t be offended if I don’t “follow” you back.  It’s just that there are certain people I want to be sure I don’t miss–like my nieces and nephews whom I love, but live too far away to see often.  Instagram is my picture into their lives and I’m grateful my sister-in-law and oldest niece are so good about posting photos and comments.

The other neat thing about Instagram is that there aren’t any ads–nothing popping up on the sides that makes me cringe or try to aim the screen away from general viewing lest my 9-year old comes into the room.  Today he saw a quick video Steph had posted of Tate.  We watched it several times and then Joshua asked if he could scroll through the other photos.    I realized, with great joy, that I could let him do that!  There would be nothing on there that he couldn’t see.  In fact, he saw a quote posted by the USCCB from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, “The face of God is merciful.  The face of the Church must be merciful.  We must be the face of mercy.”  Joshua’s response?  “Wow!”  It gave him something to think on worth thinking about.

I’m not suggesting Instagram is perfect, but I am glad to have a fun bit of social media I can enjoy without it taking over my life or bringing things into my home I don’t want.  And I’m rather proud of myself for taking this step and doing something concrete about becoming “the best version of myself.”  (Thanks, Matthew Kelley!)