Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sean Allen

On Monday, my husband was able to sit beside Sean and be with his family to help out during the day. Sean was in and out of consciousness all day long struggling to think clearly through the pain medications when he was awake. He turns to Aaron and asks,
"How do you die well?"
I loved my husband's response, as it is so fitting & so true of Sean.
"You live well."
His life was full of love for others, a life lived selflessly, and devoted to God and His teachings. I met Sean about 8 years ago when I first moved to Sacramento. He was a single dad at that point living in Gold River with a daughter Hailey, about to go into the youth ministry, Tyler (the kid who sat on the front pew and worshipped with all his heart), and Parker a young kid running the halls on Sunday's blending in with all the other little kids at Cordova, trading Pokemon cards! There was something special about Sean. He caught my attention within the first few weeks of moving her. I think it was the sincere way he asked how I was doing, the interest he showed in every conversation we had. The sparkle in his eyes in spite of all the hardships he had already endured. His quick wit and his ablity to make you feel important and cared for.
Our wedding was a second date for him and a beautiful woman named Cynthia. I love the picture of some of our guests where Sean is making a silly face. That was Sean, a total crack up. He knew when to be serious and when to be silly and he was not above being silly to get a laugh out of people. I still use daily the block of Farberware knives he purchased for us that day.
About a year after that date at our wedding, I got an announcement in the mail from the Allens. It had the sweetest picture of the five of them: Sean and Cynthia in the middle; glowing and radiantly happy with Hailey, Tyler and Parker looking on. What a celebration, and union in marriage between two of the most godly loving people I'd ever know! I could not have been more happy for Sean. He was living proof of Proverbs 18:22. What a blessing Cynthia has been to Sean over the past six years, and a living testament to keeping wedding vows of "in sickness and health, till death do us part".
When we had our first child he told me how beautiful Grace was, and then leaned over to warn Aaron how powerful this little girl would be in his life! Not a Sunday went by that Sean did not tell me what a beautiful family we have. He truly adored our children and I was so grateful for his support of our family. Sean's three children have blessed me more than he could have ever known. Hailey has grown into a beautiful woman seeking God in all she does. I know this is because of the example of godliness Sean lived out for her. Tyler embodies his silly side as well as his deep love of things intellectual. And sweet Parker is the living replica of Sean's tender side. His imprint in their lives is deeply embedded and will live on in his grandchildren someday as well.
Heaven is blessed to receive our brother Sean. As I reflect on the eight years of life that I knew Sean Allen, I could tell a hundred stories, and speak of thousands of lives touched, but it would all come down to this: He Lived Well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reflections: Part III

The Maple Grove Church of Christ.

A tiny church, filled with people (imperfect as all humans), loving God and wanting to do His will. Reflecting on my spiritual upbringing is, like all things, filled with both the highs and lows of emotions. I made so many friends and have loved the members that attended there as family. I have thousands of memories surrounding that small congregation struggling to survive over the 18 years of my attendance. This is probably one of the hardest reflections to write about as it's so close to my heart. Spiritual things tend to be personal and thus more sensitive to talk about or reflect on. I approach my reflections with great caution because I would never want to hurt anyone by my thoughts on this sweet little congregation, and yet sometimes even the best intentions have the potential to go astray.
The Churches of Christ pride themselves in being Bible based and seeking to follow only the inspired Word of God rather than man made doctrine or rituals. It's a rich history based on good intentions and great people. The Church of Christ that I grew up attending was VERY small. We were what most would call an "anti" Church as we did not have a kitchen in our building. Our fellowship consisted of Sunday morning worship and Bible class, Sunday evening worship, and Wednesday night Bible classes. (If you know much about the Churches of Christ, this is very typical). We were there every time the doors opened. We took turns cleaning the building, caring for the lawn, and there were "men's business meetings" every so often to make sure the funds were being properly distributed. We had no elders or deacons, only a preacher and some guys who served as leaders. I only remember one season of "growth" for our little Church and I think that came right after we built the building on Maple Grove Road; but for most of my childhood and teen years, it was in decline. Looking back it's kinda sad, because the people there truly were such great people. I loved being with them and fellowshipping each week.
It's hard to remember anything from my childhood that wasn't tied to Church in some way shape or form. There were a lot of homeschooling families at our congregation, and many of them lived nearby. There was a season of time when members homes was an epidemic, and it wasn't just the teenagers doing it. We had a grown man waiting on his roof with the garden hose in hand to ambush another family he had heard were on their way to tp. his house! Oddly enough this conservative group of people had spectacular Halloween parties, crazy Christmas parties, and a yearly variety/talent show that still hold some very fond memories. (Especially since Janet video taped them all!)
As a very young child I remember laying my head back on the pew looking up at the light fixtures. They were trough shaped and I often times imagined God giving out His richest blessings (babies) via this "conveyor belt". I picture myself standing at the end ready to catch my new baby, and each time I extended my arms it was a child orphaned from another country. I had African babies, and Asian babies, Indian, South American, and European, all waiting for my care.
I often time sat with a friend of my mom's who (at the time of this memory) didn't have any children of her own. She had the softest hands I'd ever felt. She would stroke my face, and it was all I could do to not fall asleep. Another friend's mom had "Go Go Gadget" arms and could pull my ear from six seats away on the same pew if I was talking during service!
Our preacher Mike, was a great speaker and even as a kid I appreciated the way he explained the scriptures. My favorite was when his child Hannah only wanted to be held by daddy during the lesson, and he would put her up on his arm and preach away while she lay there sucking her thumb laying on his shoulder.
My friend Rachel had a sketch book in which she sketched the backs of people's heads during services. There were even 'updated' corners of the page for when someone got a significant hairstyle change. Our basement classrooms were very dark and the hallway mysterious without the lights on, the young boys of the congregation were fodder for many older boys pranks in these scary halls.
I was baptized there on March 12 1992. It was my 13th birthday, and my brother (who hadn't been to Church in 5 years) came that day. The temperature of the baptismal was off, so it was like getting dunked in a hot tub! My Dad couldn't be there because he had a meeting at work (a meeting he tells me he still regrets going to, knowing my moment was of greater significance!) The Freeman's were there, the Crutchfields, the Monzo's, the Bryant's and I think even the White's and Tolman's were there. They all sang "Just As I Am" as I came out of the water.
Along with some of the great memories there were also some sad times as well. A dear friend lost her battle with cancer and her memorial service was held there. She asked my sister and I to sing, and I can still remember the lump in my throat as I tried to get the words to 'Hallelujah" out to honor Betty's memory. There was an affair that tore two families apart and caused a valley of pain in our midst, and there was a "Church split" a few years later that left me puzzled and confused for many years.
How do we honor God? How can we ever be the Church body He intended us to be? We are flawed, imperfect, selfish and worthless beings and yet He choose to send His Message of perfection, selflessness and value through us. As I reflect on my religious past I see that it has shaped so much of who I am right now, both the positive and the negative. I pray that the good things I have learned will be passed on to my children, and the less than perfect would become a valuable lesson for me, again to be passed on as wisdom.
If you were a part of the tapestry of my Church past I say Thank You. You have taught me much, and I am blessed to share the blood of Jesus in common with you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Reflections: Part II

Homemade granola in very large quantities, tacos in large quantities, mac'n'cheese in large quantities, okay so FOOD in general in LARGE quantities: "today I'm praying for" hearts on the wall: intentional date nights: K-Love radio: the big yellow van: Brio devotionals in the field: basketball smack talk: "nose to the door" discipline: family room dance sessions: "Stand and Eat Liver" movie night (I'll explain that one later!): feeling a baby move inside her momma for the first time:
These are just a few of the first things that pop into my head when I think about the family that moved in across the street from me when I was in third or fourth grade. The Kircher Family. When they moved in, they had six children, and I'll never forget the moving truck and the car that came along side, as it pulled up and they started unloading! As the youngest of four kids, and my siblings all being a lot older than me, I was elated when out of the vehicle came Aaron (my sister's age), Elise (a few years older than me), Jeremy (my age), Daniel, Abby, and Caleb! My heart soared!!! Little did I know they would not only playmates, but kids I would feel like a sibling to in a few years. Kevin and Judy quickly became good friends with my folks as our families shared the love of Jesus Christ as our common denominator. Over the years, the Kircher family added two more to their ranks, sweet little Bethany and Madeline just before I was leaving for college. Eight children in all made Judy my inspiration in mothering. I would go to their house sometimes and just sit on the couch reveling in the "chaos" that was a large family. Elise doing laundry, the boys working in the yard, Caleb speaking louder than any child has a right to just because he wanted his mommas undivided attention, the baby being rocked, dinner in the oven, maybe two time outs happening at the same time! Oh how I hated when the phone rang and my mom called me home! Judy ran their household in such a magnificent way. Kevin, the strong spiritual leader of their home impacted me greatly. I never spent a lot of time around him, as he was at work when I would go play and usually when he came home it was time for me to go home for dinner. Occasionally our families would get together to fellowship or to go to events together, but mostly it was the joy of being neighbors. The Kirchers always joked that they never needed to buy tools or outdoor items, because they could just borrow them from us! Judy was sad the day we planted a tree in our front yard because it blocked her view from their picture window into ours! We shared the same floor plan in our houses so when we decided to take out the front hall closets to open things up a bit, they liked it so much they did it too! (Although, there went Jeremy's spot for putting his nose to the door when he was in trouble!) They also added a partition in the rather large family room downstairs to make an extra bedroom for Elise. This change was kinda fun as Elise and I spent many hours hanging out, sharing a love of ballet, working on the Teen Chronicle together, even having a few major disagreements (remember our discussion on speaking in tongues? or your love of country music that at the time I thought was horrible?)!
I mentioned the movie night in my opening paragraph, and it brings a smile to my face whenever I think about that evening. My family had watched a movie we thought was really good and wanted to share it with the Kirchers. We decided to have a Movie Night together and all pile into the Kirchers living room to watch the film together. My dad noticed that Daniel was less than enthusiastic about the evening and when he asked him why, Daniel replied "Well, I don't really like liver very much." Puzzled my dad quizzed Daniel a bit more realizing that he had misunderstood the title of the movie. The movie was called "Stand and Deliver", but Daniel heard "stand and eat liver"!
In the Kircher's house they had a decorative wooden heart shaped peg board. There were three pegs on each side, and one peg in the middle. Each little hanging heart had a child's name on it. Each day the peg in the middle held a child's name in rotation so that each child had their day to be prayed for. I was so impressed by this and the way it opened the door for communication of what the child wanted their parents to pray for. I also really admired how in turn each week Kevin or Judy would take a child out on a date. Their boys were gentlemen and their daughters learned how to be treated by a gentleman. They were very intentional about the time spent individually with each child and it shows in the godly lives their kids are leading today.
I'm running out of time to say all the things I want to. The Kircher family impacted my life so profoundly by their love of Christ, their dedication to their family, their hospitality to me (even though Judy always wanted me to eat more than physically possible!) and the example they lived out before me during some very impressionable years. I am who I am because of the love they shared with me. Each and every child making their own imprint on my life. I'm forever grateful.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reflections: Part 1

I don't know if it's dropping Grace off at Kindergarten that has made me reflective on my own childhood or if I've just been thinking a lot lately. In any case, I've been looking back over my life and I've realized how many people I have to thank for shaping me into who I am today. I was sitting in Starbucks last night praying for our preacher of 14 years and his family as they move to Washington to begin a new chapter in their lives. I thought about the friends they made here, and the friends they will make up there. After I finished praying I decided to list out the people who have made an impact on my life. There were some experiences and people that I would have rather skipped over at the time, but now I realize it's all a part of the fabric of my life, the tapestry that tells my story. So, we begin:
Part 1
The Monzo Family
About a block away at the end of Tioga Street lived a family that is near and dear to my heart. I can not count the number of hours I spent at their home, with their family playing. I have so many childhood memories attached to the Monzo Family, it's hard to remember things without them sometimes! I almost don't know where to begin. Janet has the BEST laugh that is SO very contagious. Steve, in my early memories, spent most of his time on the couch watching baseball, a sport I did not understand nor did I want to. It was BORING!!! Stephen was a couple years younger than me and could scream better than any girl on the block. Rachael was born when I was four. I still remember seeing her for the first time at the hospital. So tiny, so perfect: and Janet let me hold her! I was in HEAVEN!!! I spent HOURS there at their house, holding Rachael and playing with Stephen while our moms visited. Janet sold Tupperware and had quite the collection. I can hardly use anything Tupperware brand now without thinking of the "harvest colors" of Janet's collection. (Every Halloween I think of their two Tuppeware containers full of Stephen and Rachael's candy. Rachael's would be gone within a few weeks, Stephen would usually have some left by the next Halloween!)
I usually walked down to the Monzo's house to play and when I got there Janet would call my mom and let her know I was there. The same thing would happen when it was time for me to go home. The only mystery was how I always got there with my shoes, but managed to get home without them! It was inevitable! You'd think I would notice as I walked back across the gravely road!
As Rachael got older, we played My Little Ponies, Dog & Owner, Pound Puppies,
House and all sorts of other games, most of them associated with animals, because Rachael has always had a soft spot in her heart for four footed creatures! (so much so that they had TWO large dogs, Bud (short for Budweiser) and Ginger)
One of my favorite things to do was torment poor Stephen. He was a bit on the "easy to scare" side, and their split level home made it all to easy to startle him! I remember dangling some of his dad's fishing tackle from the stair case as his sister called to him. When he ran into the sticky lure (with no hook of course) he screamed SO loud. It makes me giggle just thinking about it. Sorry Stephen. I know I shouldn't have taken pleasure in your fears, but I was youn
g and dumb, and I think you've forgiven me right? We also thought it was pretty funny to watch Stephen avoid getting water on his face. You'd think it was acid the way he tried so hard to walk around sprinklers, or only get in the pool up to his waist.
Another unique connection to the Monzo's was our going to the same Church as well as being home schooled.
At one time, while homeschooling we started a Geography club. We would put a geography question in a large envelope, then walk it down to the Monzo's front door and leave it there. They had three days to answer the question and return the envelope with not only the answer, but also a question for us. It was a lot of fun. We did science fairs, rollerskating days, field trips, and other extra activities with the Monzos.
Sunday's were fun. I was one of Rachael's little mommas and I remember picking her up from class and taking her to her mom. We also created all sorts of games while waiting for our parents to finish talking after services. That's how we created the superhero RachAim! We played the "car game" for hundreds of "church minutes" and again scared Stephen silly with the darkness of the classroom hallway!
"Big Steve" didn't come to Church with Janet and the kids, he stayed home on Sundays. I didn't understand this as a child. My whole family went to Church, why didn't theirs? But Janet was ALWAYS faithful, not only in bringing her family, but also in her constant example and service to her husband. It did not go unnoticed by me. (I think Steve noticed too, because last time I heard, he was attending again.) I learned a lot from the Monzo Family, they blessed my life with friendship that ran deep. We still keep in touch over facebook and with Christmas cards and such. (picture above is Stephen and his mom Janet!)
I almost had a heart attack when Rachael got married, and then again when Stephen and
his wife had a baby! Time doesn't stand still, and I wouldn't want it to. Their legacy will continue on, and I am grateful that for many of my childhood years our threads of life were intertwined. (pictured below is Stephen and his baby Miranda, and Rachael and her hubby Josh) Thank you Monzos!