He Called Me Susie

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It was a warm summer day when Dan drove down winding roads to take me to meet his grandparents for the first time. I was nervous. Meeting Dan’s parents hadn’t been to nerve-wracking because we had grown up attending the same church and I had known who they were for most of my life, but I had never met Dan’s grandparents before. What if they didn’t like me? The only thing I really knew about them was that Dan’s “Gramma” was the biggest University of Michigan football fan ever. Once when Dan was little, Gramma Dexter’s…enthusiasm…during a televised football game had scared Dan enough to make him cry. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this visit. I was planning to attend the University of Michigan myself, so at least I had that going for me.

Dan called ahead to let Gramma and Grampa know we were on our way. I could hear Grampa’s voice through the cell phone as Dan told them he was bringing his friend to meet them, the one they had heard all about. “Heh? So we finally get to meet Susie?” Grampa asked. He was teasing, but for several months he continued to refer to me as Susie.

We pulled up to the house at last and a short, smiley lady welcomed us into her home. I needn’t have worried about Gramma and Grampa not liking me. They welcomed me in like family. Grampa gifted me with a small stained-glass University of Michigan ornament that he had made himself. “You made this?” I asked in surprise. He pointed out the light above the kitchen island. The stained glass light fixture was also blue and maize. “Gramma saw one of these lights in a store and wanted it. I looked at the price tag and said, ‘I could make that'”. So he did.

Dan and I were treated to an impromptu dinner of steak and potatoes and I felt right at home sitting at that island and watching blue and maize candles burn in their centerpiece as we chatted with Dan’s grandparents. Time flew by and all-to-soon, it was time to leave.

We enjoyed several more visits to Gramma and Grampa over the years as Dan and I went from being friends, to dating, engaged, and married, eventually bringing the great-grandkids for visits whenever we were in the area. But I will never forget that first visit when even Grampa’s teasing made me feel like family and the months that followed when he would always call me Susie.

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Dan’s Grampa has had several health problems and knew his time on earth was coming to an end, so it wasn’t uncommon to hear talk about his final plans and what he wanted for his funeral. On one occasion, I learned that Grampa had a certain song he had adopted as his own and would often sing for others at church. When I found out he wanted to show a video of himself singing this song at his funeral, I told Dan, “I have to ask him to sing it for me the next time we’re up. I don’t want the first time I hear him sing be at his funeral.”

Sure enough, on the next trip up, we made our way to that cozy little home and I asked Grampa to sing for me while Gramma played the organ. For someone who had long struggled with almost every health problem you could imagine, and for someone who loved Jesus, the song was perfect:

If this earthly tabernacle should be dissolved today
I’d trade it for a finer one, that would not pass away.
But till the day arrives when it’s time for moving out
Tis such sweet peace to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

The sweetest fellowship I’ve known has fortified these walls
And peace has reigned since he’s been walking up and down these halls.
With snow upon the rooftop now and these hinges near worn out
It’s such a joy to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
It sure ain’t fine and fancy and all I can boast about
Is after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

Now there were times he had the right, just to up and move away
And there were times and days I knew it took God’s amazing grace to stay.
But he never left this old building once, that’s why I can sing and shout
Cause after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
And it sure ain’t fine and fancy and all that I can boast about
Is after all the years the Lord still lives in this old house.

After all these years the Lord … Still lives in this old house.

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Grampa passed away two weeks ago.

In the time I have known him, Grampa has spent many weeks in the hospital. He always came home again. That’s just how it was with Grampa. He kept fighting and kept working as long as he could. Dan and I used to have a small reclining couch that was given to us from Gramma and Grampa’s house. More than once I cried in Dan’s arms, curled up on that couch, thinking for sure this visit to the hospital would be Grampa’s last. Many times I wondered if he would make it to our wedding, or until we had our baby, or until that baby came home from the NICU, or until he could meet his tiny grandchild. But every other time Grampa recovered and made it home again. He kept loving us, teasing us, and remaining cheerful through a lot of pain and difficulty.

Grampa would often connect with our little ones because they all had to be hooked up to wires, poked and prodded, and needed help breathing. It’s true, Grampa’s loud voice scared both Lydia and Abby the first time they each met him, but once they were placed on his chest they curled up snug and happy. One of the saddest parts for Dan and I in saying goodbye to Grampa now is that he never got to meet Paul. We only pray that Paul will also come to love Jesus so that he can meet Grampa in heaven.

A week and a half ago, Dan and I took the kids in a whirlwind trip up North to attend Grampa’s funeral. Although the goodbyes were heart-wrenching and I couldn’t stop crying for most of that afternoon, I looked at that “old house” of Grampa’s and knew he wasn’t there anymore. He wasn’t hurting or sad at all. He finally got to go home to Jesus. It’s only those of us left down here who have to suffer the sadness of the goodbye. When the time came for the casket to be lowered into the grave I just kept thinking, “Grampa doesn’t even want that old body anymore. Good riddance!” No more hospital stays, dialysis, breathing assistance, medications, cancer, heart attacks, surgery…

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There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to end this post because it feels like another goodbye. Day-to-day, Dan and I don’t feel the depth of the loss because we didn’t see Grampa that often, but at moments the reality sinks in and it’s just so hard to believe he’s gone. Only Lydia has been able to fully appreciate the victory in Grampa’s death as she has reminded us a number of times, “He’s in heaven with Jesus”. Grampa’s hope for eternity was in Jesus. He arranged his funeral to be reminder after reminder of the hope he had in Christ and the message that was shared was indeed the Gospel.

We all will die someday and we will have to account for our actions on this earth. The only hope of heaven is because Jesus died on the cross. Although he was buried, he rose again and offers enteral life to all who will repent and believe in him.

The Lord no longer lives in Grampa’s “old house”, but Grampa has gone up to live in a new heavenly mansion.

Grampa, if you could read this now, I’d want to thank you for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for teasing me and calling me Susie, for encouraging me when I was hurt, for making me laugh sometimes when I was crying. Thank you for loving us so much, for loving Lydia and Abigail and Paul, even though you never got to meet him. Thank you for singing for me before your funeral. Thank you for keeping your youthfulness and sense of humor even when you were suffering far more than you ever let on. Thank you for loving Jesus and for not being afraid to die. We love you and we miss you. Until eternity.

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The Big Guy

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Well, it’s been one happy, peaceful, sleepy, surreal month since our Paul was born and we are loving being a family of five. Paul has been doing his job like a pro: eating, sleeping, and breathing. For the first three weeks he did nothing but eat and sleep all the time. Well, sort of.

Lets talk about that sleeping, shall we? I include sleeping in these updates so I can look back and remember that it is possible to survive on very little sleep for a very long time. Paul is a good baby, but like many babies, he was born with his nights and days flipped. During the day we could lay him down anywhere at any time and he would sleep peacefully. During the night he would eat and go right back to sleep until we tried to put him down. Then he would spit up, or realize his diaper was dirty or wet, or he would just want to be held. So he would cry and we would hold him…all night long. He’s gotten much better in the past couple of weeks. On a good night, he’ll eat every 2 to 2 1/2 hours and sleep in between. On a rough night he’ll eat every hour and a half and he won’t sleep in between except when we’re holding him. (Last night was a rough night.) Dan’s been a champ guarding my nap times and letting me take a nap when the girls go to bed until about midnight.

But there are more fun things to talk about here than sleeping! Paul is up to…maybe 8 pounds by now. (Last week he was 7 and a half and we’re going to weigh him again tonight). And he actually opens his eyes! It took almost three weeks before we got to see much of those eyes, but now he’ll have one or two long stretches a day with his eyes wide open.

He’s so cute. We love holding him and playing with him in his jungle gym. Every day he seems to be able to see a little farther and he makes more little baby grunts and snuffles.

He’s developed quite the personality too. Or maybe we’ve developed a personality for him. Paul is all-business. We call him Stone Face when he’s sleeping because he looks determined not to wake up and to put all his energy into growing. He’s also developed several other nicknames (in order of how frequently we use them): The Big Guy, Little Man, Buddy, P-Kizzle, and PK.

Paul’s main goals right now are learning to lift his head and stand on his feet so he can play baseball with Daddy and on Sundays with our church. He’s already been working on the right form for holding and swinging the bat and he’s almost as big as Dan’s baseball glove. 🙂

It’s been over a month since God blessed us with this little take-home-baby and it’s still hard to believe how it all happened. It’s hard to believe we really have a little boy. And it’s hard to believe how peacefully we’ve been transitioning to having three munchkins at home (Dan helps a ton). We feel so blessed and can’t wait to keep watching our little Paul grow big and strong.

The View from My Window

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This is the view from my bedroom window. In fact, this is the exact view I see when I’m resting with my head on my pillow at nap time. A few days ago I was getting ready for my afternoon nap. The girls were settling down in their room and Paul was sleeping a few feet away from me in his bassinet, but I couldn’t fall asleep right away. So I opened my eyes and watched the trees blowing in the wind.

The sky was a beautiful springtime blue and everything looked warm in the sunshine. Although the trees were still bare of any leaves, and they were waving in the strong winds, they were glowing a cozy golden brown. I watched the peaceful scene for a while thinking about how nice it is that springtime has finally come. It sure felt like a long winter this year.

Suddenly a change came over the scene so abruptly that at first I didn’t know what had happened. I must have been getting sleepy and paying less attention to the trees when I looked out the window and saw everything changed. The trees were black. The sky was grey. The wind sounded harsh, and the warm glow of spring had gone. I wondered, at first, if it had been my imagination, but after a couple minutes the warmth returned and I realized that the change had only come from a cloud passing in front of the sun. It was just the shadow of the cloud that made that awful change from my warm spring scene to that cold, harsh one.

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I lay in bed for a while watching the scene change back and fourth and I was suddenly struck by a parallel to my own life.

We have been basking in the warmth of having a new baby at home. Everything is full of newness, hope, and cozy time together. I am a bit like that tree basking in the new spring sun under that bright spring sky.

Of course, with a new baby comes its own share of challenges: sleepless nights, loads of laundry, and adjusting to life with three Littles. After the months of waiting and resting and limiting my activity, recovering from labor and delivery, and living through days on far less sleep, I feel a little bit like those bare tree branches being blown back and forth by the strong gusts of wind.

As I lay in my comfy bed and listened to that wind blowing, I realized that I couldn’t do anything to change the color of the sky, the warmth of the sun, or the strength of the wind. But I do have control over one thing. I can choose to be the dark, cold tree branches hidden from the sun. Or, I can choose to be the warm, glowing branches, golden under those springtime rays. Of course, it’s easy to be cold and short (especially with my toddlers) when I feel stretched thin and sleep-deprived, when the house is messier than normal, and I don’t have any kind of predictable routine. In fact, I can’t be warm and glowing on my own strength. I need the sun for that.

But if I will stay abiding in Jesus I can reflect His warmth, His gentleness and patience, His love and kindness, even when my branches are bare and the wind is blowing hard.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to my home as we adjust to having our little Paul at home with us. This applies to any situation in life that comes with its share of blessings and hardships. It’s a good lesson in bearing with our trials and reflecting the light of Christ. And it’s a lesson I can remember every time I look out my bedroom window.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
Galatians 2:22-23

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The Little Birdwatcher

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Abby is now 19 months old, and has been using this past month to show us more of her fun personality. As we’ve been eating meals together in our dining room, Abby has shown an interest in something other than food: little critters. She loves to sit and eat while she looks out the window. When she spots a squirrel, rabbit, or bird in our yard, she points and yells excitedly. At other times, she’s wander over to the window, stand up, and look out it to find some animal wandering around in our yard.

She also loves to go outside. When Dan gets ready to go somewhere, Abby will grab her shoes and sit by the door. When anyone comes near, she chirps at them, holding out her shoe with the sweetest little expression on her face, “Can I go out?”. Of course, once she’s outside she has even more opportunities to spot the little critters.

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In the evenings Abby likes to show off her strength and speed by wrestling with Lydia. She always wins. Don’t worry though, we don’t let it go to her head. After each munchkin wrestling match, Dan wrestles Abby. She finds it to be great fun and Dan always wins.

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Abby still loves to eat. She’ll eat almost anything we give her. On days when we enjoy vegetables and hummus, Abby likes to take a carrot stick, dip it in the hummus, lick it off, and repeat. Recently she realized she can do the same thing with dirt and a stick. Yes, Abby will eat just about anything, from rocks to shoelaces, if we don’t keep a close eye on her.

Here she is, caught in the act, munching on something while I pay attention to Lydia:

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And as always, little Abby is full of smiles. She and Lydia love playing with each other and are enjoying being big sisters together.

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Happenings

The past several days have been full of fun happenings at the Taylor household…

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To begin, we celebrated my birthday last Thursday. Dan wished me “Happy birthday” a dozen times, bought me some pretty spring flowers, and frozen raspberries to thaw out for a sweet dessert.

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Lydia wished me many “happy birthdays” and sang me many happy birthday songs.

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Abby dished out happy birthday smiles and entertained us all when she ate her raspberries.

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It was a happy, fun, and special day. Oh, and Paul slept better at night as his birthday gift to me.

A few days later we celebrated Paul’s first Easter, and his first Sunday at church. The morning was filled with a joyful church service celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and His ongoing work around the world today (and a yummy potluck breakfast). Of course, the kids were dressed in their Easter best, so we took a lot of pictures.

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Handsome little guy, isn’t he? 🙂

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(Another handsome one here, I might add)

To wrap it all up, yesterday we celebrated another important holiday: opening day.

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One Year of Thankful…Complete

One year ago, on my birthday, I began a project I called “One Year of Thankful“. My 26th year had been tough. We moved a pile of times, endured unpleasant job changes, suffered through 12 unexpected weeks with a baby in the hospital, and were in the process of adjusting to having two kiddos at home. I was having a hard time, feeling down, getting angry, and realizing the lack of joy in my life. So I began this project: record one blessing a day and take a picture to go with it.

Now my “year of thankful” is complete. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’ve enjoyed counting my blessings. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to pick one thing a day, an attitude of thankfulness has to be continuous. I’ve learned that blessings come in showers and sometimes there are droughts. At times I would have to choose between a number of blessings in a day. Other times I would go for days struggling to think of anything for my “thankful”.

As I was wrapping up my year, I thought it would be fun to go through my complete album to see what I was the most thankful for. I think this says something about my personality and it definitely says something about what I treasure in life. Here are my top ten:

10. Finding Things – Apparently I lose things somewhat frequently and really dislike it. Every time I find a lost item I have reason to rejoice.

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Day 54 – I found my lost phone.

9. Nature and Beauty – From the beauty of freshly fallen snow, to a colorful sunset, to my favorite flowering trees, I love enjoying the beauty God has placed all around me.

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Day 79 – Baby bunnies.

8. Relief from My Job – You don’t even know how many times I took pictures of dishes washed by someone other than me! Or sometimes it was folded laundry, someone to watch the kiddos, or a discovery that made my life easier. A break from the grueling task of “domestic engineer” frequently made my thankful list.

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Day 216 – Having my parents here while Dan and I were at the hospital, being able to take it easy as the girls were cared for and all the dishes and laundry done.

7. Material Things and Comforts – Material things were often gifts and comforts often included warmth or sleep. I’m blessed with so many nice “things”: a house, clothing, all sorts of kitchen knick-knacks, and so many comforts like warm blankets, medicine when I’m sick, or the exercise ball that brought so much relief late in the pregnancy.

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Day 71 – Nap time.

6. Love – Originally this was lumped under “Family and Friends”, but it came up so many times I gave it a category of its own. From date nights to flowers, love letters, and special chats with Dan, it’s clear that I enjoy any language of love from my husband.

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Day 315 – My one and only Valentine.

5. Walking with God and Answered Prayers – This category skyrocketed late in my pregnancy with Paul. Every week was an answered prayer. But it wasn’t just weekly milestones that made the list. During some of the most pressing trials of the year God brought much peace, guidance, and comfort.

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Day 348 – This moment. I thought it would never happen. Psalm 37:4

4. Quiet, Precious, and Meaningful Moments – I am a creature of habit. Special moments that we enjoyed every day (like breakfasting in the breakfast nook or snuggling with Lydia in the morning) often made my list. I’m also an introvert and any quiet or peaceful moments made it into my thankful album.

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Day 82 – This Moment: Snuggled up with his girls.

3. Food and Fun Times – I was amused at how often food came up as my thankful for the day. Especially special occasion food (aka something with cheese) or fruit. Fun times were also a favorite, including family outings, trips up North, and weddings and showers.

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Day 156 – Another perfect pre-baseball picnic.

2. Productivity – This one really surprised me. It’s back to those pictures of dishes I guess! The second most frequent thankful has something to do with making progress on housework, organization, research, or projects.

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Day 233 – Finished!

1. Family and Friends – This one isn’t much of a surprise. Family and friends and the special moments we have together were the most common thankful by far. God has blessed me with many loved ones, but most frequent were my loving husband, and crazy kids.

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Day 364 – Adding another little one to our family has only made me love them all more.