The Leavers and the Left Behind

When Tori, our oldest daughter, took her first trip to Kenya the summer of 2008 just before her senior year of high school, it was the first time I ever felt the weight of being left behind. My family moved a lot and it seemed like I was always the one leaving. But with her trip, she was going and I was staying. Admitedly, I was a bit jealous. I realized that it was much harder on the heart to be the one left behind than to be the one leaving. Not that it’s easy on the leaver, I can assure you it’s not.

The leaver has a to-do list a million miles long. The leaver is busy and has big adventures ahead to look forward to.

The left behind goes about their normal life, which even if not bad is still normal. And they have to figure out how to go about said normal life with a missing piece. Someone who has been present and helpful and a part of their daily life will soon be moving on and will not be present and helpful and a part of their daily life.

All said, the transition is big and hard and emotional for both sides but the leaver walks forward while the left behind is well, left behind.]

As Tommy and Anna and I spend our last couple of days in Texas before flying out to the UK, we hug our kids, the ones we are leaving behind. This alone makes me question my sanity. Leaving them is so hard. So very hard. I cried out to God last night and all but told Him that He’d better make this worth it because I’m seriously wanting to call it quits. My heart is crushed to leave them. I just keep telling myself it’s not as bad as Singapore. Not as far. I can get home quickly. They can get there quickly. And don’t think for one second that I haven’t begged them to move with us. But as I stated before, we have fun and exciting adventures ahead that even they will be a part of when they come to visit. My head tells me it will be worth it. My heart has some catching up to do.

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, she reminded me that leaving our kids hurts so much because we’ve invested in them. Leaving hurts because we love.

We’re not promised a life devoid of pain. On the contrary, we are promised that life will bring pain. Living hurts. Loving hurts.

But it’s worth it.

Right??? Someone reassure me that it’s worth it, please? Because at this moment, I’m pretty sure I’d rather hug my grandson for eternity than galavant around the globe. But alas, that doesn’t pay bills now does it?

For all of history there have been leavers and those left behind. One of the most memorable, of course, being Jesus.

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.  I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

 Come now; let us leave.” John 14

For the record, let it be known that I hate leaving my kids and I hate watching my kids leave. I’ve experienced both more times than I’d like and it’s not enjoyable. It’s right but right is rarely easy. I just keep telling myself that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. Here’s hoping for the latter…

Although I don’t plan to die anytime soon, I love that even death will not separate the leaver and the left behind. We will see each other again. And I very much look forward to that day whether it be in October or on the other side of the sky.

Come now, let us leave.

Making Time To Breathe – Catching Up

Hi, my name is Andrea and it’s been 1 year and 5 months since my last post. … I actually typed that in March and it’s now June so make that 1 year and 8 months.

I’m resurrecting this blog because we’ve had a few adventures I’d like to share but it’s been a crazy around here so I’ve had little time to keep it up. It’s actually been pretty crazy since 2009 but I’ve posted most of that crazy already. We also have a new adventure to tell you about. Read on…

So often in our lives, when God is silent we think He’s not moving. The scriptures and our life experiences prove that this is not true. Usually, the best stuff is happening in the background when we can’t see it. When God is silent, He comes out of that silence with something BIG! Not that I’m claiming to be God but these silent blog years are a good example of how when someone is silent, it doesn’t always mean they’ve been sitting on the front porch rocker twiddling their thumbs. I’m going to give you a bullet point recap of our lives during these “silent years”.

Jakeb graduated college.

Jakeb married Kadi.

And ALL the showers and parties in between…

Jakeb and Kadi added Summit to their family.

Tommy changed job positions.

I started a new blog, began working as Editor/Content Manager for www.hollywoodjesus.com, serving and writing for www.rebeccabender.org

I attended the She Speaks writers conference in North Carolina, confirmed my calling as a writer (not sure exactly what that looks like, though) and hung out with old and new friends. I even met a couple of girls from Singapore there.

I helped launch Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love, and gained a wonderful community of friends.

Anna got her drivers license.

We’ve taken trips to Oklahoma, San Antonio, Nashville, Lake Catherine, London Switzerland, France, Georgia and lots of trips to see our kids in Lubbock and Dallas.

Tori & Austin bought a great house and we helped them with some renovations.

We have spent as much time as is humanly possible with our kids and our grandson, Owen.

We moved Tommy’s dad to Assisted Living.

Tommy and Jakeb hiked Big Bend.

Chuck (Tommy’s dad, my father in law, the kid’s grandfather and Owen’s great grandfather) passed away 3.3.16.

Anna had a wreck. She was shaken up, as we all were, but she was ok. We said goodbye to the Little Red Ranger. Lil’ Red was good to us for almost a decade.

Anna finished 11th grade and is now officially a senior in high school.

The kids all got older and so did Tommy and I.

Jakeb got a new job and he and Kadi moved to DFW. YAY!!

Tommy and I have spent a considerable amount of time in counseling to heal some broken places in our marriage and God has been faithful to honor and redeem our commitment and hard work.

Because of our hard work and commitment to make it work, Tommy and I are looking forward to our empty nest years.

We’ve made new friends and kept up with old friends as best we could.

(I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few important things. This sort of feels like the Everybody Loves Raymond Christmas letter episode.)

And last but not least…

The Stunz Family 3+2 (Tommy, Andrea, Anna, Gibbs and Zeala) are moving to London in July!! We have one-way tickets from Houston to Heathrow on July 6th. We are in the thick of the moving chaos now and this time, we’re adding the transport of our two dogs. This is a first for us. It’s not fun. It’s not cheap. It’s a good thing we love them.

Remember that this has all happened in 1 year and 8 months. These last 3 years since coming back to Texas from Singapore have all been just as full. It’s really hard to believe it’s only been 3 years! They have gone fast but they have been full. I titled this post “Making Time to Breathe” because that is what we’re having to do every single day. While I’m grateful that breathing is a natural instinct, I catch myself often making myself stop to take a long deep breath. These are days when we have had to force ourselves to make time to rest and breathe.

With more adventures ahead we look forward to breathing in the UK.

Deep breath… Stay tuned…

He’s Good!

Today, Owen is two weeks old. It’s amazing how much he has captured hearts in such a short time. He definitely has Gimi wrapped around his little finger. I’m continually amazed at how awesome he is, how awesome it is to be a grandmother, how awesome it is to watch Tori and Austin become Mommy and Daddy.

I haven’t had the time to write much over the last two weeks because I’ve been a little preoccupied with cooking, cleaning, caregiving and cuddling. Lots and lots of cuddling! Owen Austin Ten Hagen made his entrance two weeks before his due date, which was today, at 4:15pm on 10/12/14. Pretty cool date to be born on, huh? Tori’s labor went pretty fast. Not so fast to her but in terms of first babies and what many moms have to endure, she had a good experience. She gets a big ol’ tough momma award after doing the entire process without any medication. This didn’t surprise me one bit because I know how incredibly strong she is. Austin was so supportive and right by her side every moment giving her the encouragement she needed. This also didn’t surprise me. What a wonderful day it was and I’m so thankful we all got to be there for Owen’s birthday. Can’t help wondering if somehow Tori, being the planner she is, didn’t figure out a way to somehow plan her labor. The timing was just too perfect.

So over the two weeks of Owen’s life on the outside, a recurring phrase when I refer to him is, “He’s good”. He’s a good sleeper. He’s a good cryer. He’s a good pooper. He’s a REALLY good pee’er. He’s a good snuggler. He’s a good eater. He’s a good sleep fighter. He’s a good burper. He’s a good bather.

Yep, he’s good at everything.

But then Superman would be, right?

IMG_7348

The sky’s is the limit for you, our precious little SUPERman. You’ve got lots of people who love you and will help you get there.

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Did I tell you???

Did I tell you….

…that Tommy got a new car? Our car situation has been strange and he was eating up gas in the truck he was driving and it needed some TLC so he got another Mazda. This will be the 3rd Mazda we’ve purchased over the years. Good cars. His dad now has the little red truck sprucing it up for Anna to drive when she gets her license.

IMG_6284 IMG_6299

…that I got a job? I’ll be a contract freelance technical writer for a software company. They/we write training software for all types of businesses, large and small. Getting my feet wet in the work force again after a whole bunch of years of doing the mom/wife thing (which is not a bad thing). I’m excited. This job is a part of my “empty nest egg” plan. And this will be my office. Not a bad gig!

IMG_6327

…Tommy dislocated his pinky playing flag football? Yep, he did that. We thought it was broken. Thankfully, just a yank in the right direction by a sneaky ER doctor and a splint for a few weeks and all will be well.

IMG_6379 IMG_6381 IMG_6386

…that my niece had a baby? Oh my goodness, little Kyler is just precious and absolutely perfect. My sister and I will become grandmothers within about a month of each other. Too cool!

IMG_6245 IMG_6247

…that Anna is doing well in school and gets into the school spirit during football season. She loves feeding/irritating the ducks in our back yard. She loves her job at Chick Fil A and volunteering on the Jump Team at our church.

IMG_6205 IMG_6317 IMG_6372

Well, now you know.

Low Mercy

For various reasons, the last couple of years have been some of the hardest ones in my entire life and ones in which I’ve needed lots of mercy. Both to give and to receive.

By definition, mercy is the giving of undeserved compassion or forgiveness to someone.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m not a mercy giver. I wish I was but I’m not. I could say that being merciful is not my spiritual gift and, although that would be true, that is no excuse to not be merciful. It’s even less of an excuse to not receive the mercy from God that He so wants me to have. The very reason He died on the cross. Undeserved compassion and forgiveness…

I am a self proclaimed person of justice. I am black and white. A perfectionist. A line drawer. All or nothing. In or out. Something is either right or it’s wrong. Yes, I’m basically a Pharisee. I’m not saying I’m proud of this character trait. It’s something I struggle with daily. I struggle with being judgmental and fight that fight every day, often multiple times in a day. I win more of those battles as I get older and wiser and just become a little more chill. There is a time and place for judgement but even then, it’s not my job to carry out that judgement but that of the Almighty Righteous Judge. And clearly, that is not me.

Many years ago, I heard someone say that “mercy given (vertical from the Father) is mercy given (horizontal to others)”. When I have not received mercy from God it is impossible to give mercy to others. It’s all easier said than done. I need to give mercy to a few people in my life right now but it’s so very hard to let go of the “judge” in me. The ever present struggle between the head and the heart.

When my car is low on fuel, I need to go to the gas station to fill it up. When my mercy runs low, I need to go the Father, the creator of mercy, the very being of mercy, to fill back up.

I just wish I had an incessantly blinking “low mercy” warning light like my gas tank does.

Low-Fuel-164797

What’s interesting is, that as I type this, I realize that I rarely let my gas tank get low at all. I hate having an empty gas tank. So why is it that I let my mercy tank get so low??? Hmmm…. vulnerability, perhaps??? I have to look into myself and realize my own need for mercy and that is rarely easy.

Thank you, Lord, that you are SO good at doing the mercy thing even when I’m not. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. May I have the insight, forethought and the courage to receive and to give. I stink at it but it truly is my heart’s desire.  My head just needs to get the memo. Amen.

Lamentations 3 The Message

It’s a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God

19-21 I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.

Celebrate Good Times!!

We just had a couple’s shower for Jakeb & Kadi at our house. I’m always amazed at how loved I feel when other show love to my kids. I felt really loved. And so did Jakeb & Kadi. It was such a fun day with family and friends who are like family celebrating the upcoming union of our son and our daughter in love to be.

There was good pizza (Jakeb & Kadi’s choice), good cakes, lots of good food, good beverages, good friends, good family….  I think you get the picture.

We skyped Tori and Austin in since she is too close to her due date to travel too far from home.

We have certainly had our share of good times to celebrate lately! Blessed!!!

I thought Jakeb’s proposal story was so awesome that I wanted everyone to know it. So I wrote out a bullet point recap and placed it around the food table for everyone to read. I’ll share it here too. My boy did good.

—————

Jakeb bought the ring with the help/support of his sisters, brother in law and mom and dad.

Jakeb asked Kadi’s Dad for his blessing to marry their daughter.

Jakeb formulated his plan with help from a couple of their friends in Seattle to take Kadi on a virtual date, her having no clue he was in town and just thinking he wanted to take her on a date somehow.

Jakeb told Kadi he was going on a family trip to Lake Texoma so she wouldn’t plan to come to Lubbock to see him.

Jakeb packed his bags, carefully choosing just the right clothes and shoes and flew from Dallas to Seattle on Tuesday morning, August 5th, 2014.

Their mutual friend picked Jakeb up and took him to his apartment where Jakeb hung out for the day.

Their mutual friend’s wife and Kadi went to Starbucks to begin the “date”.

The friend gave Kadi Jakeb’s first letter with $10 in it for her favorite hot chocolate which happened to be the one she enjoyed on their first date.

Kadi became very emotional.

The friend gave Kadi Jakeb’s second letter that instructed them to make their way to the beach. This was a favorite spot for them and symbolized how they always enjoyed spending time together.

The friend and Kadi arrived at the beach where Kadi received Jakeb’s second letter.

Kadi continued to be emotional and very touched that Jakeb would go to this effort to make her feel loved.

Per Jakeb’s letter, Kadi was instructed to take some pictures because she loves photography and he told her that he wants her to always follow her passions and continue to be creative.

The friend gave Kadi Jakeb’s third letter which gave detailed instruction for her to make her way down to the beach.

Kadi skipped EVERYTHING in the letter and went straight to the bottom. The letter read : “Look up and see ME!”

Kadi freaked out!

Kadi RAN like a crazy woman to find Jakeb waiting for her near the water with the beautiful Mount Baker in the background. Kadi thought Jakeb had just come to surprise her with a visit.

Jakeb handed her the fifth letter which had some really really sweet stuff in it.

Kadi skipped EVERYTHING again and went straight to the bottom of the letter.

The letter read, “Answer this question.”

Jakeb got down on one knee and pulled out a ring box.

He said, “Will you marry me?”

She said, “Yes!”

They hugged and kissed and took in the moment. They sailed off on ferry to Kingston to make new memories together.

They took for stinking EVER to call family and send pictures.

Everyone greatly rejoiced in what God had done.

 

Finishing

One of our family’s favorite scriptures is Hebrews 12:1-2. Especially those in our family who run.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with endurance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Tommy even has an illustration of this tattooed on his arm.

In this life it seems like nothing is ever finished. Homework, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, tasks at work, etc. When we think something is finished, there’s more of the same staring us in the face in no time at all.

We run here, run there, do this, do that. We don’t finish. I mean, some things we check off the list but there’s always the next thing.

Nothing will be truly finished until we die. When we get to Heaven, there won’t be a next thing.

As a Believer in Christ, that actually sounds amazing. When I leave this earth, I will finally have finished this race. Seeing Jesus in Heaven is the ultimate finish line. To me, that’s pretty darn exciting. Not that I’m planning to rush things to get there.🙂

Tommy ran the Mt Taylor 50K yesterday in Grant, New Mexico. He struggled. He endured. He finished. He even got a medal that reads “Finisher”. I bet it won’t be long before he’s thinking about the next race he’ll be training for. If he hasn’t already.

May we all be encouraged to keep running and to reach the ultimate finish line with the ultimate prize….

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

In Class with a Bunch of Dummies

Yesterday I took a course for adult and child/infant CPR. We are gearing up to become foster respite care providers and, among a few other things, the State requires that i be CPR certified. I actually didn’t mind doing this at all and now could kick myself for not keeping up with my certification all these years. It’s just an extremely valuable tool to have tucked away. Taking a 3-4 hour course and spending about $50, seems pretty insignificant compared to being to possibly save a life. I honestly think it should be required for every parent or anyone working with children to know CPR. The other class members came from all parts of the greater Houston area to this facility. Apparently there aren’t that many places that offer CPR. Just so happens it’s right around the corner from where we live so I got lucky.

I was the first to get to class so I snapped a couple of pictures and sent this one to Anna with the message, “I’m in class with a bunch of dummies”.

IMG_6278

She responded and we had this text exchange.

IMG_6279

Little Anne and I got very up close and personal.

IMG_6280

Doing the choking and CPR training on a baby was not enjoyable. Hit a little too close to home with a grand baby on the way.

IMG_6281

Ernie, the instructor, was very funny. He had lots of stories to share having been an EMT for a long time. Several things have changed in the procedures since I took CPR MANY years ago. One of them was the placement of your hand for chest compression. They use to say “center of chest, nipple line”. Now they say “center of chest, breast bone”. He mentioned that grandma’s nipples might not be where they ought to be and someone following the old procedure would be giving CPR to her in the wrong place.🙂

A few other tidbits that I wrote down:
*30% of CPR attempts fail because of inadequate chest compressions.
*Some businesses choose not to have AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) on hand because of liability. How dumb is that? If the customer dies, aren’t they liable too?
*1 in 20 people in Texas are CPR certified (this includes medical staff) Sad.
*1 in 5 people in Seattle are CPR certified. Good job, Seattle!
*1 in 3 people will need CPR at some point in their life. Factor in the 1 in 20 in Texas who actually know CPR (including the hospital staff who may be right beside you) and calculate the odds. Not good.
*Critoid pressure used to be advised. Not so much anymore and typically only by trained personnel. I had to look that up. The Critoid is the Adam’s Apple. You’re welcome.🙂
*EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) have seasons. Cold weather is respiratory arrest season. Hot weather is cardiac arrest season – especially for the elderly. Halloween to Christmas is choking season – hard candies, presents under the tree, ornaments, etc. I never really though about that but it makes a lot of sense.
*He talked a lot about kids/teens drinking too many sports and high energy drinks and how the constant consumption of these keeps their hearts in too fast of a rhythm. It’s a big problem with cardiac arrests in students. Of course he talked about this as he sipped on his second or third cup of coffee since class started. Do as I say, not as I do, right?

There was one guy in the class who left after the adult portion He was only there for a job out at the chemical plant where he works. The other three ladies were in the medical profession so even though we all stayed for the child/infant portion, I got to leave before them since I didn’t have to take a test. Skipping class before the test?? With permission??? Oh yeah!! Every students dream!

So consider getting CPR certified, will ya’? It’s not that hard at all and it’s so valuable. I’m glad I did this. I hope I never have to use it though.

Showered With Love!

Tori, Austin and our little somethin’ have been showered with so much love. And this is BEFORE he even gets here!

My friends, Dedee and Jenny, hosted her first baby shower in our hometown and it was so fun to see our family and home folk love on my girl. I’m so blessed to have long time friends who care so much for our family.

My sister, Edie, hosted an online virtual shower for Tori and Austin. It has been so much fun with games and pictures and gifts and such. She even figured out a way for us to eat cake together. It’s a fairly new thing but I can totally see it catching on. It’s just such a great way to include family and friends who live too far away to attend a regular shower to be able to celebrate with us.

Austin’s family and friends hosted a couple’s baby shower. It was such a fun day filled with games, yummy food and so many good gifts!! Gibbs and Abbey had TONS of fun too. They wore themselves out and two days later, Gibbs has still not recovered.🙂

Three very different showers but all filled with so much love and so many great gifts. Our little somethin’ is spoiled already! And now that the showers are almost over (she has one more with her co-workers this week) it is time for Gimi to pack her bags and be ready to road trip. Ideally, he needs to wait a couple of weeks before making his appearance but we are all beyond ready to meet him as soon as he decides he’d like to come out and play.

Getting Close!!

Our little somethin’ is just weeks away from getting lots of kisses and cuddles from his Gimi!!

Tori’s doctor appointments are weekly now. She had an appointment this morning and both mommy and baby boy checked out great except that he could possibly have a huge head. Smart grandson! Giving birth is the only time she and I have been grateful for our wide hips.🙂

Tori is feeling good, well, as good as you can at this point. Her main issues have been swelling and heartburn throughout the pregnancy. She is working up until he comes. Her hospital is right next to where she works so she jokes about her water breaking at work and then walking over and delivering. We’ll see how that turns out.

My girl and her boy…. love.

IMG_4703

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
 The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?”
Psalm 127:3 The Message