Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I love words.  My house is full of words and I am thrilled when I find a new one I do not yet know.  The latest app I downloaded on my phone is the Dictionary/Thesaurus one, and I realize that I am way too excited about it!!  Just as meaningful to me as the photographs that cover the walls of our home are the words that bring me comfort each day, some framed and on display; others cut out of some magazine and placed where only I can see; or those not visible at all, but linked to some object and written only in my heart. 

Now that both of my grandfathers are gone, I go over and over in my mind the last conversations I had with each of them, and tuck them safely inside my memory box.  I remember their words, and it’s as if they’re still here.  Funny phrases or nicknames that made me smile then still have the same effect now even though they are gone. 

I’m sure it’s that way for everyone.  Memories exist in photographs, but it’s the story behind them that brings them to life.  It’s the words that were spoken; the language exchanged that seals them in our minds. 

My free time is spent stringing words together in an attempt to preserve moments that all too quickly become distant memories.  This morning, I was working on Jake and Lilly’s photo books, which have become more than just a collection of photos, but a treasury of silly stories and a place for me to document my hopes and dreams for them and communicate how much they mean to me.  I was writing to each of them, explaining which words they use most frequently these days, and I included the unique way they pronounce each one.

Rar-rar:  dinosaur
It scary me :  It scared me.

Sweet Girl, you are enjoying every minute of drama these days!  Your favorite game to play with your brother is “Bear’s Coming.”  You both locate your flashlights and tip-toe into dark rooms and corners of the house where bears might be lurking.  When you and Jake spot the imaginary bear, you scream and run away, then promptly come tell me, “Momma, bear scary me!”  When you get sick of hunting for bears, you substitute Jake’s stuffed dinosaurs- all eight of them.  (One of the eight, the Brontosaurus, you’ve named “Rar-Rar.”)  I love the faces you make when you are trying to be extra convincing that there is some terrifying predator on the loose in our home.

Taint you: thank you
Bay-bank: blanket

Buddy, you’ve found the clearest and most direct path to your Mommy’s heart.  When I help you get dressed in the morning, you cheerfully say, in a sing-song way, “Taint you, Mommy!”  Your inflection at the end always soars as high as you can make it go, which never fails to produce a grin on my face, no matter how early in the morning it is.  You continue this pattern at breakfast, and on throughout the day, thanking me in such a sweet way for doing ordinary Mommy-kind-of-things, like helping you find your bay-bank or giving you more juice.  Your thankful heart makes me stop to thank God for making my life so very full.

One of the most rewarding aspects of having twins is watching the way two highly opinionated people come to each other’s aid as language emerges through words, then phrases, and eventually tidy little sentences used in the correct context with appropriate, yet dramatic expression.  Cody and I have been convinced for quite a while that Jake and Lilly possess a secret language completely foreign to us.  Every now and then, we catch one translating the other sibling’s sentence as soon as Mommy and Daddy’s faces start to become riddled with confusion. 

Sometimes, their motive is incrimination rather than support.  For example, the other day Lilly got in trouble for taking Jake’s toy and running away, a sly grin plastered all over her angel face.  In toddler talk, we call this “not nice,” and Jake wanted to make sure we knew that her behavior was unacceptable.  He felt so strongly that he sensed an obligation to repeat that phrase over and over and over while Cody disciplined Lilly and attempted to keep a straight face.

JAKE: “Not nice, Lilly!” (which sounds more like Lee-ee) The finger wagging and furrowed brow make his authority so believable!

CODY:  Calmly sends Lilly to time-out after confiscating the stolen toy

JAKE: “Not nice, Lilly!” (over and over again throughout the entire two minute duration of her time-out)

CODY:  Calls Lilly over to talk about her behavior (Guess who was front and center, ready to come to his sister’s aid?)

When asked why she went to time-out, Lilly smirked, tapped one finger on her chin, diverted her innocent eyes up to the ceiling, away from Daddy’s, and after a short but theatrical pause answered with, “Hmmmmm… I dunno,” shrugging her shoulders convincingly.

Before I tell you that she was sent back to time-out, I want you to know that this little act is one that she has perfected over the past couple of months.  Biting his cheek so as not to laugh at her nerve, Cody sent her directly back to time-out to think about it. 

When given another opportunity to explain to her Daddy that she understood why she was sent to the rug, she repeated her famous line, “Hmmmmm… I dunno.”  Either aggravated by her little game or concerned that his sister did not know the correct answer, Jake quickly came to her rescue.

JAKE: “Lilly me par-pane.”  (Lilly took my airplane.)

CODY:  Asks Lilly to give her own answer, only to have Jake step in once again with his response

JAKE: “Lilly run way.” (Lilly ran away.)

CODY:  Begins to explain to Lilly that he is disappointed that her brother knows all the answers to his questions yet she knows none, however, he is interrupted yet again with a final and very poignant response from Jake.

JAKE: “Lilly, not nice!!!”

I think I remember Cody losing it right about then, giving in to the laughter he had been trying to conceal when his eyes met mine and I faltered by cracking a smile.  But it didn’t end there.  When Cody asked Lilly to tell Jake that she was sorry, Jake lovingly told her that he was sorry and then hugged her and planted a big, sloppy kiss on the side of her face.

We’ve seen this before, too.  Many times, when an apology is due him, Jake is quick to give one out rather than accept one from his sister.  Or maybe, in this case, his apology had nothing to do with an airplane, but with selling his sister out and knowing all the answers!

I chuckled as I listened to Cody retell this story to our family, and I realized that I love this stage full of emerging language and hidden meaning and funny facial expressions that match unique little personalities.  I see so much of myself in both of my kids…. the drama that Lilly seems to have been born with and the high expectations that Jake holds for himself as well as for others.
I also see their words.  I watch the path that their sounds take as they one day transform into clear, comprehensible communication.  I witness them using their words to build each other up and show others love.  I can’t ignore the power their words hold as I observe emotional outbursts that used to be temper tantrums, but now carry explanations as well as feelings.  I notice how certain words like “taint you” carry me through my day and how words like “Mommy” help me remember how blessed I am. 
I recognize myself in their words.  Just like their developing vocabulary, I too, am growing, changing, and becoming more confident as a mom.  Communication is improving not just between me and my kids, but between a clueless Mommy and Daddy as well.  I see my own words displayed on their lips, and some make me smile, while others make me cringe.  I watch how my words bring life to their little faces and theirs do the same for me.  Words like “I love you,” or “You’re special.”  
When Lilly looked up at me the other day and told me, “Jesus loves you, Mom,” I realized that words are far more significant than I had ever considered.  Words are what I will embrace as time passes and my children grow up.  Words are what I’ll hold tightly.  The words construct my memory which is what I'll rely on as I replay each and every story and pass them to those who will pass them on yet again.

Many words rush along like rivers in flood, but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs.  Proverbs 18:4 MSG

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Super Hero

My grandpa, David Van Allen, passed away on January 5, 2013.  He was 92 years old and left behind his wife, Josephine of 70 years and his only daughter, my mom.  We honored him and celebrated his life today at a small memorial service near my parents' home.  He will be missed by all of us, but we know that he is dancing with Jesus today.


 As a child, my Pop was a super hero to me.  Indestructible, invincible, the one who showed up each week with a bag of powdered sugar doughnuts, the one who seemed to never run out of time to play or answer questions that began with “why…”  He was my very first student, when I made a career choice to be a teacher at the age of five.  Sitting with all of my stuffed animals, he always finished his work and followed my directions.  He taught me things like how to float in the swimming pool, and how to play the organ.  He was there when I cried after getting the chicken pox vaccine.  He always believed that I could conquer my fear of needles.  He took me on nature walks and treated life as a gift.  He was a playful grandpa, an adventurous grandpa, and a loving grandpa.

 As an adult, I started to see my Pop not only as a grandpa, but as a father and as a husband, too.  When I had kids of my own, I realized that he was once somebody’s little boy.  He really wasn’t this indestructible super-hero; he was human.  Human, not invincible.  Human, not perfect.  Human, just like me.  Instead of sugary treats in a bag, I started for looking for things in him that would leave me with more than a full tummy and lots of crumbs.  I was after bigger things.  Things like why he loved to sing hymns about a mighty and loving God.  Things like what does forgiveness look like and how does it really heal a relationship. Things like what gave him hope to embrace each new day that was given to him.


I spoke with Pop for the last time on Christmas Eve and now I know that that time was a gift from God.  He didn’t talk about the pain he was in, even though I could tell he was hurting.  In fact, I’m not even sure he knew I was his granddaughter.  But there was One person he never lost sight of- even when his mind began to fade.  As I crouched down beside him in his chair, I told him I was praying for him.  With tears in his eyes, he thanked me and then began to tell me about his God.  He told me that he talked to God all day and all night long.  He told me that God had never once failed him.  He told me how much he loved the Lord and even though it seemed to him that God was being silent, he knew that He was listening.  He told me that he loved the Lord in spite of the pain he felt.  He said, in fact, that he loved Him all the more.  When Pop didn’t know anyone else, He knew that God was with him.  Because God had always been with him.  In the last days of his life, it was the presence of God that brought him peace and comfort.  And as all of us who loved Pop remember him today, we can praise the same God who he is sitting beside right now. 

I read Psalm 146 after I heard that my Pop had gone home to be with Jesus.  It seemed appropriate because to me, what my Pop left me with is a desire to praise God in everything and to hold on to the truth that He will never ever leave or forsake me.

Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord, my soul.  I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 146:1-2

Looking back on my time with Pop, I realize now that what I fell in love with as a little girl was not super powers inside a super-hero.  What captured my heart as a little girl was the power of the Jesus living inside of Pop.  2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  I fell in love with Jesus who lived inside my Pop.  Because that’s what Jesus does… he takes an ordinary life and makes it extraordinary.  He takes a regular man with faults and flaws,and He turns him into a super-hero in the eyes of a little girl.