Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ultimate Period

I really don't know how to write this post.

That sentence, along with the salty drops that are stinging my already bloodshot, sunken eyes makes me seriously question whether I should write this post...
When initially setting up this blog (a college course assignment), my writing professor strongly cautioned against cathartic blog posts. It might feel good, might even bring a sense of healing... but that kind of writing is generally meant for a personal journal or the therapy session, not the world wide web.
Well I guess I'm sort of breaking that rule with this one.

On Thursday evening my Gramma Lolo passed away.

How does one follow that sentence? What am I supposed to write after it? What is there to write? It's not really a sentence. It's a statement. A pronouncement. Seemingly, it's the ultimate period. And why do we use the term "passed away?" What does that even mean? Away to what? It can sound so hopeless. So futile.

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field... the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of God stands forever." ~ Isaiah 40:6b, 8. 
We humans, our lives, they are futile. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But God's Word is eternal. It's withstood the test of time. I spent the greater part of the morning scouring through it looking for what He has to say about heaven, hope, resurrection and death, since I seem to be at a bit of a loss. His words are always better than mine anyway... And as usual His Word came through.
"Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?" It has been swallowed up by the victory given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ! He promises to wipe away the tears from all faces. Promises and proclamations that bring me comfort.

As I write this I'm sitting on the couch in my apartment listening to the big fat raindrops bang on the metal balconies of the building next door with an occasional sunburst sneaking through the clouds -  nothing out of the ordinary for a spring Saturday in Seattle. And yet I find this bi-polar weather very much mimics my emotions.
Grief is an odd thing.

I know I shouldn't be sad. In fact I want to rejoice! My Gramma Lolo has not "passed away" into some dark empty void. On the contrary she has entered into the kingdom of light. She has been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms, to the place that He has specifically prepared for her, so that she might be with Him. Now this makes me tear up!
She is now clothed with the imperishable and immortal - with her heavenly dwelling. She has a new body and is no longer held hostage in the withering shell that has confined her for so long. She has been set free. She has finally gone home. She is sharing in the joy and happiness of her Master and Creator.

For those of you who don't know my Gramma Lolo (my mom's mom), was a resident of St. John's Nursing Home in Billings, MT for 37 years. She was a sweet, petite yet incredibly strong woman who loved Jesus, loved her family, and loved to sing. When she was pregnant with her fourth child she suffered pre-eclampsia which resulted in a major brain hemorrhage. The baby died and she was left severely debilitated. (In layman's terms think Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, only my Gramma survived and the baby did not.) My Grandpa cared for her for 8 years but it became too difficult for him with 3 children and so she was placed at St. John's Nursing Home and that has been her home ever since.

It's hard to describe Gramma Lolo to people who've never met her. While the "accident" as we like to call it, left her verbally and physically challenged, when you spoke with her or visited with her it was clear that all her mental faculties were very much intact. She knew what was going on. You could see it in her big beautiful green eyes. And I found that that only seemed to increase over the last few years when I visited with her.
Not only that but her joyful spirit, love of music and love of Jesus have always been her hallmark. Everyone, I mean everyone at St. John's knew Lolo. They knew her cute little laugh and her sweet voice that was often humming a tune or hymn. I think she'd learned the secret of being content in every situation.

The last time mom and I visited her was a little over a month ago. We'd spent a week with her and on our last day, Sunday, we had a small worship service in her room. Gramma was laying on her bed coming in and out of sleep, but as mom read this passage from 2 Corinthians I saw her eyes open as she drank it in:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."  ... 
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  
This is who my Gramma Lolo was. A beautiful jar of clay. She carried around with her the death of Jesus so that His life might be revealed in her. She taught me and so many about long-suffering and that it is possible to rejoice in all circumstances - to consider trials pure joy, fixing her eyes and her heart on worshiping her Lord and Savior. And now she is with Him. He has brought her faith to completion. She is made new.

Death is not the "ultimate period" for God. It wasn't for my Gramma Lolo and it won't be for me. And I'm so very excited to see her there in Heaven. I can't wait to talk with her and dance for her. I can't wait to see how God used her over the past 37 years to fulfill His purpose in and through her. A mystery only He can and I'm sure will reveal some day.

Death does not have to be the "ultimate period" for you too...
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Do you believe this? I pray and hope you do!

Friday, March 21, 2014


On our way to and from Pacific City, OR - where Ry and I went to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary, and fulfill my Christmas gift to him - we passed through Portland. 
Our ETD (estimated time of departure) was 3:30pm. We left around 4:30pm. Even though it was a Thursday night we both braced ourselves for the horrendous traffic we'd surely be sitting in, particularly since it was a glorious day - few and far between up here in the PNW during the winter months. The worst part of the drive was on the 99 Viaduct, but how can you complain when you get to see the sun setting on the Puget Sound behind the Cascade Mountains? Pretty spectacular. 
Miraculously we made it down to Portland by about 7:30. I'd brought a handful of magazines for reading material and this one just happened to be in the bunch... 
How convenient.

My tummy started to rumble. It was 7:30pm. We had to eat, and we just happen to be in Portland... Why not just eat food, but eat well? I did a little on the spot iPhone research... thank you Eater Portland app... and off we went to the Firehouse Restaurant in NE Portland. It was delicious. 

And this little sideshow foodie detour reminded me of the last time we spent a weekend in Portland. Surprisingly, our previous visit was my first time experiencing this burgeoning city and tasting of its culinary delights. 

We'd gone down to celebrate my birthday. I'd been stuck in our apartment all week icing my knee with a potentially torn meniscus. It was a week fraught with many emotions and doctors visits. Not only did I go to our sports medicine doctor, but I had to dish out another $20 co-pay to my naturopath so we could get to the bottom of the mystery illness I'd been battling since September. He drew some blood for a food allergy test and said he'd probably have the results back early the next week. So this Portlandia food adventure was my last chance to throw down the "ignorance is bliss" card. And boy was it blissful! 
But just before we left I received some great news... No meniscus tear!!! Wooooooo!!!! Happy belated Birthday to me! :)

Our first stop was Clyde Common for a celebratory drink and a delightful meal. The drinks: superb. The food: delightful. The ambiance: dark and romantic. The photos: didn't really turn out.
Bummer. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Saturday we slept in and woke up to a lovely brisk fall day. The plan: Powell's. I'd only heard of this Everest of bookstores (okay maybe it's a Mount Rainer), but had yet to lose myself (and my day) within its rooms and rows of treasures. We had to be sufficiently fueled for such an undertaking. Byways Cafe was just the spot. 

Since we'd slept in, it was definitely a little later. Okay a lot later. But we both wanted breakfast. You just can't start your day without it! We were in luck! Byways Cafe serves it all day long and it was just a short walk from Powell's. Reminiscent of an old-school diner, it was full of collectable plates, character and smiles. The food was lovely and the service was sweet. Their pancakes looked "to-die-for," so if you can eat gluten I'd go for those! 
Our bellies full and hearts happy we headed off to Powell's. 

And Powell's did not disappoint. In fact I got 75% of my Christmas shopping done that very day. Books for all! We walked back to our hotel that evening, lugging our loot, but then it was on to the next adventure... Dinner!
After extensive research (what else was I going to do all week on the couch while icing my knee?) I'd weeded through many menus and decided on Old Salt Marketplace in the Northeast neighborhood. 
Seeking out the restaurant was an adventure in and of itself. It's not that it was difficult to find, it's just that Portland's comprised of mostly quaint, adorable old homes dotted periodically with pockets of retail shops and restaurants. No wonder Portland's known for its foodies... How could you live here and not be, when your local haunt serves microbrews and menu items like "roasted sunchokes, parmesan fritters, hot coppa, bagna crudo"?
It was a busy night at Old Salt, so we drove down a few blocks to grab drinks and then returned. We were not disappointed. The beet and carrot salad was out of this world and my duck was one of the best I've ever had. Definitely worth the drive!

So I guess there are a couple cities where the Sunday Brunch reigns supreme. Let me give you a hint... Portland is one of them. And choosing your spot proves quite a difficult task. I'm not going to lie... I chose this place because of the decor. Just so happens the food was phenomenal too. The Woodsman Tavern. I found it while perusing the Eater Portland blog and knew we had to eat a meal there.
Side note: Eater is a excellent resource for finding great food when traveling... I've used in it NYC, Portland and San Diego and it hasn't let me down once.

Have you ever had a moment where you see something and you're like "Did someone sneak into my brain and steal that idea because thought of it first!!!"? Let's just say their wall of paintings is exactly the concept I had for our apartment... But that's for a later post.
They had a buckwheat pancake that I was really hoping would be gluten-free. Yeah. No such luck. But... their bourbon baked apples were... ugh. I don't even think I can describe how mouthwateringly delicious they were. And the bacon! I won't even try... Haha!
 Ryan had The Lumberjack breakfast. Appropriate with his beard and flannel. He looked like he belonged there. Or on the cover of a Brawny ad. 

A little disappointed I'd yet to find any baked goods that were gluten-free in this food-conscientious town Ry and I drove up Martin Luther King Jr Blvd on our way out of town in search of our final treats before our celebration weekend came to a close. I mean we did need some coffee for the drive... 
We grabbed our coffee, to-go box of goodies and some gluten-free dinner roles for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast and hit the road. And boy were our treats tasty! Ryan devoured his chocolita bar.
Gluten-free? You coulda fooled him...

It was a great weekend. One I'll remember fondly... or at least my stomach will. It was a celebration. And we celebrated well. 
If you have a chance I hope you can check out some of these fine establishments. They're really wonderful! And I hope to have more restaurant-recommendation blog posts in the future as well. We sure do love good food! 

Cheers and happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moments to walk in

So I'm really really tempted to begin this post with some serious self-deprication.
You know... the way I pretty much begin every post these days.

But then I thought that might get a little old. 
I mean really... I shouldn't waste my words writing apologies for why I haven't been writing. 
I should just WRITE. Right?
Haha... that's kind of a tongue-twister.

Aaaammmmm.... Yeah. 
So what should I write about? The words don't always come so easily.
It's not for a lack of them. On the contrary, I find I have too many. Shocking, I know... 
Sometimes I think that's the hardest part. Life happens so quickly. I feel like the older I get the faster it goes by. So many moments I'd love to just freeze, even if for a minute or two. To pause everything and walk around in a snapshot. Dig my heels in and soak it up. But like water they just slip through my fingers. 
Have you ever had moments like these? Times that you knew were extraordinary? A day that you knew was a total gift? A weekend, afternoon or evening; a coffee date; a conversation that you knew would be pivotal. Life-changing. A touchstone. A pebble to collect in your life's satchel. Or maybe it was just something beautifully simple and ordinary. The smooth caress of air on your hand as you drive along a twisty mountain road. Snow falling in Manhattan. Salt-laden sea breezes and hot sun rays on an Oregon beach in February. Seeing a smile in someone's eyes. Crawling in to bed long after "bedtime" and having your loved one unconsciously grab you close, as if to say I missed you. A blazing sunset.

These are just a hand-full of moments that I wish I could walk around in. There are volumes upon volumes of memories I'll cherish forever. I somehow want to acknowledge them all. To write them down or speak them aloud. To take a mental snapshot. Because if I don't perhaps I'll lose them forever.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with all of this or how this became the topic of my blogpost. I think maybe because this past weekend was another weekend I wished would never end. It was the fulfillment of my Christmas gift to Ryan - he asked for "waves" and so I took him for a long weekend to the ocean. The best I could do. GOD provided the waves. But it also, coincidentally, was the six month anniversary of the day our lives were joined together forever. Yep. Another day I'd love to relive over and over again.

Nostalgia. It's a powerful thing. I guess my point in writing this is to encourage any one out there who's reading this to take those snapshots- real or metaphorical. Don't let those moments pass you by. Rather, let them soak into your soul like lovely rays of sunshine. And thank God for each and every one. Remember them with fondness and thanksgiving. And keep looking forward with eyes open, searching for the next one. And don't forget to write it down so you can walk in the moment whenever you like.