19 years Ago…Two Miracles

At a recent eye checkup, I tried out a new machine in the office that takes a very detailed look at the retinas, a much closer look that was possible before.

I knew I had scarring on my retinas from a case of severe preeclampsia with our youngest son, Will, and for the first time, I got a real look at the damage. It was a reminder of how close to being permanently blinded I really was. The fluid that had built up in a life-threatening experience bowed my retinas outward, doing damage as it did so. The eye doctor pointed out to me that in both eyes, the scarring came within a tiny margin of destroying the optic nerve.

The legal blindness I had for two weeks after Will was born eventually subsided, all thanks to the Lord. I remember the day when the dim light I was seeing was replaced with normal vision. All of a sudden it was like a million diamonds were sparkling all over. The light was coming back into my eyes. Within hours, literally, I could see fully again, lines on paper were straight again instead of wonky looking, and things were sharply focused.

Today marks 19 years since that frightening evening when I, by God’s merciful Willgesuorgan1design, went in for a prenatal check-up on a Monday instead of a Wednesday appointment, which saved my life. My blood pressure was through the roof. The doctor, a young man without any experience with preeclampsia he later admitted, sent me into the hospital, and I was hooked up to every monitor in existence. Will was born prematurely that night, but both our lives were spared.

God still had work for me and for Will. I am deeply grateful. Will is a tornado, a man with a plan ever since he was little. I can always tell when he is home, because the piano in our living room will burst into sound at random moments. When I hear that sudden music, I know our son is there.

In between his landscape work this summer, he is preparing for a noon-time concert at a church in Milwaukee in a couple of weeks. He is good friends with many organists in town who seem to like our son a lot. We like him, too!

Every child born into a family brings something to it. Will brings music. The night he was born, I had this piece of music pounding through my head. It’s fitting that the composer, Anton Bruckner, was an organist as well as composer of symphonies! It is one of Will’s favorites, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

So, in honor of Will, here’s the finale to Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. The whole 22 minutes is a wonderful listen.


For a Son

SamI’ve added three posts in the last 24 hours. That’s a change, but  today my son Samuel is 27-years-old. It’s always hard for us as parents to fathom how quickly our children are grown. It boggles my mind that Sam could be this age already.  He should still be the little guy with the dimple that I tucked into bed.

One of Sam’s gifts has always been a kind and tender heart. He is also spiritual in his outlook and a serious thinker. When he was three-years-old I came into his bedroom to tuck him into bed and he had his arms out hugging something invisible. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was hugging Jesus good-night, because he loved him. I never forgot the faith of Sam as a child, and was reminded how precious that must be to the Lord.

Sam is now a loving husband to Laura and father of two darling little boys, Peter and Max. He is also Communications Director for Pro-Life Wisconsin. He spends his time writing and speaking as an advocate for the voiceless, the little people who are forgotten in our culture.

I am thankful for him and his loving presence on our lives. He is always ready to help others and his wife and babies adore him. That is the greatest measure of a man’s character. God bless you, Sammy. (I still call you that.) Happy Birthday!

Which reminds me, I have to share a photo I snapped this week of Peter and Max. I am a grandmother, so please indulge me.  These are Grammy’s boys.   ❤


Will’s Home – Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

Will’s back home from his first year at college. He had a wonderful year at Wheaton College Conservatory and made the Dean’s List. We are thrilled to have him home again, but he’s working hard this summer with a landscape company, so we’ll catch him when we can.  Here’s Will playing Toccata Festiva by Purvis which expresses the feeling of having our son home again. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Reading to Little Ones: Let Them Reach Up

windinthewillowsThis morning as I got my kindergartner ready for school, it hit me how much she is learning just through our conversations. The array of subjects covered is mind-boggling. Every day it is something new. Every few minutes, a fresh question, a new thought, a just-crafted knock-knock joke.

I have always believed that if you use a varied vocabulary in speaking with children, they will fill their mental storehouse with words they can use all of their lives. I have always loved words and language.  I found a box of vocabulary words once when I was young and played a game of memorizing new words. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how many of those words stayed with me and served me well in my work.

When reading to young children, we sometimes avoid reading words we think our children will not grasp. They may not grasp the words immediately, but by context and with explanation, they are hearing the words and learning.

I have told my own children that if they ever encounter a word they don’t know, they should look it up immediately and try to use it in the next few days. After that, they own that word.

Both of our grandchildren, Peter and Max, are highly verbal. Peter is not yet three and has an astonishing vocabulary and way of using words. His parents read good books to him, and his vocabulary reflects that. Max is right behind him.

I have just begun reading Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham to Emily. It is rich language, somewhat above where her comprehension is. But we are taking our time. She loves the characters and gets the thrust of the story from my explanations for those things she doesn’t understand. She is hearing the language and learning so much.

Last week, I came across an article (Thanks Judi) that addresses the importance of explaining up, rather than dumbing down what we read to children. Literacy begins at home in the earliest months of a child’s life. Conversation laced with evocative and descriptive language and good children’s literature all serve to increase a child’s vocabulary and understanding.

Here is the article, Explain Up, Don’t Dumb Down: Why Little Kids Need Big Words

Here is Emmy from last May. I came into her bedroom to find her “reading” to her friends. And yes, I cannot believe how she has grown this last year!


A Woman of Influence

She was a powerful woman, that poorly paid caretaker of children in a small village in Bulgaria. She didn’t know it, but she was. Day in and day out she turned up for work in the poorly-heated, ramshackle building built by the communist government to house orphans. So many children, so many needs.

A 3-year-old boy came to stay at the orphanage, and he was very frail. He had brittle bones and suffered fractures constantly. He had to stay in bed when he would fracture, sometimes for weeks and weeks.

This woman would tie the tiny boy to her back with a shawl and carry him on her sturdy back while she made the rounds. He looked so alone just lying there, and he was so happy when she’d let him hitch a ride with her.

Her name was Maria, and I said she was powerful, because she was. She changed a human life. Over time, nine years in all, that kindness she showed enabled the little boy to trust, to feel affection, and to feel that he was a worthy of love.  She didn’t realize that she was giving that child something utterly essential – an emotional foundation for the rest of his life.

That young boy is now a man who works in a hospital here in America, putting medication in IV bags and preparing chemo treatments for patients who are counting on him to do the job right. He is meticulous in his work, conscious of the responsibility he has. He has finished all the certifications he can for his job and is preparing to move on with his training in pharmacy. Despite physical challenges and setbacks, he enjoys helping others and has set goals for himself that with God’s help, he will meet. That’s just who Jonathan is.

Most importantly, he is deeply loved as our son. He is able to give and receive love as a direct result of the compassionate woman in the photograph who loved him before we ever got to meet him at age 12. We are indebted to this very influential woman named Maria whose loving arms changed our son’s life.

It must have seemed like a small thing to show extra love to the little boy, all in a day’s work. But it really wasn’t a small thing at all in the end. Nothing ever is when done in love.

(Tom snapped this photo of Maria and Jon together at the orphanage.)


Little People, Big Faith

Children often express their faith best. No show, no pompous posturing, no hidden agenda. I found these little notes of love for God and family from my firstborn, Charlie, while looking for something in the “archives”, as Tom calls it. The last one is from Sammy, found in  a notebook where he wrote down little prayers.

When the profound spiritual darkness of this world presses in and questions swirl, we can do no better than to go back to the basics, shelve our doubt and fears, and return to the simplicity and humility of a little child. This goes against every prideful instinct of humanity. But it’s the way to true peace.

“Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~ Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 3, verse 18

(Translation below: “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb”)









Translation below: “Lord, I love you. You are treasured in my heart. I am blessed by you and you are wonderful.”