What I’ve Learned in 52 Weeks

On a cool Friday morning, exactly 52 weeks ago, I stood in the doorway and watched the EMTs guide my husband, Randy, into the back of a truck with bright red flashing lights. In the pre-dawn darkness, the lights reflected off the trees and houses announcing to the world that something had gone terrible wrong in the neighborhood.

After a 12-day hospital stay involving a long list of tests, blood transfusions, difficult procedures, and finally, answers we didn’t want to hear, we left the hospital with a drastic change in our life course. End-stage liver failure would be our traveling companion for the rest of the journey.

Now, a year later, I’ve learned some things that have made a significant impact on my life.

I thought I knew that life was fragile and not to be taken for granted. But over this last year, and especially those days in the hospital, waiting for answers and watching my husband struggle with so many challenges, I gained a fresh perspective. I learned that I can not only trust that life is precious, I can find things to be thankful for even in the challenges.  We have learned better eating habits, we have learned to be intentional about each day. We realize that we may not have another.

Sometimes we can hear people say, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds,” and it can sound cliché because we hear it said so often. It’s not a statement to be brushed aside. We have learned to truly “seize the day” and it has made us stronger.

I’ve learned that although we can still struggle with our mortality and wonder about, or fear the future, those future days are not here. All that is here is today. If we lose today because our thoughts are constantly on what may happen in the future, we’ve lost the only thing that really counts. This day. This opportunity to make something good out of the moment we are in right now.

We still struggle some days. Still feel like we are living with a ticking time bomb with no idea when it could go off. But aren’t we ALL doing that?  We all know that we have a finite number of days on this earth. But when we are healthy, we can push those thoughts aside and decide to “worry about that later.”

When you have been given a terminal diagnosis, you suddenly realize that someone has turned on the timer and it really is ticking away now. So what do you do with that?  You have to keep getting up in the morning. You have to keep paying bills and making phone calls.  You have to go to the grocery store and put gas in your car.  You have to decide to LIVE just like you did before and not fall into the temptation to just sit down and wait for whatever is going to happen. The fact is…we are ALL terminal. We just don’t have something in particular to blame it on yet so we can conveniently ignore this fact.

I’ve also been reminded that family is precious. Even though I don’t always agree with the choices my sons make, my love for them overwhelmed me as I watched them rally around their dad in his most difficult trial. They showed up, they stood by him,  and they prayed for him. Sometimes they don’t really get that it is an ongoing challenge for us but I know they will show up again when we need them to.

This week we will celebrate the year God has given us. We will be thankful for the days we’ve shared that seem like a bonus. We’ve made so many wonderful memories this year that we may have missed if we hadn’t made the decision to be more intentional about our lives.  I am grateful for the way our circumstances have forced us to take a closer look at the grace and mercy of God.  Each day is a gift.  We are perhaps, living in a more genuine way than we ever have before.

One thing I can still say for certain is, God is good. He has been faithful to us every minute. Nothing has happened that He hasn’t been there to guide us through every detail.  We are grateful that Randy is stable right now. That could last for another day, or a year or a decade. While we pray for many more years together, we have become content with today. This is what we have. Today.

Maxey Memory #9 -Christmas in July

Christmas, in July, in Florida. 90 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms.  A typical summer day….but with Christmas music in the kitchen and the Muppets Christmas Carol movie playing on the television.

We gathered in the kitchen to prepare a few of our traditional Christmas foods. Not all of them, that would be messing too much with the real Christmas! There is always some shenanigans that go along with the preparation. This year, Randy and Maggie decided dancing was in order.

Problem was, neither of them wanted to lead!  Don’t you just love Randy’s festive shirt?

And where would we be without Bella’s cool Christmas socks?  We went all out for this celebration including a little decorating of the house. I just love the way my boys relate to each other. It’s always so much fun to have them together. We don’t get the whole gang together to often, but I have learned to be thankful for the ones who are here and not spend too much time wishing for a perfect family get-together with all of them. I’d spend all my time wishing and never enjoy what I have.And our celebration wouldn’t be complete without the white elephant gift exchange.  I ended up with a box of Swiss Cake Rolls. But there were some true treasures among the prizes.   This one was the favorite. A dog toy, actually, but the humans had a good laugh with it and fought over it until Randy finally ended up with it.  When you give it a gentle squeeze it oinks and a strong squeeze makes it squeal. Do I need to say more?

We love doing things that make for great memories. This Christmas in July was a perfect event to add to the list.

Maxey Memory #8 -When You Have a Son Who Will Try Anything!

Those of you who know my oldest son Andrew will not be surprised by this at all.  He lives his life on the edge of adventure.  He looks for opportunities to try unusual experiences and he makes sure as many family members as possible are participants.

This past week was no exception. Andrew found a place online to purchase a liquid nitrogen flask. He had it shipped from overseas and then found a place locally that would fill it.  He proceeded to gather all of us in the dining room for an experience we won’t forget.He poured the liquid nitrogen into a Styrofoam cooler and the fun began.  We had prepared a variety of food items to freeze, including marshmallows, gummy bears, Oreos,  blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon. He certainly had the kids’ attention!  Then came the best part.ICE CREAM!  If  you make a homemade ice cream recipe and pour it into squeeze bottles and then give them to Andrew and Randy, in a flash you have homemade Dippin’ Dots!  They were a little lumpy, not perfect spheres like the real thing but the kids didn’t seem to care.It was a fun treat and an experience I never expected to have.  Somebody else thought it was pretty sweet too!

Maxey Memory #7: Christmas Events in the Sunshine State

I am still adjusting. I thought I had this figured out. After all, this is our second Christmas in Florida. Last year we went to the Christmas parade in short sleeves and we were so excited to be here. Now this year, I expected it to be more familiar, this Christmas in the tropics.

largo-tree-lightingwp_20161203_19_12_45_proBut last weekend we had another new experience. We went to the annual tree lighting event in Largo, a little town just south of Clearwater.  It was in their city park. The trees were dressed in lights and there were lighted displays everywhere. They had a small train running through the park that was decorated and took on passengers to see the sights.  Not that much different than what we’d experienced in Des Moines over the past decade. Except for one big difference. We were walking around outside with temperatures in the 70s after dark. It was still a magical experience but where were the mittens and stocking caps?  I still haven’t gotten used to this new climate.

largo-tree-lightingwp_20161203_19_38_41_proWe really had a wonderful time. It’s so much fun to be experiencing Christmas through the eyes of children. My grandchildren still have that sense of awe and anticipation about Christmas. Of course, they get caught up in the flashy parts of the season but they are also well trained in the real meaning of Christmas.  They understand the significance of that baby born in a stable.  Watching them reminds me to take a moment and allow God to give me a fresh excitement. A renewed anticipation about the celebration of His Son.

Last night I was in the living room alone, which is a rarity in this houseful of people. There were no lights on except the Christmas decorations.  There was soft Christmas music playing.  I was enjoying the experience after a busy day.  As I rested in the peaceful atmosphere I took time to recall the scriptures announcing the birth of Jesus.  It was just what I needed.

 Luke 2:10-11  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Much to be Thankful For (And Maxey Memory #6)

What a wonderful time we had this Thanksgiving weekend!

Memory #6 was our first Thanksgiving in Florida.  It’s also a record for the Maxey family.  It was the largest gathering we’ve had coming in at 22 people at the dinner table.  That number included 15 family members, 3 neighbors, Aaron’s girlfriend and her parents, and Maggie’s mom from Iowa. It was the largest number of guests outside of family that we’ve ever had.  What a feast it was! We talked to our neighbor yesterday and he said he is still telling people about what a great Thanksgiving we all had together.

And the best part is that God was in charge of the inviting. The only guest we knew was coming  before Wednesday was Maggie’s mom. The others were invited by Andrew at the prompting of God in the moment.  What a great way to throw a party!  In the morning we went to the beach. We looked for shells and saw a pod of dolphins playing in the waves. In the afternoon we prepared enough food for an army. Later we had a great dinner with lots of hands to help and lots of fun conversation with new friends. We even had live entertainment since the neighbor boy is a very talented musician and blessed us with an impromptu piano concert.

This past year has given us so many things to be thankful for.  I am so glad I have continued my thankfulness book. With over 1500 entries over the past 2 years, it’s  a meaningful testimony of the goodness of God every day. It’s just a tiny little book but full of so many blessings. It’s helped me to have a grateful heart all year round and not just on Thanksgiving.

On Friday we ignored the shop-til-you-drop crowd and stayed home all day baking cookies. This is a tradition that has been part of our family since the late 70s.  Many years of memories have taken place on Cookie Friday  in our home, first in Ohio, then Iowa and now Florida. Everyone has their favorite cookie requests and we try to make them all!  We won’t break the record which stands at nearly 120 dozen in one year but we will have lots to give away.

On Saturday we went to get the Christmas tree.  75 degrees, sunny…not at all what we are used to. Hats, gloves and scarves were replaced by shorts, sandals and sunglasses.  We still ended up getting a pine from up north. The Florida trees just don’t smell the same!  And our traditional hot chocolate treat after finding the perfect tree had to change too. This year it was an ice cream treat instead. Sunday evening was the tree trimming party. We had a great time eating snacks, decorating the house and tree, and watching old Christmas movies.

None of this is anything spectacular. Not a lot of bells and whistles for us. But it means the world to us. With the frenzy that seems to be growing every year around the Christmas holiday season, there might be a temptation to try to out do what we did in previous years but we don’t need any of that. We are content to do as we were encouraged to do in our Sunday sermon yesterday. We make every effort to seize each opportunity we can, to cherish the relationships God has given us, and to trust God for the future.

This has been a very full year and in some ways a very difficult year. We’ve had many adjustments and challenges. We’ve had conflict and sickness and financial setbacks and we have been changed. Hopefully we are stronger and wiser and closer as a family because of it.

And for all of it we are so very thankful!

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 



More Memories To Be Thankful For

Last month we celebrated the life of Randy’s Uncle Harry.  We drove to the Atlantic Coast and attended his military funeral service and then spent a couple of hours with Randy’s cousins.  We were also thankful for the opportunity to see our son Jared and his girlfriend Rachel, who came from Iowa for the service.

Funerals are such difficult events but if you look past the sadness, they also provide a special opportunity to gather with people you love and don’t see as often as you’d like. I think that is part of God’s design. The sadness of knowing we will miss the one who has gone on ahead of us is eased by the joy of the chance to hug the necks of loved ones we haven’t seen for too long.  The reunion is a reflection of the grand reunion we will all have one day in Heaven.  What a  time that will be as our mourning is turned to dancing!14063885_10153931112866909_8693240004585967550_n

Having Jared come down was a special blessing. It was so hard leaving him behind when we moved last December. To have him come and be with us even for just a weekend was wonderful.  We took Jared and Rachel to the beach and they saw dolphins in the open water for the first time. We crammed as much as we could into the 2 days they were here and were glad to learn that they plan to come back for Christmas. We already have a whole list of things we want to do with them when they come back.

So, that was Maxey Memory #5.

Memory #6 happened last weekend.  Saturday was National Museum Day. Randy and I got free tickets to the  Ringling Museums in Sarasota. resizedwp_20160924_11_55_23_proWe spent the day exploring the history of the circus and got a dose of “culture” as we wandered through the huge art museum. The Circus Museum was quite amazing. Randy tried his skills on the tightrope exhibit.resizedwp_20160924_13_37_00_pro

I really enjoyed the huge display of the circus in miniature. So much to look at!  It reminded me of memories of my childhood and the fun we had going to the circus. A time when life seemed less complicated.resizedwp_20160924_12_33_41_proI have a new appreciation of all the work that went on behind the scenes to provide that fun experience we enjoyed.

After a full day we had dinner at Der Dutchman, an Amish restaurant that has a location in Plain City, Ohio. A place with fond memories of our years living in central Ohio.resizedwp_20160813_19_19_48_pro-2

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  Have you made any memories lately?

And Here They Are: Maxey Memories #3 and #4

This has been a busy week.  Sometimes things are moving along so fast that we can miss some important moments. This week we had one of those moments and we almost missed it but I think God prompted me to take notice and we were able to savor the making of a memory.

We’ve been in this living arrangement of 3 families totaling 15 people living in the same house for just over 8 months now.  It hasn’t been without it’s challenges. But this season is coming to an end.  Josh and Maggie are making the final arrangements to move into their own apartment in just a few days.  While you might not think it’s a big deal that we will ONLY have 13 people living here now, their presence will be missed. I will miss saying good morning to them and hearing about their workdays.  I will miss listening to them interact with a 2-year-old when she barges into their room uninvited but always welcomed.  I will miss having them at the dinner table.  That is what prompted this memory, Maxey Memory #3.

At dinner the other night we were all there. Doesn’t happen that often since a couple of the boys work the dinner hour at Chick-Fil-A most evenings.

resizedIMG_3605But this night we were all together and it suddenly dawned on me that it would be the last meal we would eat as a family sharing the same home.

To be sure, Josh and Maggie will be back and will eat meals with us in the future, but this was the night that would end an 8 month adventure that none of us will forget.  I am excited for them and their next chapter, but there is also a sadness that something is ending.  They are so happy to be finally setting up housekeeping in their own place and that is as it should be. But I  know that what we experienced, with all it’s struggles and challenges, changed us all. We will never be the same after having to learn to share our space as we have. Life moves on and the adventure continues, with a few adjustments ahead!

The other memory that I wanted to share was a once in a lifetime adventure. We had the opportunity to experience “The Beach.”

resizedDSCF0210  Not your typical Florida beach with sun and sand. This was an elaborate interactive art exhibit in Tampa Amalie Arena (usually used by the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team). They filled the floor with over a million white plastic balls and set up beach chairs and tables on the “shore”.

resizedDSCF0072 We had a wonderful time pretending to be at the beach with no water. The exhibit was only here for a month and will be packed up and travel overseas for it’s next stop.

resizedDSCF0139 We were so excited to have the chance to make this memory, Maxey Memory #4.

What kind of memories have you been making?

Moments and the Making of Memories

Perhaps I need to start something new. With so much stress and challenge in my personal life and in the world in general I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the weight of the day.

Perhaps others feel the same way. We constantly hear people say life moves too fast. Every day is busier and more stressful than the day before. We get so busy just trying to maintain the pace that we lose track of the moments.

Moments can often be those times when something happens that is unexpected but you suddenly just decide to run with it. I would like to become more aware of the “moments” in life. To be more intentional about choosing how to spend each moment.

I don’t mean finding a way to schedule all the minutes in my day or fill all the hours of each day to the fullest. What I mean is choosing to do the things that make memories.

This morning was the perfect example.  It was raining. That’s what it does in August in Florida. It rains. We usually find indoor activities to occupy ourselves knowing that in a month or so the weather will change and we’ll begin enjoying more outdoor activities again. But this morning we woke to a steady, heavy rain.

The grandkids looked outside and began asking if they could go out and play. They wanted to play in the rain. After gaining permission to do so since there was no lightning, they excitedly began looking for swimsuits. I went back to my room content to get a few things done while they were all playing. But then a thought whispered in my ear.

“Go with them.”

I smiled and dismissed it. Maybe another time. But suddenly I stopped. Why not? What would it hurt to put my agenda aside and play in the rain?

I quickly changed and grabbed a towel. I was so excited by this time that I didn’t realize until I saw the pictures that I’d put my gym shorts on inside out!  Didn’t matter one bit!  The next 30 minutes were filled with the giggles and squeals of 6 little ones having a grand time playing in the rain with grandma.

3untitledI got soaked. I got dirty (boys love to splash in muddy puddles). But we had so much fun! When we were done I came in, took a shower and went on with my day. And I’m glad to report that I got all my clothing on right side out this time!

What would I have accomplished in that half hour? Nothing that measures up to the memories I made by choosing to embrace the moment instead of letting it pass me by.

So, here’s what I’m thinking.  This is another opportunity for God to teach me to live life more intentional.  For the past 2 years I have focused on being thankful.  I’ve kept a “thankful journal” where I write the things that cause me to say “thank you, Lord.”

Now I want to become more conscious of living in the moments. I want to intentionally choose instances where I invite God to make a memory. Today I was paying attention and now have a wonderful memory. As I collect these memories I will have more to smile about. I cannot think of a better way to find joy in the midst of the chaotic days of life.

untitledSo, with this, I offer you…

Maxey Memory #1. Playing in the rain.

Stay tuned, there will be many more to come!

And, I challenge you to do the same. Share your moments. It will be good for all of us.