Reijo Robert Halonen March 10, 1936 – February 23, 2022

“Would you know my name?
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same?
If I saw you in heaven…

Beyond the door
There’s peace, I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven
” – EricClapton

On the day my mother passed 7 years ago, my daughter came to my house and brought me some flowers, and a giant bag of Werther’s caramel candies. She explained that the candies were a fond memory for her of my parents, because they always had a bag of them at their home , to offer to the grandchildren as a treat. I assume that they (my dad especially) enjoyed them as well.

Many years ago, my husband was shopping with my father in K-Mart. My father was looking at a pair of orange tab Levi’s, and was remarking how reasonably priced they were; he may have even suggested my husband buy a pair for himself. Without trying to be offensive, my husband merely acknowledged the reasonable price, and made a comment about how they were not exactly his style. My father, noting that he meant they were not exactly a popular or stylish pair of jeans, merely tapped his temple with his index finger, and said, “It’s all up here.” Now that phrase “it’s all up here”, while tapping our temples with our index finger, has become a funny mantra in our family, whenever we talk about perception, or how things are viewed.

I remember as a young girl, I loved to watch my father tinker in the garage, fixing a car or motor that always seemed in need of repair in our yard. I learned the difference between a Phillips screwdriver, a Straight Edge, a Robertson, or a Hex, as I passed them to him while he tinkered. Now I work as a dental hygienist in a dental implant center, and if I’m struggling with removing a screw with the wrong kind of driver, I hear my dad’s voice in my head, saying, “You need the right tools for the job.”

On one of my last visits home to see my father in Canada, I told him that I missed him a lot when I wasn’t with him. At this , he felt the need to tell me not to miss him when he moved on, or to feel bad for him. He reminded me to be present with those around me , and pay attention to who might need me , instead of who I might need. He looked forward to life eternal, and going to be with my mom.

I have been ruminating about these memories, and many others , since my father passed away on February 23rd of this year. His memory had been failing for many years. When he was in the later stages of his Alzheimer’s, he wasn’t always cognizant of who I was. Regardless of this, it was a blessing to see him through FaceTime. His care providers in the nursing home where he spent his last days were wonderful in helping us spend this precious time with him. The last time I saw him, he had a glimmer of recognition for me, and he blew me a kiss. A week later, he succumbed to the pneumonia that had infected his lungs.

Now that my father is gone, I realize there were so many questions that I never thought to ask him, or even if I asked them, I didn’t listen to the answers well enough to remember them. I know he was born in Finland on March 10, 1936, but I don’t know the name of his home town. He spent some time away from his family during the war. My grandfather was in the Merchant Marines and fought for Finland , and my father and his siblings were sent to live with foster families in Sweden for their own safety.

Each of the foster families my dad and his brothers were sent to, were in close proximity, assumably so they could see each other regularly. Unfortunately, my father’s foster family were physically abusive, and he was often punished if he tried to run away or visit his brothers. Understandably, my father didn’t like to speak of these times, and what little I know of his history, I have gleaned from other family members.

After the war, my father’s family immigrated to Canada from Finland to begin their new life together. They lived in the north woods of Ontario at first, where my grandfather found work in the lumber camps. Eventually they settled in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Dad was the oldest son, and he applied for a job at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, to help his father support his family. He lied about his age, so he could get hired. I often wondered if he regretted not going to school at that time, as he only had a 6th grade education, but I never once heard him complain about this. In contrast, he was proud, I think, of being able to help his family in this way.

My father met my mother after she immigrated to Canada and came to live in Sault Ste. Marie as a young woman. He immediately fell in love with her and proposed very soon after that. They were married in 1960,and were inseparable until she passed away in 2015. My father missed her terribly and it was not a secret that much of the sparkle in his eyes, and the zest he had for life were dimmed after her passing.

My parents passed away with very little as far as earthly possessions go. When we were growing up, my father worked hard to provide for our family; there were five of us and my mom was a stay at home mom. We never lacked for what we needed, however, and the love our parents had for us was always evident. My father always gave away more than he had, to all of us, and whoever else may have entered our household. I will never forget that there was always room at our kitchen table for anyone who needed a meal, companionship, or a cup of coffee. Our couch was also available on many occasions for friends who needed a place to sleep for a night or more.

These, and other memories, remind me that my father was a good man, and a good role model in many ways. He taught us how to love each other, and how to give freely, without strings. I have always been proud to say that he preached without words.

I miss him more than words can say. My hope and prayer is one where his legacy for love and good deeds will live on in this broken world, through each of the lives of those who knew him.

“Those who walk up rightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” — Isaiah 57:2

Restoration …Again

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for

the light that is you.”. L.R. Knost.

Earlier this spring, My husband and I were planned a trip to Minnesota, to visit our grown children who live there. Our daughter was graduating from grad school, and it was also Mothers’ Day weekend. It would be the first Mothers’ Day in several years that I had spent with both of our children, so of course, my excitement meter was high.

Prior to our road trip I took the car in to the dealership to have the oil changed, and I learned that the tires were bad and needed to be replaced. I cheated and replaced only the back two tires, intending to replace the other two at a later date. The tires on my car are “run flat” tires, meaning they are designed to not go flat even if you drive over a nail or puncture them. For this reason, my car doesn’t come with a spare tire. It is deemed unnecessary, because you are supposed to be able to safely get to a place where the tire can be replaced or repaired. I thought that cheating on the tires would be okay.

We packed up our car with our belongings and our dogs, and were set to have a fun road trip. We were having a lovely time until we drove over a large pothole in Illinois. The sidewall of our front tire blew out and the hole was catastrophic.

We pulled over beside a field of dirt in the middle of what felt like nowhere. We were stranded until roadside assistance could get to us, because, you know, we didn’t have a spare tire.

The next several hours were spent waiting for a tow truck to arrive. We stretched our legs occasionally by walking our two dogs along the dusty roadside. It was also less than three weeks after I had had full knee replacement surgery, and I was more than uncomfortable because of the waiting around, and inactivity in the car.

A moment of clarity came to me when I was stretching my legs. I was feeling very happy that our incident didn’t result in anything more catastrophic than a hole in our front tire. We were inconvenienced and would miss precious time with our kids, but I wasn’t feeling anxious or angry. I realized at that moment that there had been a change in me over the past several months. The anxiety I would normally have felt in a time like that was non-existent, and was replaced with silent prayers of thankfulness and a feeling of well-being.

It has been a year since I wrote my last post called ‘ Restoration ‘. That was the beginning of a slow process of change for me. What many call mindfulness and meditation, I will call prayer and worship. This, and a prescription from my doctor has helped keep my anxiety at bay.

It’s amazing to me that I am able to rationalize my experiences quite clearly. I spend less time getting caught up in what I refer to as the muddiness of my thoughts and emotions. I’m able to let things go without feeling as if I have to fix what I think is wrong around me. This, I realized when I used the restroom at work and saw that someone had hung the toilet paper in the “wrong ” direction. I was able to just use it without fixing the roll first! Progress is a beautiful thing, and the realization of it totally disarmed me.

I am thankful for the life I have. I am giving angst and turmoil less space in my head, and will embrace each day as it comes with thanksgiving and hope for the future.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”-Jeremiah 31:25

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”-Psalm 147:3

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”- Philippians 4:6

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter

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“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine .  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”-John 15:4

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter.  These are simple words to bandy about during the Christmas season. We could all use a little more love and grace,  and joy and laughter.

My husband and I have had a lovely time during our Christmas vacation.  We have recharged our batteries, and I have used some of that time for some introspection.  I am not proud of where my thoughts  lead me sometimes.  I am far too independent for my own good. I profess to let God be in control of my life, yet I struggle with relinquishing control to Him at the same time.

When I read the Old Testament of the Bible, I shake my head. The lying and cheating and war and sex and dysfunction that went on is difficult to comprehend. It’s just as twisted as our society is today, I suppose.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering how I can relinquish control to a God who lets all that stuff happen. Other times I am reminded that God loves us. He gives us gifts to help each other, despite our pride and lying and cheating and dysfunction. In our modern world, when Christians are scoffed at for various reasons, I have hope that my faith in Him,  and in those He has placed in my life, is enough for each new day.

Often, I find  it is difficult for me to break through and keep up with my blogging and writing as often as I want to.  Writing is a charge, and a gift that I take seriously.  If I write something and put it out there, I want it to be worthy of my readers’ time.  I do not want to fill space on my blog just for the sake of posting something on a regular basis.  That being said, I wish I had the inspiration or the energy to write on a regular basis. Life gets in the way, and I do as well.

Sometimes I think very highly of myself and when I do, I find I will fail every time.  I think this happened to Peter when he stepped off a boat to walk on the water’s surface. Jesus called him by name and said, “Peter, come out of the boat and walk towards me.” Peter listened to this strange request and actually walked out of the boat and towards Jesus on top of the water. After a little while, he began to sink, so Jesus reached out, grabbed him by his hand and lifted him up; he kept him from sinking into the sea and drowning.  ( Matthew 14:22-23)

I have wondered why Peter began to sink before reaching Jesus.  I am not a Biblical theologian and I have not formally studied the Bible, but I think perhaps Peter was like, “WOW!  Look at ME! I am walking ON THE WATER! How cool is THAT? NO one has ever done this before…I am SO incredibly AWESOME!” At least, that’s how I would have felt, so this rendition works for me.

I think that, as soon as Peter thought he was doing this on his own, because he was so awesome, not because Jesus was giving him the ability to do it,  he began to sink. Of course Jesus reached out and saved the day, or at least, saved Peter from drowning.

This happens to me. Every. Day. I am just like Peter. (I think I am awesome, even though I am not, at least not always.) When I let myself get in the way, I am useless at what He asks me to do.  I am unable to use my words effectively, and I am unable to demonstrate kindness, or love, or grace, to anybody.

I had a situation at work that dragged on for months.  I started a new position at work, in another clinic within the same company. I love my job and was excited because my new job was only 4 minutes from home.  Who wouldn’t love that? My excruciating commute in Atlanta traffic was over.

I was excited to meet my new coworkers, and for the most part, most of them were wonderful. Strangely enough, however, a couple of people were a little disenchanted with me and with the fact that I had been transferred over to their clinic. They had some incorrect pre-conceived notions about me, and  did not welcome me with open arms. I didn’t understand why, and tried to correct the situation, but however I tried, I could not make things right. My work environment felt hostile, and  of course, I started to feel rather ugly myself. I could not summon up any good or warm feelings towards these other staff members.  I prayed for the ability to forgive these people, and still, I could not. Again, I confronted them and explained how I felt. I thought for certain that this would rectify things.  I learned that their preconceived ideas were due to lies that were told by other individuals, but still, they refused to show me any grace.  I was at my wits’ end, and couldn’t stop ruminating about this situation.  It was causing me a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Finally, one day , after many days of praying for change, I had an epiphany.  These people had not apologized or asked for my forgiveness, so why was I so intent on doling out forgiveness?  I realized that I was only required to love these people, not forgive them, at least in this situation.  Yet, how could I feel any warmth towards these individuals, let alone LOVE, after I felt I had been wronged?

However, I felt a wonderful freedom when I let things go and stopped looking for an apology.  I concentrated on getting myself in order, in doing my job well, and treating those around me fairly. I spent some time nurturing my relationship with the One who calls me to be me. Going forward, I hoped my situation would improve and it has.  For that I am grateful. Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied, “Love God with all your heart and soul, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

To  me, this was my miracle of the Christmas Season, this act of Blessed Release. I released something that I could never control, and it was replaced with Love and Grace. A special Love and Grace that I am incapable of conjuring up on my own. A Love and Grace towards others that can nurture Joy and Laughter in its wake.

”But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”-2 Corinthians 4:7