Sunday, September 26, 2010

Man is Born to Trouble

"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:7

Today is my 13th Wedding Anniversary. These have been some tumultuous years. The first few anniversaries were peaceful enough. We had a sort of ritual of taking a picnic lunch to the park where we had been married. We talked about what we thought our life might be like on future anniversaries. Never good at looking into the future, I would never have dreamed what the real thing(s) would look like.

By our 4th Anniversary our first child had arrived. I was headed into a deep bout of postpartum depression. That time would try Eric severely. He stuck with me and showed great love, but our dreams of perfect parenthood lay shredded around us.

By the 6th Anniversary we had had our second child home from the hospital less than 1 week. He had been born 6 weeks early following an extremely complicated pregnancy, and so he had spent 3 weeks in NICU. But he was completely healthy and, in fact, is generally the healthiest member of our family. Nevertheless, that experience left a few more dreams laying in shreds.

I remember our 10th only because it seemed it should have been worthy of a celebration. Instead, we were on opposite sides of the country and our financial situation was a mess. There was no celebration. The dreams we had about financial security lay in shreds around us as we admitted we had created a false illusion. But as we confessed our failings to God He began to work with us to stitch the pieces back together.

I can't remember for sure, but I think that on our 11th year we were on separate continents.

Then came the 12th Anniversary. I cannot imagine a worse scenario. Our marriage had been torn to shreds and I wasn't sure I even wanted to try to stitch the pieces back together. But, believing it was the right thing to do, we took our marriage to God and asked Him to help stitch us together.

So now, here we are at year 13. We are once again on separate continents. My Mom died 3-1/2 weeks ago. And again I see my heart torn apart, laying in pieces around my feet. It is rather a good thing that we are on separate continents because, once again, I do not feel celebratory.

"As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number." Job 5:8-9

Through these years God has been faithfully stitching the tattered pieces of our lives back together. I believe that He is going to do marvelous things in my life and in our marriage. I do not know, cannot know, would not want to know, if I have come to the end of my troubles. But I think some day I will look back at my life and see a wonderful patchwork quilt, stitched together by God.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sundays for Dad

As Melodee would say, Dad is having the come-aparts today.

When Anna was learning about Venn Diagrams she had to poll family and friends and ask which day of the week was their favorite. For Grandma it was Sunday because she loved going to church and worshipping Jesus.

When I first saw Dad this morning it was only for a second. He began crying and left the room. He returned in a few minutes and told me that he dreads Sundays. He said Mom always made a special breakfast on Sundays and they always spent the whole day together.

Until today I have thought there would be a period of time when the loss of Mom would be hard for Dad but he would get through it and do fine. If you asked me right now, I would say I don't see how he's going to get through this.

Note to family: Be sure to contact Dad on Sundays.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today was one of those days I knew would happen. Dad found fault with pretty much everything I did. Of course it didn't help that when I baked the cookies he didn't want me to bake I burned them badly. Nothing like giving him a good reason to find fault.

But, toward the end of the day, we also had a good long conversation. Not a conversation really, mostly Dad talking about everything of the last few months and including some details of the day Mom died. I was hungry to hear it. Dad told about the moments and days from her death to her memorial service and how he "did pretty well". He hates the fact that he is now crying all the time and feeling so completely awful. But as I understand it, this is the course of things. Numbness through the funeral; pain once everyone leaves and you try to return to "normal". He says he's glad I'm here. I suppose he is, although there are times when I wonder!

And I do know that his above-referenced fault finding is worse than ever due to the fact that he is grieving.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In about 14 hours I take off for the States. I will be spending 2 weeks with my Dad. We finally found a helper who can stay at our house. She will probably have our house in such great shape that no one will want me back!

I don't know what to expect of this trip. I have been unable to grieve, mostly because there is too much going on. There is always someone coming to the house or someplace I must be. And the kids don't want me crying, so I have just had to suck it in for 2 weeks. Now I wonder if I even could cry, if given the chance. I also am thinking that the next two weeks are to help my Dad, so it would still not be appropriate for me to fall apart. What if I never "fall apart"?

I don't know anything about how people grieve. I have never witnessed it. So I don't know what is normal. Perhaps it is not necessary to fall apart. I don't know. I just don't know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You're Kidding, Right?

Plane tickets are booked for me to go spend 2 weeks with my Dad. Before we could commit to this I had to have someone who could watch my kids while I am gone. So I met with a woman earlier this week and she was wonderful. The kids liked her, I liked her, I felt good about leaving. Now, just as I lay down to take the nap I've been wanting for a week - thinking there was nothing left undone that could interrupt my nap time, the phone rings. The woman who was supposed to be our helper cannot do it. Her husband will not allow her to take this job. But she has a friend who could do it! So now I have to meet the friend on Friday. What if I don't like her? Now I really want to scream at someone and start throwing things.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I am a Christian so of course I believe in heaven. I believe the only people who will be in heaven are those who have accepted Jesus' gift of forgiveness. I know I will see my Mom there. But still, I wonder...

Is Mom there NOW? Can she see me? She's been gone for a week; has it been a week for her? Who has she met? What has she done? Does she know everything now? Will she be my Mom in heaven? Or a sister in Christ?

I think about the realness of it more than I used to. I asked Eric for his opinion about some of my questions because he is infinitely smarter than me. He understands, as best as a human can I think, the concept of time/space and being removed from time. He has explained to me how he believes time was created for man. I listened hopefully to his answer but in the end I don't think he was right, and I told him so. I agree with him about time being created for man, but as far as how things progress after life, outside of time, I disagreed.

I have a fairly good knowledge of the Bible, though no where near as good as Mom. I am aware of places in the Bible where some of my questions are sort of addressed but, at least today, I can think of no place where there are hard and fast, black and white answers.

Does anyone have any thoughts they would be willing to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

It has been awhile since I've put photos onto my blog from a "real" computer. I have to today because I have so many that I want to share. Loading photos here is tricky - you have to think backwards because it puts your first choice last, your last first, etc. Today I wasn't thinking clearly enough for the mental gymnastics of photo placement and, honestly, I don't have the patience to rearrange them. So instead of trying to tie things up into a nice little package with a flowing narrative, I'm just going to dump all of the pictures out and explain as I go. And you'll just have to deal with it. More likely I'LL have to deal with it because it will annoy me this way.

On Saturday we took Ethan to The Grand Hotel for his birthday. We were there a few weeks ago for dinner, remember? At that time Ethan had REALLY wanted to spend the night. He seems to be developing a love for design and he thought this place was so cool. We decided rather than try to do a party we would take him to the hotel and let him shop for Taiwan souvenirs. He LOVED it. He loved staying in the hotel. He loved buying his own souvenirs. Afterward he said he'd had a GREAT time, and Ethan never says that, so I'm happy.

This is in the lobby of the hotel. It is real live orchids!

I've said before that the kids have gotten tired of me and my camera. Often when I try to take pictures of them I get faces like these:

This is the entrance to the hotel as seen from our balcony: a beautiful gate, nice gardens and loads of white steps approach the front door.
This is one of the 9 restaurants in the hotel. We didn't eat here, which is probably too bad, since this is where they serve pastries! Eric took this picture because I said that before we leave Taiwan I want to buy some chairs like these. The wood is beautiful and the cushions are so thick that they are surprisingly comfortable.

Another view of the front gate from our balcony. I used part of the balcony as a frame and was very please with the way this came out.

A few pictures showing some of the detail of the balconies. They are absolutely beautiful, and huge!

There were views in many directions since the balcony was so huge.

Every hotel these days has a little fabric thing laid across the foot of the bed. Most of them look the same, at least in American hotels. They have the same fabric thing in The Grand Hotel, but theirs is made of a beautiful, embroidered -- brocade? Not sure what you call the fabric.

It seems strange to me, the different variety of trees that grow here. There are pine trees:

and palm trees:
It just doesn't seem to me like they could both thrive in the same climate!
This next picture shows an interesting fact about Taiwan. Notice how the stair on the right are beautiful and white, while the stairs on the left look filthy dirty. You can also see at the bottom right of the picture a blue machine - a power washer. Obviously the right staircase has been cleaned but not yet the left. Everything here gets awful looking very quickly. It must be a combination of humidity and pollution.
Here is the full front of the hotel. No, I did not cut Ethan's head off. The little poop - who makes mean faces when I try to take a picture of him - was jumping up and down to bug me while I tried to take a picture!
Saturday evening we went to the pool. We had already forgotten that in Taiwan pools you MUST wear a swim cap. We, being American, hate that rule and immediately abandoned it when we got our own pool. Anna happened to have one with her, having been at a friends house earlier in the day. (SHE remembered!) Ethan was able to borrow a cap from the lifeguard. Eric and I just sat on lounge chairs, which was exactly what I wanted anyhow. The sky was breathtakingly beautiful at sunset.
I cannot look at the above picture without thinking "The heavens declare the glory of God!"

This building houses a poolside restaurant. We were going to eat there, but it was closed for a private party.
So instead, Ethan's choice, we went to the dumpling restaurant! I only took 2 pictures and they aren't good, but you can perhaps get a LITTLE peak. Dumplings are one Taiwanese food that our entire family can eat.

We also had a pot of Oolong tea. The kids even take a bit of it. I have a feeling the taste will grow on them. It has grown on me and will be a taste I will definitely take away from Taiwan.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tributes to my Mom

My Mom was buried on Friday, September 3, 2010. Per her request, the burial was first and was attended only by family and the Pastor.

Afterward there was a memorial service. We, her children, were invited to share about Mom. Todd and I were unable to attend because we live in other countries. We did however, write some thoughts which the Pastor read for us. And although I am sure it was incredibly difficult, Paul and Joel each managed to read their own tributes. I am proud of both of them for that. We are all missing Mom so badly. Knowing that she was dying didn't make her actual death any easier. Paul and Joel each worried that they would become too emotional to get through their tributes, but they both very much wanted to deliver it themselves.

Here is what was said:

A Tribute to Mom
My mom was a phenomenal mother and wife.  When I think of the wife described in Proverbs 31, I realize that you could substitute ‘Shirley’ in all of the appropriate places and it would not seem out of line at all.
Mom was always busy taking care of her family, the people in her church, and the needy.  Yet, she always made time for her God.  While we were growing up, we knew that when mom was in her room and the door was closed, do not bother her.  She was spending time with her God and did not want to be interrupted.
I frequently tell people that I grew up as Beaver Cleaver.  My mom and dad were Ward and June.  I cannot imagine what a parent could do that would be a more perfect upbringing for a child.  My life as a child and teenager is one big happy memory.  Don’t misunderstand, she held us accountable for wrong, no matter how small.  Any large offense was passed to dad.  With 3 sons in 4 years, there were lots of offenses.  However, I never felt wronged by mom and dad.  Rather, I learned about justice, and the relationship between action and consequence.
I have never had a hard time understanding ‘Unconditional Love’ because that is all I have ever known.  For me, it is easy to relate to God, because my mom and dad modeled him to us everyday.
As an adult, while mom and dad were still my mom and dad, they became my friends.  I could discuss anything with them and leaned on them for solid objective advice when I faced big decisions.
In these final 4+ months since mom first was stricken, my mom’s character shined through even brighter than ever before.  For those of you who do not know, my mother died because her aorta ruptured.  It tore in a series of “events”.  Each time the pain was excruciating.  I believe my father told me that one of the doctors told him that this is the worst pain the human body can feel.  When it first happened in April, the doctor described it to her like this – “you were fine and then all of the sudden you had very intense pain in your back, right between your shoulder blades.  It felt like a jagged knife tearing at all of your muscles.  It was take your breath away kind of pain.  So bad that you could tell anyone the exact moment on the clock when it occurred and you will never forget it.”  Mom said “Exactly”.
A second event like that happened the day before Mother’s Day.  I sent my siblings an e-mail that afternoon.  Let me quote -
“I have been with her all day.  I have been reading to her from the Psalms.  Sometimes I just read random chapters.  Other times she requests a particular one. She always looks so peaceful when God’s word is read.  Every time I get done reading a Psalm, mom says “That’s a good one.  I really like that.”  When I get done reading, she starts praying.  That always makes me cry because you would think that she would pray about her condition.  But instead, she always prays for each of us and our families, dad, her church, the nation, etc.  Then she will say something like, “Father, if you are ready to take me, I want to come home now.”
When someone dies, there are two basic paths that a service such as this can take.  One is to mourn.  The other is to celebrate their victory over this earth and that they are now with Jesus.  I have cried a lot over the past several days.  Now, I choose to celebrate.  We celebrate with her and for her.  And we look forward to being together with her in heaven in the near future.
Mom is HOME now.
I hope that her life and the life of my father inspire all of us to emulate what they have done, and how they have lived.  God would be proud of us if we do.


My Mom - Joel Wilhelm
Mom lived a life of dignity, by which I mean she was gracious and humble, kind and thoughtful. She possessed what I would call a timeless grace. It showed in the way she kept her house, the way she treated others as better than herself and in her countless acts of kindness.

The Lord worked on her in a powerful way in the late 60's, and the rest of her life was devoted to her family and to serving Jesus. She worked hard at prayer and learning more from God's Word. Some of my earliest memories of Mom are of the light shining out from under her door in the mornings, very, very early. She rose before dawn to pray and study. It seems to me that this happened every day when I was growing up. Her Bibles were underlined, annotated and devoured!

She was largely responsible for praying me back into the Kingdom after I spent many years in rebellion to the Lord. Mom was one of the hounds of heaven, always pursuing me with Scriptures in her letters to me, always asking how I stood with Jesus, and  praying for me.

The Psalmist says that the righteous still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. This was my Mom. She served in Love Inc. and here at Bethel. Her heart bothered her for many years and yet it was the last thing she wanted to talk about. The last four months were a painful struggle to the end, but she did it, she ran the race set before her finished the course.

Her parents died when she was a teenager and she worried that she would not live to see me graduate. She prayed and asked the Lord to live as long as I needed her. She didn't know if that was 18, 20, 30 or some other age. When I had to leave her for the last time in April, I was very upset. She told me that the future was always glorious for the Christian, and that I had my own family to look after now. I can't say that I don't need her any more, but I thank God for the 37 years that he gave me with her as an example.

Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. Mom has died, she will rise with him and we will be together again.

D.L. Moody, a famous evangelist who lived in the 19th century said “Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I was born of the flesh in 1837, I was born of the spirit in 1855. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit shall live forever.”

So it is for my Mom.  Today we celebrate the fact that she is more alive than she ever was here on earth in her mortal body.  

A verse from  scripture that clearly reminds me of my Mom's humble heart and deep love for God is Jeremiah 9:23-24: "Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” "

Proverbs 31: 28-31 says "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."

Today I rise up and call my Mother blessed.  Her last words to me, written on a card, were: "Don't know what lies ahead, but will look for you as we gather round the throne of the Lamb.  We are "kept by the power of God." I Peter 1:5"

Farewell dear Mother! Your memory is fragrant upon earth, your works will perpetuate your legacy, your spirit is retired to those that are perfect.  I follow, though sinning, tired, and sighing.  One motive more I have to quicken me in my way, that I may meet my loving, beloved, holy, happy Mother there, gathered around the throne of the Lamb!

 My Mom talked with God.
As a girl she went through confirmation in the Lutheran Church.  When she received her first communion she was unsure about God, and as she was handed the elements she silently asked God to show her the truth.
Because Mom's parents died when she was young, she lived part of her teenage years in an apartment with other girls.  Her roommates went home for the holidays but Mom had no home to go to so she remained in the apartment, alone and lonely.  At Christmas she told God she didn't want to spend another holiday alone.  Shortly afterward she began dating my Dad and they were married by October.  Mom never had to spend another holiday alone.
Approximately 10 years into their marriage, Mom and Dad moved to a home in Minneapolis, where one of their neighbors was Dr. J. Edwin Hartill, a professor of Bible at Northwestern College.  Dr. Hartill's wife befriended Mom and led Mom to the Truth she had asked God for when she was confirmed - - Mrs. Hartill led Mom to a personal relationship with Jesus.  After that Mom met other women who were new Christians.  Together they studied God's Word and had prayer meetings.  Our living room was often filled with Mom's friends.  They poured out their hearts to one another and then together they brought all their cares before Jesus.
Throughout my life I have been comforted by the knowledge that my Mom was praying for me.  And I can tell you without hesitation that she prayed at one time or another for each and every person in this room.  She had focused prayer times for each of her children - - one day of the week belonged to each of us.  Mom prayed for Dad.  She prayed for her pastor.  She prayed for her friends and their families.  Mom prayed for my friends and for the friends of my brothers.
During the past 4-1/2 months Mom prayed "Father, I am in the valley of the shadow of death, but I am not afraid".  The reason she was not afraid is that her years of praying had taught her that her God was trustworthy.  He had promised never to leave her and she knew He would not.  And she looked forward to talking with Jesus face to face.
I miss my Mom terribly.  I am heartbroken at the idea that I can not talk to her anymore.  But Mom taught me that I, too, can talk to God.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time Zones

It is Friday now in my corner of the world. My family is together in my yesterday. For them, Mom's funeral is tomorrow. For me it is today.

I am mad at the world because I cannot be at my Mom's funeral. It is the choice I made, but I am mad at the world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Mom

24 hours ago I was talking with my Mom. It would be our last conversation on earth. About 11-1/2 hours ago Mom slipped the surly bonds of earth and went to meet her Heavenly Father and her Saviour, Jesus.

Mom and Dad were married 55 years, 10 months and 15 days.

They loved each other a lot. They were very good to each other. They never fought. In recent years they did the crossword puzzle together every morning. They played Scrabble or Cribbage almost every night. They would play one game for weeks on end, keeping track of who was on a winning streak and reporting the details to me. When Mom got ill in April, Dad was lost. He continued to fold the crossword section of the newspaper each day, the way he always had. When I arrived about a week after she went into the hospital, there was a pile of crossword puzzles waiting to be worked. Mom rebounded and they were able to resume the puzzles for awhile. I don't think they ever played Scrabble or Cribbage again. I think Mom was too tired by nighttime.

Mom and me, in May:

Mom had 2 older sisters. Their mother died when my Mom was 14. Their father when Mom was 17. Mom lived with each sister at various times. The oldest, Velma, is still living.

This is my family, about 1975. Everyone laughs at this picture, mostly because of the leisure suits. I don't mind.

This year I am reading through a devotional book Mom gave me at Christmas, called Selah, Pause and Consider. It was written by a friend of hers, Lois Tupyi. On August 24th the reading was Job chapters 1 and 2, and then the text of the devotional is about being tested. Part of it says:

"One would think that God would shield His most faithful followers from Satan's attacks instead of exposing them. But God knows that as their faith grows so does their ability to endure great trials and persecution. Instead of needing more protection they are fit and ready for the battle, having been trained by the Master Himself... God knew you were ready for the challenge."

Mom was trained by the Master Himself. She had trials in life, and the process of dying was a difficult trial. Mom never complained about any of it. She prayed. Always prayed. She was ready for the challenge.

Now I must be ready for the challenge of living without my Mom. Until April I talked to her all the time. Sometimes daily, but not always. When I had trials I called Mom. I complained. Mom listened. She encouraged. When I was wrong she pointed me to the truth of Gods Word. When I had triumphs I called Mom. She rejoiced with me.

Since April I continued to call and talk as often as I could. Even yesterday Mom asked about our adjustment to life in Taiwan. She asked about the kids and their new school. She asked about Eric and his job. That was Mom - never selfish, never focusing on her challenge but instead caring about and praying for everyone in her life.

May I be just a bit like her.