After Christmas the Best Gift Remains

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Did you find the Gift so tiny and small?
It’s easy to miss in the midst of it all.
The crowds and commotion were busy and loud,
while Mary and Joseph by Love’s manger bowed.

 

The Morning Star, a Newborn King, the Holy Child.
Heaven-sent, The Word in Flesh, His wounds to reconcile.
A Precious Babe, the Perfect Infant, wrapped in Grace,
Redemption, and Rescue to stand in my place.

 

Holy, Holy, Holy, now our sin upon His shoulders,
it was His death that bought us life.
Creator, Perfector, Alpha, Omega, Mediator, Advocate,
The Only Way, The Truth, The light,
The Sacrificial, Spotless Lamb of God,
The Lion of Judah, man’s Good Shepherd.
God’s Beloved Son, Our Savior, Messiah,
slandered, mocked and led to be slaughtered.

 

The cross He bore, our sins erased,
don’t miss this gift, it’s freely offered.
Immanuel, God with us, the grave it is finished,
death He has conquered,
And if we wish to live for Christ,
our lives we must
surrender,
when in eternity we see our King
we’ll praise His name forever.

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Living the Young Life

July 2015 changed our family forever. Starting in the month of February 2015, our family stepped out of our comfort zone and took a leap of faith. Little did we know what an incredible impact it would have on our family. We will never forget the experience, and if God allows, we will never pass up the opportunity to do it again. It not only brought our family closer together but it taught us that when we let go, and give God the opportunity to work, He will do far more than we can ever ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Our Church, Community Fellowship, partners with Young Life USA, enabling Spanish teens to travel to the US, live with host families, and attend a Young Life Camp. It literally brings missions into your own home.

This year, during the month of July 2016, we are hoping to have at least 15 host families sign up to be a part of this program. All it takes is a family that is willing to share Christ’s love and open up their home and hearts to a Spanish teen who dreams of visiting the United States Of America.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to share our family’s testimony at Community Fellowship. We want to spread the word about this program.  It will make a tremendous impact not only on the teen but on the host family as well. Below you will find the short video of our testimony. Please watch it and prayerfully consider if this is an opportunity you would like to experience.

Suzanne Ryan Missions Story

 

Pictures from our month with Jan. He will always be a part of our family.

If you want more information about this program please check out a short video about Young Life USA Camp, found at http://www.commfell.org/ylusacamp or you can email Gordon Spahr at gspahr@commfell.org. Also, feel free to contact me personally at Suzryan123@hotmail.com.

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Our Family – July 2015

Why my kids don’t believe in Santa

Why my kids don’t believe in Santa…

Because one quiet Christmas morning when my sweet and innocent children woke up to open their gifts they realized that Santa had not visited our house on Christmas Eve.

It was not Santa who stuffed his big belly down our chimney and indulged himself with the Christmas cookies and milk that my children had left out for him. It was not Santa that left presents under our tree. No, the gifts my children were tearing into were NOT from Santa at all!!

However, they were from a man who also wears a red-suit, but this man does not have a big round belly, nor does he have a soft white beard, or a deep joyful laugh of “Ho-Ho-Ho.”

Instead, this man, carries a pitch-fork and adornes his head with horns. It was not SANTA who left presents under our tree that year, but it was SATAN, himself!!

You see, I had been up late on Christmas Eve and having three young children at the time, my eyes were heavy with a tiredness only a mother can know. I was quickly  addressing my children’s gift tags, one after another, and in my hurry I signed each one,

MERRY CHRISTMAS, LOVE, SATAN!!

I did not realize my mistake until half-way through the presents when my husband said, “Suzanne, stop for a second, and SLOWLY read the gift tags, are you dyslexic!? Are they all suppose to say Satan or did you mean to write Santa?” My poor children were opening gifts delivered from Satan!? What kind of mother secretly puts presents under the tree and pretends that Satan was the generous gift giver!?

It’s amazing how one can mix up a couple of letters and change the entire mystery of the Christmas experience.

However, like a good parent, I have worked this mistake into my favor! For now, when the Holiday season rolls around I can tell my children that, “they better not shout, they better not pout, they better watch out, I’m telling you why, Satan…will surely come back to town!

Disclaimer – Satan did not really visit our house and no children were hurt or have experienced emotional long term effects by this mistake.

“10,000 Reasons”

Today I woke up thinking these words, “The sun comes up, It’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again, Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

It’s been another hard week for us as we mourn the death of Grandma Marie Ryan.  She was a big part of our lives and words can not express how greatly we will miss her.  I am thankful for the time we were able to share with her in this life, and I am so thankful that I know and believe, “God’s name is Great and His heart is kind. For all His goodness I will keep on singing, Ten Thousand reasons for my heart to find.” He is the blessed controller of all things. “Sing like never before, O my soul, I’ll worship Your holy name.”

The next few days will be very hard as we attend Grandma’s viewing and funeral but it just reminds us once again, this world is not our home, we are just passing through, patiently awaiting our real home, heaven and eternity with Jesus. “Still my soul will sing Your praise unending, Ten thousand years and then forevermore. I’ll worship your holy name, Jesus I’ll worship  your holy name.”

Finally Home

At around midnight on June 1st, 2013 my Aunt took her last breath and flew away to Heaven.

“Just think of stepping on shore – And finding it Heaven!

Of touching a hand – And finding it God’s!

Of breathing new air- And finding it celestial!

Of waking up in glory- And finding it Home!”

It’s hard to find the words to express what it feels like to sit with someone who is dying. During the days of May 25th-June 2nd my Aunt’s family tried to have someone with Aunt Marge around the clock. We all took turns spending time with her, sitting with her, just being with her.

It was an odd feeling. We were not sitting with her helping her fight for her life. We were not holding her hand and hoping that she would recover and go on living. We didn’t have the hope that she would get better.  Instead, we were sitting by her bedside knowing that the end was drawing near.  How do we sit by the side of a loved one that has no hope to get better. No hope to pull through. No hope to improve. No Hope for this life. But Hope. HOPE. Miraculous Hope. Hope in Salvation. Hope in Eternity. Hope in a new Home. Hope in a new life. Hope in Jesus Christ.  Hope that “one day in His courts is better than thousand’s elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). Hope that “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of one of his saints”(Psalm 116:15). Hope that “He prepares a place for us and when it is ready He will call us home,”  (John 14) And although we mourned this last week and will mourn in the weeks to come, we mourn with hope!

Underlined in Aunt Marge's Bible

Underlined in Aunt Marge’s Bible

When I think back to the last several days with Aunt Marge and wonder how her husband, her daughter, her sister, and brother-in-law, her nieces and nephews were able to endure her approaching death, I will remember that it was because of our hope and faith in Jesus Christ and eternity. When we took our turns to be with Marge, she was unable to communicate, so we simply held her hand, told her we loved her, prayed for her, cried for her, read scripture to her, played hymns for her.  We sat in the presence of our Savior, her Savior. Sometimes, we wondered why He wasn’t calling her home when, to us, it looked obvious that she needed to go. Doctors and nurses would tell us what they thought, maybe days, maybe hours, 72 hours, 48 hours, maybe weeks. And we would wonder. And we would tell her “to go home.” But then,  we would realize no one knows! Only God. And her life is in His hands, and only when each and every detail is in place and her job on earth is done He would take her home. And while her job on earth ended last night and God called her home, her testimony, her hope, her faith, her love for Jesus Christ will go on. Her legacy of faith will continue to reach generation after generation.

This week, I had the privilege of seeing a living example of 1 Corinthians 13:13, “now faith, hope, and love remain – these three things.”  Our faith in Jesus, our hope in eternity, and our love in Jesus Christ and for our family. These things remain.

Underlined in Aunt Marge's Bible

Underlined in Aunt Marge’s Bible – Her Favorite Verse

Update on my Aunt – I’ll Fly Away

Each day seems to get harder and harder. Yesterday seemed to be especially hard. I spent most of the day at the hospital, with my Uncle Gus, his daughter, Anne, and her husband Brad, my mom and dad, and my sister.

Aunt Marge’s breathing seems to have changed, it has become shallow and labored. Her color has also changed. At four o’clock yesterday she was moved from the hospital back to her old room at the nursing home. Her room at the home is very comfortable and it has an extra bed. Anne (and maybe Gus) stayed with her through the night last night.

When we were with her yesterday her breathing seemed to be even more labored and by the evening she was running a fever of 102.5 and her pulse was also very fast.

My daughter Leah wanted to go with me to the nursing home last night so she could say goodbye to Aunt Marge. Leah and my other daughter, Rachael,  have been very faithful in praying for Aunt Marge and visiting her.

So, last night we played music for her. She is a very gifted piano player. (In fact, even with the disease of Alzheimer’s, we could sit her down at the piano, name any hymn and she could play it. One time, Leah, Rachael, and I brought an old hymnal to the nursing home because we were having trouble coming up with different songs for her to play. We could pick any song from the hymnal and she would know it without looking at the music or the words.)

Last night, we held her hand, we prayed with her, and we told her she could “go home.”  Many people are waiting for her in heaven, her mom and dad, her brother Jim, and his wife, Grace, but most importantly Jesus.

On the way home from the nursing home, Leah looked at me through tears and said, “Mom, even though I don’t know Aunt Marge very well I still love her so much. She has taught me that even through troubled times I can still trust Jesus.”

Thank you Aunt Marge.  Even through your sickness and pain, your light for Jesus still shines through to my daughters and me.

It was hard to leave the home last night and I’m anxious to get back there this morning.

I’ll Fly Away

I was hoping to race during the Memorial day weekend. I was debating about driving to Portage, Indiana and running a 12k trail race or testing my speed and doing a small neighborhood 5k in Villa Park. I had eventually decided on the 12k and was really excited. As many of you know, I’ve been injured and unable to race for a few months. I thought the trail race would be a good opportunity to introduce my legs to racing again without the pressure of the clock. The first race back is always the hardest (and sometimes the most humbling) so I figured the 12k would be an easier way to shock my body into the reality of racing.

I woke up Monday morning and I really wasn’t in racing mode. The thought did cross my mind that maybe it wasn’t a smart idea because my foot isn’t 100% healed and I am just getting over a pretty bad respiratory infection. Despite these things I know I still could have raced, but I didn’t want to, not on Saturday, or Sunday, or even yesterday. Over the weekend, more immediate issues far out-weighed running. Don’t get me wrong, obviously running is a big part of my life and I love training and racing. But, as of last Friday, May 24th, my heart and mind have been with my Aunt.

Not just any Aunt, but one of my favorite Aunts. My Aunt Marge. She has been in my life for as long as I can remember. She has faithfully prayed for me and my family over the years. She has shown me what a life lived for Christ resembles. She doesn’t just talk about her faith but she lives her faith. My Aunt, who still remembers the name of Jesus, but no longer remembers my name, or who I am, or how we are related. My aunt who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

My Aunt, who, while living at the nursing home, lost her balance and fell on four occasions. The fourth fall being extremely bad. She was not very responsive last Thursday and Friday while my mom and I, along with her husband, visited her. She was taken to the emergency room Friday morning, where we learned that both sides of her brain were bleeding and it was not in her best interest to under-go surgery.

At least for me, reality didn’t sink in until Saturday. I went back to the hospital to visit her and the realization struck that she would never walk again, or talk again, or enjoy food, or be able to refresh her thirst. She would never get out of bed again.

She was put under hospice care, and the goal of hospice is not to prolong her life in the most comfortable of ways, but rather keep her comfortable until her time on earth is over.

Sunday night the Doctor said she has approximately 4-5 days left. But yet, they don’t really know. And although we mourn, we “mourn with hope.”  (1 Thess. 4:13-18) We know and believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is awaiting her home in heaven. She is going “home on God’s celestial shores, like a bird from prison bars has flown, she’ll fly away, just a few more weary days, and then she’ll fly away.” Home, free, restored, renewed. Home.

I know that it’s not my time to fly away from life’s pain and struggles, but I can run. And it’s in these moments of life that I like to run in solitude and in silence. It’s on these runs, where I don’t focus on running, but I focus on my thoughts, my emotions, my sadness, my anger, my joy, my confusion, and I ask questions and sometimes I find answers and sometimes I don’t. But somehow, pounding the pavement during these times, allows my mind to focus on Christ and meet with Him and life’s problems become a little easier to face.

I’ve run every day since Friday. I know that’s not a big deal. But yet, on every single one of these runs I have thought of my beloved Aunt Marge wasting away in her hospital bed, unable to move and unable to communicate and I pray that I won’t take the simple pleasure of running and a healthy body and a sound mind for granted.

And soon, my Aunt on “some glad morning, when her life is over, she’ll fly away, to a land where joy shall never end. She’ll fly away.”

Memorial Day – This is a Soldier

In honor of our Military and all the sacrifices they have made and continue to make I wanted to share the following statistics that were printed in Community Fellowship’s Bulletin, Sunday May 26th, as well as the video they played at the end of the Church Service.

“Did you know…?

– There are over 425,000 veterans in the greater Chicago area alone and over 2 million people in Illinois who are members of a military family

– Over 300,000 vets suffer from PTSD and many of them do not seek treatment

– About 67,000 vets will be homeless tonight and twice that many will experience homelessness at some point this year

– The unemployment rate of veterans is significantly higher than the national average

– A veteran takes his/her life every 80 minutes”

I hope that as a Church we will never stop praying for our veterans and soldiers. May we always remember to honor the sacrifices that they have made and continue to make to keep our country free. May we also never forget the adversities and afflictions that many of them encounter. And may we always be forever thankful…

“THIS IS A SOLDIER”

This is a Soldier

Beautiful Chaos

This picture can serve as a good representation of my life as a mother. Chaos!

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I’m not even sure who took the picture. Maybe the store manager to warn his employees not to let us back into the store.

My oldest child, Tommy, is obviously mad at something. Rachael is out of control flying her cart into who knows what and in the process taking out whatever is in her path. Leah looks like she’s trying to be on her best behavior, and then Steven is MIA. Chaos. Not at all what I pictured our quick stop at the grocery store to look like!

When we walked into the store the girls asked if they could have a cart. In my head I had the image of a nice, calm, shopping adventure in which they wanted to help out. How cute! In the end I’m very surprised we didn’t hear an announcement on the loud speaker asking us to leave the store.

This photograph can also help to sum up my days of Motherhood.

broken table

My kids and I were sitting down enjoying a wonderful breakfast together, when all of a sudden, out of the blue, the table collapsed, fell apart, and that was the end of breakfast.

I’ve made plans. I’ve had dreams. I’ve had visions of how my life as a mother would play out. Only to realize that sometimes, no matter how hard I try, life can get very chaotic, and the best of schedules can give way, crumble, and leave me wondering if I’m really doing things right!

I’ve missed appointments, even though I have them written down on the calendar AND in my phone. I’ve forgotten about early dismissal days at school. I’ve locked my keys in the car way too many times to count. In fact, the last time I did that, the guy arrived to help me out and I realized it was the same guy from the time before. After a few minutes he did a double take and said, “Hey! Didn’t I help you out about two weeks ago on the opposite side of the street?” I was hoping he wouldn’t remember me!

I’ve closed the door to the house only to realize I just locked everybody out. I’ve sent my oldest to school with a brown paper bag full of onions instead of a brown paper bag full of lunch (I’ll explain that in another post!) I’ve run over bicycles left in the driveway. I’ve gotten lost on my way to gymnastic meets and basketball games more times then I’d like to admit. The list could go on and on. But, needless to say, I don’t have it all together! I’m always rushing from one place to the next wondering how I’m going to get it all done. I’m constantly trying to make sure Tommy, Steven, Leah, and Rachael have what they need and get to where they need to go. My house is always loud with children talking, yelling, laughing, fighting. And if that isn’t enough there’s always friends, nieces, nephews, and babies that need care.

babies crying

Chaos! But, I’m learning to love it. Because one day I know the Chaos will turn to quiet . There won’t be clothes on the floor, hand prints on the walls, dishes piled in the sink, homework to finish, and lunches to be made. The house will be too quiet and too clean and I’ll be left wondering, “how did they grow up so fast?”

So in the time being, in the chaos, I smile, I embrace it, I thank God for it. I look for the magnificent in the mess and the splendor in the silliness.

And it’s in the morning, when I walk into my child’s room to wake her up, that I find her artwork,

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And for the moment, the mistakes I’ve made and will make as a mother vanish, and I get that small glimmer of hope that I just might be doing things right. And I thank Christ for the privilege of being a mother and I realize that He truly can “make the chaos a chorus.”