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2: Dear Nathan Evan Weesies, Rarely have I met anyone with your spirit and energy. You have been through so much, and you still greet everyday with enthusiasm and joy. I am so proud of you, my precious son. Thank you for teaching me so much. I love you, Mom

3: For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth. your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139: 13 -16

5: You came into the world with more challenges than most. Walking and keeping your balance is a struggle. Tying shoes and fastening buttons and zippers will never be something you can do. Fixing your own meals and living independently are not realistic expectations. A sentence with more than four words is impossible. When people see you, what they notice first are your limitations. I wish they could see what I see. I wish they could know what I know. For courage, and determination, and an indomitable spirit are hard to see at a glance.

7: You were the cutest little guy. I loved those little curls. I cried when your daddy took you for your first haircut. And your smile , it lit up the room, and my heart. You would reach out your pointer finger to connect with people around you. And they were charmed.

8: Your Heart Your compassionate heart has blessed me. I will never forget the day your dad came to pick you up after we had separated. I was standing on one side of the table, and your daddy was on the other side. You walked up to him and took his hand. Puzzled, he followed. You, holding onto the table for support, pulled him toward me. When you got close enough, you took my hand and put our hands together. You couldn't have more eloquently expressed your desire for us to be together again.

9: Mother's Day Song And then there was the Mother's Day when you sensed that I was sad. It was hot, I was tired, and nothing special was happening that day to honor me. So I was throwing myself a Pity Party. As I was doing the dishes, shedding a few tears, you ran up behind me. "Outside, Mom." I was in no mood to play, so I sent you on your way. You came back two more times before I decided I was going to have to do what you said. You pulled up a lawn chair for me in the backyard. "Sit, Mom!" I sat. You picked up an old beat-up baseball bat and began strumming it like a guitar. Now you had my attention. "Song, Mom." "You're going to sing me a song?" "Yeah!" Mudder's Day Mudder's Day I wuv you. What a priceless gift, my son. I love you, too!

10: "Puffy" and You Your nose got a little bent out of shape when we brought your baby sister home. You hated it when she cried! And when her cries turned to words, you hated that even more. You tried so hard to join our conversations. I still have a tape of you vocalizing in the background, trying so hard to join in.

11: You have been a wonderful big brother to your sister., 'Puffy.' You teased her by coming into her room, just standing at the doorway waiting for her to scream, "Get out!" Just the response you were waiting. for. Off you went, laughing, waiting for the next opportunity to present itself. You have taken care of her. Do you remember the time she was sick to her stomach, and you ran into the bathroom to get a towel for her? You knew what it was like to be sick. And, boy, you can still make her laugh!

12: My past is lost in glorious oblivion. A.W.Tozer Forgiving myself. So hard. Harsh words come to my Lips."You don't deserve to be forgiven. After what you did! Tsk, Tsk Tsk. Shame on you for even thinking such a ridiculous thing. There is the unforgivable sin and you committed it. Giving your son away, leaving him vulnerable and alone and unappreciated. What in the world is wrong with you?! You disgust me. Get away from me. You are the poorest excuse for a human being.! Go." And then I read that everything in my past is lost in glorious oblivion, and I stop and let those words sink in. Lost. In glorious oblivion. Lost. In oblivion. Obliterated. Not a particle remains. My past. All of it. God doesn't select the parts he thinks are too horrible to forgive. He forgives all of it into oblivion. Gone. Every particle. Carrying that guilt is a waste of time. God has redeemed my life. He has redeemed Nate's life. I have stood before God time and again, and refused his forgiveness, his demand that I lay down my guilt and live as someone whose past has been obliterated. Crushed by the knowledge that I didn't deserve his forgiveness, I have lowered my eyes and staggered out under the weight of my burden of guilt. This time he gently took my chin in his hand and he told me to look in his eyes. "My forgiveness is a gift. I love you so much, this is my gift to you. When you refuse it, you break my heart. Would you ever refuse to forgive Steph? I paid so much for this gift, don't trivialize it by refusing it." This time I fell into his arms and let him hug me and comfort me. " You deserve it because I love you. I love you. I have obliterated your past. It's all ok. Leave the guilt here, and walk out light. No burden of guilt. Don't trivialize my gift!"

13: Psalm 103:8-12 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

14: A Time at Elim There is a memory from Elim that haunts me. I hope you have long forgotten that day. I had come for a visit because you didn't seem very happy, and I was watching you on the playground. There were some boys playing basketball, something you loved to do. You ran up with a deflated ball you had found, and tried to shoot a basket. Someone grabbed your ball and tossed it far away. Undaunted, you ran after it and eagerly tried to shoot a basket. Once more, your ball was tossed away. Again, you ran to retrieve it and joined the group. And, yet again, your ball was tossed away. This time your shoulders slumped, and you walked away. I watched you wander aimlessly around the playground, with your head down. And a mama's heart broke in two and shattered on the ground. Anger boiled inside of me. Even here, there was a hierarchy of who was ok and who was not. I wanted it to be different here.

15: There were angels there, too, though. Mr. Branderhorst who wrote me a note telling how you had answered his question about a Bible story that he wasn't sure you were able to understand. He cared about you and celebrated your successes. And the young lady whose name I've forgotten, who always watched out for you and gave me phone updates. And the teacher pictured below. She, too, blessed your life. She was preparing her class for the Christmas program. You kept insisting you wanted to be Joseph, and so you were. A more proud Joseph there has probably never been.

16: Evidence of Angels? Time has clouded some of the details, but the memory of the main events remains strong. Nate had traveled to Florida with staff and room mates. I worried about sending him, but didn't want him to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of my fears. After he had arrived home safely, he and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We had gone past only a few homes when a man came out of a garage and said, "Did this young man recently travel from Florida?" "Yes," I answered. " I traveled with him," he said. "I noticed the young lady seemed a bit overwhelmed by the care of her charges, so I said I would watch out for him. I helped him eat and wiped his chin." I didn't know what to say. I stammered out a "Thank you", and because Nate doesn't stand still longer than 15 seconds, we needed to be on our way. Wiped his chin! Who would do that? Flesh and blood, or spirit, I don't know. I never saw him again. But God reached out and let me know that He was providing for Nate.

17: MIchigan's Adventure Fun Michigan's Adventure on a summer day. Steph accompanies you on a scary ride. She is white knuckling it, and you are blithely singing her a football song. You hate getting wet, so you said you didn't want to go on Steph's favorite ride. As she goes off to get in line, you change your mind and decide to go. We take off your shirt so you will be dry the rest of the day. As you stand in line, you proceed to wow the crowd by showing off your muscles. Steph is mortified. On the way out of the park, as we wait by the bathroom in line, you see some Asian people.You begin to bow deeply. You watch too much TV! We rush you away so you won't offend anyone. Would they have understood how innocent it was?

18: I clearly remember the second time you said "I love you." We were walking on a trail. You were living in a home that others said wouldn't be a good place for you. It felt right to me, so I went ahead and moved you there. I watched you carefully to see if it was a good match for you. And you started walking taller, looking people in the eye, and talking more. You were happy and you were gaining confidence. You were ready for a bit more independence. You rose to the occasion. And as we walked along that day, you casually said, in passing," Luv you mom." I almost missed it. It caught me by surprise. I knew then that this was the right place for you at that time. It wasn't perfect, and you did eventually need to move. But it was good for you. You grew into more of who you really are.

19: CEMENT TRUCK MAN There are two I have to make special note of because you have never forgotten them. One was a man who had a one second encounter with you. You had the chicken pox and we went for a ride because we needed a change of scenery. A cement truck pulled up alongside us at the light, and the man winked at you. You were so excited that he winked at you. To this day, you every once in a while, look at me, wink, and say, "Cement truck man." What an impact that one second made in your life. MARCIA And the other person you will never forget is Marcia You loved her pony tail. You called her your girlfriend. She good naturedly went along with you. You adored her. One day when we were leaving for a visit, you ran to the stairs and said, "Bye, Marsha! Love you." I commented to her later that she must be very special, I didn't get that response from you very often. Afterwards, at the end of our weekly chats on the phone, I could hear her coaching you to say, " Luv you, Mom." She has since moved on. You still talk about her constantly! And you always sneak in an "I love you, Mommy" during every visit.

20: Thanksgiving Day A day of memories for Nate. I used to dread it. Sitting at Mom and Dad's all day with Nate getting into everything. The meal was chaotic and I would be exhausted. But we went. The other day Nate was here playing with his toys. The football helmet he was playing with reminded him of a Thanksgiving turkey. He set it on the table and told me he was cutting the turkey. Then he went and got all his stuffed animals, and lined them up on the table, naming them as he went. "Uncle Bob, Uncle Ron, Uncle Rick." Sadness. We don't do that any more. Dad has passed on and Mom is dealing with life altering dementia. The cousins he remembers have grown up- married, have new traditions. There will be no more Thanksgivings at Grandpa's house. I immediately wanted to fix it. Get a dinner together for Nate. And then I realized he wasn't sad, he was remembering, with joy! Like all of us remember the good times when they have passed. Things change in everyone's life, even Nate's. He has to accept the changes and move on. And I realized he had done that. He still will ask on Thanksgiving Day if he will see the "kids", but when the answer is "Not today", he moves on to the next best thing. You are my hero!

21: Griffin's Night Last night Nate, Steph, and I went to a Griffin's hockey game. Nate and I went to Burger King first, and I left the lights and the radio on while we ate in the car. Ran the battery dead. Jer came. We went home, got jumper cables, jumped the battery, got late. I had to wait in the lobby for Steph while Nate ran around. As I stood there feeling the full effects of a very busy week, I wondered if maybe I was getting too old for this. As we waited to get ushered to our seats, the mascot saw Nate and came up to give him a greeting and a hug. Nate beamed. Then we sat down and the mascot began shooting free t-shirts into the seats.I wasn't really paying attention, trying to settle in. I noticed a lot of excited people reaching up, trying to grab a shirt. And then, one landed right by Steph - almost right in her lap! Nate asked if it was his. "Yes," I assured him as I pulled it over his head. He was in 7th Heaven. He proudly showed the people sitting around us. I tried to put his jacket over his shoulders because it was chilly, but he would have no part of that! I was showered with "I love you," and kisses throughout the evening. Yes, I am getting too old for this, but he is so worth it!

22: Words people have used to describe you in the past. Aggressive. Behavior problem. Uncooperative. Biter. Unmanageable. Difficult Words people use now. Smart. Fun. Great sense of humor. Affectionate. Loving. Happy. When you were little, people used to tell me that I must be special. God only gave special needs children to special people. I would seethe inside. they walked away, glad it wasn't them, and I was left to do it by myself. I certainly wasn't feeling grateful at the time for this "special" blessing. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and I felt totally inadequate for the task. If that was true, God had made a big mistake. And I resented being the one He picked. Today I am grateful to the core of my being for the privilege of being your mom. I am honored to have been picked. Not because I think God picked me because I was special and up to the task, but because you are a wonderful man, and I wouldn't trade you for anyone else.

23: Walks with Nate Some days we walk slowly. Some days we walk fast. Always we laugh. Nate finds so many things to stimulate his imagination. He sees Ernie and Bert hiding in the bushes. He finds sticks to carry and he becomes the torch bearer for the Olympics. He challenges joggers to join him in a run. He turns short sticks into microphones and holds concerts. He finds long, willowy limbs and they become his girlfriend. He gently carries her along. When we have to leave the trail, we set her in the bushes and wish her a "Good Night." He finds bad guys hiding in the brush and becomes Marshall Dillon. I am Miss Kitty. He stands by a fence and "Spins the wheel" for the Price is Right. "Come on down," he shouts. My favorite was the day he "conquered" a prickly plant. He touched it, it pricked. He stood there and observed it for a moment, reached out and touched it again. Undaunted when it pricked again, he studied it carefully. He was determined to touch it without pricking himself. He did figure it out, and triumphantly was able to touch it in a way that didn't prick him. And everyday, somewhere along the trail, he stops, puts him arm around me and says, " Love you, mommy."

24: He Makes Me Laugh. His smile makes me smile. But his humor makes me laugh. Sitting on my lap at two years old, practicing his scowl. He would pucker up his forehead and frown. But there was a twinkle in his eyes. He would wait for laughter, ease into a smile, Then scowl again. Knowing grandpa had ticklish feet He would saunter by, grab grandpa's toes and run. Grandpa would always yelp, And Nate would laugh himself breathless. Pacing in front of the cooked hot dogs, So wanting one. Jer letting them cool a bit before serving. Nate casually shows Jer his hat to distract him, and quick as a flash, runs off with a hot dog! Sitting at the cabin on a beautiful day. Looking through a catalog. Comes across a lady in a bra. With a sly grin, quietly he elbows Jer and slides the book over. Riding in the convertible with his arm out the window, he waves at the girls and tells me he is a Guiding lIght guy. Standing by the kitchen he hollers, "Come on, guys. Beer! Jer pours him a glass of ginger ale. Nate gulps it down, sets the glass down hard, and lets out a ferocious belch!

25: What I learned from Nate Run, don't walk. Spend most of the day outside. Always take a group of admiring friends with you wherever you go. Distracting people is a handy tool to help you get what you want. Always be friendly. Greet tall men with a high five. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Leave them laughing. If you are bored, create your own excitement. If you are in a tough situation, prove that you are capable of taking care of yourself. Dance like no one is watching. Belly up to the bar.

27: I am the keeper of his stories. Everyone has stories that need to be told. We tell our stories to trusted friends, and it heals us and encourages us. So many stories too hard to tell before are now being told by survivors of atrocities, and there is a collective sigh of relief as they are told. We need to hear them, if only to honor those who lived. Nate has no words to tell his stories. And they must be told. To honor him. I only know some. Many have been lost. Here are the ones I know.

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  • Title: Blank Canvas
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