A Christmas Angel


Christmas break was anything but expected. On Christmas Day, with huge tears, I posted the picture of Daddy walking Great Ama ‘down the aisle’ on social media along with this tribute…

This beautiful soul is singing with the Angels today. Oh how she woo’d this world with her wild heart, laughter and spunk. As the oldest daughter of four girls, she committed her life to Jesus in High School. In college she met her blue eyed sweetheart, a handsome accordion player, Elcho Redding. At age 24, she and her sweetheart, took their toddler daughters on a boat for two months to share Jesus in India for 18 years, only to adventure many more years for the gospel in Japan and China. While she lived state-side, I spent many summers with this wild beauty in Seattle. Oh how we laughed and loved fiercely during those summers. When her sweet Elcho passed, her life only became fuller. At 81, she traveled for six weeks to Japan, Singapore, China and Tibet (a dream come true for Grandma, as she spent so much of her life working with Tibetans). At 86, she wrote an autobiography that included words like “our dear friend The Dalai Lama,” published it, did book tours, and sold it on Amazon. A year ago, at 89.5, she married her beloved Thom in our backyard! For their honeymoon, they celebrated for three weeks in Hawaii, swimming at North Shore and riding a surf board! She was remarkable. Incredible. Even with her very unexpected passing at 90, we all know she had so much more life in her. With heavy hearts, we celebrate the incredible life of Millie (Kooistra) Redding Thompson— my wild and beautiful Grandma. 

My Grandma had an affinity for winning, a love for clip-on earrings, bleaching her sink, and FB “likes.” As she got older, her life only got busier. At 90 years, she was active on Instagram and had more FaceBook friends than any of her kids or great grandkids, just shy of 1,700. She loved many and was loved by many. She was on a first name basis with the folks at her Apple Genius Bar. She hosted so gracefully and easily, from India to Boise— welcoming hundreds into her home with her instant coffee. I’ll always remember her soft hands. The way she’d clasp them together and explode with the greatest laugh. And those legs, hopefully she’ll get to keep those beauties in Heaven. Oh how you will be missed Grams. So very much. Thanks for all the love, and love for adventure you poured into us. You were really one of a kind. Sing with you soon Mildred “Millie” Margaret Kooistra Redding Thompson.

*As God was writing the final moments of Grandma’s life, my mom sent Grandma a text sharing pictures of our Maneevone family Christmas together— including a video of Naomi playing “Carol of the Bells” on the piano. Naomi, your song ushered “Great Ama” into the heavens. It was the last thing she saw/heard, just before she started hearing the songs of angels.

Naomi Mariam (SIX YEARS OLD!!): *You are reading! You are blowing us away with your brilliance. Reading this and reading that. You are putting it all together! *Here’s a fun story: Mommy and Daddy weren’t in agreement on what to get you for your birthday, so we both bought you gifts. I bought you white roller skates with pink wheels that light up when they move. Your dad bought you a snap-circuit board, the kind of thing that experiments with electricity and light— may I add, the box says “Ages 8-88.” With a little competition in mind, guess who won? Anytime you want to win over your 9 year old boy cousin, tell him about your circuit board. Another gift story, we weren’t quite sure what we should get you for your big Christmas gift (really, your only gift). Your sisters were getting a plasma bike, and Frozen roller skates. For you, we went risky. We got you a pink reading light. That’s it. Thankfully, value is not measured in cost. You love love love your new reading light. Each night, your sisters pile into your bed and you read them stories. It’s absolutely adorable. You are such a beautiful big sister, Naomi! *You awed us with your Carol of the Bells, two hands! In fact, you started teaching Manoah the song. As he played it, you hollered from the next room “Yea, that’s it, you almost have it!” and “Don’t get frustrated! That’s almost it!” We all laughed. *At Great Ama’s funeral, with nearly 200 in attendance, when an open mic invitation was given— to my and dad’s surprise, you were the first one to walk up to the platform and share… “I love how Great Ama was nice, and she was good too, and last her life a long time. And I’m glad that she’s in heaven with Jesus.” Not a hint of performance, you shared from the most tender and precious place of your heart. You have such a beautiful heart, Naomi. *And yes, that’s you holding a frozen, mummified squirrel by its tail. I just love love love you.

Aria Ellen (4.5 years): *On the evening of Great Ama’s memorial, you had so many questions about heaven. It didn’t take long for you to express your longing to be in heaven too, and that night we celebrated the beginning of your faith journey, Aria! You believed in your heart that Jesus loved you and died on the cross for you. Your sweet voice asking Jesus to be with you. You were so full and happy that night, Aria, you went around to everyone with your happy news! May that joy forever be sealed on your heart. *For Christmas all you wanted were Frozen roller skates. You were obsessed. *You are also obsessed with slippers, Aria. Obsessed. Do you see what you’re wearing under your Frozen Roller Skates? You wear them all the time, and at night, it becomes a major issue if we can’t find them. You must sleep with them on your feet. *You were absolutely darling in your ballet recital! One of your favorite friends, her name is Silver. You guys are best buds. On the night of the recital, her daddy came to the performance. He looked very familiar. Then it all came together, your best bud’s dad is a famous football player for the San Diego Chargers! *Do you see how cute you are in your tutu? You make my heart melt, Aria. You were a natural on that stage. Not shy one bit!

Juliet Mae (2 years): *Your hair is growing faster than Rapunzel’s! It’s so cute, and so blonde! You might have hair longer than your older sister, but let’s just keep that between us. *The day before Christmas Eve, Auntie Malina was over enjoying her nieces. At one point, she was getting your sister’s hair ready so they could go over to Ama’s and Papa’s house early. You were very sad that you were not being included, but you had a nap to take. Auntie Malina tried to give you responsibility, “But Juliet, we need you here to be in charge of all the presents.” For about 45 seconds, there was no one in the living room. And 45 seconds was all it took. Aria ran out to me on the back deck, “Mom! Come quick! Juliet just opened all the Christmas presents!!” I heard what your sister said, but I didn’t believe her. What kid opens all the Christmas presents? When everyone ran into the living room, everyone’s jaw was on the floor, and so was all the wrapping paper! Juliet, you did it. You opened all the presents!! Shock and laughter all at once! Pretty sure you misinterpreted Auntie Malina’s comment “we need you here to be in charge of all the presents.” *While in Idaho, there was nothing ideal about the sleeping arrangments. Cribs, queen beds, pack n plays, sleeping bags, floors. I can not brag enough, you took each new sleeping arrangement like a champ, like a champ. You even managed late nights without your nap. You are a dream. I am so thankful for your flexibility, Juliet!

Maertz Family Memories: *This month held so much, starting with Naomi’s birthday! We celebrated at the world renowned Chuck E Cheese! My favorite part, Naomi, when we told you where we were going you said “Oh yes, I know Chuck E Cheese, it’s a proud sponsor of Disney Jr.”  On the evening of your birthday, we attended your girls’ dance recital. Your performances made my heart explode a hundred times over with joy! So much so, that my own Christmas Collective (just two days later) at the San Diego Convention Center, with nearly 6,000 in attendance, singing some of my favorite songs ever written— paled in comparison to the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment of what my heart felt when it watched the two of you on your stage. Perhaps it’s a stage of life, a season, who knows. But I know, as my eyes water up in tears… I’d trade my stage to watch you girls on yours, any day. *Gathered with growth group girls to celebrate Leedles and Tina, touring San Diego’s best Christmas lights, limo style. *I sang and played ‘Heard the Bells’ at Mission Hills Church just before Christmas. *Days and days and days of landscaping, finishing just in time for collect-on-the-no-grass rebate. *Carter’s birthday party at Jump It Up— Naomi’s favorite little friend. *Maertz family comes into town for Christmas— everyone stayed here! *We bought Daddy an electric scooter! We had loads of fun with it, until he returned it. *Daddy bought me a beautiful outdoor picnic table for our back patio! Problem: it was too pretty. We opened it, and I just could not put it outside, it was so pretty. So, now we have a new dining room table! And Daddy still needs to buy me an outdoor table. *Maneevone Christmas at 1204 Birch Way. Everyone gathered, and this year our very own Naomi won the pajama run, in fact she killed it!