Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seasons of Life

Hello Friends!

We're all familiar with Ecclesiastes 3:1 - To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.  I figure God knows this already, but I'm thinking I must be in the middle of my "I can't remember anything" season.  Right in the time of my life when I have so much to remember, I sometimes forget to get something out of the freezer for dinner.  Right at this very moment, I have a gazillion doctor appointments yet to be scheduled, swimming around in my head.  Blood work at the lab (x 3 kids), dental cleanings (x 3 kids), pediatrician (for one), neurology (x 3), rheumatology (for one), hematology is coming up in October (but I just remembered that we're going to be out of town for at least half of October... oops - gotta re-schedule that) and I'm definitely not remembering some of them even with that list.  But it is so strange to me, when I have so many things to remember - that is exactly the time that I forget... well, all of it.

I make lists to help me remember all of the things on my to-do list.  I generally lose the list and have to add "find the list" to the sketchy list in my head.  So, to that end, the following outline of conversation took place on at least 6 occasions on Sunday.  We're getting ready to take the 'tweens to camp this weekend and there are a few details swimming around in my head...

Me: Yeah!  So we're doing that on Thursday...
Friend:  What are you doing for a craft?
Me: (Seeing someone else I need to talk to walk by)  D'OH!
Friend:  You forgot to do something, didn't you?
Me:  Uh.... yep.

When I get bogged down with details and overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that have to be done, I often think of this season of my life as being the "busy" season or "crazy" season.   I don't think there is any way I can logically think of a way to not call it crazy, not label it as overwhelmingly busy, but I do try very hard to keep our life simple.  Not easy, mind you, but simple.  We do have a significant amount of technology here on the (Funny) Farm, but none of the technology replaces human interaction.  The television in the living room is virtually always set to Fox News, so there is news going on in the background of whatever we're doing.  The boys play the Wii in that room as well, but when time's up... time's up.   The laptops are set up wherever we go, but are put aside for kids, animals, outside activities, chores, cooking, going fishing, board games... whatever.  Keeping our life relatively simple and clutter free is important to me.  When we moved out to the (Funny) Farm, simplicity was high on my list of things that were important to me.  There is nothing easy about doing things the way we do them, but at the same time, there is nothing better than the simplicity of going out to your own garden, picking food that you've nurtured and had a hand in growing.  The simplicity of having dinner outside, surrounded by beautiful flowers and the same fragrant herbs that you used to prepare the meal.  The simple joy of having friends over, sharing a meal and laughs, sitting around a campfire, watching the kids roast marshmallows - these are the sweetest things.

Indeed, I'm in my "Forgetful" Season.  Also, the "Busy" Season... and don't forget the "Crazy" Season.  But most importantly, I need to remember that I am most definitely in the midst of a very, very Blessed Season.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What If…

What If…two words that can inspire you…or derail your life. 

Have you ever set back and looked over your life and wondered, “What would have happen if I had said yes to that adventure, instead of no?” 

I think about this very thing A LOT.  I wonder how I would have turned out if my parents had stayed together, or what would life be like if I had gotten to go into the drafting class in technical school instead of the secretarial class.  I wonder if I would be here writing this if I had went to college right after high school or if I would have my husband and children if I hadn’t come to college in Indiana but found a school in Ohio.

I know, as Christians, sometimes we are told that God has everything planned out for us, but I find that hard to stomach, because that seems to take away my choice in everything.  But…I am not here to debate theology.

I hope, when I get to heaven, that I will be able to look over my life and see what would have been if I had made that decision differently, kind of like a big road map.  I don’t think that it will make me sad, because I think I will be happy knowing where I ended up…but I think it will be a little like the footprints in the sand…through it I will be able to see where God carried me through and where He directed my steps. 

There are some decisions in my past that I regret, and when I think back on them I find my heart hurting…but I can only move forward.  So here I go, one step at a time to dream “What if” instead of regretting the “What If’s"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Funeral

Today I had the duty, responsibility and privilege of attending a funeral. A duty because although I certainly do not relish the thought of attending a funeral, sometimes, because of friendship or familial obligation it is our duty; responsibility because it was my wife’s brother-in-law and I felt a responsibility to travel nearly 900 miles with her to stand by her side and be a pillar to those in her family who needed strength; and a privilege because for those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, death is always a pleasant reminder that this world is not our home and there is hope beyond the pain, suffering and injustices of this world.

They say that funerals are for the living…I think it’s true. They are certainly not for those no longer with us. But if the things that are sung and spoken at funeral services are really for the living, why do we try to comfort those left behind with clich├ęs and spiritual untruths instead of speaking the glorious truths that are more than adequate to bring comfort?

For example, we often tell surviving family members that the dearly departed is looking down on them and smiling…probably not. I would think that looking down into a world filled with tragedy, disease and war would be completely unappealing to those who have just entered the realms of glory and the presence of an almighty God. We assure them that their loved one will be standing ready to help them in their time of need and weakness. I can’t find that anywhere in Scripture. It’s a nice thought but honestly I’d rather have God’s help. Then perhaps the most prevalent fable of all…that when we die we become angels. Sorry, but unlike the popular television series and Christmas movies those who die don’t begin an “earn your wings” program in the hereafter. Angels are angels. They were created as angels. People will never be angels and angels will never be people.

I suppose all of this is an attempt to make people feel better about the fact that their loved one is gone from this world…forever. But I believe that the truth, the real truth is even better than the well intentioned, but fictional comforting words usually spoken. For example, I am convinced that those who have gone on before us are so thrilled to be in the presence of God, are so taken with the breath-taking beauty of that place, that they are experiencing a joy like none they have ever known. I believe they are so intent on the worship of their Savior and bestowing upon Him an eternal gratitude for all that He has prepared for them that their focus is completely on Him. Surely their song is even sweeter than that of the angels because they have experienced forgiveness at a depth that angels never will. And would they return to earth to rearrange events to have a different outcome? After seeing the Lord in His holy temple and understanding that His wisdom and plans are perfect they would not dare return to earth, even if they could, to interfere with the plans that work together for good. 

When you need comfort think on these things. Remember that God’s way of doing things is always better than ours. All that we could ever imagine are small in comparison to what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Up at the Lake

Starting in the late 1950's, my mom and her family would pile into the station wagon with the dogs and head north to the family cabin on Heinz Lake outside of Park Rapids, Minnesota. Holiday House was a small cabin, green with white trim in those days, that sat facing the lake. The small lake was great for fishing: sunfish and crappie, small and large-mouth bass, walleye, and pike. Her family rarely took any other vacation, and a love for that cabin and the small town nearby rooted itself deep in my mother's heart.

Fast forward to 1992 when my family started taking vacations there as well. When we pulled up to Holiday House the first time, I remember my sister asking incredulously, "This is it? This is where we're staying?" But the little cabin grew on us as well, as our mom took us to all her favorite spots in town and showed us everything they used to do to amuse themselves around the lake: catch minnows, build sand castles, hunt for turtles, collect snail shells, wake up early to watch loons land on the lake in the mist, and stay out on the dock watching gorgeous sunsets.

The first day that we would get to the cabin, we would all pour out of the van (after a 10-hour drive!) and race toward the lake. We would stand under the pines and feel the lake breeze on our faces. My siblings and I would groan when Mom and Dad said, "First we get settled, then we relax." Unpacking, making beds, and generally getting settled would be short work with all our hands, however. Then we would pile back into the van to drive in to the local grocery store in Park Rapids. We would plan our menu for the week as we walked the aisles. If it wasn't too late, we'd head over to Main Street and hit up the bakery or the old fashioned candy store. My dad always bought at least a couple of pounds of bullseyes on vacation!

The next day -- and most successive days after that, actually -- we would wake up early to get in some fishing. We'd come back around mid-morning and settle in for a lazy day at the lake or decide to take a "town day." We always had to eat at the logging camp just once for breakfast: long wooden benches and huge plates of scrambled and over-easy eggs, fresh biscuits with homemade blueberry jam, ham steaks, hash browns, and melt-in-your-mouth pancakes. Wow! We also liked to frequent the local go-kart track and a tourist shopping area called Summerhill. We usually had a night where we ate pizza at the best pizza place in town: Rocky's. They have a gyro pizza that is our family's favorite.

I have so many wonderful memories of Heinz Lake. A couple of years before my grandfather passed away, my grandparents sold the cabin to a family friend. My parents have gone back once, and they were kind enough to invite us to be there with them. So when my girls were two and one, we spent four days at the lake of my childhood. I spent many of those days sitting in the sand with them, watching my dad build sandcastles with them, nervously watching as daddy took them out on the jetski. That vacation was magical to me. It was lazy and slow; there weren't any flashy attractions or theme parks anywhere. There often weren't really any plans for our days: but I got to share a place with my husband and children that holds a special spot in my heart and memories. I got to literally guide my girls in my footsteps. It helped me realize how much it must have meant to my mom and my grandparents to share Holiday House and Heinz Lake with all of us kids and see a love for it blossom in our hearts. There's nothing like watching a fiery sunset over Heinz Lake Minnesota!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Am Loving...

I am admittedly (regrettably) one of those people who needs to purposefully focus on positive things in life during stressful seasons. I have allowed myself in recent weeks to get swallowed up in my own little pity party. Yes, life is tough sometimes, but there are so many blessings in my life(and in yours). I see them. I really do. I'm not allowing wallowing in self-pity to become a full time job. 

What I find to be helpful for me is to write down(or type) these blessings from time to time to remind myself of all the great things happening in my life. Yes, I'm spending more time away from my children and husband than I would like. I'm spending more time in hospitals and medical offices than I would like. But? My kids are well cared for, and my parents are improving. I am grateful. This week I decided to blog about these blessings in a little different way than usual. So here is that post for The Intentional Journey audience's pleasure.

I Am Loving...

...teaching Ava to cook. For our 4th of July family cook-out, Ava (age 7) made the baked beans 100% by herself. I watched from the other end of the counter top. I'm so proud of her!

...alone time with Eric. We had a date for our anniversary last Friday. We went to Raven's Glenn Winery. There was live piano music, and the pianist played Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night" for us. We had the best table in the house overlooking the river, and it was an unforgettable evening. 

...watching Lukas become more and more independent and more and more capable. He does so much around the house to help, and he almost never complains about it. He mows the grass here and just started mowing for his grandparents as well, and his latest task is helping Nana with her grocery shopping. He actually shopped more than she did yesterday!

...time spent talking with Dad as we travel to doctor's appointments. I haven't spent this much time with Dad since I was in high school, and I am grateful for it.

...perusing Mom's favorite recipes which she offered to me (temporarily so I can make copies). It is a hobby that she and I love to share with each other.

...rediscovering Coshocton County. Everyone is nice. I think I took that for granted as a child. I have entire conversations with people like the woman who works at the deli at Baker's IGA who has a nephew who recently began working as an assistant coach at Ohio Dominican, and with the librarian who truly wants to take the time to help me! I get to share favorite places like Mohawk Dam, Roscoe Village and Warsaw Park with my family.

...evenings spent at Lake Park walking, playing and worshiping by the water.

...becoming a more regular part of the lives of people I have cared about for so long and reconnecting and discovering new friendships with people with whom we have so much more in common as adults than we ever did as kids. nights spent in various places like the drive-in theater or the fountain at Easton or our own living room.

...reminders that the perks of the city are not really worth the traffic jams, excessive noise, crowds and anxiety. I am designed to be a small town girl.

...Our 24 Family Ways, an amazing family devotional that our family is enjoying so much. I highly recommend it! Eric is doing a fantastic job leading our family in this!

What are you loving lately? Take a few minutes and think about your blessings. Maybe even blog about them. You'll be glad that you did!

Friday, July 8, 2011

3,285 Days

In August, my husband Scott and I will celebrate being married 3,285 days, or nine years for those of you not counting as closely. Most days have been easy, a few have been hard, one or two have been strange (planting flowers in the pouring rain during Easter dinner anyone? ) but I always thank the Lord for bringing Scott into my life (even on those hard and strange days, sometimes especially on those hard and strange days). We've made it through school and new jobs and fussy babies and sleepless nights. After nearly nine years of marriage and 20 years of knowing one another (or putting up with each other as Scott likes to tease), and growing up together, it's hard to write something that adequately paints why our relationship and marriage has been such a gift. It wasn't one that I really expected. After meeting Scott for the first time when he literally ran into me at a skating party, I complained to my mom: “that Scott made me so mad,” and that “I didn't think I like him at all.” When I look at our story, I can't help but clearly see that God does have a divine plan for my life.

Over the years, Scott and I have been silly teenagers goofing around with our group of friends, students focused on getting through college and hoping to get married one day, newly weds, and finally a family with two little girls and another baby due in October. With two kids and one on the way, we don't always get to spend as much time together as when we were younger. Sometimes when family life gets hectic, I like to remember the time we spent together when we were first married.

Most people with kids will agree that Saturday mornings tend to be much different after you've had children. My kids usually have the philosophy that Saturday mornings require waking up extra early so they don't miss anything fun (even though the chances of their dad and I getting up at 6am to plan a special activity are pretty slim). On those Saturday mornings that begin around sunrise, I find myself remembering a different world when I was gently awakened by slits of sunshine streaming through the bedroom blinds, not little fingers playing with my eyes. When Scott and I were first married we lived in a mostly rural college town in Northern Michigan while Scott finished school and I worked in a small law firm. Scott and I managed to stumble across the deal of a century. The Old Jail Museum needed a new curator. In exchange for vacuuming the museum and taking out the trash once a week and keeping track of who was renting the meetings room in the building (usually the only renters were Alcohol Anonymous meetings and a few formal Frat events), we enjoyed $200/month rent for the curator's apartment that included all utilities, even cable! Boy do I miss the Old Jail sometimes when I'm paying our home mortgage and a plethora of other bills every month!

The Old Jail had long ceased to actually be used as a real jail and looks nothing like a modern jail. Instead of cement walls and a strange smell (trust me, after visiting clients as an attorney in many different jails throughout Michigan, they all have a strange smell), it was an attractive Victorian house with a fancy old-fashioned dining room and parlor overlooking the front porch, a huge kitchen in the back available to rent for different community events, a small meeting room downstairs, a large meeting room upstairs and finally three supposedly haunted, musty jail cells in the very back that had been mostly relegated to holding extra junk belonging to us and to the Old Jail. When taking friends for a tour for the first time, we often delighted in scaring them with the full sized mannequin that someone with a wicked sense of humor had placed on a cot in one of the jail cells. The Old Jail sat right across the street from the operational jail, police station and courthouse, and shared a parking lot with a dentist office and two churches. My “hectic” morning commute consisted of walking down a shady residential street for a block to my office or just across the street to the courthouse or jail.

The curator's apartment was small, but cozy. A separate winding wooden staircase led to our front door. The story told to us by locals was that the apartment was the former home of the warden and his wife who cooked meals for the inmates. It had one modest bedroom and bathroom, and a fairly nice-sized kitchen and living room and the whole apartment had luxuriously large windows that overlooked the tree covered neighborhood. Decorated with mismatched leftover furniture from our college apartments, Scott and I always managed to make the living room nice and toasty on cold evenings with our kerosene heater during the long Northern Michigan winter. Our bedroom included the windows and alcove from the top of one of the Victorian steeples. It was through the windows of this steeple that the late morning sun would sneak through the blinds and coax me awake. Even with the sun peering in, I usually didn't give up my sleep that easily. After working and getting up early all week (and operating on what I now laughably consider not enough sleep), I'd usually lie in bed and pretend I was waking up while Scott watched some home improvement show on television and we both laid in bed dreaming of what our first home might be like. Sometimes I'd hear the church bells of the old Methodist Church chime a ridiculously late hour. Finally after dragging ourselves out of bed to eat a little food, we'd usually do a little homework or casework. Looking back, it's inconceivable, that our only real obligations for the weekend were feeding ourselves, doing some homework/casework and relaxing! Much different than the jammed packed weekends we enjoy now!

Though our apartment may have been small, we usually had the rest of the museum all to ourselves. As newly weds with a pretty tight budget, it was fun pretending that we lived in a grand Victorian home filled with antiques! Searching the attic one day, we found boxes of forgotten Christmas decorations and during the holidays we turned the parlor and dining room into a twinkling wonderland of lights and tinsel. We'd pretend to have a fancy dinner (courtesy of Meijer's Grocery store or In-and-Out Burger) in the fancy dining room and then lie in bed near the twinkling lights on the sparsely decorated tree that fit perfectly into the alcove made by the steeple in our bedroom. Void of all of the “Baby's First Christmas” and decorations made by our oldest daughter in school, our only non-generic ornament was for “Our First Christmas.” We'd watch the tree and think about our future.

I'll never forget the time we spent in that little apartment. There were so many priceless memories: like our road trip to the beach one cold Saturday in January. Outside our windows, our town was quiet and cold smothered under a blanket of snow, but we needed some excitement. With nothing but a map, we headed West. We spent the afternoon watching the ice shift on Lake Michigan, then warmed up in local pub blowing on bowls of cheddar beer soup. Friday nights were spent sitting close on the porch sharing a bottle of wine under the stars, then walking to the downtown movie theater a few blocks away. The movies played were for an audience primarily composed of college kids, and were the 21st Century's' equivalent of “Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure,” but they were usually entertaining after a bottle of wine, or two.... On Sunday afternoons we usually walked downtown. We'd hold hands, window shop and share a sundae at the old fashioned soda fountain.

When Scott and I look back on our life together, our time at the Old Jail didn't take up a huge amount of our 2,285 days, but they're some of our favorite and I think are a glimpse into our relationship. I've been really blessed having Scott in my life, from the boy who knocked me down on my ice skates, to the dad who tucks our kids into bed at night. My relationship with Scott has taught me that the Lord often has the most amazing plans for our lives when we least expect it....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Hamburger" Memories...

Every summer I looked forward to the phone call. It was the call that I anticipated.  The reason I looked forward to that call was it meant that for one day I would be in food heaven.  IT WAS THE day that my Pappaw and I would go to White Castle.  He would come and pick me up on his motorcycle and we would take off for the afternoon and go to a flea market, then we would end up at that burger heaven on Washington St. in Indianapolis.

Yeah.  It was just Pappaw and me.  I could ask him anything.  He taught me all kinds of stuff as we sat there and ate in that restaurant.  He told me that if I wanted to know something, I needed to ask and not be afraid. 

It amazes me how things change. That White Castle is no longer there.  It was five years ago when I officiated his funeral.   I can no longer sit and enjoy a White Castle burger with him, but that memory will always hold a special place in my heart.  I will always remember those "hamburger" lessons.  One thing that I can do is pass along and make memories with my kids over simple things like hamburgers.  Hopefully I will give them something that they will never forget.

I miss my Pappaw, but I am looking forward to seeing him in heaven and standing around the throne praising God.  It is definitely something I will anticipate!

Witness to a Miracle...

Tonight, I witnessed a miracle.  I held in my arms the answer to a promise that was given by God MONTHS ago, and tonight, that promise took the form of an amazingly beautiful baby girl.

This miracle began in February.  During a church service, my friend stepped out and did what God was asking all of us to do, FIRST.  She stepped out in faith and our Pastor looked at her and told her that something was going to open up in her life because of her obedience.  In my heart, I knew that she was going to have a daughter.  Her and her husband had an adopted son, and now they were going to get a daughter.

The next day, I went to my boss at work and asked her to crochet a baby hat for this little girl.  I didn’t know when she was coming, but I knew she was and I wanted to be prepared.  Once that hat was finished I put it in a safe place and kept it until the time was right to give it to my friend.  It didn’t take long.

Just a few short weeks after that service, my friend called me to tell me that a woman had contacted her about adopting her baby, as soon as she was born.  The birth mother was a former aquantance of my friend who had known that my friend had adopted her son in this same fashion, so when she started thinking of giving up her child she could only think of my friend.  “And guess what?” my friend said to me excitedly.  “It’s a girl,” I replied.  AND IT WAS! 

The months since this decision was made have not been easy for any of those involved.  There has been pain, tears, exhaustion, overwhelming joy and paralyzing fear for both of the mothers.  There have been moments of panic wondering if it was really going to happen, and moments when it felt like it was never going to end.  But this afternoon, that beautiful little girl was born with a head full of black hair and fingers long enough to play a piano.

I was able to go and visit them tonight after work and I was amazed to be sitting in a labor and delivery room with the baby, my friend, her husband, and the birth mother.  I tried to put myself in her shoes.  Could I give birth to my child, knowing that I was never going to take her home?  Could I watch as another couples family and friends came in an ooo’d and ahh’d over MY child? 

It was then that I realized that, while this baby girl was an amazing miracle, the biggest miracle of all was the woman sitting in the hospital bed.  She was giving the best gift that anyone could ever give, not only to this baby, but to my friend and her family. She was taking a piece of herself, a piece of her heart, and giving it to someone else to love.  It takes a very special woman to be able to do that, and I am amazed.  Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this miracle. 


Friday, July 1, 2011

So Beautiful by Leonard Sweet

 I read a lot of books. I don’t read for pleasure…at least not primarily…I read to gather information, to learn, and to improve myself. I read a lot of different view points, and a lot of the authors I read, I don’t agree with completely. But I still learn and provocative authors make me think a lot, which is one of the reasons I read.

One of the authors who makes me do a lot of thinking is Leonard Sweet. I’ve read several of his books but my favorite so far is the one I finished last week…”So Beautiful” (David C. Cook, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4347-9979-1). This book is not an easy read, but it’s not a textbook either. It’s serious reading material but it’s worth the investment of discovering what Leonard has to say.

The subtitle of the book is “Divine Design for Life and the Church.” The title was intriguing to me and one of the reasons I picked the book up. I think we could all use a little better understanding of the Divine design for our lives. Leonard’s premise is that like a DNA model, life is best represented by a “three-strand” model. He says life should be missional, relational, and incarnational.

About being missional, Leonard quotes Christopher Wright who says, “Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.”

On being relational Leonard himself says, “The ultimate reality is not substance, but relations.” He points out the essence of God is relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Incarnational is the most difficult concept of the book but basically means, “being with people where they already are ‘while going’ and catching up to the Spirit. The incarnational life begins by saying and meaning these two words: ‘I’m in.’”

Combining these three “strands” creates this paradigm of the Christ-follower life: I am always on mission as I foster relationships with others where they are. The bottom line is that I am never “off-duty” as a Christ-follower…every moment, in every relationship, in every setting; I am His ambassador in this world.

This is a really good book. Reviewing it makes me want to read it again…always a good sign.