Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sunsets.. 

The number one reason people give for NOT hosting an exchange student? It’s that the “good byes” would be too hard in the end.. 

..and today I would agree..

..the good-byes when I send home an exchange daughter are hard.. 

..beyond hard.. 

But the alternative would be hard as well.. 

In order for me to never hurt.. in order for me to never cry.. never hesitate.. or miss someone? 

Yup.. 

I would have to NEVER grow close to any one .. not a pet.. not a child .. and not an exchange student.. 

I would have to NOT live.. 

…and BOY have we lived.. 

Today my 3rd exchange daughter carried her luggage out of my house and loaded it into her mother’s rental car.. 

A year’s worth of memories and living were packed into those suitcases.. A year’s worth of holiday gifts and souvenirs… and some chocolate covered pretzels too.. 

..but what weighs more than those suitcase?

The love that we shared over the last year.. the laughter … the inside jokes.. the memories.. the songs we sang in the car.. the movies we watched.. the hugs.. and the tears we shared.. 

I can’t say that I would give back that “living”.. just to save a few tears .. (ok.. a LOT of tears)… 

I thought about that as I watched the sunrise this morning… 

..sometimes we only appreciate how beautiful the day was as we watch the sun set at night.. and sometimes we are sad to see it end.. 

..but then? 

Then if we watch carefully (and get up early enough).. we can watch the sun RISE on a new day.. a day full of promise and full of new possibilities.. 

So today as the “sun sets” on the time my exchange daughter stayed in my home.. I am a little sad that it’s over.. and I am spilling more than a few tears remembering how much we have lived this year.. 

..my cup runneth over tonight.. 

..but tomorrow morning?

Tomorrow a new day will dawn. A new chapter with my borrowed daughter.. a new life where we exchange pictures and video calls.. and ridiculous snapchats… where we continue to share in each other’s joys and sorrows.. and plan visits.. and I think that day will be just as beautiful (in its own way)..

So tonight I will enjoy my beautiful sunset.. with a few tears of love.. 

I loved my “day” with you here Bea.. can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you.. 

these small hours…

img_6181Every once in awhile. A song comes along that speaks right to your heart.
For me?

Little Wonders“.. from a Disney soundtrack..

I love this song..

Our lives are made.. in these small hours.. these little wonders.. these twists and turns of fate.. time falls away.. but these small hours.. these small hours .. still remain..

Our family is a very busy family..

We are involved in Theater and Choir at school.. the international students .. Dance.. trombone lessons… cheerleading for a time.. and a big BIG family…

We don’t really end up with a lot of free time ..

But we DO have such wonderful times together.. in those minutes between activities.. our little conversations in the early mornings (before coffee has kicked in)… the conversations in the hall after school before theater rehearsal starts.. our conversations around the dinner table.. my kids jumping in the car to keep me company on the way to errands and meetings.. board games.. and sappy Christmas movies.. funny Snapchat videos.. and quick hugs between activities.. quick chats before bed.. phone calls from college between classes .. 

“Our lives are made in these small hours”.. these short moments.. the moments with my college girl.. my daughters across the sea.. my 2 exchange daughters.. my son .. the happy moments.. the sad.. the stressed .. the relaxed.. the laughter.. the love.. the heartaches…

…these are the little wonders of my life…

This week as we prepare to send another “exchange” daughter home .. home to her family.. we are overwhelmed with these little wonders.. the moments that have made up our lives over the last year.. the memories we have stored up…

Our hearts are full..

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Love you Bea!!

I am so thankful for all the “small hours” with you.. and with Sabrina,  Simon, Mariam, Olimpia, and Basak…

.. so many little wonders..

Just wait and see.. 

I have often been asked what I have planned for my son’s future. I always smile and reply “He wants to be a farmer..”

Most of the time people smile in return .. 

But sometimes there is an awkward silence and the inevitable.. “Do you really think he will be able to work? To hold down a real job?”

Yes.. 

Yes I do! 

And no I am not offended by this question.. 

You see? While my son has Autism (and a splash of bipolar).. His disabilities don’t own him. Simon is his own person and he knows what he wants.. He has known since he was 4. 

You may think Simon grew up in a farming community and THAT is why he wants to be a farmer. That he knows no difference.. Well THERE you would be mistaken. Our Simon grew up in a city from age 3 to 13.. 

Yup his love for farming seems to have been destined for him. 

So what did his father and I do? Well? We moved to a farming community back home in Michigan. 

Most people question our Sy’s ability to hold down a job because of his behaviors at school.. Freezing in doorways, anxiety over homework, refusals to take tests at times.. And wanting to go home. 

But you see? At school? 

At school, Simon knows he is behind his peers.. School work is hard… He doesn’t understand test questions because of the wording.. And sometimes (even IF he did understand them) he doesn’t know what they are asking.. He KNOWS he is built inadequate for school.. 

And YET? 

Yet you will see Simon get up every day and force himself to try to go to school. He can be close to tears in frustration over homework.. And yet he is one to INSIST he finish.. He pushes through anxiety, confusion and what ever distractions are around him (or distractions going on in his own head) to SUCCESS on the other side. 

That sounds like a job to me… 

At home, Simon is different. At home he is confident, creative, helpful.. He washes his own laundry, washes dishes, cooks whole meals, cleans the house, does chores, builds with his dad.. 

He does an amazing job!!

Not “pretty amazing” for a kid with autism.. 

JUST pretty amazing for a 17 year old.. Because he does it exactly the way I do.. (Or the way his dad does).. Exactly the way he was taught.. 

Then? Then he adds a slash of creativity.

This week, I woke my son to face another hard day at school. As I rubbed his back and talked about his day.. I told him I was going to teach him to drive our lawn mower after school. 

He sat straight up in bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “What did you say?” 

Smiling, I repeated that I thought he was old enough to learn to drive the lawn tractor to mow the lawn. 

The smile on his face made my heart happy..

He quickly got ready for his day.. Was still a little grumpy with his sister.. But went to school easily.. 

AFTER school? Well after school he quickly changed into his farmer hat and overalls, his John Deere shirt with long sleeves and farmer boots.. 

And our lessons began.. 

I admit I get nervous with vehicles.. The same nervousness I got when I taught my daughter to drive .. 

I ran from one side of the lawn mower to the other .. Pointing out how FAR the mower deck sticks out.. How to slow down.. How to stop.. How to speed up a little.. How to crank the wheel so you don’t crash.. 

The first 5 mins were nerve racking for me.. Because he learns best by doing.. So at a snail’s pace and yelling over the motor and earplugs.. I gave him on-the-go lessons.. 

And then he was off.. One circle around the yard and I moved the mower one notch faster.. He watched how I did that too… 

He looked for cars when he circled up into the road.. Kept the mower in a straight line.. He mowed next to the first stripe perfectly (or circled back to fix it.. Mowed around baby trees and big trees.. Power poles and ditches.. 

By the 3rd circle of the yard, I stopped following him.. He no longer needed me. 

After 4 hours? He was up to full speed (by his own choice) and the yard was flawless.. 


Not “pretty good” for a boy with autism..

Not “pretty good” for his first time.. 

It was pretty awesome.. No missed spots.. Straight lines..

 In fact?  My husband said he had to weed whack far less than when I mow.. 

I am not offended by that.. Just really proud.. 

But I am not surprised.. He always throws himself into his work.. And doesn’t stop until the work is done.. And done well.. 

We could use more workers like that in the world.. 

So YES… I think Simon will keep a job and support himself.. 

And yes, he will need support to start new adventures and to get through difficult situations.. Like doctor offices.. paperwork.. And paying bills.. 

But he will make it.. And it’s going to be amazing.. 

Not amazing for a kid with Autism..

Just plain amazing ..

But you don’t have to take my word for it.. Stick around .. 

…wait and you will see it for yourself.. 

Everywhere..

At Easter we find ourselves celebrating with Eggs..
Eggs??

Colorful delicious Easter Eggs.. And sometimes chocolate eggs.. 
What do eggs REALLY have to do with God sending His Son to die for our sins? To pay for our pride, our envy.. Our jealousies.. Our gossips.. Our judging.. And our other sins we hope no one knows about..??
Well the Egg represents the New Life we find in Jesus .. WHEN we accept that sacrifice He made for us.. 
We make them colorful to represent that Blessings can make our lives so colorful .. WHEN we follow Jesus… 
And chocolate eggs represent.?? That life can be so sweet.. WHEN we have Jesus.. 
So this weekend as you see Easter Eggs everywhere you go? Let us remember that they represent New Life with Jesus… 
Happy Easter All.. And may God’s Love fill you this celebrated weekend..  

 

Tracks..

 

after the storm..

I love to walk through my yard after a snow storm blows through. I know that you’ll agree that it’s always the prettiest when the snow is fresh and the sun shining bright.  But I am not always looking up to see the beauty.

Where else would I look (you ask)??

I am usually looking down.

You see.. while we are all bundled up inside our houses? All warm and safe? The world outside isn’t always as quiet as we think.

The first time I took water and food to my chickens.. right after a snow storm?? I stopped in surprise. All around me were paw prints and tracks through the snow. Trails going in all directions.  I saw squirrel tracks… and rabbit… deer trails by the dozens.. and coyote tracks on more than a few occasions.

Why would I find it cool to find coyote tracks in my backyard??

Well? Honestly they didn’t bother anything.. so why not?

The house that my husband works hard to provide for us.. and the protection that God gives us .. keeps us safe at night. So sometimes I find it interesting to see what dangers may have pass us by, in the night.

I sometimes think of my Faith as a type of house.

We sit inside of houses of Faith.. all safe and warm.. and blissfully unaware of the dangers that God directs around us. And unless we go outside our houses? Well unless we go out in our backyards.. we wouldn’t even know what dangers passed us right on by.

So why doesn’t God show us the dangers He protects us from? It certainly would scare more people into having Faith. But God says He wants us to come to Him willingly and freely. So He keeps those tracks hidden.

Now you are probably thinking.. What about the bad things that happen to those with Faith? Does that mean their Faith failed them?

I don’t have the answers to that.

I have had my share of troubles in this world. Bad experiences, medical emergencies, scares… I could go on.. and on…  So does that mean that I lacked Faith and God kept His protection to Himself?

Nope.

I felt protection. I was overwhelmed.. but felt protected.

The Bible promises us that “Everything will Be Beautiful in its time.” But until that time? Until the moment that I realize why bad things happen to the Faithful?

Until then, I will count the number of trails that go away from my house.. and be thankful for them.

We got by.. 

  
Yesterday was a long day for My Simon.. We jam packed every minute full.. And he had to get through his whole day at school knowing what he had “endure”… But after getting through his school day (albeit loudly)… And was somewhat patient through my Audition workshop after school.. I watched him walk independently into his trombone lessons with a new instructor.. And he rocked it.. 
I know some of you are probably thinking ..”ok?!? My kid does that everyday..” And that makes me happy.. I love to see kids be successful whether it comes easy for them or if it’s more of a struggle.. But for my boy? He struggled to learn even basic skills like talking.. Doors were always a struggle to walk through.. But he was drawing by age 18 months.. He could write the whole alphabet .. But not utter a word.. So yes! We celebrate every success..

This morning I have been thinking back to my early years as Simon’s mom.. When it felt like it was me and Sy against the world.. When I could see my boy so clearly at home (when it was just us).. Only to watch how he would disappear when we walked through the doors to go into the outside world… 

This song that the Johnny Orr Band sings (We’ll get By).. Makes me tear up for 2 reasons.. First because I remember that feeling.. Being close to tears of frustration SO often but knowing that we were going to make it. Secondly? Because we have gotten by.. And we have come so far. 

Simon has come so far from the boy who needed to be held in public because the stimulation made him bury his face into my shoulder.. Watching him walk through a “door”.. into a room with a new person.. and being successful at showing his skill with his trombone?? Yup.. we’ve gotten by.. 

  
But before you tell me how great of a mother I am.. His success isn’t mine.. God has always put some of the best people into Simon’s life (and mine).. People who help challenge him and support him.. But mostly? Mostly.. Simon is one of the strongest people I know.. He holds himself to such high standards and pushes himself forward when I am tempted to let him have a “break”.. 

So while I have shed so many tears of frustration .. while trying “to get by”.. I wouldn’t have traded a single one.. I love the son I was Blessed with.. 

all is well.. 

  
This is the last hour of my vacation.. And I am sitting here thinking about what this time meant for me and my kids.. 
… 3 years ago we had lived so far from family that we spent every moment of our vacations with our extended family and cousins.. Enjoying our time.. When we moved home.. It was so great to see everyone so often, that the tradition continued .. 

This week, we took our first small family vacation.. Taking our Grandpa  will us too.. We spent so much time together bonding and laughing.. it felt amazing. It was good for my kids to only have each other to interact with.. It was so good for both of them.. 

But it was also good for me..

For the first time in forever? I had no responsibilities.. Nothing to do.. No job or tasks.. And no other souls to tend to.. Just mine .. just my kids.. And it felt really good.. 

So as I sit here drinking my coffee.. with my less than delicious soy creamer.. I realize that resting is so good for the soul… 

I know .. I know.. You are thinking that Disney world and resting don’t go hand in hand.. Crazy crowds.. crazy rides.. Crazy agendas.. It doesn’t sound like resting.. But for me it was 

 .. There was nothing to clean, nothing to fix, nothing to organize .. No driving.. No multitasking. We did walk almost 100 miles over 5 days.. And we were all tired at the end of the day .. But it felt so good…

.. so resting the soul is good.. And I need to schedule it in again.. Sooner than 15 years this time.. 

On the Red Carpet..

For anyone who has read Shadows.. 

  
Or who knows me.. 

  
.. knows that this is exciting news for me… Not because I need anyone to tell me that “Shadows” is a great novel.. I am confident in my novel because it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.. 

And because everyone who reads it.. Writes me to say how they can’t put it down… Even people who don’t read Fiction.. Or Historical novels.. 

  
So .. no.. I don’t need an award to know my novel is good.. Or to know the sequel (Road Home) will be a hit.. 

But it is exciting for me because being a Finalist will get the word out there that Shadows exists. Because people can’t buy something they don’t know about… 

So congratulations Shadows!!!

You now have a red carpet.. Now we can get out there and shine… 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N10MHRK

http://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-jules-nelson/1120182205?ean=9781490848389

My landscape.. 

…in the distance…

I have always had a love of landscape paintings. Even as a child, I would stare at their beauty… Search their depths for color and stories. Each one told a story of a journey to me… a journey that would end in the clouds in the distance.. Those clouds representing Heaven to me. The weightlessness of the clouds.. representing all our cares being lifted from us when we die.

As I have matured, I have started to see these landscapes differently. I still see those clouds as representing Heaven.. Standing firmly in my Horizon.. often with the light of God shining through them.. But I now see the background.. the mountains or distance fields.. not as where I am heading.. but where I have been. Each color representing a different event in my life. Darker colors for the harder trials or disappointments. Brighter colors for the joys that God has blessed me with.

Leaving the Valley in the focus of the portrait.. the valley being what we are living now. And that is how it should be.. focusing on the here and now.. not on the past or the future.. but focusing on what God has set before us.

But sometimes it is good to see where we have come from.

I have a lot of dark shades in my landscape. Disappointment in choices I made when I was younger. Mistakes I have made. Events in my past.. events I had no control over. Events that I had to struggle through.. such as the first few years with my son’s diagnosis of Bipolar. Those years of medicines that didn’t work.. years of trying strategy after strategy. The days I broke down from exhaustion. All of these add darker shades and shadows.

I wouldn’t give up any of those dark colors.. those blacks.. grays.. dark blues… the shadows.. Those shadows? Those shadows made the bright colors.. the deep hues stand out all the more. Because I had known great disappointments.. great sorrow…?  Because of those events, I could appreciate good people.. good memories.. my accomplishments.. my son’s & daughter’s accomplishments.. and the joy my children bring THAT much more.

Having good people in my life definitely makes my landscape prettier. And as I have said before.. it takes a whole village to raise a child… That whole village becomes that child’s landscape. I have a very extensive landscape. So many people have been Blessings in my life. I have been very Blessed indeed.

This week I am looking off into my landscape. At one particular bright spot.. or maybe a few.

I have an Uncle that married into my family. A very jolly man. He always had a smile and a greeting for everyone.. I remember staying at their house and having it always full of people and activity. His enthusiasm for everything.. when we took our annual bike trip. Listening to his strong voice praying in front of groups.. not caring who could hear him.  I listened to stories he told of Mission trips that he went on with my Aunt.. sometimes with a little envy.. (for I know that my Mission field is here in my back yard.. and not around the world.)..  and he always had stories filled with pride for his loving family.

Not that my Uncle couldn’t be serious or firm.. I know I saw those sides of him also… They just don’t stand out like the joy that shone from his face when he caught sight of you.

My Uncle passed away suddenly this last week. He wasn’t sick.. he didn’t suffer.. but God called him home.

You may think that a dark patch of paint has appeared in my landscape because of this… but other than the slight shadow of sadness behind his bright shape? I can’t find any new dark patches.

Now don’t get me wrong.. I will probably tear up when he doesn’t come out to greet us when I go to visit my Aunt the next time. It doesn’t mean I won’t think of my cousins when I hug my own sweet Dad the next time. And it definitely doesn’t mean I am not looking forward to seeing him when I am called Home myself.

But it does mean that sometimes we don’t notice how brightly someone shines in our lives.. until that small shadow of sadness appears behind them.. making their colors.. their strengths.. the Blessings they had to offer… Those shadows make their colors shine all the more brightly.  Especially when the light of God is shining down through the clouds of Heaven onto them.

Stranger than fiction…

1800 books..
1800 books..

I love to read! And I read everything.. YES I really mean everything!! I read children’s books, I read teen fiction.. I read fantasy, I read young adult.. I read self-help, I read non-fiction… I read historical fiction.. and non-fiction.. I read futuristic sci-fi.. English literature… Old lit, new lit….

I read anything…

I don’t LIKE everything I read.. but I still have to finish..

It is actually addictive. My first and only real addiction. An addiction that, at times in my life, keeps me from being productive and functioning. I had to learn to control it.. and believe me there are NO nicotine patches to help Reading Addicts. No Readers Anonymous groups. Some people (maybe even you) think that I am funny to even try to curb my addiction. However, I KNEW that I had (ok.. ok.. I HAVE) a problem.. and I KNEW that I needed to control it. And control it I have.

Now, I can’t give up reading.. that would be like asking me to give up breathing.. but I have learned to keep it to free time.

..well mostly…

Through my years of reading I can honestly say TWO things..

FIRST.. Students miss out on so much History because we insist that they learn all the “dates”. I honestly can’t tell you the exact month and day the civil war ended. But I can tell you why the Civil War started.. why it was important to our history.. and why it was different than any other war we fought. I could tell you that they used Maggots for Medicinal purposes.. and that the North was over dressed. Students can learn so much from our History.. but instead most of them hate it… Is this our teachers faults? Absolutely not.. it is because the schools rely on test results for funding. And what are ON those tests? Exactly… Dates!

SECOND.. Fact is stranger than fiction. In point of truth.. all my research shows that History? OUR History… is stranger than fiction. Strange weather phenomenons… wildcat attacks in Michigan… a trend to abduct the girl next door so she would be forced to marry you? These are all facts. And shoving maggots into gunshot wounds during the civil war? While turning my stomach.. I still find it interesting that this FACT saved so many lives..

In fact, when you read about all the things that pioneers in this country did? When you read about the things they saw.. what they lived through? It makes my life seem so boring.. so sheltered.  And while the pioneers’ lives were much shorter in 1860? While the Civil War soldiers may have died fighting for what they believed in at a young age? They still lived much fuller lives that I am…

So my goal this year is to go out and actually LIVE my life .. as fully as they did their short ones. And hopefully encourage others to do so as well….