Tag Archives: family

Imagine…

Do you know what you get when you are raised in a family with a Strong faith in God.. AND you have a vivid imagination?

Something beautiful .. aaaand a little scary at times. 

When I was little? My dad would tell me that even if I THOUGHT I could get away with doing “little” bad things with no one knowing..? That God would still know.. And it would break His heart to see me make bad choices. 

In my mind’s eye I could see a God like “face” looking at me .. The same way that my earthly father looks at me when he had to punish me.. Broken hearted and sad.. Maybe tears in His majestic eyes? 

Yup.. That kept me on the straight and narrow.. (90% of the time).. 

But sometimes my imagination is just plain good.. 

This morning I received the call that my grandma passed away. 

The only grandma I have ever known .. Had gone home to heaven. 

It was peaceful for her .. She was surrounded by the family who could make it in time.. They were loud at times.. (How could that be peaceful you ask?)  She would have liked it loud and lively. She loved to see the “characters” around her. I think even when she was resting .. she was probably comforted by the loud voices and laughter.. 

But I can imagine that moment when she slipped from this world into the next.. 

In that moment?

 Standing outside those pearly gates.. She would see her 3 children, that went along Home before her, waiting patiently for her. Her parents would be there too.. And her siblings.. 

But in the middle of them all? 

In the middle of them all, I imagine my grandpa standing. I can see his eyes light up when he finally sees her. The way his eyes always lit up when he saw her. 

And then? 

Ha ha.. Then he’d say something sassy like.. “What took you so long?” Or “I’ve been waiting for you for ages!”

Then I imagine my Gram K would smile gently and put him in his place.. With a “It wasn’t my plan to send you on ahead..” Or more likely… “Well .. waiting builds character.”

And then my Grandpa will laugh .. The way he always does when her quiet sass amuses him. 

Someday it will be my turn to meet them all at the pearly gates.. And I know they will show up to meet me. 

Until then I have to finish the things God sent me here to do.. 

But I am so curious.. 

I wonder if my Gram K will have her bright red hair back in heaven.. (Which would make my Grandpa happy..) .. Or if she will be able to convince God that the gray hair suits her better .. (After all? You can’t wear pink with red hair..) 

Deep Roots…

dpp_0017I love family trees.. I love to try to trace my ancestors back to their origins.. The countries they were born in..  Oh the stories these trees would have to tell.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to listen to these ancestors tell their stories..?? And to be able to ask them questions.. like why did you leave your countries? Would it have been for adventure? Greater freedoms? Escaping bad memories?

Oh the possibilities…

I mean .. really? I have a great great grandfather named Dougal McDougall. An afternoon with him?

YES PLEASE

But there is more… Great people like Fredrick Law Olmsted.. or the original Olmsteds who came over when America was young. Sarah Fitzgerald (what a fun name).. the Von Kuhlmans from Germany..

All of it has me so curious and writer side of me ITCHES to record it all…

But then there is the Start side of my family. My Grandma Betty.. and her parents. They are Dutch.. all from the Netherlands. This side of the family never seemed as interesting to me.

Why??

Well… because they were so familiar to me. Familiar and safe. My grandma’s dad had a soft laugh when he was amused. My grandma’s mom was always smiling. They would offer you little candies from little dishes. Their backyard was like a little park. And even when they were upset with you (hey.. we were kids).. you just felt disappointed in yourself.. not scared.

My Gram Betty is in so many of my memories.. I remember her singing Brenda Lee songs with me.. and Johnny Cash’s “Everybody loves a nut.” I remember her always giving us fruit to snack on.. teaching me to eat rhubarb with sugar…. telling me that her “mom always said there would be days like this,”… sometimes adding with a wink, “she never mentioned there would be so many”… I remember her wearing hats… I remember laughing with her when she recalled being relieved to turn gray so “early”.. instead of “that awful red”… (Which we all know her red hair was actually quite pretty.. because grandpa always told us).. and I remember her being called Miss Blue. Because she loved the color blue.

img_3496After my grandparents moved to Florida, my memories of them were more sparse.. but just as loved. I loved hearing about their travel adventures.. their little arguments… and hearing my grandma use her age as an excuse for not having to do things she didn’t want to..

My grandpa died young.. only in his 60’s.. but I have so many teenage memories of him teasing my grandma, winking at me.. his laugh that echoed joyfully where ever he was.. his bear hugs.. and his more serious moments when he encouraged me to reach for the stars. (Not his exact words.. but that’s how I always felt. He had so much faith in my future being great.)

This side of my own family tree is the strongest side.. The Start/Kuhlman Roots of my tree go down deep… Deeper than any roots on paper. The love.. the stability.. the generations of support.. those roots go deeper than any other branch of my family tree.

But as a teenager?

These roots felt like home.. and I wanted adventure.. I wanted to be like Dougal McDougall and set forth from my homeland for adventures and tales across the sea…

As an adult? I realize that I missed an opportunity to explore those roots. I was always exploring the branches.. looking out over the horizons.. looking to the future.

Today?

Today instead of looking for adventures… instead of feeling curious about the great people of the past.. or wondering what tales my exciting ancestors might have to tell?

Today I am wishing for a conversation with my quiet, safe Grandma in Florida… To hear her soft laugh.. or hear her tell me that her “mom always told me there would be days like this”, and that “this too shall pass”.  To hear her tell of her sassy days of dating my grandpa.gram-k-2016

And I’d love to tell her how much I love her .. and how she shaped my life and gave me such strong roots.

Thankful ..

This is the first year in a long time that I have not done the 30 days of thankfulness.. (At least not on Facebook).. 
..but every day .. I wake up in this crazy life of mine and thank God for my Blessings.. The picture lists so many of my Blessings and is so fitting.. 
Today I am so thankful for everyone in my life.. I am thankful for God in my life .. Thankful that He forgives me so that I may forgive others.. I am thankful for 2 less than perfect parents that were perfect for me and taught me so much in life.. I am thankful for 6 real biological siblings that were my first friends and defenders.. Without them I could not imagine my life.. I am thankful for my many cousins.. My second friends and the foundation of so many memories .. I am thankful for my aunts, who steered me and guided me with love and laughter.. Especially my Aunt Dianne who I miss daily.. I am thankful for uncles who sheltered me and showed me what to look for in a spouse .. 
I am thankful for adopted sisters .. My sisters of the heart.. Without them life on this earth would not be as bright.. I am thankful for friends far and near.. Friends I see every day.. And friends I rarely talk to.
I am thankful for my husband who provides for his family without fail and strives for perfection.. I am thankful for my oldest child.. Sabrina is strong willed, sassy, smart, loving and simply amazing.. I am thank ful for Simon.. Smart, artistic, and so helpful.. Sy’s life is NOT easy at all, YET he has a smile on his face every day and strives to be successful.. We could all learn something from him. I am thank ful for my Mariam and Olimpia!! These girls are daughters in my heart.. The time they spent in our home has forever engraved them in my life .. I am thank ful for my 17 nieces and nephews.. Each one of them are unique and amazing.. I could not possibly love them more.. 
I am thankful for my second parents, Carol and Barry .. I could not have asked for more loving and supportive people to take me into their family. I am thankful for my little sister Kate! My world traveling sister.. An amazing, giving soul who is as beautiful on the inside as on the outside .. I am thankful for the whole NELSON clan who are a wonderful group of people to know and call family. 
I am thankful for the ability to write.. And the opportunity to publish a book.. I am thankful for the many hats I wear.. I love helping exchange students feel comfortable during their stay in the US.. I love watching preschoolers grow and learn during music and movement classes each week.. I am so thankful for my theatre group at MV.. Past and present.. These performers are beautiful souls that amaze me every time I see them in action.. I am so blessed to be their director .. 
And tomorrow we leave on a family vacation.. The last vacation before my daughter graduates from high school. I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend this time with my kids .. And for the financial security to make it happen.. 

Today I pray that you feel Blessed and loved.. I am thankful for each and every one of you!!!

Going for a ride…

  Yesterday I went for a ride.. It was beautiful and peaceful… The wind was blowing gently. The sun would disappear for a time behind fluffy clouds just to reappear a short while later.

Absolutely peaceful… but it wasn’t perfect.

I watched my special needs son.. frustrated with our slow pace… paddle far ahead. My sister in law had a tough time keeping her adventurous daughter in the boat. My nephew grew tired of paddling and we made mid-water “passenger change-overs”.

Not to mention, if you went too close to the shore the bugs would swarm you.. ghastly mosquitoes and biting flies….

But as I floated through the flooded path between the lakes .. the path we would have had to carry our boats along if the water level wasn’t quite so high… As I floated along I looked at all the little paths among the trees that I would love to explore… How fun it would be to weave in and out of the trees and under the low branches..

The writer in me?IMG_4309

Well I could feel a story lay somewhere in those trees…

But the water was murky.. and I didn’t really know what I would be getting into.. the last thing I wanted was to get in an iffy situation .. one where I would have to ask for help getting out of.

And I was fairly certain I would be swarmed with bugs. Am I afraid of bugs? No… they aren’t pleasant.. but I am not afraid. So why would I avoid them? If there were unpleasant, small buzzing sounds flying in your ears, mouth and in your eyes.. would you want to continue?

Reading the news lately has made me want to retreat more and more from the media. The more I listen to the News ridicule good people and cheer on confused ones? The more I want to get out my kayak and just go for a ride.

Honestly… if I did that?  I would always be in my kayak….

I am not perfect. I would never tell you I was.

In the middle of walking my son through an hour long dip of serotonin.. and rising of adrenaline… an hour of such paralyzing frustration … an hour of him yelling his phrases while clutching my arm.. an hour of him physically and mentally needing me to walk him through his coping mechanisms so that he won’t hurt himself… an hour that seems to stretch into eternity while his body re-balances itself…

… in the middle of this hour of intense “helping”? Yup… I sometimes wish I was somewhere else.. writing.. reading.. yeah, I’d even rather be doing the dishes…

.. I stick it out until I see my son resurface from under those confused emotions… and when I see his confidence return I know it was worth it… but as any parent of a child with special needs will tell you.. it is not easy..

No.. I am not perfect.. I struggle with my failing every day… and then I try to forgive myself for these failings.. but it is hard.

My family isn’t perfect either .. they are amazing and loving … but not even close to perfect. I love them ALL because of it.

2 parents, 5 brothers, 1 sister…

…Grandparents, aunts and uncles too large to really count…

1 husband, 2 biological children, 2 borrowed daughters…

2 parent in laws, 1 brother in law,  6 sister in laws..

… 7 nephews and 10 nieces…

… and soooooo many cousins….

… Ha.. I have even adopted a few  honorary sisters into my life..

Not one of them perfect… not one would say they are…

… when they mess up? I find it easy to forgive them..

Why?

Because this kayak trip through life isn’t perfect.. the wind is sometimes too strong for us (and we falter)… the current is at times to strong (and we long to turn around.. to give up)… the distance is often daunting .. just too far (we doubt we can succeed).. (so sometimes we chose short cuts)… there are hidden obstacles under the water.. sand bars, fallen trees, or even really thick weeds.. all are things that make us want to lash out in frustration…

… and then there is adventure and temptation… floating along a path that is usually blocked by land.. finding a hidden lake.. great adventures…

..life gets to be repetitive… and we humans are weak for our own temptations.. and we think? Why shouldn’t we be happy? Why shouldn’t we do what we want?

.. but if MY adventures could put OTHERS in harms way? Those are THEN temptations… When choosing a freedom.. or acting on a “dream”… hurts your children? Those are paths better left unexplored…

When I mess up … and I frequently do…Whether they are small in my mind or large… I have to ask for forgiveness from God.. and from others..

I want them to forgive me..

..so in return? It’s easy for me to forgive them… (Even if I need to walk away.. and go for a ride first…)

What about the bugs? I know that is what you are thinking… why mention the blood sucking and biting flies… if I wasn’t going to connect them to my story?

That horrid buzzing sound of flies is the sound of the Media… the gossiping… the false reports… the rumors… the people who are unable to forgive themselves for past sins (so they can’t forgive the sins of a young teenage boy who has paid for his crimes)…

… I try to stay away from the edge of the lake…

Why?

When this is my world and I should care what is going on in it? Why don’t I listen?

MY World.. is the world God placed around me… my family.. my extended family… my community.. They are the piece of the world that God entrusted to me..

What about those who don’t have a community who will surround them? Those with out people to love them and support them?

Well? Then I invite them to Michigan to be a part of my world.

As for gossiping and judging people?

Jesus told us himself…

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Matthew 7:1-3 NIV

I could write a whole book on what this verse means to the world TODAY.. because it isn’t up for interpretation… But God doesn’t intend for me to show the whole world.. He intends for me to show MY piece of the world! He asks me to show them by living it..

So.. while I CAN see when others sin… I can see how that sin hurts others.. but I will not judge them. I will not teach my children to judge them.. but I will teach them to pray for others. How? I will show them how I forgive and pray for those around me… I will show my kids by forgiving them when they disobey and praying for them everyday..

.. and I step in where God asks me to… in my part of the world…

.. but at the same time? I will not judge others for their weaknesses…

So when I am frustrated by social media and the gossiping… and mostly the unforgiveness in our country today… I will go for a ride.. Taking care to steer clear from the edge of the lake… away from the buzzing and the biting…

..but I do pray for forgiveness for the media… and possibly a change of heart for some… because I believe it possible in all those who want to change… and just like the smile my son gives when he comes through a rough spell…

… it will be worth it…

.. but mostly? Mostly I will just focus on the world God has assigned to me… which is extensive… and includes small communities in other countries…

.. and maybe?

Well maybe I will write a few stories about forgiveness too…

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.

The year of the locusts…

IMG_0031 (2)

Once upon a time.. a long, long time ago… the locust took over…

Actually in truth, it was 1875.. and the worst of the locusts were only there for the summer.  So they should have called it the Summer of the locusts. (Just my opinion, of course..)

During this Summer of the locusts.. Farmers watched their fields of mature crops get eaten to the ground by black “clouds” of these locusts. A locust is just a grasshopper, right?!? Such a simple insect.. seemingly harmless on it’s own. But in clouds of 1000’s? Clouds that took five DAYS to fly over towns on the prairie? Five days that they blocked out the sun. In these clouds, the locusts took everything… Crops, leaves from trees, clothes hanging on lines, ax handles, fence posts… everything…

A tiny insect most often no longer than an inch and a half.. brought farmers to their knees.

If the locusts had just eaten all the clothes on the line.. the farmers may not have lost their farms.  If they had just eaten the ax handles, the animals may not have faced starvation.  If they had simply ate the crops.. the farmers may not have had to seek shelter with family elsewhere… But these small insects ate everything in their path.

Some of these farmers did give up. Total loss of faith. And I have to admit I can see why… Knowing your children have no clothes.. no food for tomorrow.. no way to chop wood to cook with… nothing to feed your cattle.. the cattle you were fattening up for market.  With NO WAY to support your family? Yes.. I can easily see why they would pack their families up and move on.

And still… many farmers did not give up.

Maybe their losses weren’t as severe. Maybe it hadn’t been wash day for them.. maybe their sheets, towels and extra clothes were safely tucked inside. Maybe little “Johnny” had remembered to take care of the ax and the rakes… sparing their handles.  Maybe they had already put up a supply of hay before the locusts came. There is no way for me to know for sure if the severity of their losses affected their decision to stay put.. and to have faith…

But have faith they did.  Many farmers picked themselves up and replanted their crops in June. Not knowing if the crops would even grow in the typically dry, hot months… Going on nothing but faith.. they re-planted. And hoped…

They were gifted with unexpected rains that summer and their crops flourished. Their immense faith was rewarded.

  “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.” Joel 2:25 NIV

What a great promise that God gave His faithful followers… Those who showed faith and replanted.. God repaid them their lost crops. Those who lost their faith.. those who packed up their hungry families and moved on? They moved on– empty handed.

How could they have such faith? Faith placed in a God who admits that HE “sent” the great army “among them”? How can faith withstand that statement? There could be many reasons.. but to me? To me there is another promise that stands out in God’s Word.. A promise that echoes with comfort for me..

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also placed ignorance in the human heart, so that no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

Why locusts?

On this beautiful fall day, why am I writing about locusts?

After weeks of not typing a word.. why are my first words about locusts?

It’s simple… this was my Summer of Locusts.

Now it is true I have quite a few grasshoppers in my garden.. but my locusts don’t really jump around and eat tomato plants.

This year has been long months of trials after trials… you know how it goes…. A screw in your brand new car tire.. unexpected expenses.. sickness.. medical mysteries… teenage “stages”… disrupted plans.. squash bug invasions.. a fungus killing off half your garden… delays.. watching a child suffer… and funerals.

As I watch the world around me.. I see that I am not the only one suffering from Locusts. A young family buried their newborn..  A beautiful soul called out for prayers as her father slowly left this world.. My whole family grieved when my uncle was unexpectedly called home.. a beloved sister in law lost both of her parents within months of each other and watching a young nephew suffer.

Oh yes.. we have all had a Summer of Locusts…

And what have we done?

What have I done?

I hate to admit it.. but my Locusts brought me to my knees.  I am the farmer who collapsed to her knees in the dirt. Shocked as I looked out at the destruction left behind. Helpless in that moment.. speechless against the pain.. but not hopeless. I held that hope tightly in my hands.. fearing if I loosened my grasp that I would lose it completely.

As I looked around.. among what remained.. I saw things out of place with the grief.. things out of place with the sadness and stress.. Little things. Little things that show God’s promise to repay our losses. I watched my daughter use her voice.. her gift from God.. to comfort others. I watched people step forward to share stories of how my Uncle touched their lives.  I watched my parents tearfully give their beloved brother into God’s care. I watched with pride as my little brother fought through his grief and sang song after song with me in my Uncle’s hospital room… singing through tears and choked voices. Even through my tears and shock, I could see the Blessings God was repaying.. my book successfully being published.. a letter from our new exchange student.. watching my nieces and nephews display love and comfort to others.. watching them grow into their beautiful souls… and feeling the love and support all around me.

So I pulled myself to my feet.. wiped my tears and began picking up the pieces.  But I still clung to that hope. Holding it tightly in my hands lest it fall apart too..

“When are you going to write again?” my niece asked me one day. And then she asked it again the following day.. and the day after that.  She might as well have been asking me, “When are you going to loosen your grasp on your hope? When are you going to trust it? Plant it in the ground .. and with a little faith.. watch it grow…”

I think I will…

I think I just did…

..and in the end… it will be beautiful…

We got this…

kayak pic

Our annual Family camp is a fun time for everyone … and I would never miss it. Swimming, taking hikes, great food, games, kayaking, water balloon fights.. lots of photographs.. and laughter. Then at night everything slows down with singing and talking around the campfire.

But camp can get a little stressful for some of us. Whether you are a mom of twin babies.. or a parent with cranky kids… or my own child is having an OCD day.. With 19 cousins? We are bound to have at least one set of parents who are over-loaded.

THAT is where the kayaks come in…

We have a lot of kayaks.. the cousins will all set off in large groups to explore the world unknown… explore a hidden cove .. or go around the island.. There are always animals and sites to see…  perfect for adventurous kids…

But sometimes? They are perfect for parents… You see? We put stressed out parents into kayaks and push them out into the lake.

Those stressed out parents always look back once and call out, “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” and a promised, “We won’t be gone long.”

With a laugh, we call back, “Take your time–We got this..” And we prepare ourselves to distract, cuddle and entertain.. And we plan on taking that responsibility until the parents come back.. relaxed and rested..

As a parent of a child with special needs? That time in a kayak is amazing.. Our family always chooses small rustic campgrounds with remote lakes.. Where the kids can kayak easily and safely. Without fear of fast boats.. and small enough we can always see where the kids are at.

So when we launch our kayak onto that lake? It is extremely peaceful. The wind whips away the sounds of the world around you.. as you gracefully slide through the water. As you paddle further and further from camp, that peace seeps in .. and you lose track of all time. The noise (and stresses) from camp disappear .. and all you can see is the lake .. reflecting like a mirror as you drift along.

I imagine that is how heaven feels. That peace that fills you as you drift. Occasionally looking back toward camp… the noise and worries hidden from you… so all you know is the peace…..

At family camp this year, we missed someone. My uncle is pretty sick and was unable to make his annual visit.. He was unable to bring his Arizona tea and small gifts.. He was unable to brighten camp with his laughter and teasing…

As we pray everyday.. every hour.. that God will touch him and heal him if it is in His will … I am preparing myself in case God is calling my uncle home. I can’t imagine not having him come to our family holiday celebrations, my kid’s plays and especially family camp. But I do know that God has a plan.. a plan that is perfect.

I also know that my uncle feels he has unfinished business here. He would be leaving behind a son and a grandson.. but my uncle trusts God to know what is best for him..

It is kind of like that kayak ride… As we put my uncle in the kayak .. and launch him into the water… he is saying to us, “I’ll be right back.. as soon as my body heals.” And I really hope he will..

But if God wants him to keep going? If God is calling my uncle home?

Then.. I don’t want my uncle to worry…

With tears in our eyes … we will call back to him,

“We’ll miss you.. but until we see you again… We got this!”

The morning after…

Image
Laughter in the air…

Yesterday my house was full of family.  It was full of adults laughing and talking.  It was full of kids running and chasing.. and laughing.  In fact, my house was so busy and full.. that at times I couldn’t hear the person standing next to me .. at all.  But the noise didn’t bother me.  Because even though my house was crowded and loud?  It was also full of happiness and love.  Everywhere you look?  You can see that happiness and love shining…  Shining from the eyes of the birthday kids.  Shining from the eyes of the adults as they are visiting.  Shining from the little toddler throwing a balloon to his dad.

Laughter… Happiness… Food… Cake.. Party games… Treasure Hunts… Sledding.. Babies being passed all around…

Heavenly!!!

When the party ended, we all were so content.. and exhausted.. that we crashed on the couch as soon as the food was taken care of.   Leaving the cleaning for later…

This morning, I took my kids to school.  When I returned home, I stepped over the baby toys and headed to the kitchen to do my morning clean up.  I smiled to myself as I pulled baby spoons and bowls from my dishwasher.  I laughed as I threw cups away.  Amused to see the silly names and designs written on the sides.  (We use Solo cups and sharpies at family parties to keep track of our cups… We tend to use silly made up names instead of our own.)  When I sweep the floors, I find lost treat bag treasures and noisy blow outs.  And… I usually find a sticky spot on the floor.. where someone spilled something and did a quick clean up job.

When I was satisfied my kitchen was clean, I headed to start my Monday laundry.  I filled the washer and then grab the clothes from the dryer.. As I fold the baby burp clothes, I find myself smile again.

But I don’t take care of the burp clothes.. I leave them folded on the dryer.. I will put them away tomorrow.  I will put them away right AFTER I pick up the baby toys.  Right after, I organize the toy corner in the living room.  But I will probably put them away before I take down the crib in my bedroom.

Why?

Because it’s the morning after.

The morning after a fun family party is always a little depressing for me.  Or the morning after someone comes to visit.  The morning after your vacation is over.  The morning after a wedding.  The morning after a holiday.  It’s always the same for me.. The morning after is always sad.  My house feels lonely.. and quiet.  There is all this evidence left behind of the lively activities we had.  Toys and chaos left everywhere.  But the only sound is silence.

So that morning after??  I do something that doesn’t involve cleaning up that evidence.  I play music to fill the silence.. and do something else.  Anything that will keep me busy.

Today?

Today I cleaned the chicken coop.

As I chipped away at the frozen … (for polite purposes) “muck”.. I talked to my chickens.  They squawked at me as I worked.  They followed me through the melting snow drifts as I dumped the muck in the compost pile.   And then followed me back again.  When I had burned enough calories that I lost a little of the gloom .. the gloom of that morning after feeling… I took a good look at my chickens.  They were a little skinnier than last fall… Kind of dirty.. and most of them were missing feathers (thanks to the duck with cabin fever).  They have definitely looked better.. and they have definitely looked happier.

Then I realized..

They were having a Morning After too..

You see.. my chickens and ducks have spent the last 8-ish weeks caged up in the sub zero weather.  This morning is the first time the doors and gates have been opened wide for their freedom.  It is the first morning of 40 and sunshine.  For them?  For them.. it is the morning after a very bad winter.  And even though a couple of them were telling me how bad the winter was.. Yes my chickens talk.. Actually they drawl.. in a very southern accent…  While a couple of them were drawling their misery.. the rest were running around enjoying their freedom or basking in that warm (40 degree) sunshine.

I know how they feel.. That morning after a traumatic event.  The morning after a bad winter.  The morning after an illness.  The morning after your special needs child has a bad day (or week).   The morning after your daughter has her tonsils out.. or your son has emergency surgery to put screws in his hips.. or you break your arm.  The morning after you crash your car. Or the morning after a funeral.  I have felt this feeling more than a few times in my life… and I imagine I will be feeling it again in June.. when I put my adopted daughter (my exchange student) on a plane home to Egypt.  That next morning.. Yup.. it will be a hard morning after.

Everyone deals with these Morning After emotions differently.  Some people are like my chickens.  They need to talk through their feelings to anyone who will listen.  Knowing that no one can fix their emotions.. but just needing to be heard.  Others need to be still.. Be still and bask in the sunlight.  Bask in the sunlight of God’s love.. God’s promise that spring will come.. and with it Hope.

I am like that 3rd chicken.  I need to move.  I need to do anything that will keep my hands busy and my mind busy.  Because that morning after?? That morning after my emotions are too strong for me to deal with.  Too strong to breathe through.. And I am missing WAY too many feathers.   So that morning after?  I just breathe.. Breathe and move.  Knowing that as soon as I focus on my Yesterday?  As soon as I do.. I will cry.

Sometimes.. sometimes I can’t move fast enough and I am forced to deal with my emotions when they are still strong.  That’s when I crash..

Then I started thinking..

The morning after Jesus was crucified.. the Bible does not tell us how Mary Magdalene dealt with her trauma.. It does not tell us how she dealt with all the emotions she felt at watching her teacher.. her friend.. hung on a cross.  It does not tell us how she dealt with her sorrow at watching a close friend die.  It does not tell us how she spent that morning after.  But it does tell us what she didn’t do.  She did not go to the tomb where Jesus was laid.

Now I understand that the morning after Jesus died for us on the cross .. it was a Sabbath.  The Jewish custom was to rest on the Sabbath.. So Mary was not allowed to do any work.. she was not allowed to go to the tomb with her oils and spices.  But still I wonder… How would Mary have spent that morning after if it hadn’t been the Sabbath Day? What would she have done?  Would she have gone to the tomb that next morning?  Would she have stayed with her sister?  Stayed and talked through her hurt?  Or would she have been Still?  Would she have been Still and basked in God’s Love for comfort?

We will never know really.

But what we do know?  We know that when Mary Magdalene went to that tomb .. she found the stone rolled away.  She found that tomb empty.  Jesus was alive again.. JUST as God had promised.

So in truth.. Mary went to the tomb and found Hope.  Hope for her future.

When I go to my tomb?  When I deal with the source of my emotions?  I do not expect to find a resurrection of my guests returning.  I do not expect to find a resurrection of my sorrows.  When I go to my tomb and deal with my emotions.. I always find hope.

That same hope that Mary found?

Not exactly.  The hope of seeing my family again soon does not compare to seeing one of God’s promises.  The hope of laughing  with friends again does NOT compare with seeing the Holy Jesus coming back to life after a gruesome death.  The hope of holding a baby again soon .. it doesn’t compare with the promise of going to Heaven.

What about the morning after sadness?  How do I find Hope there?  When hope seems to disappear.. like a cloud blocking out the sun?

Hope is still there.. It is on the other side of your emotions.

  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:4

So those screws in my son’s hips?  They will be beautiful in their time.. God let those screws be needed in my son’s bone FOR a reason.  So my son’s bad week?  It will be beautiful in its time.  Saying good-bye to my Egyptian daughter?  Yes.. that too will be beautiful in its time.  God has a reason He lets all of these things happen…  And when we see those reasons?  I think it WILL be beautiful.  When we see the Beauty behind the reason these “hard” things happen?  That’s when we see the Promise that God gives us.

For me?  For me I see the Hope.  When I have let the waves of emotions wash through me? When I have let go of the sadness of missing family.. when I recover from the let-down after a fun time.. when I have cried enough tears to dull the pain of missing a loved one who has gone to Heaven?  Then I look for the Hope.

If Every thing is beautiful in its time… then that means that something good will come from every hard time.. (and every good time).  There is a reason for everything… so everything carries the God’s promise of Hope..

And once I feel that Hope?

Then I can take care of those burp rags.  Then I can put away the toys and the crib.  And just like those chickens.. Yup.. I can start to grow back my missing feathers.

It’s raining now…

Image
Rain is in the air…

Yesterday, I was all set to walk out the door.  I was showered.  My hair was pretty (i.e. NOT in a ponytail).  I had discarded my jeans for dress clothes.  I crawled into the closet and found both of my black shoes.  And my face was devoid of any and all makeup.  I was ready.  Ready to go to the funeral for the father of a dear sister in law.  I didn’t know her father very well… but I wanted my sister to know that I love her .. and that I am here for her.  And to hug my nieces.. and possibly my brother if he needed one.  With my hand on the door, I called out last minute instructions to my snowbound kiddos.

AND THEN?  Yup.. then my plans changed.  (It happens a lot with kids in High School.)  In the blink of an eye my plans changed from having plenty of time… to NOT going.  Usually I roll with the changes with a deep breath.. But this made me sad.  When I made my poor sounding excuse to my sister in law .. being the great person she is.. totally forgave me without another thought.

I have an amazing family.

But you aren’t thinking about my amazing family.. are you?  You are probably still wondering WHY I would go to a funeral without any makeup.  A function where everyone tries to look their best?  And I was going so informal?  On purpose?  Well.. the answer is simple.

I am a cry-er.

I cry at everything.  I cry when I am overwhelmed.  I cry when I am sad.. when I am angry..  and when I am happy too.  When I watched someone COMPLETELY embarrass themselves for no good reason?  After I can breathe again.. I cry again.  I even cry at Folger’s commercials.  I cry a lot.  I always have.  Ha.. I remember my older brothers rolling their eyes at my tears more than once.  When someone was truly angry, my eyes would tear up.  When my siblings were truly disappointed by someone or something.. tears.  When I was scared for my brother.. when he would try a MacGyver TV stunt .. you know.. to see if MacGyver would really survive?  Yup.. tears again.

After being asked why I cried so much .. by more than one person?  I tried to control it.  I learned that if I bite the corner of my tongue (JUST enough to hurt) and concentrate on the pain?  I could control the non-stop emotional roller coaster.  And I have gotten good at it ..in certain circumstances.  But when I am busy concentrating on NOT crying?  I tune out.. Then I can’t listen to what someone is saying.  I can’t empathize with their situation.  I basically don’t feel anything.

There are times when this doesn’t work.  Funerals are one of them.  Two hundred years ago, when they would hire people to mourn at funerals? Yup.. I would have had a steady income.  I can not go to a funeral and NOT cry.  Not feel the hole left behind.  Father, mother, sibling, relative, friend.. and especially children.  Even when I know that everything happens according to God’s plan?  When I know His plan is perfect?  I still cry. I still feel that hole as if it were my own.  An overwhelming sadness fills me.. and I can’t control it no matter how hard I bite my tongue.  So I learned.. I learned to not wear makeup.

You see?  I am not a pretty cry-er.  My eyes burn.  My throat burns.  I can not talk without great effort.  It gets hard to breathe.  As the tears course gently down my cheeks…. my eyes turn bright red .. and my face turns extremely blotchy.. Yup… I am an ugly cry-er.  The more overwhelming the emotion?  The uglier my red blotchy face gets… and then?  Then my nose starts to run..

So you can see why I would want to learn to control it.

You may think I inherited my ability to feel emotions from my mother.. but you would be wrong.  My mother is a very empathetic person.  She is kindhearted.  She would drop anything to help you out.  But she is very practical with her emotions.  She stays pretty calm.  I’m not saying she doesn’t cry.  She does.  When our house burned?  She was crying.  When her Dad died?  She cried.  When I crashed a car and made it look like a matchbox car that was stepped on?  She cried again.  And you bet.. I was crying too.  That is not to say she didn’t cry more often.. when she was alone.  Being practical with emotions.. that just means you can control when those emotions overwhelm you …to a certain extent.

Nope!  My ability to feel everyone’s emotions.. to become teary eyed at a moment’s notice?  It actually comes from my Dad.  He will probably cringe when he knows I have let his secret out.  Sorry Dad!  But when we would watch sad movies?  It was my Dad and I passing the kleenex box back and forth.  When my Dad was disappointed with me.. we were both crying again.. At the end of the movie.. when the old dog that NO ONE thought would survive the long trip home.. actually makes it back home?  Yup.. I actually need a tissue now just thinking about it.  Now in our defense, movie tears are MUCH more dignified.  We get choked up and our eyes start flooding.. but at least my face doesn’t look like I’ve been in the sun too long.

I was ashamed of my tears for years.  But knowing that my father cried too.  Knowing that he cried at the same things I do?  That the amazing man who I looked up to more than anyone else in the world.. teared up when he felt the emotions of other people.  I started to feel like it was okay.  It made me accept it as part of who I was.  Who I AM!

But still, I tried to control it in public.  Sometimes it left a bad feeling in my heart.  When my friend told me about her troubled heart.. in public?  I would concentrate on getting my emotions back under control.. and then when I felt I had?  I would focus again on my friend.  But I would often miss something important.  So instead of being able to help my friend.. I let my embarrassment over my emotions take over.  When I missed what they were telling me?  When I couldn’t even give an appropriate response to what they needed?  I felt selfish in those moments.. and I felt like crying again.

Then one day, my daughter was telling me she had to recite a verse for a prize at Vacation Bible school that day.  I laughed softly.  I told her the story of the shortest verse in the Bible.  “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.  You see whenever my siblings or I would be required to tell a Bible verse for some reason?  One of us kids would recite that verse.  Not because we couldn’t remember any other verse.  Not because we didn’t know at least a handful of verses off the top of our head.  We told it simply because it was the shortest.  My daughter raised her eyebrow then.. which told me she had NO IDEA why we would have thought that was funny.  But being a curious child, she asked, “Why did Jesus weep?”  I explained to her how Jesus had arrived to his friend’s town after he had died.  In fact, that he had been in a tomb for 4 days.  When He saw that His friend Lazarus had been laid out in death… That Lazarus had been put in a tomb and a rock rolled to cover the entrance… Jesus wept.  Even though He KNEW before He arrived in Bethany, that Lazarus had died so that a miracle could happen.  He knew that this was all part of God’s perfect plan.  Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise again. … and still He cried.  Jesus was so overwhelmed that He cried to release ALL of the emotions crushing his heart.  I explained to my daughter that the Bible goes on to say that the people could all see from His tears that Jesus truly cared about His loved ones.  That the Son of God truly cares what happens to us.. and weeps with us.

But in that moment, I saw something beyond the words in the Bible.  Jesus trusted God.  He followed the Path God set out for Him.  He never questioned God’s perfect Plan.  Jesus knew without the shadow of a doubt that ALL things work together to Glorify God.. but still.. still the sadness of his friends.. the sadness of the hole that had been left behind.. it overwhelmed Jesus and He cried… but it doesn’t say He cried.. The Bible says that Jesus Wept… Weeping makes me picture enough tears to stain His eyes and cheeks red.. Weeping makes me think His chest burned with the emotion that possibly made it hard for Him to breathe.  Weeping doesn’t sound like “pretty” crying.

In that moment, I saw something else.  My emotions didn’t mean that I didn’t have Faith in God’s Plans.  My crying didn’t say to God that I didn’t Trust that His ways were perfect.  My tears weren’t a sign that my heart was weak.  If Jesus can weep … not because He lacked Faith ..but BECAUSE His heart overflowed with love for His friend?  Then my ability to feel the emotions of others.. it meant that my heart overflows with love.. right?  It means that my heart is.. in fact… strong.

What I had seen as my weakness?  It was actually my Super Power.

A Super Power that I had inherited from my Heavenly Father.  A Super Power that I share with my earthly Father.  I have always believed that God gives everyone a super power and a weakness.  The super power that they are supposed to use to make the world a better place.. and to Glorify God’s name.  The weakness is to keep us humble.. Humble and understanding of our fellow man.  I had always thought crying was MY weakness.. but I was wrong.

So now when I feel the sadness of a friend?  I let the tears fall.  When I hear the disappointment in my daughter’s voice?  I hug her and cry with her.  And when I go to a Funeral .. or even a Wedding?  I don’t wear makeup.  There is really no point.. I know the tears will just ruin it.  I would rather look blotchy.. then look like a blotchy raccoon (..when all my mascara runs).

And it feels good to let the tears fall.

But there are days when my emotions are raw.  Days.. or weeks.. when I am so overwhelmed with worries in my own life that my emotions surface too often.  Times when it feels like my heart is bruised.  Times when even tears can’t cleanse the burning in my chest.  On these days?  I wear earplugs.  Well .. headphones actually.. headphones with soothing.. distracting.. much loved music.  On the day I went to the grocery store.. to find my daughter a snack that fit into her Gluten free/Dairy free/Corn free diet?  I was too raw.  I was overcome with guilt that it was the food I was feeding my kids that was causing all their troubles.  All their health issues, their mood disorders… That guilt still burned in my heart.  So I wore my headphones.

Why would I wear headphones to the store?  What could be overwhelming?

Have you ever seen the mother in aisle 7 whose 3 year old is throwing ANOTHER temper tantrum?  The one who looks like she wants to cry?  I do.  Have you ever seen the beautiful grandma in the card aisle?  The one who can barely walk but wants to pick out the perfect card for her daughter? The one who openly admits it may be her last year to do so?  I have.  Have you ever seen the young couple .. just back from their honeymoon.. who came to pick out towels together?  The one’s with love and hope shining from their eyes? I have.  Have you ever seen the person standing in the garden section?  The one picking out the perfect plant to take to a funeral?  The person who would rather be anywhere else.. but wants to be strong for the people left behind?  I have.  I see all of them.  There are days that I leave the grocery store and cry in my car… from all the emotions I saw.. All the emotions I felt for these people.  I flash smiles… send up quiet prayers… and reach frostings that are on the top shelf.

If I am already raw?  These extra emotions almost cripple me… and then I weep.

But I AM becoming more comfortable with my Super Power.  I stay in tune more.. Which means I listen better, I laugh more… I cry more… AND I feel less selfish.  I help more people because I can hear what they need.  I get much more from the world around me.. because I am proud of who I am.. of who I take after.

Just recently, someone asked me if I get my “tears” from my mother… I shook my head and smiled.  No, I get them from my Father.

It takes a village…

ImageEven in a tight knit, loving family, it still takes a village to raise a child. Actually, I don’t really agree with that statement. A child doesn’t NEED a village to raise her, but rather the village (or community) a child is raised in, impacts her life in a small or big way as she grows.

My “village” growing up, was large. I had a large family, I had a couple really good friends, a loving church family… and the rest of a large community. Part of this community were some amazing Aunts. I grew up with a lot of aunts. A few of these aunts lived far away but still impacted my life with their personalities when I saw them. But I had a few aunts that lived very close to me and were part of my everyday life.

My Aunt Carla is a wonderful lady and loved to dote on me. Being blessed with 6 handsome boys, she loved to brush my hair and tell me how beautiful I was. She also has a great sense of humor. She helped me develop a good sense of self.. And while I do believe she is biased when it comes to me.. it always felt good to be fussed over.

My Aunt Gerry lives a few hours away, but she always made sure she kept in touch with us. And the fun part?  She would take a couple of us cousins home with her, for a couple weeks during the summer. Not only did her sweet personality and her strong faith in God have an impact on my life, but I also saw the simple joy she got out of doing something for someone else. This is very much a part of who I am.

My Aunt Ann was my example of a working mom.. Her schedule was always busy AND yet she still took time to invite me over to stay with my cousin Mandy. I have to admit that while I saw how she balanced work, home and marriage.. the thing I remember the most was that for a vertically challenged lady, she could hold her own against my tall uncle!! Loving, fun, smart and brave.. I couldn’t have asked for a better aunt.

But the Aunt that had the most impact on me, was my Aunt Dianne. My Aunt Dianne gave me my first job.. I helped her make crafts for her craft shows.. She put up with my slow but meticulous work. Praised me for a job well done.. And we were together for hours. While we worked we would talk.. And laugh. Man could my Aunt Dianne laugh. She laughed all the time. It was the most glorious sound. It made the world seem like such a secure place when someone could laugh like that. And when you are flying along on a scary roller coaster, hanging upside down with your feet danging.. into the sky (yikes!) … that laugh made you feel so much safer.  Because she wouldn’t laugh if you were ACTUALLY in danger (would she??).  My aunt Dianne forced me to face my fears (yes roller coasters), made me tell her what was bothering me (I was a teen.. a lot bothered me), asked me what I thought about everything, read the books I was reading and taught me to laugh at myself.

Now that I am all “grown up”, I find myself wondering if I will have that much of an impact on any one of my nieces or nephews.. But I also realize how much I owe to these wonderful ladies.  You may think that most of my upbringing comes from my parents and they should get the credit.  And you would be right.  My parents were amazing!!  They raised me to be confident, independent and loving.  Yet I owe a lot to my village of Aunts.   They helped me develop my “plan” on how much I wanted to impact this world we live in.

Three of these amazing ladies will possibly read this post and know that I appreciate each and every one of them. But my Aunt Dianne got sick and passed away a few years back..  I was so heart broken about how much I was going to miss her… that I never actually told her how much she meant to me. She probably knew.. but I so wish that I could be sure that she knew how much our long talks meant to me.

So this year I plan on telling every person who impacts my life how much I appreciate them. That way I will never have to wonder if they knew. And even though I still miss my Aunt Dianne every day, I have no fear that when I walk through the pearly gates of Heaven, that one of the first sounds I will hear is that Glorious laugh.