Tag Archives: family

Cherished messes..

I am sitting here this morning.. drinking my coffee out of my favorite cup.. and looking fondly at the messes I need to clean up this morning.

I know.. I know..

I sound crazy..

No one likes messes..

This weekend I had a few of my favorite kids over to my house.. (ok.. more than a few).. and we had some chaotic organized fun..

Organized.. because there was a plan (in there somewhere)…

Chaotic.. because… well? .. because it's life … and well? …they are kids..

We had game time, swimming at midnight, shaving cream painting, sundaes after dark, bonfires.. beautiful makeovers… movies until dawn..

.. and so much laughter..

For me?

I like to sit back and picture the room full of kids.. full of laughter.. full of memories.. full of chaos… so I can take a picture with my mind.. before I clean up the mess…

Those cherished memories stick with me long past the popcorn under the couch .. or the crayon marks on the table. Long past the grass in the pool or the loads of laundry..

And these little faces grow faster than I like..

Cherish your messes today.. and hug your loved ones..

Campfire stories..

When I was a little girl, I always had stories roaming around my head.

While I was picking flowers.. or doing chores.. or laying in bed.. the stories were there .. flitting in and out like snippets of a movie.

Ha.. many times I would get SO lost in the stories I was creating.. that I would pause in my chores .. and JUST enjoy the storyline I had come up with.

Yes… I probably was frozen in place, still washing the same cup.. with a dopey grin on my face…

((…you can imagine how thrilled my mother was with me.. most of the time….))

Then my two youngest brothers were born… the perfect audience for story snippets .. mwahahahahaha

Sitting out under the trees, I could weave grand adventures for the teenage mutant ninja turtles.. and Star Wars characters. And they would listen enthralled.. and then act them out.

Ok.. ok.. not the best characters for a teenage girl who wanted to be creative and adventurous.. but I honestly didn't mind.

Why?

Well?!? .. probably because for the first time, I was able to let those story snippets out of my brain and into the air. And 2 little faces enjoyed them as much as I did.

It felt amazing…

Years later I am still telling stories to little faces. First to my own kids.. and then to my nieces and nephews.

In fact… if we have a family campfire? I usually have a child or 2 on my lap (of varying shapes and sizes) asking for a story.. or 2 .. or 3..

Sometimes I tell stories of my kids when they were little.. (..especially stories of my daughter and her imaginary friends..)..

…sometimes I tell stories with "not so hidden" messages in them.. little pigs getting lost in the forest.. or trains that keep on trying..

… sometimes stories just for fun… stories about Curly (the smallest pig of 9 brothers.. who never gets enough to eat.. and is always looking for food.. )…

… lately I have been getting requests for stories that put the kids on my lap into harm's way.. so that they can be saved… (..bears, wolves… little old ladies who don't live in "gluten free" homes .. (shudders)..)..

But whatever the storyline, I love to see the upturned faces hanging on to my every word.. waiting to see what will happen next..

..begging for another one..

And it makes my heart happy when they tell me stories in return..

Life is so good..

Too many hats…

Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once. 

Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me. 

But he only yelled at me once. 

It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”

Wow did that hurt… 

At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”

Well??  I see what my dad was talking about …now…

I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself.. 

But… 

I get really tired. 

These days, I call these interests my “hats”.. 

There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies… 

I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me. 

My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory) 

The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this.. 

House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on.. 

Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..

I could go on and on.. 

And I realized my dad was right.. 

I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre. 

So this LAST year? 

I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time.. 

But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided .. 

So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard  (because I love ALL the jobs I do).. 

…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)

I think I need to finally take my dad’s advice. 

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!”