Tag Archives: struggles

The Storyteller…

Time Capsule … 2011?

Every family has a storyteller.

In my husband’s family.. that person was Grandpa Bennett.

Stories being told of Uncle Loren and Uncle Erwin… two souls that I never met… But the memories would bring out a fond chuckle from Grandpa..

… and a smile from my husband.

Some of my favorite stories were ones he told of my sweet mother-in-law.

How .. as a child… she had prayed for each chicken before he “harvested” them. He would shake his head at the memory.. and joke that they never raised chickens after that.

But more than the stories he told … I loved to see the happiness in his expression.

The joy that shone from his face…

… it took your breath away.

Grandpa

Grandpa Bennett turned 98 this last March.

98 years on this earth.

Can you imagine the changes he witnessed in this world from 1922 .. until 2020? It is no wonder he had so many stories to tell.

World Wars…

Great Depressions…

Computers..

Not all of it was good… it couldn’t have been..

… yet every story I remember him telling? He would tell with a happy chuckle.

…and every person he talked to? He greeted with a smile.

This week, Grandpa Bennett lost the fight with his weak heart… and he went to be with His Lord.

He will be missed by so many.

…by so many…

The next time our family can gather..?

He won’t be sitting at the kitchen table.. He won’t greet everyone by name as we arrive..

… but he will be there.

He will be there in our hearts. Alive in the stories he told us of his childhood… and beyond…

And he will be there alive in his children and all of his grandchildren.

Because the love that Grandpa gave freely grows in his loved ones still.

And when we listen carefully?

We can still hear that joyful laugh!

Thank you Grandpa Bennett for sharing your stories with us…

… and your joy ….

.. and thank you for raising such an amazing daughter.. so that I could have an amazing second mom.

May we all follow in your footsteps…

The world I choose to live in…

The world I choose to live in? Is very big…

.. and full of love…

Over the last six years, our family has chosen to bring young people from around the world into our home, into our lives .. and into our hearts.

.. and I have loved every minute of it.

I started hosting exchange students so that I could share the country that I love with the rest of the world…

… what I got?

These beautiful souls… they gave me the world.

A big beautiful world.

But ever since January?

The world has seemed a little smaller. We have been watching as the Corona virus has edged closer.. covering distances that look so far away on the map.

Edged closer to us in the USA..

… but scary for us… closer to my adopted exchange children scattered around the globe…

My current exchange student watched as it affected her country… the beautiful Thailand.

… we watched how it affected the countries on the other side of the world, while we continued to live life … trying to enjoy every moment…

As countries started to go into lockdown, we watched Italy where one of our girl’s family lives.

.. along with the UK where she was at school. Checking in when she was trying to get back home to Italy after the flights were getting cancelled.

At the same time watching Egypt… checking in with my sweet Egyptian girl when I hadn’t heard from her in a while.

.. and South Korea… Relieved that their numbers weren’t as severe, even being close to China…

.. and Turkey… talking with my girl there as she needed to leave her college and return to her hometown. To pray as she took a long bus ride with possible sick people….

… then as it got closer to our part of the world.. I added Brazil to the countries we watched…

… and Columbia… the daughter that just went home…

… And we watched Liberia where my sister was working…

… Not to mention ALL of the pieces of my heart that live in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Belgium…

We watched as this virus shut down each state in the US… one by one. As the sick count grew.. and the deaths started to rise…

…and I could go on…

I have family around the world now…

… and a love for people and places around the world…

… a love for food from around the world….

But this virus has taught me something else…

As I watched all of my daughters talk about being quarantined.. a few saying that they can’t even STEP outside. They can’t go to the store.. or work..

All of them saying they need to stay at home.

I can see so much clearer how similar we ALL are..

We all are a little worried about the virus…

…we are ALL worried about each other….

We ALL miss our family a little bit more when we can’t see each other….

…and….

Ha… and we are all very bored and can’t wait for it to be done.

In this world that I choose to live in?

It is so easy to see how we are all in this TOGETHER…

…together in love and spirit… even if we are separated by miles and oceans…

And even though my heart hurts a little bit more today… having the pieces of my heart divided all around this big beautiful world… I am so thankful for this world that I choose to live in.

Today as I pray for my family here in my house.. my family here in Michigan.. my family around the world…. I pray they stay healthy… but I also pray that they have joy and laughter in their lives while they are quarantined…

…. and a healthy dose of patience with the world… as we ALL are trying to figure out the next step…

.. a whole new world for all of us!!!

Love from my family to yours!!!

The foot of the cross..

Yesterday was Good Friday…

But…?

… but on Facebook it was a strong complaint day.

As I read through the negative reactions to the Governor’s choices and the strong opinions of my fellow man…

… I began to wonder if I was the strange one?

You see?

Good Friday is a “grounding” day for me.

When we are born again in His love? We are urged to go forward and “sin no more”.

But then.. we are reminded that “all HAVE sinned”..

… and that all will sin again…

But yet on a day 1987 (ish) years ago? We are told that God sent His Son to die for those sins.

He died for my sins… from the free choice He gave me…

Every day of the year, I try to go forth and shower God’s love to those around me. Every day I try to do God’s work.

Every day.. I try to connect with God and listen for the sound of His voice.

But on Good Friday?

I sit at the foot of the cross…

An empty cross.. because Jesus isn’t still hanging there. He is alive and risen…

But when I sit at the foot of that cross?

I can check in with myself. I can stare at the shell of my forgiven sins and ask myself if I am doing the best I can…

Am I listening to God’s voice? Am I going where He asks me to? … and not where I want to be sent?

Am I turning away from all temptations? Even the little innocent ones? Am I being strong when I want to relax my guard?

Am I turning to God when I need help? Am I asking Him for His strength instead of powering through on my own weak self?

Or am I telling myself that I need not trouble Him with prayer.. when it is just for me?

Am I kidding myself that I don’t need forgiveness for prideful thoughts.. because they don’t really hurt anyone?

.. no one except me…

Am I making sure that my relationship with God comes first? Then my work in the name of God comes second?

As I sat at the foot of the cross yesterday… I ignored the specks of the world… and I saw the planks in my own eyes…

… but then?

Then I hear Jesus’s words echo through the ages … “Forgive them. For they know not what they do.”

… He forgives me for every sin I added to His cross.

So as I rise from the foot of the cross.. I am ready to celebrate the new life He has given me..

…ready to celebrate the joy and hope from finding the tomb empty…

Empty chairs…

This theatre season, my cast worked through enormous obstacles to perform Les Miserables.

And then .. on opening night?

Covid-19 starting shutting down all assembling of groups.

So 10 weeks of hard work.. and the kids were only allowed to perform for their families. The cast was heartbroken… but they wiped their tears… and performed an awe-inspiring opening night.

I could NOT have been more proud.

For me?

This experience is a little surreal…

Surreal in the sense that everything was so different from where we were 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, I was reminding the kids to hang up their costumes and to clean up their own messes.. and to turn in tee shirt money.

And today… I am JUST praying that each of my cast members stays safe and healthy..

And alive…

But it is also surreal for me in the sense… that ALL of my life I have been studying Plagues and epidemics .. and pandemics. The Black Death.. the Spanish flu (that started in The US)… siege sicknesses, the viruses that wiped out the Natives, etc..

Not so much for the illnesses or the deaths… because death and suffering saddens me…

…but how those illnesses.. and the fear… and the chaos affected the people. And how those effects changed the course of history.

How poor people could suddenly own land…

…How our children still sing “Ring around the rosies”.. to ward off evil spirits…

And here we are… smack in the middle of what WILL BECOME history. Someday, kids will be studying about the Covid-19 pandemic of 2019.. and wonder how the “population coped with the terror” and the isolation..

I wonder if the history books will tell how we had a shortage of toilet paper… and no shortage of the conspiracy theories?

Or will the future history books say that the “population” learned from the history books of the past? Will the history books state how we all chose to obey isolation and quarantined ourselves at home?

Will the history books say how we banded together to give each other hope for a future?

Because we WILL have a future.

Even the worst plagues… the survivors dusted off their hats.. picked up the pieces of their lives.. and made a future for themselves.

And little by little?

We learned from them. From the survivors. We learned to wash our hands. We learned to quarantine ourselves if we have been exposed. We learned not to panic.. and not to take the virus to the next town in our panic.

We HAVE so much knowledge at our fingertips THANKS to the records and observations kept of those pandemics in history.

Because we have learned from our history? We find ourselves in quarantine BEFORE it gets too bad. We find ourselves bored and creating funny memes about isolation “cabin fever”.. while we wait for the virus to run it’s course.

But … we will ALSO find ourselves with a better future.

A future that MAY hold graduations later in the summer. A future with delayed vacations.. delayed celebrations ..

A future with strange new school routines.

A future that has changed us all in small ways…

For me? I’m praying that my future has our cast performing Les Miserables when the crisis is over.

And I’m praying that when we hear Marius sing about empty chairs and empty tables… that there are no empty chairs in our community..

I’m praying there are no empty chairs in our cast…

And I’m definitely praying that we did our part enough.. that I won’t have ANY empty chairs in my family.

But even if we never hear our cast sing a song rejoicing in “one day more”… ?

I’m happy that our nation and our schools gave them their best chance at being able to sing another day.

Stay safe everyone! And God be with you!

Clouds..

I am fascinated by sunrises and sunsets… as are a lot of people. I take pictures of them frequently.. trying to capture their beauty on my phone.

Trying…

I never quite succeed.

But over the years I have found that the most beautiful light displays.. are (usually) the ones with clouds.

I know .. I know..

Cloudy days usually represent .. rainy days.. and gloom.. and sadness…

..but…

Without clouds.. would we see our sunny days quite so clearly?

Without hard times and struggles.. would be see our Blessings as beautifully?

Or would be just learn to take them for granted..

Would sunrises with no clouds.. become so mundane … that we forget to wake early just to watch with wonder?

Hmmm..

A life without clouds.. without tears.. without strife or hard times sounds inviting…

But for me?

The morning after a 3 day migraine.. the morning after helping my son through a long ordeal… the morning after dealing with conflict…

I am filled with hope for the future.. conviction that I will make the most of every moment…

.. and the sunrise never looked so bright.

So I will take my sunrises with clouds.. or without…

… and I’ll keep trying to capture their beauty on my cell phone …

While we’re here..

When I was a kid, trick or treating had some crazy traditions.

One neighbor made caramel apples for us.. but we had to come in for a visit. (Yes.. our mom was with us..)

Another stop gave full candy bars… but we had to tell a joke.

And yet another stop we had to tell a Bible verse.

Now after years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible school.. I knew a lot of verses.. but one that I loved to recite?

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

I know it doesn’t sound amusing.. but for a kid? Finding the shortest Bible verse seemed like a challenge…

…and…?

I got the same big treat as my siblings who recites longer verses…

But as I grew up?

That verse came to mean a lot to my heart.

You see?

My superpower is feeling other people’s emotions…

…and well?

I cry.

…I cry a lot…

For most of my childhood and teenage years? This embarrassed me … and I fought to control those tears.

But this verse? Jesus wept. It echoed through my mind every time I teared up. I mean? If it was ok for Jesus… a grown man.. to cry in public because He was sad? If it was acceptable for the Son of God to weep openly… even though he knew that God had everything under control? Even though He KNEW that everything would work together and be beautiful … in its time?

If it was ok for Jesus to weep … even though He hadn’t lost faith in God?

Then maybe.. just maybe…?

It was OK for me to cry when I was overwhelmed.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to speak at her church on Mother’s Day (..ha.. I know.. it was more than a few weeks…) about my experience in parenting. How parenting a strong willed, independent sassy daughter and a son with autism (and a side of mood disorders) changed my life.

My first response was… I can’t do that… I’ll cry… in front of a whole congregation of people…

… just like Jesus did…

Then my second response… what would I talk about? How do you take 21 years of trials… errors… tears… laughter… and love… and condense it into 20 minutes?

The day I was to speak at the church was the day before my son was scheduled to start “college”. The day before we were to move my son into a dorm and he was to begin his road to independence.

Sooo… it seemed fitting to talk about how we had moved on from each disappointment… toward hope and a future. How we had taken each path we were on and looked for some good that we could do while we were there.

So I based my message on my other favorite verse…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In front of this church congregation… I talked about how I had great plans for my life… plans to change the world… and how those plans did not turn out the way I had thought they would.

In fact?

My life was nothing how I planned.

I love my life… but it is not the life I had planned for myself.

Parenting is always a challenge.. whether it is a sassy, independent, strong willed daughter…. or a son with anxiety, autism and a mood disorder.

And… well?

I had both.

Every time that my life’s path took a wide turn and took me away from the plans I had made for me and my small family? I would remind myself of this verse.. that God has a plan for me..

.. promising me hope and a future…

So I had accepted each set of changes…

..but first?

First… I had cried.

Tears to grieve for the death of the plans I had made. I cried out all the frustrations from knowing that I had to change yet again…

and then?

Then I had wiped my tears and looked around… and I’d say to myself.. “While we are here, what good can we do?”

While we are in this new place.. with new plans… what good can we do..?

And yes… I cried…

The day after Mother’s Day?

The day after I spoke about hope and a future?

We took our son to his college. We followed the plans he had made for himself.

The first day of his bright new future…

And….

He didn’t make it.

Four years of planning, and in the matter of 24 hours?

All of our plans for the next year changed.

My son and I…. ?

… we wept….

We wept for our broke dreams… his dreams of going to college and staying in a dorm…. my dreams of seeing him independent … and my dreams of being free to start a career.

We wept.

Not knowing which way to go… and having to explore different paths…? We both felt a little lost…

…but we wiped our tears… and said… while we are here what good can we do?

Over and over this summer? Our paths have changed…

Over and over this summer? We have cried…

But today?

Today… as I feel the sunshine on my face? Today as I see some confidence seep back into my son’s face?

I am reminded once again that God has promised my son a hope and a future…

I am reminded that God has promised ME a hope and a future…

He didn’t promise me the future that I dreamed up for myself… but He promised me it would prosper and not harm me…

Sooo….

Let me dry my tears one more time….

…and see what good we can do….

While we are here…..

…still warm…

Coffee in hand, I headed to my couch this morning.

The sun shone through the window and illuminated my favorite spot.

The pillow was still crinkled. The blanket was still rumpled.

In fact, it looked as if someone just got up from this spot.

It looked like it was still warm.

Instead of sitting on the couch? I sank onto the coffee table.

Too often in our lives… we take fore granted the people that sit on our couches. We expect to see our loved ones sitting in their favorite places.. forever..

.. because they are always there…

Earlier this week? A man in our community died suddenly.

One minute? He was where he always was. Running his boys to practices, helping out in the community where he was needed, calling his wife…

.. he was where he always was..

.. and now?

Now there is an empty couch cushion that is still crumpled. Like he just got up for a moment and walked from the room..

.. like he would be right back.

His spot in this world still warm.

For awhile that spot is going to feel so empty for his kids.. for his wife…

And not just the spot on the couch.

There will be an empty place in the bleachers.. an empty place in the church pew.. and empty place in the car for road trips.

.. so many empty spaces…

But the truth is?

This Dad’s presence was so strong in his family..

.. so strong in his community…

He left his presence so strong.. that those places are still warm.

And they will stay warm.

His time here was shorter than he would have wished. But he made good use of that time.

Once the pain and shock has worn off?

Once the grief starts to lessen .. a little?

We realize those empty places .. are not really empty at all. The spirit of our loved ones stay with us and occupy those seats still.

And if we keep the memories of their spirit alive?

Then the spaces will still be warm..

Heroes

Some people look at my son .. and see a disability.

They look at his face and his mannerisms.. and they see Autism Spectrum disorder!

When I look at my son?

I see a strong boy. I see love, compassion and a love for our world.

When I look at my son? I see my hero.

Here is a human being that has been dealing with extreme medical issues since he was 6 weeks old.

A boy that had to have casts to hold soft bones in place. Screws to hold soft joints in place. Medicine to allow stiff joints to move.

Here is a child who learned to read labels to avoid 30 of his favorite foods.. because he wanted to walk without pain.

Here is a young adult who is enduring countless treatments to heal a painful skin condition.

Here is a boy who has always been in pain.

And yet?

…yet he greets people with a smile. He never mentions his pain. He will walk on painful feet to cook for his sick mom. He sees beauty and art all around him…

.. and he sees his future as bright and exciting…

He is in constant pain…

And he sees his future as bright and exciting…

When I look at my son?

I see my hero!

And when I grow up? I hope to be just like him.

Good bye 2018..

This year..?

This year had its fair share of sorrows.

Well .. more than its fair share really..

Hard decisions… overly full schedules.. sick family members… missing family members … hospital stays… guardianship paperwork… disappointments… extra expenses… broken appliances…

…family members who won’t move into 2019 with us…

… and I didn’t quite finish writing the sequel in my book series like I promised myself.

To many people my year would look like a disaster.

But there were also moments that shined brightly. Laughing with my kids… watching my daughter shine on stage … watching my son gain confidence.. dancing in the waves at sunset… directing 2 great casts to showcase their talents.. a fabulous family vacation or 2… finished projects.. watching my nieces and nephews grow into amazing souls..

Our moments are NOT confined to the years that they occurred in..

I will still miss loved ones tomorrow.. that doesn’t stop today.. with the end of 2018..

We will still be figuring out my son’s future plans tomorrow .. that won’t be confined to this year..

My unfinished book.. will still be waiting to be finished in 2019…

Soo?

…if our moments aren’t confined to the year.. why should the year be defined by them?

The moments in 2018 weren’t completely bad. I got to have one last sweet hug from our Auntie.. I sat and talked to a wonderful man for a long time.. not knowing it would be the last time I talked to him. But it was beautiful.

I could go on and on..

My 2018 won’t be defined by the good and the bad … the easy and the hard… the wonderful people who lifted me up .. the people I helped in return.. the finished and the unfinished..

The end of 2018.

The end of the year is just a moment in time for us to pause and take stock of our lives…

A moment to decide if you like where you are headed.. a moment to decide if you need to adjust your direction before we take that next step..

Then we step into 2019.. and just keep moving forward..

…storms in life..

img_2512Sometimes after a storm, I walk through my yard just to see what blew in. My favorite finds are nests. I find them fascinating!

So intricate.. so beautiful…

.. but when there are eggshells still in the nests.. I remember that what I find fascinating? It’s what’s left of a creature’s home.

This summer I found many nests blown down.. it was hot and dry.. and very windy here in Central Michigan..

.. but I also made a different find!! I found a nest in my Locust tree. High above my head.. on a solid branch.. a solid built nest. It wasn’t as delicate as some of the beautiful nests I had found .. and definitely NOT as pretty..

… and on the backside I found some creepy critters..

.. but it withstood storm after storm… In fact, I found myself checking in with it every day. Well.. at least until my life got busy again..

This morning, I sat and watch news footage of the hurricane destruction in Florida.

So sad.

Putting my phone away… I walked out to feed my chickens, and once again checked in on my nest.

As the wind whipped around me.. I looked up into that tree.. with its branches bending dramatically…

.. and in the middle of the storm.. this nest still held firm.

The tree has fewer leaves now.. and the ones remaining have changed colors.. the feathers have blown away.. and the sunlight isn’t as bright..

..but this nest is still there…

Most of us don’t experience storms like Hurricane Michael.. or Florence.. we don’t see storm surges and wind speeds over 100 mph… we don’t see our houses blown down ..  homes destroyed…

…but we all experience storms in life…

Parenting itself is a storm at times..

.. then add in special needs storms.. a new diagnosis… health issues.. emergency surgeries.. medicine changes.. family emergencies… conflicts in our world.. death of a loved one.. financial strain…

..yes…

…we all have storms..

I have had storms…

…many… many storms..

Today? As I stood there in the wind.. I thought about my nest…

.. my home.. my life…

Some people think that our nests are in a specific location.. some people think our homes need to be beautiful.. most people think our lives shouldn’t have creepy critters in them…

My nest isn’t a place … I have moved too many times…

My home isn’t perfectly beautiful.. we are too busy living life in it…

.. and the people in my life aren’t perfect .. but neither am I..

… but when a storm blows through my life? Will the life that I have built withstand the winds?

Or will I be blown out of that tree.. and into God’s lawn?

.. Will God pick my life up out of debris? Pick off a creepy critter… or two? Will God have to put me back in my tree? Will He move me to a safer tree? Will He put me right back into the storm?

I have fallen in storms…

I have broken down in tears…

I have asked God to put me a different tree…

I have asked Him to take away my storms…

… but I have weathered a lot of storms firmly rooted to my branch…

.. I have come through storms looking for rainbows on the other side…

.. I have formed bonds inside those storms…

… and found happiness.

I will always continue to look for ways to improve my life and make it more storm proof. … But I like the nest I have built…

So today..??

Today.. as the trees bend and twist in the wind… take a look at your nest and consider…

…how will you withstand the storm?