I read an article last night about yet another prominent Christian woman ending her marriage after 25 years. This woman has a world renown ministry. She writes books and speaks about marriage, family and home. And yes, there was infidelity in their marriage. No judgment toward her is intended at all — it’s just that the news is not only shocking, it is really sad. So as I sit here and look at this picture of Jon and me on our wedding day, and try to remember those two young people, I am overwhelmed with emotion. We were so young! We had no idea what love or life was about. I had just turned 18, and Jon 20. What were we thinking? And what were our parents thinking? My mom and dad certainly knew me well enough to know I wasn’t prepared to “adult” and run a household. Jon had always been an “old soul” — mature beyond his years. And I know that was what I saw in him (and was banking on). I remember a sense of panic when I heard the music start to play in the sanctuary, and my bridesmaids began their trek down the aisle. Seriously? Isn’t anyone going to stop me from doing this? But then I looked down that aisle and saw tears running down the cheeks of the man soon to be mine, and my heart calmed (we’ve taken some heat about that over the years…. yep, he was already crying on his wedding day). But here we are 43 years later. How does that even happen? And how do two kids hold it together for that long? To be honest, I’m not sure. Like everyone else, we’ve had our ups and downs. Seasons of great love and seasons of, well, tolerance). There is a famous quote, ‘never fall out of love at that same time’. So much truth in that. We rode out the seasons of “lukewarm” until they sizzled again. There were times I loved Jon greatly, and times I would look at him, and think ‘who are you? and what are you doing in my house?’. Years ago, I read the book, “The Myth of the Greener Grass”. Also truth. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It is the same grass with the same crabgrass. We’ve stayed on our side of the fence, tending to our weeds, and nurturing our blooms. We were determined to get through any muck. So here we are, over 40 years later… a bit muddy, but still in love, and on our side of the fence. Neither of us has ever mentioned the D word. Divorce was never an option. A friend recently said, ‘we’ve hit a rough patch, but we keep soldiering on, right?’ Yes. That’s right. You keep your guard up and soldier on. But not in a bad, trudging way. Yes, you are in a war — with the world and our culture. Yes! Fight! But the fight isn’t WITH your spouse — it is FOR your spouse. Fight for your marriage! Keep your guard up! Watch over your shoulder! Don’t let anyone or anything come between you. Always always always depend on your faith and trust in God — He’s on your side. He’s fighting with you. Love your wife. Respect your husband. Jon wants the best for me. I want the best for him. And that’s why we’re still pulling weeds and planting flowers, tending to our garden on THIS side of the fence.
I’ve been meeting with a group of women from my church over the past several months as part of a Women’s Leadership Team. What does the woman of 2016 want? What does she need? What are we leading women to? What are we leading women in? Those are the questions we have been pondering.
And can we, this small group of seven women, have any impact in their lives? Can we block out some of the worldly noise competing for their attention?
Can we be women of influence?
In the Bible, the book of Titus teaches us that the “older” women are to teach the younger women. Does older only refer to age? Who is the older woman?
Marriage. Motherhood. Death. Grief. Divorce.
All those circumstances lend to a more experienced woman (and the gal we tend to think of as older and wiser). But what about…
College. Career. Depression. Singleness. Abuse.
All those life situations (and countless more) lend to more experience as well. And if a woman has walked down one of those roads, turned to God, and gained wisdom, isn’t she an “older” one?
After a few weeks of discussion, our little group doesn’t think women want (or need) another church program. They don’t need someone to teach them how to knit a pair of socks or make an apple pie. They want someone to give them a peek at what might be around the next corner. And maybe offer a few words of encouragement or instruction.
She wants to tell her story.
She wants someone to listen, to hear. She wants to know she matters.
Women seek love and acceptance. I pray to God they find both in our midst. They also need guidance and godly wisdom from women who have gone before them.
“How are you? I’m fine” just doesn’t cut it anymore. I am not fine. You are not fine. We are NOT fine. We have worries and problems. Big problems. And we need help. Just some basic, fundamental help.
As this group of women’s leadership meets weekly, it is causing me to look around and “see” other women. I mean really see them. Do I know her name? Is she married? Does she have any children? Does she work outside her home? If so, where?
And those questions just barely scratch the surface of this woman created by God.
She is part of my church family. The Bible says we are part of the same body. Shouldn’t I know if she is concerned about her cancer returning? Or worried about her prodigal child? Abused? Lonely? Afraid of losing her job — or her husband?
Shouldn’t she know she matters — to me? to us? To God?
Who’s going to tell her, if we don’t? We’ve been in her shoes. We know. We know. Shame on us if we don’t help carry her baggage.
Most of us, in the church, are the older woman. We can look around and see someone walking the same road on which we just left footprints. Let’s reach out and give her our hand.
“How are you?”
“No, really, I’ve got some time, tell me about your week…”
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25
I cannot even begin to tell you the meaning behind the title of this post.
Well, let’s see…
It is the last comment of a group facebook message between my daughters and me. It is actually the culmination of 3 different conversations we had going on, at the same time, during that particular post. The bantering went on for several hours as the girls jumped on and off facebook to add their comments. So, no, I cannot explain exactly what it means. Because it wouldn’t be funny. Now. You just had to be there. One daughter wrote back later, I snorted (out loud) at my desk over that last comment.
The girls were being witty and snarky and playful.
And it makes my heart happy. Still.
They are grown now, and don’t see each other often as they live miles apart. Two in the Midwest and two in the Rockies. Hearing them talk in conversation — even in text — makes me get all soft and sentimental inside.
I don’t think 4 girls so different ever existed under the same roof. I’ve said many times, there is no learning curve in raising girls. Nothing you learn from teaching one applies to teaching the other.
When they were little, the days were filled with giggles, books, dress-up, and endless hours of pretend play. I bought old prom dresses from consignment shops so they could be adorned in “princess” gowns for tea parties and balls. Other days, we would spend hours in the library, and each girl would come home with a stack of books. I had to have my own filing system at home to keep track of all those stories.
Not all days were “sunshine and lollipops” though. I remember saying before I was a Mother, ‘when I have my kids, they will not fight with each other’. Ha! As in any family, there were also days of scratches, bites, mean words, and fights. Days when one girl couldn’t stand the sight of the other. I remember lecturing about “sisters are friends for a lifetime” and “you take this paper and pen and you write 5 things you like about your sister“. Whew. Some days were just like that.
Where did those little girls go? It seemed like they would be under my feet forever. I would do anything to have a bit of that forever back.
Lord knows I pray for these children, these women of mine. They are my heart. And it makes me happy when they love on each other. So when they are witty and playful, even snarky, I cry big ol’ Mama tears.
The girls have told me there will be 2 epitaphs on my tombstone: On one side, “She just wanted them to get along” and “Edify, Edify” on the other.
I guess I could do worse.
The days are long, but the years fly by.
And if I ever do write “that book”, I do believe the title will be, A Babushka Pirate Named Maude.
Write 31 Days
Oops, I missed National Farmer’s Day. Did you? It was 3 days ago. I’m sure I’m not alone as most of us didn’t know October 12 was the day to honor farmers. The profession was first celebrated back in the 1800s, but no one has an exact date. October does seem fitting in celebrating National Farmer’s Day as it is in the midst of harvest.
It was originally known as Old Farmer’s Day. Hmm. We could have lots of fun with that title around my house. I’m married to a farmer.
Did you know more than 80 percent of the world’s food is still produced by family farmers? More than 500 million family farms manage between 70 and 80 percent of the world’s agricultural land, the U.N.’s “The State of Food and Agriculture 2014” reported.
I know I take my food supply for granted. When I run out of milk, eggs, beans, even cookies, I run to the store and replenish my supplies. Sometimes I even complain about the long lines, high prices and variety of food available in my stores. How about you?
So, even if we’re a few days late, let’s thank a farmer today for putting food on our tables.
Did you kiss a farmer today? I did.
I walked into the hospital room, and was shocked by what I saw. A old lady lie in the bed, mouth open, eyes rolled up toward the ceiling, sheet pulled up to the chin over the withered, disease-torn body. I hardly recognized my mother. How did this happen in 5 short months? The doctors were stumped and couldn’t find any answers as my Mom wasted away. They chased cancer, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and several other diagnosis. None were confirmed.
That was 14 months ago. We thought we would bury Mom before summer’s end. We prayed to God; we cried out to one another; and we complained to the doctors. “Why can’t you figure this out?”
When the doctors finally figured out what was wrong with her, my Mom’s near-death situation improved quickly. I feel completely blessed that my Mom is still here with us.
No grumbling today. No complaining. Thank you, Lord.
I love you, Mom.
I don’t want to be a grumbler.
But I am.
As a woman who looks for Divine intervention in her life, I read my Bible, study my Bible and journal from my Bible. And lately the word, grumble, has come up way too often for me to ignore any longer. Once, I hardly even saw it. Twice, I read back over the phrase. But after I saw it (and heard it) 4 or 5 times, I knew God was trying to get my attention.
When I grumble, I allow my circumstances to steal my joy. And my trust.
Psalm 106: 24-25 “Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.”
When I complain and whine about anything (and everything) in my life, I am not listening to the voice of the Lord.
They are not Fruits of the Spirit.
They hamper the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
I want to be a woman who trusts God when life is merry, and when life is tough. I don’t want my circumstances to define who I am.
I am a woman of God. I trust God. I believe God.
Hmm… does my grumbling attest to my trust?
Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
31 days! I’m taking the challenge!
Seems daunting — both for writing, and for…. well, trusting.
Here we go…. hope you join me!
Are you going to grumble? Or are you going to trust?
If you’re just joining me, I hope you take the time to read the previous post where I expressed my struggle to find joy in my Christian walk. I think I left you with something like, “Being a Christian isn’t joyful, it’s hard work”.
You can read it here.
God did indeed have my attention. He knows that trials are often the engine that drive us to our knees. In my loneliness and frustration, I prayed. I’m sure it wasn’t anything eloquent or pretty. It probably went something like, “God, help me find you! I don’t want to do this anymore.”
There was no bolt of lightening or great big sign in the sky. And God didn’t take all my problems away, but He did answer that prayer…
I joined a Bible study at a large church close to our home. Those ladies will never know the life-line they threw to me, and how it literally saved my “spiritual” life. It was my first introduction to a Beth Moore Bible study. We would be studying the Old Testament tabernacle in her book, A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place. I had never heard of Beth Moore, but I had always been intrigued by the tabernacle, and I just thought it would be an interesting study.
But God had something else in mind … after all, I had prayed for Him to show himself to me. Why would he not answer THAT prayer?
As I began to study those lessons, I can remember waking up at 5 a.m. many days, and almost hearing God whisper in my ear, “Come, I have something to show you”. 5 a.m.!! Seriously? But God had NEVER woke me up before, and it was exciting. I was loving this study. I was loving God’s Word. Something was happening. It didn’t happen overnight, but I was changing.
Slowly I was finding my joy, my peace….my God. How? In ancient text about the Old Testament tabernacle, of all places? But I discovered in those pages that God’s Word was alive and active and relevant. Words written thousands of years ago were helping me cope with distraught daughters. Those words were helping me encourage my husband. Those words were helping me get through my days with a new contentment. The weariness had lifted.
I found joy not by my doing, acting, or working, but by seeking Him; studying His word, praying and keeping my focus on Him. Were my girls still unhappy? Oh yeah. Was I still sick and tired and sometimes stressed-out in our new situation? Absolutely. Did Jon’s job go “south”? Well, yes, it did. But still, I had this inner joy that circumstances couldn’t take away.
Throughout that study and the next one, I continued to wake up early and run down the stairs! Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” …wait upon the Lord.My focus needs to be on God.
My perspective had always been wrong.
I still go to church every Sunday. In fact, I still DO many of things I did when I was that young, frustrated woman. But my motivation has changed.
And my perspective has changed.
I’m looking UP these days — not out and about.
Do you have a joy that can’t be shaken by your circumstances? Are you looking out into the world to find a contentment that can only be found in God?
“God, help me find you!”
Listen, can you hear it? He’s whispering…
“Come, I have something to show you…”
Hey there! Do you ever just feel kind of bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life? Just trying to make it through the day? Even as you’re checking things off on your to-do list, does it still feel like drudgery instead of accomplishment.
Is there any joy in all that doing?
I’ve been thinking a lot about joy this week as I am preparing to teach a Bible study this fall in my church. The study will be on the book of Philippians, a book about joy.
Joy. It’s kind of illusive at times, isn’t it?
Years ago, we were attending a rather legalistic church. The Bible was taught in this church, and as a young Christian, I was devouring the sermons and teaching. However, looking back, I see that the sermons stressed action, doing, and works, but rarely talked about feelings, love and motives.
As a young mother of 4 young girls, I was DOING; I was ACTING; I was WORKING. I was attending every church service — Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and you better believe if there was a Missionary Week, we were there EVERY single night. I attended a women’s meeting every Tuesday morning. Even if the girls were exhausted, even if I was stressed, even if other things were left undone. We were there.
Or we weren’t “good Christians”.
I was saved by grace, but living under the umbrella of works.
I remember feeling the weariness; I remember doing all the “right” things; checking off boxes on that list. One day, feeling stressed out and blue, I asked to meet with the wife of our traveling evangelist (they were home on sabbatical). This family was held in high regard in our church, and I admired this woman from afar many times. She was the mother of 5 children and taught Bible studies all over the country. She had it altogether, and I wanted her secret!
We arranged to meet in her small, humble kitchen over coffee. Uncomfortable at first, I finally explained to her that I was frustrated, weary and tired. I was doing everything that was expected of me and I felt worn out, used and — anything but joyful.
“I have no joy. Being a Christian is not joyful; it’s work!”
I don’t remember much more about the conversation. I only know when I left her house that day, I was overwhelmed with sadness. This woman had no idea what to tell me. She, too, was doing, acting, working.
And she had no joy.
Sometimes God has to MOVE us to enable us to see things differently. Nothing like a new perspective from a new perspective! A few years after that wife-to-wife encounter, our family relocated to Denver, Colorado. We left behind two “just-grown” daughters; we took two very unhappy daughters with us, a 7 year old and a 15 year old.
My life was a hot mess: I had unhappy children, trying to adjust to a new school, feeling lonely and betrayed. I think both girls cried themselves to sleep for the first 6 months. I had developed undiagnosed bronchial pneumonia and was sick for weeks. My husband was trying to adjust to a new job situation, and things were not going as planned in the office. I had no support system, but I was doing everything in my power to make this place home. I was scared. I was tired. And I was lonely.
And God had my attention.
The time in Colorado was challenging, but it was a life-changing experience, and I often refer to it as “the best year of my life, and the worst year of my life” (why we stayed only one year is for another post at a later time).
Tomorrow, and I’ll share how God took that lonely time in my life to change me forever. Join me here for, Finding My Joy, Part 2.
That is how my Pastor greeted me on Sunday morning — after Speak Up Conference. I thought it was a fitting choice of words, using a tongue-tied character to describe me. Moses!
I attended my very first women’s conference when I was 18 years old. I had been a Christian for 2 years by that time, was newly married, and my sister-in-law asked me to attend Win-Some Women in Northern Indiana.
I was blown away by God that weekend, and it was a life-changing experience. I came away thinking, THAT is how I want to talk about Jesus. THAT is how I want my life to look. I want everyone to know THAT Jesus.
I assumed everyone went home feeling THAT way. “I want to speak and tell…”
That retreat long ago was amazing, and I know many lives were changed. But now, looking back, most of those women probably did not go home with this burning desire to speak and to tell. I think most of us went home inspired, refreshed, and equipped to follow and live for Jesus, but God whispered different messages to each of us. A personal calling, a purpose, if you will. I wish I had understood that then.
I was young. I didn’t have a college education. Those women were in their 40’s — I couldn’t be like them; I couldn’t do what they do. My words often got twisted and came out funny. I panicked in front of a crowd. They were gifted. I was not.
I didn’t recognize it as a call from God; I just felt desire in my heart. Didn’t everyone else feel it too? I have felt that tug, that same desire, for a long time. That retreat was 40 years ago. 40 years! Again, my Pastor’s choice of Moses makes me smile.
How could I not recognize that stirring at Win-Some Women as a call from God? Surely the devil would not give me a desire to talk about Jesus! No, he would not, but he was giving me advice: ‘You don’t have an education, you get tongue-tied, and you panic. They are gifted. You are not.’ I allowed that voice to be loudest — God was speaking softly in my heart, but Satan was screaming in my head.
Insecurities. Comparisons. Fear.
A friend asked me to attend Speak Up with her, and since I have passionately been pursuing writing lately, I eagerly said, yes. My church graciously paid for the conference because I am teaching a Bible study this fall. I am NOT writing the study; I am teaching the study. Therefore, I felt compelled to choose the Speakers Track at Speak Up to honor the church’s investment. As I sadly checked that box on the registration form, I envied all the writers on the Writers Track. Thankfully, we were allowed to “cross over” to attend some Writers Breakout sessions even if on the Speakers Track.
Funny how God works things out…
When our first small group met, I was crazy-scared-let-me-go-throw-up nervous about my 3 minute speaking presentation. On the one hand, 3 minutes feels like a lifetime to stand and talk in front of strangers, but seriously, to say something meaningful, 3 minutes is a nanosecond. But as the weekend progressed, I received good feedback on my “speaking” presentations.
I found myself changing my schedule from Writers Breakout sessions to Speakers and devouring everything I could on that Track.
Those who know me intimately know I have been questioning my role and seeking God fiercely in recent months. I don’t know what “speaking” will look like or how my role will unfold. It may be a Bible study on Tuesday evenings with 5 ladies — and that’s okay. If I can impact the lives of 5 women with the message of Jesus and how He changes lives, then I’m walking forward and not turning back.
The devil is NOT going to win! I heard the call loud and clear this time. 40 years…
No more desert for me!
No Insecurities. No Comparisons. No Fear.
Driving home from Speak Up on Saturday evening, I thanked God for this “retreat” and I asked Him for confirmation. “Please give me a sign if my heart is speaking truth to me”. I love confirmations, don’t you? God can be very creative when we ask for a sign. For instance…
After sharing just a bit of why I was “radiant like Moses”, my Pastor then said, “Connie, would you be willing to go up front today and share with the congregation what God is doing in your life”?
Up front? Ummm…
I think He has a sense of humor too.
How about you? Are you called to teach? to write? to speak? When did you first feel that stirring in your heart? Did God whisper in your heart? Or did He announce it loud and clear? I would LOVE to hear your story…
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Hebrews 10:35
The photo below is not from my first retreat, but look what I found 🙂
Yes! That is our Carol Kent. How fun is that!
We just celebrated 41 years of marriage. That’s a very long time. We married young, too young really, but somehow we’ve made it work. Thinking about this, I jotted down a few reasons why I think we’ve made it 41 years… in no particular order, and with tongue in cheek for a few ….
- We made a vow to God
- We made a covenant with each other
- We made a promise to family and friends
- We created 4 children who count on us to hold it together
- We have grandchildren who need an example of what true commitment looks like
- He doesn’t beat me
- I don’t nag him (too much)
- He’s handy and can fix things
- I make a pretty darn good cherry pie
- We really do love each other
- We have never fallen out of love… at the same time
- We patch things up pretty quickly because I don’t like conflict; neither does he
- He mowed the grass for 35 years; now I mow it… life changes…. we adapt
- When he tells me he’s taken out the trash, I respond with “I love you too” (life got so much better when the epiphany of his actions became clear to me)
- I learned he’s not a mind reader, but when I tell him – with words – what I need, he responds with, “I can do that”
- I respect him and he loves me for that – confides and trusts in me
- Because he loves me in that way, I can trust him to lead
- He wants the best for me
- I want the best for him
- We have never said the “D” word – ever
- Divorce is not an option
- The grass is NOT greener on the other side…it is the same grass with the same weeds
- As we just keep working on the weeds, flowers do bloom — eventually
- We muck through until it gets better
- It always gets better
I know you lost your Mama way too soon. You weren’t ready to let her go. The cancer was ugly and quick. You barely had time to say good-bye. It was over in 5 weeks. And, really, you had just become a woman yourself. At that stage of life, who knows to ask their mothers questions of substance? Does anyone know the right questions when they are 22? But now…
It’s been almost 13 years and still the loss is like a vacuum at times. You ask about her often, wanting her sisters, her own mother to fill in the blanks. We strive to pull buried memories out for you, anything to give you more of her.
We celebrated yesterday because you are about to become a mother yourself. You thought this long-awaited baby would never snuggle in your arms. Getting pregnant has been hard. But here you are 8 weeks from motherhood yourself. And now, already, you know more about your mother than I could ever tell you. She treasured you when you were only a heartbeat in her womb. She rubbed her tummy when she felt you kick that first time — and every time after. She prayed for you. She cried when you were born. She was a good mother. She loved you more than herself. And she would do anything for you because that is what mothers do. You were the reason she didn’t want to go.
Motherhood is a miracle — The act of carrying and birthing a child; even the act of raising a child… As you love, teach and train, memories will surface at unexpected times. You will remember your mom through this little boy. When he skins his knee, something your Mom said to you will come out of your mouth. When he cries out at night because of a nightmare, you will remember how your Mom comforted you. It might be a field trip or a walk in the park, but it will most likely be a surprise to you. A new memory. And it will be sweet and precious and sad and happy — all at the same time. Motherhood is like that.
One day, your mom will meet this little one. And in ways that only God knows and understands, it will be as though she has always known him. One day, it will be okay. Until then, I hope you know how much you are loved. We cannot be your mom — no one could take her place. But her sisters love you like their own. We pray for you. We worry about you. We hold you in our heart. We will laugh with you and cry with you over all the ups and downs of motherhood. We already love this little guy. He, too, holds a part of our heart.
She taught you well — you are going to be a great mother.
Linking up with Five Minute Friday as I write for 5 minutes on the word prompt: Door.
There are 4 very old, dirty doors in our shed. We salvaged them from my husband’s grandparents’ century-old home last fall. His grandparents have been gone for many years, and the house was sold and then a few years later reverted back to the bank. Then there was a fire. No one knows how or why. But the family bought it back — house and surrounding land. Land to farm; house to demolish. Sad. We wanted anything that could be repurposed. Woodwork. Stair posts. Doors. So many possibilities. (Thank you, Pinterest.) Will these doors become shelves? Or mirrors? Maybe a headboard in a bedroom. Doors of the past gracing the homes of great-grandchildren. I love that. I see a postcard attached to the back of each one — the story of Frank and Grace. Legacies…
I was browsing in a local shop the other day, trying to find some little gifts to add to a care package I was sending off later in the day. The shop owner watched me pick up this, set down that, and then asked if she could help me find something. I smiled and said I didn’t really know what I was looking for… do you have anything for a broken heart?
In the shop that day, the owner’s 7 year old daughter was helping her mother unwrap new jewelry for the display case. I was taken in by that little darling because her long wavy hair and pretty eyes reminded me of my 4 daughters. Each one of mine is grown now: Raising children of her own. Waiting to have children of her own. Trying to find her way. And mending a broken heart.
I made small talk for awhile, and shared just a bit of my mission for the day. As I continued around the corner and looked at some coffee mugs and wall signs, I heard the little one innocently ask her mother, ‘why is her heart broken?’.
After shopping for a bit more, nothing seemed quite right, and I decided there was probably not a purchase in this store that would meet my needs. As I walked back to the counter, I could hear the shop owner and her little girl whispering. The Mom looked up as I approached and said, ‘I asked her if she was away at college and had a broken heart, what would she like me to send her. She said, I would want chocolate cookies and you’.
Out of the mouths of babes…
No matter if a little girl is 7, 17 or 27, if her heart is sad, if she is hurting, she wants the same thing.
Chocolate cookies and her Mama.
As I said my good-byes to them, with tears in my eyes, I said, ‘enjoy her today… ‘. That young mother stared back at me with tears of her own, nodded her head, and hugged her little girl.
I had one more stop before heading home — the local bakery. Once home, I carefully wrapped the goodies and placed them in the padded box. I had been rushing to get the package to the post office before closing. But even with all the trinkets and goodies, the box still seemed incomplete.
‘…cookies and you.’
I wish I could fit myself into that box. And even if I did get to her, what then? Why does she need me? And then I knew how to seal up that box. Looking at the clock, I decided the shipment would have to wait until tomorrow. Remembering the challenge from a book I once read, Put Your Heart On Paper, I grabbed a blank sheet of paper and sat down at my kitchen table…
“My Dear Sweet Girl…… “
I sealed the letter with hugs and kisses and placed it in the box, and mailed it out the next morning.
Just her Mama’s heart and a few chocolate cookies.
Thoughts about mothers and daughters and their relationships consume me these days. Motherhood is something most of us ask for and wish for; we enter willingly and with anticipation. We almost go into it lightly and casually. There should be classes, a degree, or a council of “Wise Old Mothers” to teach, train and warn:
This will be the best thing you ever do.
This will be the hardest thing you ever do.
This will be the thing you ALWAYS do.
Motherhood is forever.
Motherhood should come with a warning.
I am “sandwiched” between generations — a triple-decker club. Mother, children and grandchildren. Nothing really unique about that, I guess, as many women my age share the roles I am playing right now. But when it is your personal script, the emotions, changes, and role reversals are fresh and new and very complex.
You wonder how the women before you have done this.
And why didn’t you pay better attention.
My youngest child is packing up everything she owns for her last semester of college. I watch as closets are emptied, books are piled, drawers are scattered. Emotions run deep. I am happy for her. The timing is right. She has been an easy child. Wise beyond her years. Independent. But there is a sadness too. She has been away at college for three years, and it’s not like we will be new at this empty nest thing, but this seems final.
Everything she owns.
Wait! I’m not ready to let her go. I know I didn’t teach her enough. I have so much more to say.
But she is an adult now. Almost 22 years old. No longer a child. Roles…changing…
As she packs, my own mother is awaiting admittance to an Assisted Living Facility. She has been living in my home for 4 months. I have been her caregiver. She has had health issues for a year now with one major surgery and then a simple condition that wasn’t diagnosed correctly. It was missed. The simple condition turned deadly, and months and months of illness followed which wrecked havoc on her body and her mind. The issue has finally been addressed, and treated, but her body and mind are slow to recover. She is now half-well/half-sick. She was much easier to care for when she was very ill. She is sick and tired of being sick and tired, and she just wants to go home. And the doctors have said no. Each day, it is more challenging to care for her in my home. I can give her so much, but I cannot give her the one thing she wants — home.
I am trying to care for my mother. Roles…. changing… reversed….Emotions run deep.
There were 4 children running, playing, and napping in my house yesterday. It was chaos. Wonderful, loud chaos. Snacks. Bottles. Booboos. Squabbles. Diapers. Lunch. I have the privilege of keeping these grandchildren two days a week, and I love those kiddos like my own. I try to assume my part as Gramma — and not caregiver — whenever their Mama is around, but sometimes the roles get a little blurred. I know sometimes I overstep. Where the heck is that Gramma manual?
That daughter is the mother now. She gets this season to teach and train. Roles….
It is amazing to watch your own daughter become a mother. She seems to do it so naturally. Is it easier for her or is she wanting a motherhood degree herself now? She is part of the “sandwich” as her focus is on those children yet she keeps looking back at me.
‘Mom, you doing okay?’ She wants to take care of me.
The dance continues…
Emotions again… running.
It’s Easter morning. I didn’t go to church today. I only remember missing one Easter service in the last 35 years. It was the day my first child was born — an Easter baby. We are going to celebrate her birthday this afternoon after our Easter celebrations.
I am grateful that my Mom is here with us to celebrate (she came here after hospitalization after all). She is feeling better. Not perfect, but better. She has so much more clarity. I can hear her talking on the phone with friends and family members, and she is making sense — and most of the details are accurate.
My grandchildren will be here today, and they will be excited to see that GG is home from the hospital. GG is what they began calling her when she came here to live with me. They struggled with a Gramma and a Great Gramma, and it all got a bit confusing. The 5 year old boy finally landed on GG — and it has stuck. I think it’s cute and endearing. Mom is almost 84 years old and she has been given a new name! Last week when she wasn’t here, my grandchildren were disappointed.
It is so sweet to watch their interaction. I know the days get a bit long for Mom with 3 or 4 children undertow. Sometimes the noise level gets a bit high, but she is getting to know those children as I know them. She is making an impression into their young lives that they will remember. I love that.
Welcome home, GG, the kids will be very excited that you are here. So Am I.
Talking with a friend recently, she shared her disappointment when her mom didn’t want to come to Easter dinner. “She’d rather sit home alone than spend the day with family?!” Since that conversation, I’ve done some thinking about it. Here are just 5 reasons that Mom (or Gramma) may not want to come to Easter dinner:
1. She is afraid of falling. She knows her own turf. She is confident and knows where to be extra careful in her house and even her garage. She doesn’t know your terrain, and it makes her nervous. She knows a fall could be deadly for her.
2. Her bathroom habits have changed in recent years and are a bit unpredictable. She is embarrassed, but doesn’t want to talk about it.
3. The conversation in a big group is confusing. It is too fast, and either too loud or too soft. It is often about subjects she does not understand such as social media, smartphones or current movies. It makes her feel unimportant and lost.
4. She feels secure in her own environment and in her own routine. She is very uncomfortable out of those surroundings.
5. Her world has gotten smaller and smaller over the years. The noise and space and people at a large family gathering cause her anxiety. Even though she loves these daughters, sons and grandchildren, the party-like atmosphere is often more than she can handle.
It’s hard to say what I will and won’t do when I’m over 85 years old. I know I don’t do some things now I use to do when I was 25 or even 35. So probably thirty years from now, I will have more things on my “don’t do” list than on my “to do” list.
Maybe we should look for ways to be creative with the elderly women (or men) in our lives. And when they decline a special dinner at our house, we could reply, “How about lunch one day earlier this week instead — just the two of us?”
The house is quiet. Everyone, that is Mom and my husband, has gone to bed. Recently due to illness, Mom has come to live with us. I know I should go to bed too. It’s late, and I will hate myself in the morning for not getting enough sleep. But I revel in this quiet. This time that is all mine. And it’s not like Mom is even much trouble; really she is not. But it’s just I need some moments when I am not responsible for anyone. Here. Now.
Earlier this week, when my husband got home from work, he stayed with Mom and I went to CVS . I told him I was going to pick up a prescription, and I was going to take my time. The drugstore, for pete’s sake, but we live in a small town where everything closes down with the sunset.
Yesterday, my sister-in-law invited my mother to her house for the day. After I dropped Mom off, I was like a kid in a candy store. What should I do? What should I do? Truth be told, there were not enough hours remaining in the day to get done all I wanted to get done.
This sounds like I am complaining, and I don’t mean to be. Seriously. It’s just being responsible for another human being is a little daunting…. again. It’s like bringing home that first baby. No one can prepare you. No matter how many times you hear “just wait ” you still don’t understand the constantness of parenthood until that baby is living with you 24/7. It’s like that.
In some ways this is good discipline for me. I can’t just drop everything and run to a store. I have to prioritize and plan errands. And that is a good thing. Thank goodness, I am a homebody by nature. Even so…
Today wasn’t a good day for Mom. And I am feeling very melancholy. She was so weak and frail, and I guess, sad. And that is hard to see. She is spunky by nature. No spunk today. I wonder if I’ll ever see the spunk again.
This is the 42nd time I’ve celebrated Valentines Day with you. You were barely, if, a man when we exchanged tentative kisses that first year. I most certainly was not a woman yet…. just a young teenage girl. But you swept me off my feet. You seemed to know what you were looking for in a soul mate. You never wavered — not once — such confidence. It wasn’t the normal “hot-shot-ego” kind of swagger of a teenage boy. Just a steady increasing tenderness and love for me. How could a girl resist being pursued in such a way?
I didn’t mirror your certainty in the beginning. I was smitten, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I saw beyond Friday night’s basketball game. I was anything but confident as a middle-child 15-year old. I wasn’t shy, but I was distrustful and hesitant. I was waiting for you to get to know me better — and then drop me.
But you never did. You got even more persistent.
I still have the little plastic statue you bought for me in 1972. He’s kinda funny looking, really, but those little gray statues of big-eyed, droopy-clothed people proclaiming a variety of things were popular and trendy those days. I remember my closest girlfriend asking what you got me for Valentine’s Day. We were on a double date, I think. I replied, ‘he got me this little statue that says, I Love You This Much’, and I spread my arms open about as wide as my shoulders. And you said, ‘No, he is saying, I Love You This Much, and you spread your arms out as far as they would go. I think that is when I knew you were here to stay. My friend was now smitten too. I think if I’d let you go, she might have been there to catch you.
But I never did. I rather enjoyed the pursuit.
I told you this recently, but I remember hearing the Wedding March music begin on our wedding day. As my bridesmaids began the trek upstairs, I panicked and looked toward the back door. Thoughts screamed in my head, ‘what am I doing? I don’t know what love is. I’m only 18!’ Funny how I remember that so clearly. But as I went up those stairs, other thoughts won out, ‘He loves me so much. He’s good to me. He takes care of me. He’s a strong, godly man’. When I reached the back of the sanctuary, there you were at the end of the aisle, tears running down your cheeks. Thankfully, I knew they were tears of happiness, or I might have still taken my leave.
And here we are over 40 Valentines later. I think, if I tried, I might be able to gather up all 40 cards tucked away here and there. While the kisses, cards and pursuit are wonderful, when I think of you loving me, other – not so lofty – endeavors come to mind…
I knew you were thinking of me when you shoveled the driveway and salted the ice on the steps. I saw your love when you filled my car up with gas and changed the oil. As we raced to the emergency room, knowing we would never hold that baby this side of heaven, I felt your love. When you saw my agony after knee surgery, and pampered me and made sure I got comfortable… that was love. After accident number six, you still asked if everyone was ok before you asked about the car. The simple call from work asking if I need anything picked up on your way home. Even on the days when we are both so bone-tired, we barely acknowledge the presence of each other, love is there. Solid. Strong. Unwavering. A Promise. Forever.
This is what love looks like… the day-to-day, nitty-gritty stuff. Hanging in there on the days I madly love you and hanging in there on the days I look at you and think, ‘who are you, and why are you in my house?’ What a difference 42 years has on one’s perspective of love. Yes, love is the pursuit, and I still want to be wanted — absolutely. But better yet, stand by my side through better or worse, for richer for poorer, through sickness and through health. Those were our vows… the covenant we made with one another. That covenant still holds… I love you.
I had the first date with my husband when I was 13 years old. Well, almost. The story actually goes like this: My 8th grade best friend called me on a lazy Sunday afternoon, wanting me to go to a movie. An hour later, a car pulled into the driveway, and my friend and her boyfriend were in the front seat with her mother (of course, we were not driving yet), and in the backseat was another boy, her cousin. What? She didn’t say anything about boys! She knows I already “like” a boy at school. I was instantly mad at her. I was also rather awkward at the age of 13, and didn’t know how to talk to boys. So consequently the next two hours were uncomfortable for all of us. I was irritated at her for a week, and didn’t give the boy another thought.
As a sophomore, two years later, I started attending the consolidated high school, and I saw the boy again. What? “That boy” was now a hot-shot tennis-pro senior. Wait. I know him. He knows me. We went on a date once. I was smitten. Unfortunately, he was dating another girl. So as I patiently bided my time, I memorized all the halls he walked between classes, and I walked them too, even if it meant I would be late for history. Is that stalking? Maybe.
One day, at the end of first semester, it was rumored that he and his gal had split up. So on that very day, when I walked down his hall, I actually raised my eyelids and made eye contact with him for the very first time. I smiled, said ‘hi’, and kept on walking. He must have been doing some stalking of his own, though, because when his buddy offered to set him up with a blue-eyed blond, he guessed it was me. We started dating that Friday night, January 21, 1972, and have been together ever since. We got married two weeks after I graduated high school.
After he finished college we moved to the city where he worked as a certified public accountant. We had 4 baby girls in the space of 13 years and enjoyed living in the suburbs. Life went pretty much as expected for about 35 years (there are many stories to be told, but they are for another time).
Two weeks after the unexpected death of my husband’s older brother, suburbia took a surprise turn. Coming into the kitchen that morning to get his coffee, my husband said, ‘I would like to take Jerry’s place back on the farm’. Whoa Nellie! Seriously? But almost as soon as I said it, I thought, ‘yes, of course that is what you should do’. He had been struggling with accountant work. He was bored and itching for a change. My husband had been raised on a farm, and he IS that boy on the billboard sign: You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Yes, that is what he should do; that is who he is; who he has always been.
So I did not marry a farmer. But I do find myself married to a farmer.
The “busy” times of farming are suppose to be spring and fall, but truth be told, life on the farm is always busy…there is always something that needs to be done. My husband is working harder than he has ever worked in his life, but he is happy and fulfilled in what he is doing. And even though I have done my share of complaining, I like this new adventure. We are a team, and I knew, in my heart, this move was the right thing for him. And if it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me. We are figuring it out and making it work. That “other life” seems far in the distance now — it’s like he has always been farming. It is who we are; who we were meant to be.
We didn’t exactly move “back to the farm”. Our new home is still in a neighborhood, however, it is very rural. We live in a small town of about 700 people, and most of them still travel by horse and buggy or bicycles. We are in the mid-west and reside in the heart of an Amish community, Shipshewana. Farming and buggies — it seems as though I have stepped back in time.
Instead of pictures of our home farm and equipment, I thought it would be fun to share pictures of how our neighbors live and work. The Amish do not use modern equipment to farm — no tractors or combines! They use the original “horse power”.
Here is a peek at my “rural America”. (click on pictures for a larger view)
My dad was an “Archie Bunker” kind of dad. Any baby boomer knows what that means. His word was law. He spoke, we jumped. And frankly, I was kind of scared of him. He mellowed as he grew older. And even though he was challenging while we were growing up, he was our biggest cheerleader as young adults.
He was often sitting at the kitchen counter when I came home for a visit, a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He would raise his big hand and say, “Hi Hon”, with a great big smile on his face and a sparkle in his eyes. I loved that he was glad to see me. I like that memory. He’s been on my mind lately. He’s been gone 25 years; he died too young… on his 57th birthday… and I don’t feel like he ever got to really know me.
Thinking about my dad, and reflecting on some childhood memories, I began to recall some of the things he said. I asked my husband about his father, and he too, shared some lessons from his dad. I asked other family members, ‘what did you learn from your dad?’, and the emails started arriving in my inbox. As expected, with many dads and granddads referenced, some memories were meaningful while others were a bit humorous; some a little sad while others joyful. But to be honest, we are a lucky bunch: For the most part, we had dads who loved God and family, and that is conveyed in the remarks made by their offspring. So here is a running list of some of the “lessons learned from Dad”. The memories and quotes are not all mine; they are from various family members, and in no particular order. I hope it makes you smile.
When pride allows you to turn down a gift, you have robbed the giver of the bigger blessing.
Life isn’t always easy.
Your work reflects who you are.
Your work reflects on our family.
You cannot be a model because you are too short and your boobs are too big. (That may sound harsh, but it actually can save you from years of starvation and make you depend on your brain. And to be clear, this was not my memory)
This is what you wanted — there will be NO complaining about it.
Good hard work never killed anyone.
Your muscles are meant to be put to good use.
Do not do what you FEEL like doing, do what you believe is RIGHT.
I would never ask you to do something that I would not do myself.
If you want to plant straight rows, always look far ahead — not right in front of you. (this has many applications for success)
Be smart, work hard, and take care of your things.
My Dad was a hunter, and he taught me how to skin squirrels and rabbits. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to skin one lately, it does make for good conversation at parties. My daughter was also admired by teacher and classmate alike when she told them her Mom could skin a squirrel!
Be quietly generous.
If you’re not a swearing man, dadgumit, what the hen?, and crimenetly…. all work.
If you are a swearing man, well…. you know…
Words have the power to stay forever. (You never know which words are the words that will live forever in someone’s memory…. make sure they are good words.)
My dad didn’t need to yell, for one lasered look over the top of a newspaper was all it took to stop the bickering amongst us kids.
Anything worth having is worth working for.
Don’t climb on the counter/cupboards. (No, really, don’t).
Don’t play in the car with the keys. And if you choose to, when the car begins to back down the driveway, run next door to Gramma’s like your brother does — before Dad comes out of the house!
One of the best memories I have of my father-in-law are words he whispered in my ear. Every time we were about to leave from a visit, Dad would hug me good-bye and say, ‘you’re such a great mother, you’re a good wife, I love you Hon’. I didn’t realize what a blessing that was until he was gone. It hit me hard on that first visit back home.
This is a short, fun list. I’m sure if I tarried, I could continue to add many more memories and lessons — good and bad. And even if the memory is bad, good lessons can be learned, if we are willing. Our dads impact us forever. I know my Dad left his mark on me. I love him and miss him more and more as I grow older. Wish I could share a cup of coffee with him now, and hear his sweet, “Hi Hon” again.
What lessons did you learn from your dad?
10. Taking care of those kids will wear you out! You think it’s because you are old now. It is actually because we have chosen to forget the chaos of mothering. They wear their mother out too, but she can’t “give them back” at the end of the day.
9. You need to be the one to initiate “together” time. They do not need gifts as much as they need your time. Be involved. If you do not, when they are teens and adults, they will not come around.
8. Be joyful, be happy, be encouraging. Your grandkids need that….if you are lighthearted, they will crave your company.
7. Ask meaningful questions. Don’t ask their age and school grade; you should know those answers. Those are the questions that strangers ask. And yes, they are getting taller and bigger, but don’t talk about that …again. Do you know their favorite color? food? movie? Do they have hobbies? Get to KNOW them. Really really know them. Even long-distance Grammas — in this day and age — can know their grandkids really well.
6. Your daughter/son can criticize them, but you cannot. This is a good lesson to learn early.
5. You had your chance to raise your kids. Now is the time to be quiet and let your daughter/son find their way. Don’t judge. Don’t advise unless asked. Your turn is over.
4. They WILL make the house messy. It’s ok. You know how to clean. Relax and enjoy the time together…. and sweep after they are gone. And don’t complain about the dirt while they are there. Remember #8
3. Read to them and tell them stories. They love stories. Tell them good stories, funny stories about their Mom/Dad. Tell them stories about you and your childhood. Pass along a heritage.
2. Teach them something. Leave a legacy. What do you do well? Teach them that.
1. The love you feel for those children will surprise you…. and overwhelm you. And because you do not bear the responsibility that their parents carry, you can love with abandon. Its your job. What a wonderful new career!
Not only are the windows overlooking my backyard covered with fingerprints, there are numerous nose prints here and there on the glass as well …which makes me smile. Grass clippings and dirt stick to my bare feet and I kick a toy tractor out of my way as I go for my first cup of coffee. The house is quiet. I thought I would relish the peace this morning, but the lack of noise is almost too loud.
Grandchildren have kept me hopping for the last four days. The busyness has been constant. An old croquet set and a couple of jump ropes were discovered along with sidewalk chalk, frisbees and several other forgotten toys . Little boys talked me into setting up the tent so they could have a “headquarters” for an afternoon of detective work. We unboxed Barbies and Polly Pockets for one child and created bean fields out of blankets so the other two could harvest with their toy combines. Little hands got sticky with glue as paper plate scarecrows took shape. And Batman asked several times, “did I scare you, Gramma?”. We took an afternoon to meet up with Papa, riding in the combine and soaking up knowledge about corn and beans. Those inquisitive minds asking so many questions about farming. They love the red combine and wait anxiously all year for it to “wake up”.
And between all that activity, those small bodies were crawling up on the bar stools again and again, waiting to be fed… like little birdies. Seriously? You’re hungry again? My kitchen is now devoid of any cookies, donuts or fruit. I might also be out of bread and cheese. I’m not ready to take inventory and commit to a grocery run. I want another cup of coffee first.
I’m feeling a little blue as I savor my last few sips of Pumpkin Spice Blend. I once had four little ones of my own. I lived the chaos. But I have gotten soft and lazy… and self-focused. Caring for little ones doesn’t leave much time for reflection. Life is crazy. Life is about them. There is barely time for a shower! Survival is the goal on many days. It is easy to forget the mayhem of the day-in and day-out of mothering. I commit to pray more for my daughter.
As they covered me with hugs and kisses last night as they said their good-byes, I breathed a sigh of relief. However, at the same moment, bittersweet emotions brought a lump to my throat. So glad to see them… so glad to send them home. Am I allowed to say that? I guess, as Gramma, I am.
So, yes, the windows and floors are dirty; my cupboards are bare. And a few toys yet need to find their shelf. My bones are a bit weary. I need a break today. And quietly, as I go for my final cup of brew, I grab my calendar and mark off the days until those little kiddos are running through my house again… because I sure do miss them today.
A little seed, in a packet, content to be with other seeds. It is a comfortable, safe and happy place. Once plucked by the farmer, it is planted in a muddy, dirty place. And as it is watered, it begins to fall apart! That is a story told by author and speaker, Lysa Terkeurst. I love this analogy. I thought, as I’m sure did many others, I am that seed.
23. A while back, my husband made a sudden, unforeseen career change due to the unexpected death of his older brother. After being a CPA for 35 years, he is farming now. Yep, that’s right, he’s a farmer — the tractor, the combine, even the suspenders! The ground he farms is an hour from our home and he commutes now so that our youngest daughter can finish her high school years with her friends, school, and youth group, but eventually it’ll mean a move for us….. back to our roots… back to the place I grew up… back to my hometown. Not sure how I feel about that. Some days I think it’ll be okay, and some days it scares me to death. But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon. I’m trusting God: If it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me.
“Number 23” is an excerpt from a list of random things about me — a fun little list that circulated around facebook several years ago. When I wrote that list, I had just been plucked from the “seed packet”. Even at that point, knowing change was going to take place, I had no idea of what lie ahead….. the ground was about to get mucky.
When the summer of our transition to the farm arrived, I was already dizzy from a high school graduation and open house party. Our second daughter was also graduating from nursing school and moving 1000 miles away. Daughter number three was moving across the country to follow her dream. And finally, our oldest daughter and her family were moving into a new home as well — thankfully that was a local move. I was preparing our house for market and had realtors with clients in and out of my house several times during the week. So much change. It had become the summer of moves. The activity had been constant for months.
So on that September day, there had been no time to prepare for the quiet that enveloped me, but the minute the car door slammed and we pulled away from that college dorm, leaving our youngest, daughter number four, on the campus, I felt it. It covered me.
I thought I knew what was coming. I thought I was prepared. But now that the rush of activity was over, I had no home, no children, no community, no job, no church and no friends (it was quite the pity party). I spent the week on the couch. The self-pity actually took me by surprise. Long story short, we had moved into a rental house far away from “the seed packet”.
I didn’t think all those empty nest stories would apply to me. After all, we had spaced our girls out; there had been children in our home for 32 years! Wasn’t it time for “us”? A time we had looked forward to — not dreaded. However, pulling out of that university drive felt like a creaky door, slowing closing on my past and all that I knew. There was nothing waiting for me at the end of this road to “home”.
” But I know in my heart it is the right thing for Jon. I’m trusting God: If it is the right thing for him, it’ll be the right thing for me. “
It has now been 2 years since that long drive home. It has been muddy. And there were moments when I felt like I was falling apart. Once or twice, I regretfully remember, walking through the house screaming, “I WANT MY LIFE BACK”. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know my purpose. I kept asking God, “what now?”
I am slowly finding my way as a farmer’s wife, learning to be content when my husband works 16 hour days six days a week. I am making new friends that challenge my thinking. I have become involved in some work that is teaching and stretching me as a leader and mentor. I am not sure what God has planned, but I hope to blossom into something lovely — not turn into a bitter old weed. I want to thrive — even if it means getting muddy along the way. “He is “making this right for me”.
The farmer has a plan for that little seed. He knows the seed must come out of the packet, get planted in the dirt and fall apart in order to grow. God has a plan for me… and for you. He has planted me here in this little Amish community. It is my choice whether I wallow in the mud and whither… or blossom. Where are you planted? Are you stuck in the mud? Don’t give up, take heart and choose to keep growing…a lovely flower may be about to bloom.
— dedicated in memory of my dear friend, Susi, who found her joy, and taught me to see my blessings.
My farmer husband is testing the waters today. Are the beans ready? Will they process through the combine without problems? Or should he wait a few more days. Harvest has begun, and with it, a hopefulness is in the air. What will the crops yield? Will the corn be dry enough? Will the beans be a “bumper” this year? Throughout the summer, I have heard, “the corn is doing well” and “the beans are suffering“. My Farmer talks about his fields like they are dear friends. He has planted, watered, nurtured, and prayed.
Now that harvest is here, what blessings lie around the corner?
That word has been rattling around in my brain for weeks, months even. And it has come up in countless books, devotions, lessons and videos. I even made a “blessing jar” at the beginning of the year. I prepared little blank cards to record any new blessings. The cards are dropped into my jar, with hopes of filling it up throughout the year.
I look for blessings every day. Don’t you?
I want to be blessed.
Once when I was talking on the phone with a friend, we were just chit-chatting about the small things. I began to complain about the mountain of laundry and the dirty floors. I grumbled about having to sweep and mop… again. My sweet friend replied, ‘Oh, I so wish I could sweep your floors for you’. Immediately, I was humbled… and ashamed. You see, when she was just a young mother, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and her disease was severe. Most days, she was in bed, not able to do the laundry or cook meals for her family. These everyday chores I dreaded, she counted as blessings.
Even the mundane tasks are evidence of God’s favor. I wash the dishes because God has given us food. I do SO much laundry because we have an abundance of clothes. I sweep the floor because I have the health and strength to do so. I make the beds because I have a home, a beautiful shelter, more than I need. Am I in want of yet more blessings?
I AM blessed.
I am completely, totally, abundantly blessed.
Even when we pray, almost every prayer — from everyone — begins with “God, please bless us”. What? There are well over 350 verses in the Bible with some form of the word bless, and most of them have to do with God blessing us! Our Bible is completely laced with God’s blessings on his people. We are exceedingly blessed. In Matthew, those counted as blessed are the poor, the mourners, the gentle, those who are thirsting for God as well as those who are pure in God, the merciful, those who keep the peace and those who are persecuted. I’m on that list. How about you?
I have gotten way too comfortable with my blessings. They have become my normal; my expectation. I am living in a paradise compared to 90% of the population. I am enjoying the “favor”, but often not remembering The Blesser. He has already given me much — over and over again.
I could spend the rest of today and tomorrow filling out cards for my blessing jar. Shame on me! It should be overflowing with cards! I should need another jar, and then another.
‘Let us bless you, God’ should be our prayer.
My phone chirps, after one morning of field work, I receive a text from my husband: ‘problems’ (he has always been a man of few words). I lean over and tell my “anxious-to-ride-the-combine” three-year-old grandson, ‘Papa is having trouble with the beans today’. This little man who has been listening to farmer-speak replies, ‘thats cuz the beans are p’bly not brown enough’. His wisdom makes me smile. And he is right, the beans are not dry enough, and our harvest will have to wait a day or two.
But whether the corn and the beans yield an abundance or not, we are blessed.
Yes, we are.
Dear Lord, may we bless you in whatever we do this day.
Lately I’ve watched a few people … those who maybe haven’t seen my husband since he changed careers. They aren’t good at disguising their surprise at the change. There is usually a little snicker or a “well there’s farmer Jon”. This man I married almost 40 years ago has always worn dress clothes to work, ranging from casual slacks and polos to full dress suits and ties, depending on the employer. But now, when he walks through our back door at the end of a very long day, he wears jeans, work boots, and suspenders — the really wide heavy duty kind of suspenders, designed to do a job — not to look cool or fashionable. And he is dirty. Very dirty. Because now instead of pushing a pencil, he pushes, pulls, tugs, crawls, bends — whatever it takes to get the job done — on the farm. He works hard. So hard. He is tired at the end of the day. And he is happy. And that is what makes the change okay — and not just okay — but worth it. He loves what he is doing. He knows it is good work. He knows he is making a difference. Farming is honorable work; work of which to be proud. He knows he is providing well for me. I know that gives him security and great satisfaction.
Do I miss the shorter work days and the well-dressed man? Absolutely! There are days when I am rather grumpy about it. But there are more and more days when I am just so proud of him and this decision he has made to follow in his dad’s and granddad’s footsteps. I have reached the point where I flinch a little at the “farmer Jon” comment. It should be said with respect. Farmer Jon — with a capital “F”. He is not only providing a good life for me, but like every farmer, is helping to feed the world. Yes he is. And that makes me proud — and completely okay with the ugly suspenders.
Does every empty-nest mother have this hollow feeling as she crawls into bed each night? Does she mentally think of each daughter or son? Names them one by one as she lifts them up to God, wondering what they are doing at that very moment? Are they safe? Are they well? Are they happy?
1. I started dating my husband when I was 15 1/2 years old (even tho I wasn’t suppose to date until I was 16). I married him two weeks after my 18th birthday. I have often wondered since then… “where were my parents? and what were they thinking?” 🙂 I have also thought many times since then…. Thank you, Lord, that Jon came into my life… I would have gone a very different direction left to myself.
2. I am the fourth child out of five, born after the only boy and before the doctor (my younger sister). I am 16 months younger than my brother….my Mom didn’t tell my dad she was expecting until she was 5 months pregnant! Five months!! Yeh. So all those “middle child” syndromes apply to me….all the flaws, quirks, insecurities… and strengths…. and I’m ok with that….. they have made me who I am today…and I’m ok with who I am today….finally 🙂
3. I lost a sister to cancer during the summer of 2002. I am still shocked by that almost every day. I wish I had more time with her… She was too young to die.
4. A job transfer took us to Denver Colorado in 2000 …for 11 months! I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I known it was going to be for only 11 months. It was the worst year and the best year of my life. And even now, many years later, I am still feeling the effects of that 11 months. I was changed forever.
5. I am closer to my siblings now than I was at any time growing up. Even tho we do not talk often — we love each other; support each other; and would do anything to help one another. I am blessed.
6. I sometimes look back on my parenting, and would like some do-overs…. a few regrets here and there…. but then, I look at my daughters, and think…. I must have done something right. I have 4 daughters that I count as best friends.
7. I am realizing more and more how very young my dad was when he died. He passed on his 57th birthday. I am sad that he didn’t really get to know my children…..or me. He was an Archie Bunker as I grew up…. but he mellowed his last few years….. he was a great Grandpa…….. I wonder what he’d be like now…..
8. I have given birth four times…. and I went through it without much thought, really… However, after watching my daughter give birth…. I’d like to have a talk with God about this whole process!! I have the privilege of caring for my grandchildren two days a week. It is a blessing to be a part of their everyday lives and to know them well. I hope I always know them well…. I want to be that kind of Gramma.
9. I cannot remember much of my childhood….I have very few memories… and that makes me sad.
10. I am a task-oriented person…. just give me a job to do!!! However, I want to be more people-oriented… and I am working on that…. “Mary has chosen the better thing…”
11. I once worked at a data processing job where the computer took up the whole entire room… and was fed with little cards I “punched” full of holes. When the boss wasn’t paying attention, my friend and I would calculate and “punch” designs or recipes on the cards …..anything creative to break the monotony. Those were the days before Clarence Thomas, and that same boss was often very inappropriate with me. If I knew then what I know now…… uurrr!
12. I paint a little; I draw a little; I sew a little; I know a little shorthand; I know a little sign language; I read a lot; I love to cook. “little” being the operative word in all those things.
13. A tornado almost destroyed us….it caused much havoc at the time… and we felt the repercussions even years later…
14. I have been actively/eagerly/regularly involved in Bible studies … and I am amazed at how applicable God’s Word is for everything that is going on in my life TODAY.
15. I have way too many Christmas decorations…. and yet I am still enjoy buying them over any other home decor items.
16. I bake pretty darn good pies, and often when planning meals, the pie is the first thing on the list, and I plan the rest of the meal around it. My husband is my biggest pie fan and has always encouraged me to go into business……how sweet is that.
17. When I was approximately 22 years old, I took $5 back to the 5 and 10 in my home town to repay the store for candy I stole as a kid. (sorry, Mom)
18. I have 11 nieces and 3 nephews…. I wish I had time to know them all better.
19. I love to shop for purses, shoes, jewelry and home decor……. I abhor shopping for clothes.
20. I once took a hot air balloon ride….. against my will …. but I am so glad I did!
21. I have been to Niagra Falls, Gatlinburg, Captiva Island, Coronado Island, Denver, Breckenridge, Key West, Covington Falls, the Poconos, New York, Chicago, the Ozarks, Arizona, and Orlando ….. but I have never been out of the country….. well, unless you count a hike across the border to Tujuana…..
22. My husband wanted to take me to Switzerland once…. but I was overwhelmed with motherhood at the time, and I turned him down. He went on that business trip alone. Did I mention do-overs???
23. A while back, my husband made a sudden, unforeseen career change due to the unexpected death of his older brother….after being a CPA for 35 years, he is farming now…. yep, that’s right… he’s a farmer…. the tractor, the combine, the whole bit. The ground he farms is an hour from our home and he commutes now so that Autumn, our youngest, can finish out her high school years with her friends, school, and youth group, but eventually it’ll mean a move for us….. back to our roots… back to the place I grew up… back to my hometown…. not sure how I feel about that….. some days I think it’ll be okay…. and some days it scares me to death. But I know in my heart it was the right thing for Jon…. and I’m trusting God…. If it was the right thing for him… it’ll be the right thing for me. “Green acres is the place for me….faarrmm livin’ is life for me…….dodo dododo dodo”
24. I have lost 7 close family members or friends in as many years….. but every one of them professed to know Christ as their Savior….. and I will see them again.
25. Wow….. long list…. of just random things… if you’re still reading…. thank you. I hope to use this space to share things about me, my life, my God…. and how I am still just trying to figure it all out. Putting words on paper is new to me. We’ll see if it becomes a passion ….or a chore 🙂
I know I know I know. I am still a “mom”. But I am not mothering. And for over 32 years, until NOW, I have been daily, actively mothering.