17 August 2016

A Summer Lesson


 I finally silence my cell phone as the text tone rings incessantly.  My dear aunt is posting pictures to all the grandkids.  The photos are nostalgic items from my grandfather's yellow farmhouse, for she is cleaning it out.

It has been a truly marvelous summer, exceeding my expectations.  Almost none of my summer goals are checked off, but somehow that's okay.

In June I attended my grandfather's funeral.  Living just down the road from him most of my childhood years, he is a constant in my memory.  Always there, always around, always showing up.

Two months ago, when we got the news, the grandchild/cousin text circuit was incredible.  We grew up together with him as patriarch.  Memory after memory ringing out the truth.  He is gone.  His memory is fully alive.

Before summer exits, before I receive the bolo tie I claimed from yesterday's photos, can I share what really matters to me?  Can I share what will stay alive always in me and what I've inadvertently passed on to my children without even trying?

I was ten or eleven when his first wife, my grandmother, lay dying from advanced cancer.  I loved her passionately.  I loved her so much my grades suffered that fifth grade year.  I was troubled by her pain, by her inevitable death.

It was not just me that loved her though.  During an afternoon on one of the last days of her life, I said my goodbyes to her silently failing body.  She lay in a hospital bed near the top of the stairs of the split level farmhouse.

I left the room and stood in the hallway; in the in between.  On one side was the kitchen where she'd cut my hair, fixed fabulous meals, and let me play barbies.  At the other end was the doorway into her death.

My grandfather walked out of her room and blurry eyed, ran into me.  He grabbed my shoulders, his body shaking with anguish, and then wrapped his arms around my little body.  He held me sobbing for a lifetime.

For sure, the embrace lasted less than a minute, but the impact it left will outlive him, and outlive me.  In that moment of his unrestrained grief released in my presence, his tears were a river, rushing through me, his oldest grandchild.  The river's intense rushing left me with a vision for a marriage like his.  I didn't even know the vision began.

True love, you see, is real.  True love is lasting.  True love means great gain, and great pain.

I witnessed the real deal marriage, where separation by death is the only option, and death comes only with a serious fight to remain alive and together.

My grandfather was a quiet man with a song at the right time and a quick wit when you thought he wasn't paying attention.

His commitment in marriage was loud, lasting, alluring.

Seeing something that good showed an impressionable preadolescent something to look for, strive for, wait for.  Without saying anything.

Grandpa's death this summer helped me to see what an incredible gift he gave me.  I have a great inheritance.  Divorce in our family is extremely rare.  My parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins have chosen strong and lasting marriages.  We've received a good legacy.  It's not perfect, but it's good.

Sometimes I think creating a legacy has to be complicated. From Grandpa I learned it just has to be real.





04 August 2016

Jailhouse Traditions






Walking away from a place you've lived your whole parenting existence, which for me is now fifteen and a half years, offers opportunities for new adventures.

That's what people kept telling me.  I now understand that "adventure" in our culture is acode word for pain, heartache, and opportunity for growth.  It could also be a really awesome time. Then again, it might turn out really, really bad.

One thing I hadn't entirely anticipated regarding our move was a loss of family traditions.  Certainly games, reading, dinner time, and bedtime routines were still intact.

In many areas, though, there was nothing to reach for. It would be summer and I would think, "let's go berry picking," a favorite family pastime.  Or head to Daybreak park and ford the river for someplace to cool off.  But they were not there.

So many memories that could not now be.
Brian would bring me dahlias from the UPick dahlia farm after work.  We would marvel at their variety.

Maybe we'd stop by our friends' place to put a new frog in their fountain or visit the fish hatchery and climb the hill we named "chirping hill" for the birds and the bird woman who kept many feeders going.

Fall called to us with multitudinous harvests and canning, applesauce making, cider pressing, and the picturesque Pomeroy Farm pumpkin patch.

In winter, it was the Thornton's tree farm, stomping in puddles, and cozy fireside reading.

So the seasons went, until our parenting and family identity were wrapped up in many traditions to anticipate and to recollect.

With the move to North Dakota, I felt like everything was erased.  It was not erased with a soft, clean white board eraser, but with a piece of black chalk, rubbing angrily across a lovingly decorated board, screeching and causing my soul to shudder.  What now?  What could possibly replace all the beauty we'd enjoyed for so many years?

Imagine my delight, when, this summer as we took off on our family's vacation, a few of the kids started talking about where we needed to stop.

The shout was Miles City!  "We want to stop at the park between the kid jail and Wendy's."  I was bewildered at the draw.  Did you know when you jump off the high swings at that park, the landing is soft?  No more jarring your body when your feet hit; it has foam bark.

Traditions indeed.  They do come.  They need not be ravishing or extravagant.

 Just something to anticipate and to recollect.



A few photos from our recent family trip to Yellowstone and the Beartooth Mountains.  We even got to connect with my college friend Ava and her family from Texas.  God continues to bless us beyond anything we deserve.

23 June 2016

On Assignment

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Recently I became an Instagram user.  I really enjoy observing how people express their creativity in word and image.

First, I had to create an account and set up my profile page.

As I worded and reworded my IG profile, I finally rested on a description that summed it up fairly well.

"On assignment in North Dakota as a pastor's wife and mom of 5.  Loving it.  Every moment counts."

On assignment.  It makes me feel purposeful.  It clarifies my moments and choices .  It makes it not so lasting, while at the same time gives urgency to using the time here well, however long it is.

It also conveys the truth that there is Someone over me giving me assignments.  I picture an army officer awaiting his orders, ready to go where he is called, to do the job set before him as best he can.

For me that Someone is God.  I believe He is a God who is trustworthy and good, perfectly able to make all my assignments work together for good, both for me and those I love.

Everywhere I go, everything I do, all opportunities, challenges, heart breaks, joys, pains, each in its time is an assignment.

What is your assignment these days?   Your large assignment?  Your small daily or seasonal assignment?  How can you seek to hone in on the calling you're given?