Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Are Vacations Overrated?

I'm  not sure why I always feel the need to get defensive about Vacations. Probably because I'm still trying to decide if Vacations are overrated. I'm talking -- take off for a week, travel to far away places, sight see and sleep in motel kind of vacations. I grew up without them and turned out pretty well, I'd say. My husband managed to become an amazing man in spite of no Vacations as well. I've always held tightly to the idea that it's really the little things that create some of the best memories -- playing Whistle Wink or Wave with my siblings in the gathering twilight, sitting around the popcorn bowl on a Sunday evening, talking at the supper table long after the food has disappeared, riding on the back of the truck down bumpy roads for a picnic at the White River...

I married a man who shares my ideas of making memories with little things. But, he is also a man who loves history and stories and giving his children opportunities to travel and make that history and those stories come to life. Our biggest venture to date has been the trip we took three years ago to see all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's little houses. This year, the solar eclipse on August 21 was the catalyst for another big adventure. Chris always vowed he wouldn't miss a chance to see a solar eclipse, so plans began to take a vacation over that time. What started as a small, weekend trip turned into a nine day excursion and returning home late the night before school started!

There were many moments in the past nine plus days when I really felt Vacations are highly overrated. Packing up a family of seven for nine days away from home is not for the faint of heart. We did not take a motor home nor a maxi van. In fact, we rented a vehicle that turned out to have less space than our mini van. Lets just say my minimalist and organizational skills were stretched a good bit and, to be honest, I had a hard time mustering up much excitement about the whole thing. Children have no respect for the hard work a Vacation takes. They wake up all groggy in the morning and look expectantly at their parents and ask, "Where are we going today?" They ask thoughtless questions like - "Is this all we're doing?" "Why do we have to walk so far??" "Do we have to eat chicken again?"

It was four nights into our trip, driving up to Mt Rushmore in the dark with the lights of the town blinking brightly in the distance, when I squeezed Chris' hand and whispered, "Maybe it really is worth it all."

I don't know if I can explain what prompted that feeling. The children were mimicking favorite stories and there was a level of camaraderie and closeness that just squeezed my mother heart. I had watched my oldest swing the youngest up onto his shoulders when short little legs got tired; seen the big girl give the younger sisters the best seats; observed the close bond the five of them share. Do not get me wrong here. I'd heard plenty of, "Make him stop!" "It's my turn!" "Why do you always have to....?" kinds of stuff, too. We don't have angels for children, trust me. The Drama Queen had totally frustrated me with her 'when I don't feel good I'm dying' routine; the fifteen year old had not acted the way I thought a fifteen year old should act..... but in the dark, closeness of the vehicle with the glow of the lights in the distance and someone wondering how many of them were street lights and how many were buildings and how it would look if it were only street lights.... Somehow with the sharing of laughter and stories and memories, I felt the irreplaceable bond of family and how special it is to share the big moments of adventure together.

I believe there is a balance between thinking we must have Vacations and always staying home because it would be terrible to "waste" all that money. I'm reminded of John Piper's practical questions about money, particularly this one: Is it an occasional, expensive nonessential that would say an extraordinary 'I love you'? This trip was certainly occasional, expensive and nonessential but I'm embracing the experience as the extraordinary 'I Love You' that it was.

Vacations are definitely overrated but they are also so much fun! I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend quality family time enjoying some of the amazing sights of this world God created and watching history come alive before our eyes.

All that being said.......


Just call me Duffy.

------------------------

Pictures coming soon... sometime after I emerge from the piles of laundry and back to school adjustments...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dear Mom

It's late and I am tired. Tears wet my cheeks; my heart is sad and weary. I just want to ask ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

When your sister stepped through the pearly gates yesterday, were you there to give her a hug? Are you both young again and full of energy? Are you walking arm and arm, exploring the beauties of heaven?
Tonight, I'm just wondering ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Can you see us down here, struggling to make decisions? Do you see as God does, the beginning from the end? Does it all make sense now, the questions and the imperfections of this old world?


I wonder, really wonder ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Will it matter, in the grand scheme of things, how much work I got done this week? Will it matter if my girls have new school dresses and how much corn I have in the freezer? Will it matter that I couldn't make it to my aunt's funeral?


In the whirl of all the going and doing, I'd just like to ask ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

Can you see my angel baby? Walk and talk with all your old friends who went before you? Hug your granddaughter who lived here only a few short days? Is sitting at Jesus' feet, gazing into His face, enough?

I really have no idea, I just wonder ---

What is Heaven like, Mom?

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." I Corinthians 13:12




I miss you Mom. Can't wait to join you up there!

Even so come Lord Jesus........

Love, Bethany

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Happenings, Pictures and Tid Bits

Green beans are bubbling away in the canners and I'm sitting with my feet propped up, looking back through pictures and getting ready to tell you all the tid bits. Aren't you excited?

I refuse to tell you that school starts in three weeks. The list of things to be accomplished between now and then will not be mentioned either. Going over it all will neither diminish it's length nor stretch the weeks. What I will tell you about is how lovely this summer has been! Granted, someone seems to have stolen at least a month from this season - why do they do that, I wonder? But while it lasted it has been one glorious, luxurious stretch in the beautiful, yellow sunshine.

We haven't done a lot of big things this summer and we haven't been overly busy either - saved it all for the last three weeks of vacation. You should try it someday; adrenaline rush and all that...

Bits of summer in pictures:


Time spent at the lake is always worth the effort to make it happen!



We put peaches in the freezer;
Peaches and more peaches.
And we enjoyed lots of them fresh!


I enjoyed helping with VBS for a week.
I had the privilege of 15-20 minutes each night telling a Bible story and teaching a verse. Making verse posters and coming up with illustrations for stories was fun.


Somehow the sight of 25-28 energetic 6-8 year olds looking up at me with their sweet, innocent (albeit mischievous) faces squeezed my heart harder than I expected. The night I told my mom's old flannelgraph story "He Took My Whipping", I don't think I was the only one with tears in my eyes.


At the last minute, I ran to town for Dollar Tree New Testaments and suckers and my girls helped me wrap up a little gift for each.
It was an exhausting, fulfilling week.


I don't have a garden but we've managed to enjoy some yummy fresh produce anyway.


Our neighbor lady offered me free choosing in her sprawling flower beds. We spent most of a day digging and pulling and tucking plants into the ground. We have lots of dreams for the future, for now we'll see how many plants survive the moving and work on our dreams bit by bit.
 "If they die you can always come back for more," the neighbor told me cheerfully! I'm in love with the steps Jasmine dug out of the bank.


We're all into plants around here, and the fun of starting new ones.


Then there's just the random things -
"Playing Chess", an evening walk, Jasmine's art, Jennifer's teepee...


And there's this book.
I cannot remember where I heard about it but it was a very
 interesting read.

I feel like I have been rather lazy this summer. There are many projects I could have gotten done if I would have made them a priority. I'm telling myself I've been 'savoring' and, as they say, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it!"

How has your summer been?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Thoughts On The Gathered Thoughts

The house is silent; I hear the ticking of the clock - two of them, in fact. There is a large stack of dishes I should be tackling, as well as a messy floor covered with toys. There are two books from the library that will need to be returned shortly without having been read if I don't soon get started. But the house is silent and there is only me in it and it's hard to decide what I should do first? Such is the painful predicament of having a lovely sister-in-law who likes to invite my kiddos over for hotdog roasts and the like and doesn't mind me being lazy and staying home.

The truth is, I really should have assigned a dishwasher and a toy picker upper before everyone left on their jaunt but I was too busy looking forward to the quiet to care. So here I am, twiddling away my time. I am optimistically thinking I can somehow manage to do it all but choosing first to listen to the ticking clock and letting my thoughts ramble on. I'll worry about dishes and messes and supper prep later.

In the silence, I'm asking myself, "What have you learned from this advice gathering experience? Have you figured anything out?"


Thanks to a friend's suggestion, I'm enjoying this collection on my wall.

The trees you see stand strong and tall beside my in-law's house. They were my living room window view for four and a half years. It is the same trees in every picture ---


The thin blue and
 pale, new green of Spring;


The deep blue and
 lush, full green of Summer;


The azure blue and
glorious, rich orange of Autumn;


The cool grey and
majestic silhouette of Winter.

Each season the trees are beautiful and amazing in their own right. Of course, there are things about each season that aren't so nice - Spring's mud and drizzling rain showers; Summer's blazing heat and ensuing drought; Autumn's dying and stripping of leaves; Winter's cold and barren, drab landscape. Still, each picture captures a beauty and significance all it's own.

I'm sure you know where I'm going with all this. It sounds rather cliché and hardly worth mentioning: our lives are like the tree; get it?

Sometimes I think I make life more complicated than necessary. What if it is really as simple as the cliché? I think that is why I loved this simple gem of wisdom so much:
"There are two things about change:
#1. They will happen throughout your entire life.
#2. God will always be with us......I believe He will simply because He always has."

It's really that simple.

Life is full of layers. There are hard things in each season and beautiful things; there are valleys and mountaintops; rivers and deserts. In the midst of it all I desperately need solid truth to keep me on track. There is value in creative disciplines and structure that will provide guidance and tremendous encouragement can be gained through friendly tips and advice from those who have traveled the way before me.

But mostly? Mostly I need the simple gems of truth - the clichés, if you will - that I can cling to and live out of. Every season is beautiful. Every season will change but God is going to be there because He always has been. With that knowledge, I can embrace the present and the changes it may bring. I can realize the joy of whose I am and put my heart into whatever He brings me to do - today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day.

"To everything there is a
Season,
And a time to every purpose
under Heaven."
Eccl 3:1


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gathered Advice Part 3: A Guest Post - Growing Up With Our Kids

Back  in 2015, Chris and I attended a Love And Respect conference at a local church in the town where Chris works. Some of you may remember me writing about it here. During the course of that day, we split into small groups for a session, and the lady in charge of our group asked us to each introduce ourselves and tell how we heard about the conference. Chris explained how we had seen the church's billboard and looked up the information it gave. The lady's eyes lit up with delight as she listened! She then shared how she had been praying that billboard would reach people and how blessed she was to hear that her prayers had been answered.

That lady's name was Lisa Frisch, and she later found my blog through a mutual friend. Since then, her comments have been an encouragement to me as well as discovering that she also writes and shares at Thoughts Collected By Lisa.

After I wrote my post asking for advice, Lisa commented that she thinks she will write about this subject on her blog. This sparked an idea for me and I asked her if she would be willing to share her post here? She agreed, and I am so happy to be sharing her post today!

              ***********************

The brave, humble questions of a fellow Christian blogger have sparked my introspection about parenting and aging gracefully. Bethany has five children and writes about a life and faith that I admire, giving me confidence that she will "enjoy each stage and navigate the changes gracefully." I only have sons, but since both are grown men and she asked for advice from women with experience in transitioning from mother-to-children to mother-to-adults, I'm collecting my thoughts on what we did right, what I regret, and the role of God's grace in parenting and aging.

Shortly after I gave birth naturally to our 8 lb 9 oz son (I repeated this 3 1/2 years later), I felt panic rising about not being equipped to handle the challenges that his growing-up-years might present. My husband calmly reassured me that we would "grow up with our kids."

As we shaped our family life, we followed the pattern of our parents. I stayed at home and he worked hard to provide. We took our kids to church every week, encouraging them to participate in Sunday School and Youth Group and to use their talents in church. They made friends there and we spent time with families who shared our values. As I tell in Wear Out Your Chairs, we ate dinner together, adjusting schedules to do so.

Those external practices laid a solid foundation for them. Sadly, though, during their earliest years, I was rather fearful. We were protective of our kids (car seats, bike helmets, vaccinations, orthodontics, etc.), but I worried about things that were hard to control (accidents, influence of rough kids, lyme disease, failure, heartbreak, evils of the internet, etc. See Many Dangers Toils and Snares.) My faith was based more in what I did than in the love of God for me and my kids. It reminds me of Finding Nemo when Marlin tells Dory that he promised to never let anything happen to Nemo. She responds, "That's a funny thing to promise...then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun..."


By God's grace, none of the tragedies I imagined came to pass, but things did happen to them. One swallowed the "little vitamin" (birth control pill) I left on the table. One bone did get broken. Both had college roommate issues. And both have endured a broken heart. They have found, as I have, that tests and trials do make us stronger and more mature just as the Bible teaches.

My husband was right. We did grow with our kids. We became scout leaders for their packs; I volunteered in their classrooms; and we supported them in their pursuits. We did life together. It paid off in close relationships with them. When they set out on their own, I transitioned from stay-at-home mom to stay-at-phone mom, available when they wanted to talk. Early adult years included late night phone calls which their dad took with patience and ended with prayer.

As a mom of boys, I have learned that the role does change as they become men. Just as we did, they need to make important decisions. We are blessed that our advice and example can help. With them living two hours away now, much of their daily life is out of my sight. That's not a bad thing. One regret I have about their childhood years is being a bit too protective and treating them as little kids instead of little men. In God's grace, I became aware of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' Love and Respect message for mothers of sons when I needed to better understand how to communicate my respect for these Good Men.

Father's Day 2008, the year Eric graduated from college and Kyle graduated from high school.

Looking back over thirty years of parenting, I'm thankful for what our sons have become and for how I have grown. Yes, the nest is empty, but I can truly say that I am content in all circumstances - loving the time we spend together and being joyful even when we are apart. Through the years, my husband has continued to listen to my anxious heart and to invest time in our friendship. True, we are growing older, but we're doing it together in the strength of our faithful God. We aren't crazy about some of the physical changes we see, but we try to keep our eyes fixed on what is unseen, because "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

My friend Bethany is anticipating "the wistful sadness of no more little people in the house," and I have experienced that, especially when looking at old photos. In my case, God spared me some of the emptiness by moving us to a different city and giving me a new hobby to keep me busy. And for a few years, I've been investing in other peoples' kids through visits to first grade classrooms. And, yes, Bethany, we older women are called to teach the younger ones how to love (be friendly to) their husbands and children. God has blessed me with that ministry where I rejoice to see Him working.

The good old days of 1992 when we were living in Minot, ND.

I don't know what the future holds. I may become a grandmother and get to see my sons be dads. And, I may become a widow as most women do. My anticipated sadness of that could sap the joy right out of this day. So my best advice is to trust in the Lord's promises to never leave us and to supply us with the grace and strength for each day. My "more experienced" older friends testify that His love never fails.

         *****************************

Thanks again, Lisa, for allowing me to share your post here. I so enjoyed hearing your thoughts and was especially challenged by your enthusiasm for being involved in new ministries as your boys grew up and life changed.

For those of you reading, I hope you follow the links in Lisa's post and enjoy more of her writing!

This ends my "gathered advice", unless someone else feels led to share with me ☺ I may be back with some of my own thoughts to conclude this subject.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gathered Advice: Part 2

As I said in my earlier post, "That Awkward Stage", I'm finding myself in a new stage of life these days. This year my husband turned 40; next year our oldest will be sixteen and the youngest will go off to kindergarten. I've found myself looking back wistfully at the years with my hands full of little people. Life was so simple when you could smooth away all the problems with a rocking chair and a kiss (never mind the mind-numbing lack of sleep in those days and trying to decipher the crying of a fussy baby...) What I've realized, as I shove back the nostalgia and determine to enjoy the present, is that my sadness might be mostly the reality of what being mother to a sixteen year old and my youngest going to school next year makes me. Not old, exactly, but a whole lot old-er than it feels like I should be.


Mid-life crisis is defined as an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. It is suddenly taking stock of your life and realizing that it may well be half over; what have I accomplished and where am I going from here?

I have found myself asking these questions and facing this reality. My question, then, was how do I do this gracefully? Today I'm sharing with you some excellent advice from ladies who have travelled this road before me.

               ---------------------------------------

"There are two things about change:

#1. They will happen throughout your entire life..
#2. God will always be with us.

I have somewhat of the personality to plunge forward into change with an upward plea, "God, you're gonna have to help me".

I believe He will simply because He always has."

{I can't tell you how much I love this simple piece of advice. Facts are the mooring needed in the middle of change and questions. What better truth to ground me than this?}

"I will jot down some thoughts that come to me, not in any certain order like how important, or anything...and maybe this is not even the kind of thing you were asking for...but here goes:

1. Journaling was/is a lifesaver for me. In problem-solving, not only does it help me to understand what I’m dealing with, but it helps me to organize my options and come to conclusions better. In my spiritual journey, it helps me to process with greater clarity what I am going through at the time and then later helps to strengthen my faith when I can read back over previous victories and evidences of God’s faithfulness. 

2. The daily habit of gratitude has transformed my life, since I started it about six years ago. I try to write down three things a day that I’m grateful for – things I noticed that were outstanding, or ordinary things that I tend to take for granted if I’m not intentional, or difficult things that I am not grateful for at the moment but wish to be soon. This practice has changed my whole outlook on life. In the transition to mom-of-adults, in the changes of our family life, in navigating the onset of menopause...I have been overwhelmed at the steady, faithful, giving nature of God. Sometimes I feel so rich I can hardly stand it.

3. What you said about identity is noteworthy – “How did they gracefully adapt to the change of identity that comes with all this change of who I am?” I would say that the more I learn who I am in Christ, the easier it is to adapt gracefully. If I have my identity and worth so bound up in mothering my children, or in how much I am able to accomplish in physical work, or in my knowledge/intelligence, when my children leave home, or I just can’t work like I used to without getting aches and pains, or I start forgetting things and having mind lapses, I will be devastated. I will feel like I am losing who I am and I won’t know how to cope. The sooner I can learn to live out of the concept of Whose I am rather than who I am, the better.

4. I think it’s a good idea to be informed about what you’re going through. (That’s why I think yours is such a good idea to learn from other women.) If I were to make a list of notes to my younger self, I would include things like “Read up on perimenopause (yes, self, there is such a thing, and it can come before you know it!) and get acquainted with its symptoms”, “Ask that older mom at church what meaningful things she would recommend doing with adult children in the months leading up to their leaving home for the first time (or for good)” and “If you can, discuss your questions about scary topics with a trusted friend because you may be surprised and comforted to know that she snapped at her grown son – over basically nothing – the other day and she lies awake for an hour or two at night even when she didn’t drink any coffee and she sometimes feels despairingly dry toward her husband in bed.”

5. Get yourself a good, understanding husband and a couple of close fun and funny friends to see you through this time in your life. You’re gonna need ‘em."

                   -----------------------------------

I'm not even sure how to express my appreciation for these ladies who shared from their heart. It was exactly what I was looking for and blessed me deeply; thank you!

Next up I have a guest post I'm looking forward to sharing with you....



p.s. Now, who wants to talk to me about perimenopause.................?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gathered Advice: Part 1

I must confess, when I hit publish on "That Awkward Stage", I really doubted I would get any response. I handed out my email address and boldly asked for tips but I secretly expected nothing. What that really boiled down to was the feeling that God didn't care enough about me to send responses my way.

Guess what? He did care!

He spoke loud and clear through you readers when not one but five emails landed in my inbox. I enjoyed the tips and advice from each of them, but the fact that God cared enough to prompt the writers to share them spoke to me the loudest. I'll even admit to wiping a few tears as I thanked Him for the tangible evidence of His love for me.

As I promised, I'm going to share the advice with the rest of you. In this first post, I'll give you some input on parenting teens. I'm leaving the writers anonymous and I'm not sharing their emails in full but I hope you enjoy the advice!

                    ----------------------------

"We have children that are entering the teens, those years when they search for their niche in this world. We can encourage and suggest, but some decisions we cannot make for them."

" Stay involved in their lives. Take an interest in what they like to do. Pray often."

"It is such a fun stage to have children that you can relate to as an adult."

{Let me insert here, I've never agreed with the mom's who say they love having older children who they can reason with/discuss things with; I've always loved younger children and been intimidated by older ones. But, several weeks ago when my oldest daughter was away at camp for a week I realized how much I missed having someone around to carry on"adult" conversations with during the day! I hadn't realized how much I enjoy her friendship.}

"I used to wonder why the older ladies are so tight-lipped with advice when we younger ones so obviously needed to tap into their wealth of wisdom. Now I understand that for the most part it’s only by the grace of God our children turn out as well as they do –we didn’t have a clue what we were doing (in the thick of parenting) so we sure don’t have answers for everyone else......I have opinions, but I’m not at all sure what worked for me will work for you.

That was the disclaimer.
 
Advice I have for parenting teens... when they are small, listen to their chatter so that when they are older they will keep talking to you. The chatter will slow down and you’ll want to know what’s going on in that head. But if they got the message years ago that you are not interested in what they have to say, they won’t say it.
Sometimes I want to shake young parents... how to wake them up that they are setting a foundation for parenting teens?? So much of the influence you have over your children is much earlier than you think. They don’t realize answering a toddler’s million “why” questions every day is paving the way to getting a teen to [get off their phone long enough to] communicate. Till most parents are aware of it, it’s too late. 
 
When they get to the teen years –especially once they can drive and you have less illusion of control over them- it’s fairly important not to overreact to things they tell you or you find out they are doing away from your presence. Gasping over stupid risk-taking/close calls... scolding for immature choices will not stop them from doing these things. It will only cause them to go undercover with it. Speaking from experience here. (Case in point- my parents were not happy with all the dress up socials we did when I was in service. Did it stop me from participating? No, I just quit telling them about it.) It takes the wisdom of Solomon to ‘school’ your reactions, but I keep saying I would rather know what they are doing, even if I don’t approve, than have them hide it from us. When my son got the 4wheeler stuck and it would’ve been pitch dark till he walked home but he didn’t have a cell phone along to call for help, he shot a large branch off a tree with the gun and used it to lever the 4wheeler out, I applauded his ingenuity but inside I was cringing over the many ways that could have ended badly. I thought I did pretty good covering up my alarm while teaching them to drive, but they gleefully tell stories how they always knew when I was nervous because I would clutch the door handle.
 
Something that has been big for me in parenting teens is to remember how I felt when I was their age. Yes, they seem so much younger and inexperienced than I was at their age, but I thought I was mature back then. I try to treat them the way I wanted to be treated. I loved, loved, loved the age my daughter is now so I try to release her to do things without me - get excited about what she’s doing, even though I’m too old for the slumber parties and things that were so much fun in my youth. Tell them things like “I’m so glad you have the opportunity to do this!” even when inside you are going “aww, that’s my baby!”

                       --------------------------
Great advice, thank you so much ladies!!

I'll be back soon with part two, this time focusing more on my question of personal aging and how to gracefully adapt to the change of identity that comes with all this change of who I am......