Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Mom

This is rather an odd time to be breaking my long silence, what with all my children home and needing to "homeschool" and our first foster child arriving on Thursday - a four year old girl.  Let's just say, I don't exactly expect to be having more extra time than usual in the days ahead! 

For months my urge to write has disappeared -- gone; dissipated; vanished; dissolved; non-existent. Lately I have felt some faint flutterings inside, along with a little flame of hope that just maybe my urge will return again. Today, when I started to post these pictures on Instagram, the thought flashed into my mind that they would make a perfect "Dear Mom" post. Usually I would have let the flash go by and easily ignored it. Instead, I shrugged and said, "Why not?"

This might be the only urge that I act on for another three months but so be it. 

I saw your handwriting today, Mom. It's not that often that I run across it these days, so I thought I'd tell you about it.

A very long time ago, when I was a little girl begging you for things to do, you made me some quilt blocks to cross stitch. I labored over them happily, undoubtedly trying your patience with endless interruptions about knots and needle threading and weird puckers. Granted, I don't remember them but it's safe to assume I was a fairly normal little girl in that department. 

You made me a little quilt with the blocks. 

And then, one day I was the Mom. I don't remember what made me come up with my grand idea but I decided it would be neat to give my daughters the same experience you'd given me. For Jasmine's fifth birthday, you made her the same cross stitch blocks you had once made me! And then you made them for my second daughter, Jennifer. And, because you weren't here anymore, I asked my sister to make them for my youngest daughter, Lillian. (This is how I know about the endless interruptions part of the deal.)

Jennifer age 5

Jasmine finished her blocks swiftly and I remember how you helped me make them into a little quilt. Come to think of it, I think you were the one who sewed them together for me, Mom. Then we quilted it.

When you made Jennifer's blocks, you sewed a pink border around each one and kept the leftover fabric in your drawer to be used when the blocks were completed. Months after you were suddenly gone, I went through your stash of fabric, Mom. There was the pink fabric with a note carefully attached. 

Jennifer didn't finish her blocks until she was nine. Since you weren't here to sew them together for me, Mom, they went in a bag on my closet shelf, along with the pink fabric with the note attached. There they have stayed, except for a time or two when I got them out and determined to sew them together. Soon. 

Jennifer turns twelve this month. 

For some odd reason, I decided that today was the day. Out came the bag and we figured out a plan and I sewed it together in no time. I thought you might be proud of me, Mom. 

Miss you. 

Love, Bethany

P.S. On another note. Remember how you used to disappear into the bathroom at strategic times, Mom?  When everything was up in the air, you would often disappear for a reset. I get it now.  XO

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Mountain As High As Heaven

Every now and again, my little world gets put swiftly into perspective. You know what I'm saying? The little mole hills I've turned into mountains suddenly become the tiny bumps in the road that they are and the discomforts and irritations of life shrink down to the ridiculous trifles they really are. Perspective will do that, you know?

Five years ago, I shared a story here about The God of the Big Picture; this morning, I read the sequel and felt my whole world shift to size.

If you want to hear the whole story, send me an email at christopherbethany@juno.com and I will forward it to you but here is the story in a nutshell...

After the failed brain surgery five years ago, Tarica's seizures eventually returned. They have intensified but been somewhat manageable with medication. The first part of this month, the seizures became alarmingly frequent and Tarica was hospitalized. Several measures were tried to regulate/ control the seizing and nothing seemed to help. Finally, their only options became a breathing tube and sedation or a plan for brain surgery. They have opted for a second attempt at surgery but there is a two month wait until the surgery's date. At the moment, they are looking at the possibility of two months of hourly seizures.

Stephanie writes, "On the last Sunday of 2019, I sat in a church not my own and listened to a preacher I had not heard before. But God found me there, a stranger in a strange land, and gave me the nearest thing to a vision I’ve ever had. He knew I would need it.

The preacher said—in my own words—that prayer is an essential work of the church even the least of us can do. He moved on to another point, but I didn’t go with him. Instead, I saw—as clearly as if I were standing beside it—an enormous mountain made of Bible-sized stones. Beside the mountain was a pile of dirt, maybe the size of a garden shed owned by a disinterested gardener. People carrying more stones kept walking up to the mountain and adding their stones to it. With each new stone, the mountain grew a little taller.

I knew instantly that pile of dirt was epilepsy and the mountain was prayer. Each time someone prayed, be it me or Linford or anyone else, the mountain grew higher and the dirt pile grew comparatively smaller.

Not that the dirt ever disappeared. Not that it ever turned into gold. There was no analogy here about dirt becoming a rich bed where flowers bloomed. Nothing would make the dirt pile beautiful.

But prayer can be taller and wider and deeper than epilepsy."

I cannot even begin to imagine being the mother in this kind of scenario. My mind rebels at the ongoing heartache of this kind of story; I cannot help but ask the many whys, including 'Why not me?' I do not know the answers. 

I do know that God is still the God of the Big Picture. And, while I can't do one thing to change the heartbreaking stories around me, I can add to the mountain of prayer. If we join hands together, perhaps our prayers combined can surround the Leinbach family with the strength they need for this journey. 

"This week, we have been well-prayed for. Our mountain towers over us, and from it flows living water. But it also looks like our dirt pile has grown. I do not know how we are going to live like this, nearly every waking hour marked by a seizure. I come begging: Will you pray for us? Please help us build this mountain up to heaven, to touch the heart of God." ~Stephanie

Will you join me?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Pictures and Holiday Tidbits

It's a new year! I keep thinking I will take the time to write some sort of end of the year/beginning of the year kind of post... highlights of the past year, recounting the decades in my life or something cool like that but it just doesn't happen. Instead of not doing anything at all, I thought I'd just throw together a bit of a picture post from the past few weeks of holidays and vacation from school.

We don't generally do gifts at Christmas, although often we end up doing a little something. This year my 11 year old had spent months collecting small gifts for each of us. She could hardly wait to give them to all of us and kept wondering when we would do it? To her surprise, I had also spent some time on a gift for each person and the Thursday night before Christmas week, we had the fun of sharing our presents.

All of my pictures of the evening are terrible quality but her joy in giving 
was the sweetest thing ever!

I had gotten the brainstorm at some point that family pjs would be fun and I spent way, way too much time looking at options online and trying to decide if I was crazy to try to make my ideas reality. You have to remember that my husband sometimes requires me to buy things, so just buying matching pjs was going to be more than my penny pinching self could handle.

I finally decided to order plain black t-shirts and scoured the internet for the best sales on black Friday, agonizing over prices and sizes until I so nearly chucked the whole idea. I still needed to figure out how I was going to write on the shirts if I ordered them, not to mention, I wasn't even sure what I wanted them to say! <Yes. Insert eye roll here. Enneagram 9, what can I say. >

Long story short, I ordered the shirts, bought some cheap stencils from Wal-Mart and some acrylic paint and some stuff to add to it to make fabric paint and found ideas for wording all with the help of good old Google (how did we live without Google?!).

I spent a crazy amount of
 time on them but surprising everyone
 was so much fun that the whole 
thing was completely worth it!

Friday was Chris's mom's birthday. Earlier in the week I decided at the last minute to try to get the family together to celebrate. We told her we'd like to take them out to eat and then I invited Chris's brothers to come meet us if it suited them. Ended up they all were able to come, so that was fun and she was quite surprised and pleased!

Some of the grandchildren
weren't there but
it was a fun evening. 

Early Sunday morning we left for Arkansas to spend Christmas with my family! Jasmine had a stomach bug Saturday evening and I had visions of everyone taking their turn on this trip and wished we could just stay home. We got to Arkansas in time to go to church Sunday evening and listen to my sister talk about her work in Belize. I was glad for the chance to say hi to friends. Early Monday morning I heard Isaac go flying down the stairs to the bathroom with Charles and my heart sank to my toes! He spent the day on the couch Monday but by evening he was fine and the rest of our time everyone stayed healthy, thank the Lord.

By late Monday night my whole family had arrived and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday enjoying family time and the lovely, sunny weather Arkansas was having.

Tuesday was a georgous day for a hike and the whole crew - from the 7 week old to the 80+ year old - enjoyed a trek up the mountain to an old fire tower! The view was lovely and we rigged up a bucket/ cement block 'tripod' to take a group picture.

Our time together wasn't that long but we packed it full with games and music and laughter and memories.

Oh, and food. Lots of good food. 
And pretty tables to eat it at.  

I have a sister who is the queen of sentimental, creative ideas. The jars on the table with fairy lights tucked inside all came from mom's canning shelves and we got to each choose one for our prize in a game of Bingo! So special. 

It was a good trip.

Oh, I must mention -- Chris got a great thrill out of surprising me with a large wrapped gift Christmas morning! I did guess what was inside when I lifted the box, since I had debated about buying a serger on black Friday. Can't wait to play with my new toy! I've never used one of these things before.

We traveled back home on Thursday to the grey dreariness of Ohio...... Was that complaining? 🙂 At least it wasn't freezing cold!

This week there's been no school, so we've had lots of relaxation along with a few projects and fun things. Sunday evening we invited family over for a snack and ended up with a few more people, which was fun.  The girls enjoyed arranging all the goodies.

New Year's Eve we were invited to Charles's classmate's house for a delicious supper and board games. It was a fun evening that lasted almost into the New Year, the clock struck 12 on our way home!

School starts again on Monday and, I must say, it's about time to get back to a schedule. If we went on like this too much longer we might completely forget how to be disciplined, productive people. In the silence that will bring, maybe I will have the chance to collect my thoughts into a 'cool' post of some kind. For now, I hope you enjoyed some pictures!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Way Of A Baby With A World (A re-post)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Way Of A Baby With A World

The room was packed as we inched our way forward in the long procession of people headed for the tables of food. Rows and rows of tables and chairs covered every available space in the room, leaving only narrow aisles for our line to squeeze through. My husband and I are avid people watchers and we found plenty of entertainment amongst the wide variety who had gathered. Perhaps, after all, it was the tiniest person attending who received the most attention. I noticed her first, down by my feet to the right. She was tucked comfortably into her car seat, one fist in her mouth and her blanket slipping down to nearly cover one eye.

"Aww, look at her," I nudged my husband and nodded toward the baby. "Isn't she cute?" Even he, who likes to remark on the fact that no child is as ugly as one who's not your own, agreed.

We exchanged a few words with the little miss's mom who was busily enjoying her food while keeping one eye on her baby and smiling at everyone who passed and took note of the little charmer. Babies have a way of doing that, you know. Without even trying, they somehow manage to capture people's attention and melt hearts just a little.

If you've ever had a baby of your own, you know the phenomenon of suddenly attracting attention wherever you go. At the grocery store, the restaurant, the church, the parking lot, you name it; wherever you go you are showered with smiles and comments and attention. People who would have never given you a second look otherwise, suddenly smile at you with warmth in their eyes and stop to hold your door or pick up the quarter you dropped. I remember an occasion where we were having lunch with friends at a restaurant, along with our three young children. The baby, especially, was drawing lots of attention. As a friendly lady paused beside our table to inquire and gush over each child's name, our friend spoke up mischievously, "My name is Billy!" Somehow no one had thought to ask him.

Babies seem to bring out the best in everyone, from children to old, weathered men. I remember another occasion when our oldest was small and upon leaving a restaurant, we discovered our bill had been paid by some kind gentleman who had admired our sweet, little boy.

There is a baby in our church right now who is just absolutely the sweetest thing ever. Dark eyes, lots of dark hair, perfect complexion, squishable cheeks and chubby little arms and legs. She'll look at you with the most solemn expression that practically begs to be cajoled into a smile. If you are successful, her grins are enough to turn the hardest heart into mush.

A while back I began noticing the reactions to this child at our church. From the young girls who fight for the chance to hold every baby in sight; to the mothers, busy with young ones of their own; to the husbands like mine who think the cutest child is their own; to the older men, who rarely hold a baby since their own are grown, the reactions are all the same -- complete and total adoration.

I've seen grown men ask to hold her during church; all manner of faces and contortions to coax a smile; softened eyes and gentle smiles every time.

This particular baby is the foster child of our pastor and his wife. It's as if the heartbreaking reality of all the brokenness in this world shines forth from that one sweet, little face and all of us soften and step forward to somehow ease the ache. That such purity and innocence should encounter the harshness of humanity is almost more than anyone with a heart can bear. The very sight of her prompts us all to pour forth the love we so long to see heal this broken world. On more than one occasion, as I've watched some grown man trying to coax a smile during church or noticed a grandpa jiggling her on his knee, I've felt a quick lump in my throat and blinked back a tear.

In this Christmas season, as the story of the Messiah's coming is told and retold in the programs and carols and sermons, my mind keeps going to that sweet baby at our church. Remembering the way she has captured our hearts and affection, one question keeps repeating itself in my mind.

Is it any wonder Jesus was sent to us as a baby?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

He Came

A bit of frank honesty about this time of the year....

Christmas time is full of many conflicting emotions for me. To varying degrees, neither Chris nor I grew up in families that made a big deal out of Christmas time. In the years since we've been married, we've juggled differences in opinions and there's needed to be a lot of give and take from both of us. Every year I think I will somehow sort things out and come to a better place with it all, but I end up just "making it through" December and leaving it all behind until next year.

I'm not sure that I'm really ready to delve into a full blown discussion on the origin of Christmas and what a person should choose to do with all of that. Maybe your insights would be helpful, I don't know.  I've struggled with all of that for years but that's not what I came here to talk about. I came here to talk about the actual story of Jesus birth. 

Do me a favor and go read this article about the story of Jesus birth, then come back and think about this with me....

How do you feel? Maybe you are skeptical of the writer; maybe you already successfully scoffed at the new ideas and held on to what you've always believed. I get it. I can't say with authority that the information in that article is one hundred percent accurate but I must admit, it does make a lot more sense than the story I've believed for years. 

Forget the fact that celebrating Christmas began with pagan roots and Jesus' birth did not take place on December 25th. What if the actual story we've portrayed for years has been a completely skewed version of the truth? What if every Christmas song you've sung, every nativity you've set up or acted out, every program you've watched or been a part of was based on the figment of western imagination? Does that kind of throw you for a loop, like it did me? Does it almost take the "magic" out of Christmas and leave you feeling confused and slightly sad and a tad cynical?

I confess that I still am not really sure what to do with it all. I do know this, it's made me realize that the miracle and wonder of Jesus' birth is not in the story. I think I've tied the meaning of it all to the picture of rejection and loneliness and abandonment we've created with our smelly stable and grouchy innkeeper. If I take away those things, it almost feels like I have nothing left and that is so far from the truth!

This article reminded me of the truth: "The incarnation is the miracle: it's not Jesus' otherness but his us-ness, his human-ness, his full experience as fully human and fully God together that is the miracle."

It doesn't have to be scary to realize I've been wrong. It doesn't have to throw me for a loop and put me into a helpless despair of wondering what to even do with it all. I still don't know how Christmas should look or how exactly we should tell our children the old, old story. I do think truth matters and that we should embrace learning, even when it makes us uncomfortable and pushes us outside of what we've always known and loved. But mostly, I want to remember that it's the incarnation that is the miracle. It's not so much how and when and where He came, but the fact that He Did.

Friday, December 6, 2019

As A Middle Aged Mom

After a day of three children quizzing, a husband and son coaching quizzers, the youngest going to school as usual, the two middle ones going out for supper with their quiz team, the oldest being in charge of some youth plans, and the driver with the permit driving the rest of us to town, my mind went in the direction of this poem. Sometimes I'm pretty sure the diapers and night feeding had their own places where they were a breeze.......

* * * * * * * * *

As a Middle Aged Mom, 
My life is a breeze --
So much that there once was
Has passed into ease. 

No diapers, 
No nursing, 
No cries in the night. 
No feeding, 
No clothing, 
No soothing the fright.
No bathing, 
No teething, 
No toddlers who bite. 
No rocking, 
No bouncing, 
No settling at night. 

Of course there are new things, 
In Middle Aged life --
Five stages to mother;
One husband to 'wife'.

New scholars, 
New shavers, 
New youth out at night. 
New quizzers,
New freedoms, 
New drivers; what fright!
New thinkers,
New talkers, 
New questioning right. 
New dreamers,
New planners, 
New challenge alright. 

As a Middle Aged Mom, 
I have a suspicion.
This 'ease' that we speak of
Is false contradiction!

Calling Mom life a breeze, 
Is only to jest. 
How 'bout we embrace it, 
That each stage is best?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Of Thankfulness And People

A very, very long time ago -- back when I was a young thing on the youth committee -- I wrote a poem. As I recall, we had a Thanksgiving supper for our parents and planned a short program for afterward. I'm not sure how I got the job, much less the inspiration, but I wrote the following poem and doled out the parts to my group of fellow youth. Each narrator fit the description of the person in the part of the poem that they read. I came across it recently, and it made me laugh remembering. Thought I'd share it here this Thanksgiving week.....

      * * * * * * * * * *

Of Thankfulness And People

I've been listening to people, 
and what I hear is strange.
It seems they never like themselves, 
they always wish for change.

"I wish I was like Susan," 
I heard Rebekah say, 
"She always does the nicest things, 
helps others on their way!"

It seemed I'd no more turned around 
'til I heard Susan sigh,
"Rebekah always does things right, 
I guess I just won't try!"

The next complaint to reach my ears 
came from the lips of Jim,
"Don is so good at leading out, 
if only I were him!"

I looked at him in shocked surprise, 
for Don had just confided,
"Jim sure knows how to listen well,
sometimes I wish that I did!"

I looked around at others 
and scarce believed my ears.
It seemed they all would wish for change 
to be more like their peers --

"I wish that I would talk more." 
"I wish that I were quiet."
"If only I were bigger."
"I must go on a diet!"

Amazing this, the very thing 
that one would wish to change,
The other has and doesn't want, 
it all seems very strange!

The more I heard, the more I thought, 
and scratched my puzzled head.
"The things each has are very good, 
why wish for change?" I said.

I got my friends to help me think 
and figure this thing out,
Why people wish to change their ways 
and what it's all about.

"You know," said one, "If all were 'Dons' 
just visualize the mess -
"We'd end up in a sorry state of fighting, 
I would guess!"

"I'm glad there's 'Jims' to listen!"
" 'Rebekahs' sure are nice!"
"You know, I think each one of us 
adds our own bit of spice."

And there, I think, is when I saw 
what really is the key,
And that, my friend, is this, 
(and I'm quite sure that you'll agree).

It's when I learn to thank the Lord 
for just the way He made me,
And do the bit that I can do 
with each small gift He gave me.

It's when I learn to thank Him for 
the folks He's placed around, 
To do the things that I can't do
 that happiness is found!

I hope you'll find as we have found
 that this is really living,
We're ALL important and for that 
there should be great Thanksgiving!!