Gifts from my Grandma

The following is a tribute I wrote for my grandmother, Lelia Place’s funeral this past week.  John suggested that I share it here on my blog.  I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I am ready now.   I am also thinking of my mother in law, Mavis Hilleson this morning as I pour boiling water on my Thanksgiving tablecloths.  No fear of red jello here!  On this day after Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how many wonderful, strong, women of faith have poured their time, talents, and selves into me.  I am very blessed and beyond thankful.

Gifts from my Grandma

My grandma gave me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I would like to share seven of them with you today.

  1. The Gift of Hospitality– Grandma’s door was always open to me and she was always glad to see me. This wasn’t just for me or for her other grandchildren. They had a hired man named Carl who lived with the family all throughout my mom’s growing up years.  John and I have had several employees on our farm over the years and I can’t imagine inviting any of them to live with our family, but Grandma did.  I remember many stories about a certain seed corn salesman who just happened to call on them at dinnertime every time he came to call. She always told this story with the air of someone who knew exactly what was going on, but she served him dinner anyway.
  2. The Gift of Enough– She and my grandfather were married during the Depression. Since she and Grandpa had enough to eat, they were considered “wealthy” and her younger siblings were sent to live with them. Because she had enough, Grandma felt it was her responsibility to help others as she was able. It was and remains a powerful lesson to me. If you have enough, you are wealthy.Scan0014.jpg
  3. The Gift of Simplicity- Living during the Great Depression left its mark on my grandma. She knew how to make do and to be content with simple things. During the first year of their marriage, Grandma really wanted to have a Christmas tree, so she made a small one out of leftover scraps of aluminum foil as a decoration. Even after the Depression, when our country enjoyed a more widespread prosperity, I don’t think you could rightly say that she was a “fancy” woman, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, she was Real.FB95IMG951484676189582.jpg
  4. The Gift of Generosity- When it came time for me to buy my first car, I needed it, but I didn’t have the money. Grandma was there. She readily loaned me the money, but not before I understood that this was a LOAN, not a gift, and that she wouldn’t charge me interest, but she did expect monthly payments that we later set up. She made sure my needs were met, while giving me dignity and responsibility in the bargain. I know for a fact I am not the only person in this room that she did that for. When I was in college, she and Dale would just happen to drop by on a Friday night and see if I wanted to go out to dinner with them. She knew I couldn’t afford to go out to eat and just wanted to be a blessing.
  5. The Gift of Self- After John & I got married, and the babies came, and life got really busy, I found it was more difficult than it should be to visit her, even though she lived just three miles away. No matter, she would just stop by when she was out running errands and we would get to visit for awhile. She didn’t complain that she visited me more often than I visited her, we just enjoyed our time that we spent together.FB95IMG951484676252081
  6. The Gift of Work- My grandmother was a hard worker and an accomplished woman. To my knowledge, there is not one aspect of their farming operation that she couldn’t manage. She kept the books for his seed corn business, she drove the tractors, she managed her own herd of sheep. But even after that work was done, she worked alongside of me, passing her knowledge on. She spent countless hours on my porch peeling apples, teaching me to add a little salt to the water to keep the apple slices white or a little lemon juice to the sauce to make it taste fresh. Fitted sheets were a mystery to me, until she showed me the trick to folding them. There are a million different ways I am reminded of her as I go about my everyday work.
  7. The Gift of Faith- Like many people in her generation, still waters ran deep. She was not particularly showy about her faith, but it was there and it was real. Grandma prayed for her family every day. She put her trust in her Lord. In the hospital, Grandma told Gabe how proud she was of him for becoming a preacher. The last words she spoke to me were “The Bible promise…go home.” And so we grieve today, but not as those who have no hope, because we know that she is in the presence of the Lord, completely healed, more alive than she has ever been. For those of us who have put our trust in Christ, today is not goodbye forever. Today is just the beginning of a temporary separation.1008171500e.jpg

 

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Verb Tenses in the Wilderness

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in yourname I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Maybe it is the elementary teacher in me, maybe God was just trying to show me something, but when I read this Psalm a couple of days ago, the first thing that jumped out at me was the verb tenses.  Weird, huh?  Verb tenses don’t normally jump off the page at me like that.
Past Tense Verbs:
have looked upon you
have been my help
These are looking back to God’s faithfulness in the past.
Future Tense Verbs:
will praise you
will bless you
will lift up my hands
will be satisfied
will praise you
will sing for joy
These look forward with anticipation to a time of future joy.
Present Tense Verbs:
I seek you
I thirst for you
my flesh faints for you
I remember you
and meditate on you
My soul clings to you
These verbs offer an honest appraisal of what David is feeling at the moment.  There is no pressure to put on a good face or to just dive in and pull himself up by his bootstraps.  There is no chastisement that he would get over it if he would just serve the Lord more or better.
There is one more verb that has not been addressed yet.
God’s verb:
your right hand upholds me
When studying the Bible, it is said that when God repeats himself you had better take notice because it’s important.  Considering how God spoke to my heart when I was studying Psalm 42 a couple of weeks ago, I think I’ve gotten the message.  When living through a time in the wilderness, look back and remember God’s past faithfulness, look forward and anticipate a time of future joy, and just hang on.  It is God’s part to uphold you.  I want to be very clear that I am not talking about clinical depression.  That is a medical illness that requires medical treatment and to neglect that aspect of taking care of yourself would be as foolish as someone with diabetes neglecting to take their insulin.  Sometimes we are just faced with a wilderness, a time of prolonged grief and sadness that is not biochemical, but you can’t just get over either.
I love that we have a God who says to Hagar “I see you and I hear you”when she was in the wilderness. (Gen. 21)  I love that when Elijah was ready to give up and die, God did not tell him to snap out of it; but rather tended first to his physical needs for food and rest and then to his emotional need for encouragement. (1 Ki 19)  I love that Jesus fully knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but cried at his funeral anyway (John 11)  I love that we serve a God who tenderly cares for those who are hurting without pretense or expectation to put on a good show.  This is only more powerful because He is not the one dimensional, feel-good God-who-is-only-love; but that He is also the righteous, holy Judge and omnipotent Creator of the universe and still chooses to tenderly care and comfort me in my distress.

Psalm 42:1-6 (Revisited)

I have a confession to make.  I have not always been a huge fan of Psalm 42:5.  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  This is in part because it has always felt a little like an accidental weapon people use when someone is hurting. It’s kind of like saying, “Be well, be happy, put your hope in God.”  Not particularly helpful.  The other reason is due to the happy worship song of the same words.  When my soul is downcast, happy little worship songs are (again) seriously not helpful.

The Word of God never changes, but I do.  Each new season of life brings a new perspective and a different understanding to the Bible. In this light, I have had occasion to revisit this Psalm, spend some time considering these verses, and gain a new appreciation for them.  This morning, I wrote them out in my own words and John thought I should share them here.  They are not a translation or even a paraphrase but more like C.S. Lewis’ “supposal” of what these words might look like played out in my life.  It is our hope that they may be of encouragement to someone.

Psalm 42:1-6 (Revisited)

I remember…

I remember when it was not like this; when I delighted in the Lord and in the fellowship of His people.  I remember the deep satisfaction and joy in using my gifts to serve Him and the holy moments when it was not me, but Him working through me to touch the life of another person.  I remember those times and I long to return to them.  I am so thirsty for joy.  But instead of joy, I drink my own salty tears that were not invited or welcome and only make me thirst more for the joy I had in Him.  They sap me of my strength when I long to be filled with His power.  but even now, this I know to be true.  I will yet again praise Him.  This too, shall pass.  This season of grief is not welcome but it is just a season and it will in time come to an end.  While I am waiting, I will remember God’s faithfulness and put my hope in Him.

 

Morning Confession

I woke up today tired and poured out. I just wanted to climb back into bed with my blanket and let someone else be the mom for awhile. It has been such a difficult week and I just didn’t think I could bear up anymore. Alas, such thoughts are only a fantasy because responsibilities are waiting and I must bear up and press on, so I went to the computer to turn on a song which speaks to my heart and pour out my troubles in song to the Lord. When I did, this picture was waiting for me on the desktop.10712722_892717707405914_1318212237148835834_n It was God the Father, waiting to meet me at my point of need. He sees me. He knows. He loves me and is for me. He is waiting for me and we will face this day together.

From time to time, people will say to me, “You are _______________. I don’t know how you do it,” and I recoil because I am not, I really am not. Can I get a witness? I AM NOT. But God…. The Great I AM, HE IS.

I don’t like being this raw, this exposed; but 2 Cor. 1: 3-4 says

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

No matter how alone I feel, and trust me there are days when I feel utterly alone, I know I am not alone. There are many others struggling to find the strength to face this day and I say to you, we are not alone. God sees you. He knows. He loves you and is for you. He is waiting and you can face this day together. And you know what? I am rooting for you too.

 

Hope for Messy Families

This is the article that started it all.  It got me thinking; took me down memory lane and about some lessons that God has taught me.  But what good is it to learn lessons the hard way, if not to share your stories with others so they don’t make the same mistakes you did?  So here goes, this is a word for the young moms and the tired moms and discouraged moms: TAKE HEART.

I have been a born again Christian for over 30 years.  I have been a stay at home mom for 22 years.  I have been a homeschooling mom for 15 years.  (Did I really say those things out loud?  Now I feel old.)  One would think that with a resume like that, I would have this parenting thing down and our family would be the picture of love and tranquility.  Did you hear that sound?  That is the sound of God and all his angels laughing at what I just said.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are a very messy family.

When I began homeschooling, I went with my friends to the annual homeschooling convention.  These days were promoted as a time of encouragement and refreshment.  At these conventions, I would see other homeschooling families with their children:  Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect ; all wearing matching, homemade outfits.  I came home to my own messy family:  Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient, wearing clothes that may or may not be stained, have holes, or match. Rather than encouraged and refreshed, I was discouraged and disheartened.  I don’t go to homeschooling conventions anymore.  (Please note that this is not in any way intended to be critical of homeschooling conventions.  The people who put them on work very hard and many people are blessed by them.  They are just not a good fit for me.)

But this is the good news:  God, does indeed, specialize in messy families.  Messy families are the perfect place to learn forgiveness and grace, the heartbeat of the gospel.  Those things don’t take place in a perfect, sanitized setting; they can only happen surrounded by messy, sinful people who trust in a gracious, forgiving God (Eph. 4:32).  God is not done with us yet, but He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in each one of us. (Phil 1:6)

Comparison is a trap that we set for ourselves.  So what if that mom at the convention has Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect?  God did not give her the grace to raise my family.  He gave me the grace to raise my family.  He gave her the grace to raise hers. (Eph.4:7)  And if I was honest, sometimes Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect turn into Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient too (Ro. 3:23).

If you are a mom who woke up tired and discouraged this morning, take heart.  God’s grace is new every morning.  He does not grow tired or weary and in His strength you can meet the challenges that this day holds (Isa. 40:28, 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 4:16).  So have the courage to be real, think Biblicaly, and live the gospel.  And you have my permission to let your kids wear the play clothes.  They are the perfect attire for messy people like us.

I Want You to Know…Revisited

April is Autism Awareness Month and yesterday my newsfeed was filled with posts calling for acceptance of neurodiversity and contending that autism is not a disease, but rather a difference to be celebrated.  While I support and cheer on each and every one of my sister-moms, to a large extent I find myself on the outside looking in because their experiences are not my experience.  As my friend Laura rightly pointed out, “If you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism.”  each of our journeys is unique.

This morning seemed like a perfect time to revisit something I wrote four years ago.

I Want You to Know…

In a Facebook world where we share a status for an hour to show we care, there is something I want you to know about me.  Being a parent of a child with disabilities isn’t just about the disappointment of altered dreams for what your child could become…although there is that.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities is also the heartbreak of seeing him not included; not because his peers are mean, but because they just don’t know how to relate to his world.  It’s seeing friends move on and leave him behind and there is no one to get mad at because they are just growing up normally and your child is not.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means making a thousand hard choices every day; sometimes in the blink of an eye.  It means choosing carefully which hills to die on and accepting the judgement of friends and strangers because they would never make those choices and knowing that now they think less of you as a parent because their child would never act that way.  I want you to know that I am acutely aware that your child would never act that way and that makes the world a lonely place sometimes because when faced with the choice of explaining my actions so you will like me or protecting her privacy, I will choose her privacy every time. It means knowing that in my fatigue I will sometimes make poor choices and it means asking her forgiveness and forgiving myself and moving on.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means remembering that there are other children in my family who have needs too and making sure those needs get met.  It means knowing full well that there is not enough of me to go around and trusting God to enable me.

I want you to know the words I dread most in the world are “You must be so ________.  I could never do that.”  I take them in the spirit of the encouragement they are intended to be, but I dread them because I know that I am not.

I want you to know that although my child has cognitive disabilities, he is not stupid and he is aware that he is not like other children.  I want you to know that she feels deeply and her pain is real and her joy is real even when it is not something that would move you at all.

I want you to know that I celebrate small accomplishments and victories and that I know the value of a really good day.

I want you to know that the greatest gifts you could give me and my family are genuine love and grace extended freely, being included, being invited, and providing a safe place to be weak when necessary.

Four years later, I still mean every word.  Four years later, there are a few words that I would add.

I want you to know that I have become quite adept at discerning true friends from those who are just polite enough to stay out of trouble.  If you belong to the former group I want you to know that I owe you a debt I can never repay and I pray that God rewards you richly for your kindness.  If you belong to the latter group, I want you to know that your condescending smiles and utter lack of room in your world for him are daggers in my heart.  I know, I get it.  He can be weird, she can be exasperating, you don’t know how to relate; but it still hurts…a lot…every single time.  But I also feel sad for you because you are missing out.  God has lovingly created each one of us in His image and He makes no mistakes.  That means God made him the way he is for a reason.  That means that if she is in your life, she has something to contribute to it.  That means by dismissing him, you  have missed out, in some small way, of seeing the glory of God.

To those who have befriended our family and included us in your lives, I want you to know how deeply I treasure your friendship; because I know we aren’t always easy to love.  I know that your friendship has come at the cost of forgiveness and grace extended on more than one occasion.

Finally I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.  The mind is a mysterious thing and we are so much farther than I could have ever imagined four years ago.  Life is still hard and there will never be any escape from that in this life; and some days hope all but disappears.  But no one knows the future but God and He is good.  I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.

Praising God in the Hallway

As the sparkling white of icy winter gives way to the gray-brown snows of approaching spring, my arms start to ache to work in my gardens again.  I have been dreaming all winter of plans for my kitchen garden and the herbs and teas I want to plant this year (BTW, if anyone knows where I can purchase a chammomile plant, please let me know!)

I think this is why I’ve been struggling with a touch of homesickness lately.  When I visit the farm and see windows boarded up and the lawn littered with demolition debris or see strange men with dirty boots tramping through my house, it crushes my spirit a little bit every time.

I can give in to these feelings and keep my eyes on my circumstances or I can turn my eyes to God and allow Him to give me a fresh perspective. As the saying goes, “While you are waiting for God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway.”

The following are pictures from our temporary home:

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641. The company which provided the furnishings did not want me to put plants on any of their tables, but this bay window is just perfect.  And really, if one has to do dishes, this view is a blessing.  My soap dispenser was broken in the move, so on one of our (seemingly) daily trips to Wal-Mart I picked up this blue one. I don’t care if it’s a cheap plastic soap pump, I love that it matches my blue Mason jars! (642.)

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643.  My dad sent me these lovely roses for Lions Rose Day.  Being the daughter of a Lion and the wife of a Lion, I am doubly blessed ❤  They were especially meaningful to me this year and made the place feel a little more like home.  (Aren’t they gorgeous?)

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644.  I could not find my napkin holder after the move.  I walked into Goodwill for something totally unrelated and someone had just dropped off several Longeberger baskets.  Perfect!

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645. This is a little reading nook the housing company set up for me.  It is right next to sliding glass doors with lots of natural light to do my quiet times in the morning.Or at least it will be the perfect place to do my quiet times if I can beat John to it some morning; he is also quite fond of my reading nook.

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646.  I didn’t have a really good place for the kids to practice tumbling at our farm; but the large, unfinished basement is just the thing!

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647. We had a toy room at the farm, affectionately known as “The Toy Shop”.  It was a converted porch that was very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, so it was mainly used for toy storage.  In the basement of this house, there is one finished room (that is quite toasty) that we have set aside for the kids’ toy room.  Sam and Emma hosted a few friends over yesterday and I can tell you I was quite happy to have all the happy screaming noises downstairs.

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648. This is the back deck (complete with bunny tracks from last night’s snow), but do you know what I see?  I see a perfect place for planters filled with herbs and teas to plant in my kitchen garden when I move back home.