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Reader’s Choice ’12: Leah

Roy Knapp was in my husband’s high school class.

Roy Knapp

Roy Knapp

I didn’t know him until this year when he began reading everyday epistle. Roy is no ordinary reader. He doesn’t merely observe; he fearlessly comments here and on Finding (Un)Common Ground.

Thank you, Roy, and all the readers who dialogue with me on the blog and privately.

Together we commemorate a woman who would have turned 75 years old today. Her husband was the subject of a post that was selected in last year’s Reader’s Choice.

This year, I wrote about her. Roy’s Reader’s Choice is:

Leah

Leah

click to read Leah

Reader's Choice

 

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Dare to Hope

I love Christmas. Really, I do.

pink poinsettias

it’s beginning to look a lot like…

I love that our culture still reserves a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But the churning of the holiday season is a mixed bag for me, and I’m not the only one.

After I published the bah-humbug-ish post Saving Duck this past Tuesday, my best friend, my closest cousin, and my brother all contacted me within a three-hour period. These people are more dear than I deserve, so their concern could be a coincidence. Just in case, I thought I better clarify.

First, I’m okay. You’re okay. God willing, we’ll all make it through.

Second, this is not a retraction of my thoughts from my last post. The unrealistic expectations of a perfect Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s are destructive. They steal our joie de vivre and drain our bank accounts. We question our faith and our sanity.

Now I know there are a few of you who would prefer I only write about shiny, happy things. I appreciate that, and I wish I could meet your demands.

But I can’t.

It’s not my intention to be a negative Nelly. I do write about fun stuff as well from misread song lyrics to missing underwire, from discontinued lipstick to dismissed hair accessories. But to me, it wouldn’t be honest or helpful to present as if everything is sunshine and roses (or pink poinsettias) when it’s not.

Yesterday I hung out with some Christian girlfriends. One caught my attention when she said, “I don’t really like this season. I mean I like Christmas, I just don’t care for all that goes with it.”

Her courage struck a chord. One by one, every woman recounted personal stories of how painful the holidays can be. My December dread didn’t seem so abnormal after all.

The wisest of all the women shared a story from when her kids were younger. She and her husband piled their little ones in the car and drove across three states to visit a relative for Thanksgiving. The trip wasn’t a surprise visit; the relative knew they were coming. Imagine their shock to arrive just in time to stand in the driveway and wave good-bye.  Grandma had made other plans to go out with friends for Thanksgiving dinner instead.

chocolate turkeys

don’t be a turkey

“We laugh about it now,” said my friend. “We joke and say, ‘Remember when Grandma left us on Thanksgiving?’ But at the time, it wasn’t funny.”

This is in part why we need other people in our lives. It’s why we need to tell each other the truth. It’s why some of us write and read and comment. How good to know we’re not alone. Others have walked this road or on it with us now. Many have survived. Maybe we will, too.

Walk on, pilgrims. Walk on.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT

He Walked a Mile by Clay Crosse. An oldie but a goodie.

Do you still dare to hope? Tell me more.

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Shopping with the Stars

Shopping for glasses for my husband was a star-studded event. 

We met Drew Carey.

DC

Whose line is it anyway?

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AS

Hasta la vista, baby.

Elton John.

EJ

She packed my bags last night pre-flight.

And John Belushi.

JB

I’m a soul man.

Much of the joy in life is about who’s traveling with you.

S

Have your people call my people.

If the frame fits…

A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.
Proverbs 15:13 The Message

Take your Vitamin C and Smile.

Who travels with you in life? What or who do you have to smile about today?

 

 

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Stay or Go, God is There

I’ve been known to stay long past the bitter end, forever and ever, amen. But as I age, my impulse is to run.

crosses

crosses

Running seems more efficient. The minute the malaise sets in and my gut says maybe everything in this situation (or friendship or outfit or whatever) isn’t going to be okay after all, I’m set to fly. Don’t usually act on it, but I want to.

God in His wisdom paired me prone-to-bolt with a husband who is built-to-stay.

He does not easily move. He possesses patient, long-suffering stick-to-itiveness. Comes from growing up on a farm, I think.

There’s a lot of waiting on a farm. You wait for the weather to change. Wait for things to grow. Wait for the prices of your crop to go up. Wait for the costs of your implements to come down. Wait for homemade dinners. Wait for trips to town to get supplies.

In the suburbs where I come from there’s very little waiting. We devour instant gratification. Malls, 24-hour grocery stores, fast food restaurants, extreme makeovers at your choice of salons. Want to satisfy a craving? Change your life today? Walk-ins welcome.

This isn’t a contest between farm and suburbia. There are pros and cons to both. Just like there are times to run and times to stay put.

Mercifully, God is there no matter what.

When the pregnant Hagar ran, she saw God.

When the fugitive Moses ran, God met him in a burning bush.

When David ran, he sang to God Who was with him: I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.

When Elijah ran from Jezebel, he heard God whisper.

On the other hand, when Miriam stayed among the bulrushes of the Nile, she saw God save her baby brother’s life through the hands of an Egyptian princess.

When David stayed to fight Goliath, this was his battle cry: All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.

When Jehoshaphat’s people stayed in the face of destruction at the hands of their enemies, they heard the echo of David’s words: Do not be afraid because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

When Jesus stayed and did not run from the Roman soldiers in Gethsemane, He set in motion the work of the cross.

I’m thankful for people in my life who ground me from flight. I like to think they’re thankful for people like me who bid them to fly once in a while.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I’m astounded by a God who remains steadfast in spite of us.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV

Me Without You, new from TobyMac.

Are you prone-to-bolt or built-to-stay?

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Leah


garden statue of a girl

My Aunt Leah was rarely sick and always bounced back. Fell and broke her hip this past Christmas. Returned to work by February. And she was 74 years old.

Quiet, gentle, dignified, but tough as nails when it came to perseverance. Leah was steady. Without pause, always there, sure and steady.

A nurse by profession, she once took in my mother and I when we needed a place to go. Years later, when my mom was dying, Leah came to be with her youngest sibling for a week. She stood in my mom’s kitchen stirring soup made of carrots and celery she’d diced into tiny cubes.

Leah was the first person to French braid my hair. I’d come to visit that summer. I may have been 10, perhaps younger, so I don’t remember sitting still as she weaved the plaits tightly, an exercise she missed with her three sons. A picture remains to bear witness to those perfect braids.

Most of her life she lived in an old house with a rambling yard and a vegetable garden so big that I never did walk to the end of it. Her youngest son and I traversed that garden one evening as children. We navigated between squash and cucumbers and bushes of beans.

We climbed to the top of the compost pile. Then he said, “Snake!”

I never saw it. I bolted out of the garden all the way back to the house. Aunt Leah yelled from the yard for me to stop that ridiculous screaming.

Last summer, I returned with my husband and son to visit my Aunt Leah and Uncle Abe in their newer house. Their big garden was left behind, but the table was forever full. Salads and sauces and pasta to eat in the late afternoon.

She was the eldest of six children. The mother of three. Grandmother of six. Faithful wife of Abe for 53 years. She was unwavering in prayer for our family. The pages of her Bible were falling out from use.

It happened this spring, a cascade drawn out over weeks that started slowly and picked up speed as days rolled along. Leah had trouble breathing. Leah went to the emergency room. Leah developed pneumonia.

Leah was hospitalized. Leah was given oxygen. Leah was in critical care. Leah’s lungs sustained damage. Leah was on life support.

Then this past Tuesday, at 2:34 p.m., my Aunt Leah died. Surrounded by family here on earth, she was ushered into the arms of family there.

another view

It’s been almost 16 years since my mother died. Sixteen years since my family last experienced death. Years filled with so many challenges, but such a long stretch without funerals.

I wonder what they’re talking about now. Has Leah told my mom she saw me last summer? That I have a son with hazel eyes? Are they sitting with my Grandma and Grandpa V?

Are they sipping cups of tea while Grandma has coffee? Is Grandpa wearing his fur coat? Are they gushing and waiting with ease for the rest of us to meet them at the table? For dinner to begin in the late afternoon?

Over the next few days, I’ll be off the grid. Look for me in real life as I travel alone to gather with the family that’s left. To pay tribute and grieve our loss of Leah, steady and true.

We’ll miss you, Aunt Leah. Wait for us there. Unwavering, wait for us.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 NIV

This past Monday, we celebrated National Poetry Month here on the blog. The response to Poetry Slam Party has been intelligent, thoughtful, and moving. Ariel Price graced us with poem by John Donne in the comments. Seems fitting to end this week with another of Donne’s most excellent works.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Who is waiting for you in heaven? How do you grieve here on earth?

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Goodbye, Kindergarten

Congratulations, A!

Today is my son’s last day of kindergarten. Momma Bear has mixed emotions.

On Tuesday you read he’d outgrown his shoes. Always been able to see him grow by his feet first. That sounds strange, but even as a baby, his feet grew first then the rest of him followed.

“Mom, my feet are as big as your hands!” he said as the salesperson measured.

Yes, those precious feet I once closed my palm around are now too big for me to grasp. Perhaps I can hold on to a toe a little while longer.

As if the end of kindergarten weren’t enough, yesterday we celebrated the retirement of my son’s junior kindergarten teacher. Helen taught for 29 years, the past 24 at our little school. Wow. She will be missed.

Congratulations, C!

Today is also sixth grade graduation. A and C have been big brothers to my only child for the past three years. Now they move on to different schools.

“We can still see them,” said my son.

“Yes,” I said, “only not every day like we do now.”

Before we all burst into uncontrollable sobbing, let me share with you how I’ve kept my composure. The meltdown moments come, but they’d be much worse if it hadn’t been for one terrific party.

My son has many wonderful friends in his class, including three sets of twins. One set has an older brother graduating from high school this year. My husband and I attended his graduation celebration at The Sheldon last week.

The Sheldon is a concert venue, right? What an odd place for a graduation party. This was no ordinary party.

Alex is a phenomenally talented performer. In the fall, he will enter the country’s premier musical theatre program at the University of Michigan. Naturally, the stage played a starring role in this celebration.

Congratulations, Alex!

He and 19 of his closest, most gifted friends performed Broadway hits for an audience of more than 200 people. Attendees were asked to make a donation of $10 or more for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to help improve the living conditions of folks diagnosed with AIDS.

These high school kids exhibited a maturity and stage presence that blew us away. And they raised $5,000.

Then at the after show party, Alex took the stage and sang Daughtry’s What About Now. Flawlessly. For his mother. Can you say American Idol?

Oh, yeah. Speaking of American Idol, Nikko Smith was the entertainment for the party. Old fogey that I am, had to whip out the iPhone and Google who he was.

As my husband and I walked to our truck to go home, I realized Alex is an adult. Much as we’re celebrating his accomplishments, we’re also celebrating his parents’ accomplishments. Our friends Robin and Joel have raised a responsible adult who has his own talents, interests, friends and future.

Sure, he still needs his parents and it’s obvious he loves them dearly. But they can send him out into the world, confident in his ability to pursue life.

I’m raising an adult too. I pray in the years ahead God reveals this one’s talents, interests, friends and future. It’s a big job, growing a person. Momma Bear’s up for the task. Feet first. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

In 10 years we'll be DRIVING this car.

Oodles of thanks to our son’s teachers, Michael and Mary, for such an amazing kindergarten year and for instilling this sweet song in our memories: Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

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Scrabbled: How to Beat the Queen

loser queen

This year, for the first time in 15 years of marriage, my husband beat me in Scrabble. Twice.

You must understand, I am the Scrabble Queen. Trained from childhood to vanquish challengers, I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. A spelling bee.

Alas, I’ve been dethroned in my own castle by a mere mortal. A man who only learned to play Scrabble because it’s my favorite game.

How, you ask? How did this injustice happen?

My husband has discovered a secret weapon. An Achilles heel.

He invites our six-year-old son to play Scrabble with us.

“MYFILT,” says the child. “I have myfilt. M-Y-F-I-L-T.”

“Honey, that’s not a word,” I say. “You have to make a word.”

“FLIMTY,” he says. “How about flimty?”

“No, that’s not a word either.”

My husband remains silent, part of his diabolical strategy.

“Mom, how about MILE? That’s a word!” he says, “I can put down mile.”

He reaches across the board. Only it isn’t his turn. And there is no place to put mile.

tile pile

“Baby, it has to fit in with the other words on the board. Like a crossword puzzle. And you have to wait your turn,” I say. “It’s mommy’s turn now.”

I look at my slate. I look at the board. All I can see are tiny, no point words. AND, BUT, OR. It’s Conjunction Junction in my head.

“Can it go diagonal?” the child says. “I could put it right here diagonal.” Letters slide askew across the table.

“Let me help you put this back together,” I say. “And I’m sorry but you can’t put a word on the board diagonally.”

Not a peep from my husband. He is deep in stealth concentration, planning his next move.

“T-Y-L-I-F. TYLIF. Tylif, tylif, tylif!”

“Honey, let momma see what you have,” I say. “We’ll come up with something.”

At this point, I get up from my seat, leave my slate, go around to where my child is sitting, and analyze the letters on his slate. We form words. Wonderful words like tile, file, lime, time, elf, my…

Hey, wait a minute. It’s my turn.

An hour later, my husband breaks 200 points, my son breaks 100 and I’m stuck around 59. Stunned, I leave the table reeling with defeat. What happened?

the cub

My husband knows the one thing the queen cannot resist.

Want to distract her? Throw her off game? Beat her at Scrabble?

Bring in her cub. Works every time.

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 NIV

To see School House Rock’s Conjunction Junction on YouTube click here.

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