Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Peek Inside a Mom's Heart

Above all else, there is one thing I am most happy about, most proud of, and feel most blessed about and that's being a mom.  I can almost hear my kids saying, "Wow!  That's a surprise.  You could have fooled me when you were yelling at us to keep quiet, go to bed, and leave me alone!" 

They're right.  I did do that sometimes.  To them, it seems like a lot of times.  In reflecting back I wish I could have been calmer, more composed, and more put together like the modern day Pioneer Woman , but I wasn't.  I was just  a mom -- a mother of eleven doing the very best that I could trying to show my kids how much I loved them. Okay, and on occasion I was trying to keep them from falling off rooftops and doing all the other things eleven kids think of doing!

 And, when I hear my now grown kids talking and laughing and reminiscing, I think they have some pretty good childhood memories so I'm thinking life must have been pretty okay for them, too!  In fact, I know it was by the way they love getting together and sharing childhood stories! 

What happens to a mom when all of her kids are grown and leave home, she has no husband to share stories and happily talk about their forty plus years of parenting, and she's living in the house that was once a busy, bustling place of activity every hour of the day and night?

For one thing, you sit back at night and relax.  And, you rest.  And, your heart smiles.  And, you remember.  The very, very good thing about remembering is that you can be selective and remember only what you choose, and I have chosen to remember some great and wonderful things!  Fun times!  Happy times!

Wanna know what I'm remembering today?  I can best remember by looking at pictures, so I'll share a few with you.  To you, these might not mean anything, but to me -- ahhhh, happy, smiling life!

 This little fella is a destroyer of tomato plants, and seeing him makes me remember all of the awesome, wonderful summers spent gardening with the kids.  We worked that big garden hard!  We planted, hoed, pulled weeds, and hunted down tomato borers like the one you see in this picture.  We snapped beans, shelled peas, husked corn, and canned pickles.  And, we talked and spent hours and hours together and I loved every single minute of it!  Oh, how I loved those hours together in the garden! 

Blackberries.  The delicious blackberries!  The kids would go out early in the mornings with their little pails and pick blackberries (eating half of them before they ever made it into the house), and then I would make blackberry jam -- the old fashioned way sealed with paraffin wax .  The big treat,  other than eating the blackberries, was the kids got the leftover wax to carve out sailboats to float in the tub while they were getting their baths.  Yes, I love memories like this! By the way, the jam was pretty good, too! 

We moved to the country with six kids and number seven on the way (from our church parsonage in town) and one of the very first things I did was to get the kids to help me plant some phlox.  My grandmother always had flowerbeds filled with blooming purple phlox, and she passed on her love of flowers to me.  I can't wait for our snow to melt so that I can see the first signs of my flowers peeking through the ground.  I remember when the stalks of these very flowers were taller than the kids who helped me plant them.  And now -- they serve as precious reminders of bouquets of flowers they picked for me to put on the supper table.  Happy, happy memories for my heart!

Home.  Sweet, precious, wonderful home.  I've spent thousands of hours looking out the kitchen window washing dishes (nope, I've never owned a dishwasher) watching the kids play in this yard.  And, those have no idea how many babies I held and nursed under those trees while the others were riding their bikes, mowing the grass, and building camp fires.  My heart actually races every time I reach the driveway to this house.  It's filled with wonderful, precious, happy memories that are forever etched on this mom's heart.  Everywhere I look are happy reminders of my children.  This home brings me peace and joy every single day of my life for it holds reminders of so much shared love with friends and family!

  In the side yard is this snowball bush and each branch seems to hold a special memory for me.  I remember when this arrived in the mail the size of a teensy twig from Michigan Bulb .  I got some of the kids to dig me a hole for planting.  We grabbed a bucket of water and had faith that this little branch of a thing would make it.  And, it did!  It got mowed over at least fifteen times, but it's a survivor!  This bush also was the backdrop for the basketball hoop when the kids played ball for hours on end.  I'd watch them from the kitchen window or while I was sitting on the porch.  They were pretty darned good, too!  Hmmm...I think we need to put up another basketball hoop.  It's time for me to watch the grandkids play ball!

Sunset.  Beautiful country sunsets.  At the end of the day, I loved to walk out to the edge of the field, collect my thoughts, and breathe the evening air.  And, take stock of the day.  This is a place where I could sit my worries down for the night, and just be thankful for another day of health, and peace, and the blessing of being a mom.  I still make daily walks to the edge of the field.  I still take stock of the day.  I still count my many blessings

And, the biggest blessing of all is that I've been able to be called mom.

I love you, kids!

PS  Every day is a memory in the making!  Be sure to take time to journal it either by writing or photos.  One day these memories will serve you well!  I promise!  This has my heart stirring.and I hope this has stirred your heart, too...I can think of so many more -- Poochie (our big dog), Blackie, Midnight, Batler, Spike (oh, there were lots of dogs) and Bell Bambie Christmas (our viscious cat). Maybe I'll just have to pull more memories out of the photo albums!

And, hopefully you'll share some of your memories with me, too! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Week at the Beach.........Some Most Unlikely Treasures!

Photography is a hobby of mine, and as I've mentioned before I haven't yet entered the world of the "specialty cameras" yet.  I'm still using my 6-year-old point-and shoot which continues to serve me well! I use my camera to journal my life because quite truthfully I find it easier to take a picture than to quiet myself long enough to write in a daily book journal.

That being said, I remember the year 2009 as being a really difficult year for me.  Life seemed to be crumbling apart at the seams.  There were lots of money problems, and being the sole supporter of the household at that time, the burden was extra heavy on my heart.  My marriage was all but non-existent.  I was feeling the brokenness of not knowing what was in store for me with all areas of my life.  In fact, life felt so broken that I questioned whether it would ever feel good or right or even "okay" again. 

Friends of mine suggested traveling along with them to the beach.  At first I said "no thanks."  I already felt like a fifth wheel, and the last thing on earth I felt like doing was interfering with someone else's vacation.  They insisted, and insisted, and insisted that I go along.  And, then the magical words came out:  "We'll give you all the time you need or want to be alone on the beach.  Just go and get away and clear your head a little bit." 

And, so I did!

I took hundreds of pictures that week, walking many, many miles along the beach by myself, and reflected, prayed, cried, then finally came to the conclusion that there wasn't a darned thing I could do about what was going on in my life except give it my best shot.  Keep working.  Keep trying.  Keep hoping.  Keep praying that things would work out. 

And, this is what I learned.

 I learned that rocking chairs calm me.  Why?  Because they remind me of my Grandmom Bozarth.  I swear that woman spent half of her life sitting in her rocking chair on her front porch simply enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.  When I saw these rocking chairs, I walked up onto the porch and "set a spell", too.  Gosh!  That was nice! 

Trees.  I love the draping security found in the softly swaying branches of trees.  When I was a kid living on our farm I spent many hours under the safety of our big pine trees in our side yard.  I still feel a calmness under the trees, and so I enjoyed an afternoon alone allowing the trees to hold me close and comfort me. 

Looking high into the big, blue sky and seeing the American flag waving brought me to my knees in thankfulness.  Our nation is far from perfect, but I can tell you this -- I am so thankful I was born here.  I'm so thankful for the freedom I've been able to enjoy, and I'm so thankful for those who gave their lives for my freedom.  Wow!  I was beginning to feel less broken! 

An old gentleman sitting on a bench motioned to me to come over.  He wanted to share the treasure he had found.  A perfect sand dollar.  And, then he not only shared the legend of the sand dollar with me, but he took his aging hands and gently placed that sand dollar in mine.  I've often wondered if he was able to see the cracks in my heart that needed healing? 

And, as was meant for me on this week at the beach, while walking along the shore, a man came up alongside of me, smiling his toothless smile, and opened up his dry, cracked hand to show me what had just washed ashore.  He gave me some life lessons that day -- lessons about living the simple life.  Living a life of thankfulness.  Living with little, but really having so much!  Thank you, nameless man without teeth, for sharing so much of your wisdom with me while I was searching for truth!

There's just something about park benches that seem to say, "Sit a spell.  You need rest."  And, so I did sit.  For a spell, and a spell longer I sat and my heart finally opened up and cried.  I cried for the brokenness which had come into my life.  Unexpected pain that I never thought would be mine.  Never did I expect a marriage that would not be "forever."  My children were hurt and pained, and some had lashed out at me in their pain.  There's nothing that stings more than darts thrown by those you love.  As I watched the calm sea, though, I was reminded that no storm lasts forever.  There is always sunshine following the rain.  Always calm after the storm.  And, so I did something I hadn't done in a while.  I prayed.  I prayed long and hard that God would fill my heart with more thanksgiving than pain.  I prayed that I would focus more on the future than the past.  I prayed for healing. 

Talk about smile!  I know this was a God moment when I saw these two boys walking across the pier to do some fishing!  Oh, how my heart swelled with joy when I remembered the carefree moments of watching my own sons with their fishing poles, sweaty faces, and happy grins walking across the field to go find a fishing spot.  That's what life is all about -- enjoying moments like this!  In my quest to find some healing, I realized I had been surrounded by children for more than forty years and I have been blessed with precious, beautiful memories of the simple joys of childhood!  Thank God for kids!  They teach us how to really live! 

Look at the beauty!  Gaze at the details!  Feel the freedom!  I began to release some of the pain -- little-by-little my heart was feeling better.  Sure the problems were still there, but my heart was somehow feeling lighter.  Have you ever felt it, too?  If so, you know just what I mean.  I'm so glad I captured this moment.  I've revisited this picture hundreds of times since my week at the beach and have felt the same peace and calm over and over again.  Heck, I'm even breathing easier looking at this picture right now!  Oh, the blessings of a day at the sea!

I found my own special treasures during my walks along the beach, and I had the special joy of sharing some of my stories and my treasures with a grandson this year at Christmas.  You should have seen his eyes light up when I handed him my special sand dollar!  You should have felt my heart light up as I handed it over to him!  Gifts from the sea were meant to be shared!  And, I'm so thankful for the gifts that were shared with me!

I don't know where you go when life piles up on you.  For me, it's someplace in nature -- preferable a walk along the beach, a walk among fields of flowers, or a walk along a cool, mountain stream.  I'm not so naive as to say this takes away all of our problems.  It doesn't.  When I came back home, I still had a marriage that was broken.  I still had kids angry with me.  I still had bills that needed to be paid.  I still had huge obstacles to overcome in order to try to keep my house from being taken from me.  I still had to deal with all kinds of messy things. 

BUT, I had found some much-needed replenishment of the soul.  And, I was able to be reminded a thousand times over what beautiful, wonderful blessings I have that are mine that NOBODY can ever take away! 

And, from the old man at the sea, I was reminded that "Every story has an end, but in life every end is just a new beginning."

Here's to many new beginnings for each of us!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Packing for the Unknown -- What's It Like?

Well, it's down to the nitty-gritty.  Only four more days until departure time!  The suitcase is laying out on my bedroom floor waiting to be packed.  And, as I looked at it this morning before leaving for work, my heart skipped a few beats -- some beats were for happiness and joy, other beats were a bit of "I'm going to miss my kids and my daily phone call from my little granddaughter, Sophie", and other skipped beats were a bit of true-blue, honest-to-goodness anxiety over facing the unknown.

Some of you might say, "Well, I thought you went there last year?  You're no longer a novice to Haiti or to the routine of living a week of your life in a foreign mission field."  True and true, but not-so-true.  This ole granny is a bit afraid, if I'm being totally honest.  I'm afraid of how the flight will be.  Will we all enter and leave the country safely?  I'm a bit fearful of the mosquitoes and stomach bugs that attacked so many on our trip last year.  I'm afraid of not knowing what each day will bring.  There's no such thing as a set agenda when in Haiti.  Time is not important to the Haitians. Okay, I'm afraid of the mice, lizards, and rats, too. 

"So, if you're that afraid, then why are you going?" some might ask.  The children.  I'm going because of the children.  I'm going because it will be such a joy to provide a ray of hope to someone in despair.  I'm going because my heart is happy when I can give of myself.  I'm going because I want to share God, hope, and love with all people, including those who are our neighbors in Haiti.  I'm going because it will be so good to give families in dire need of food some beans and rice to help sustain them.  I'm going because I don't want to miss the opportunity of seeing some of my own children serving others. I don't think a parent can experience any greater joy!  I'm going because it is my responsibility to joyfully help care for those who are in need of physical, spiritual, and emotional nourishment. 

And, I thank YOU who gave so generously to see to it that I can go! 

Please stroll through memory lane in Haiti with me.  And, pray that all of my anxious fears will subside so that I can be all that I should be, and all that I want to be while living among these beautiful children of God!

The mountains declare the handiwork of God!  You can feel His presence, and see His beautiful creation! Even in what we would call a desperate situation, the power of God lives and dwells among the people!

This will be "my home" for the next week.  I will have the awesome privilege of living with the children of the Cap-Haitian Children's Home!  What a joy and blessing! 

And, I will get lots and lots of smiles and hugs.  There will be countless, humbling "God moments" where I will be reminded of those things that are truly important and meaningful in this earthly life. 

Sun-bleached clothes -- and they smell so fresh and clean!  This reminds me so much of my days as a kid growing up on the farm! 

Bible story sharing time is always a highlight with the kids!  They are so eager to listen and learn!!!

Sunday worship is hours and hours long -- in the sweltering heat, swatting at flies.  And most people, old and young, have walked miles to get to their house of worship.  They don't have clocks, nor do their stomachs tell them it's time for lunch as most will not have any lunch or any dinner.  Worship is far more important to them than food.  Oh, that my heart can grow to know God so deeply and intimately!

Everywhere we visited, we were offered gifts of love.  In fact, they "insisted" that we take a gift and they would not take any money in return.  These gifts were made to say, "We love you, and thank you for coming to see us.  Thank you for the prayers.  Thank you for the love you have shared."  I brought a necklace home with me and I wear it almost every day to remind me of this lesson of love -- "It is more blessed to give than receive."  Thank you my dear Haitian friends for teaching me so much!

 I cannot wait to make home visits!  Precious is the love of the Haitians as they invite us into their "room", and ask for only one thing:  prayers.  To hold hands and pray together -- let's just say that you must experience it in order to understand it.  God lives within us and His love flows from heart-to-heart.

The sky, the water, the mountains -- such beauty!  God never leaves us with only despair.  He provides hope in the midst of our brokenness.  Always.  God is love.  God is hope.  God is present! 

To the world, I may be only one, but to a child, I may be his world.  And, this is why I go.  And, this is why I thank you from the very depths of my heart for sending me.

Please pray for our team.  Pray that God will lead us to those who need to see, hear, and feel His love.  Pray that we will remain strong and healthy so that we can serve all the days we are in Haiti.  Pray that above all else, we will not just leave physical food and some daily relief from the burdens of life, but that we will plant seeds of hope eternal!