Category Archive: Connections

Truth … in Love

I was speaking with Mom on the phone. “We had a nice restful weekend, which we really needed.”

“Your next four weekends are all booked?” Her voice lifted at the end of her question, clearly expressing her concern with my lack of planning for rest times.

Communication goes both ways–my speaking, her hearing. Due to an infection, my voice is a bit shaky and sometimes words drop away into nothing. Mom has hearing challenges. Together, we have some mighty interesting, and funny, conversations!

How many times do we misunderstand, either the words or intent, of a conversation? This morning I received an email asking if the writer was being deliberately left out of a communique. I hastened to answer, “absolutely not!” and to explain why only certain individuals received that particular message. It’s so easy to misread others’ intentions. And when that happens, I can get irritated, annoyed, or I can respond with love and patience to clarify.

Don and I drove to the shopping center together the other day. He was going to look for birthday cards at CVS; I for groceries at Nob Hill. As we drove, I asked him a question. I must have been feeling insecure that day because I wanted assurance of his love.

“Yes, sure.”

“Hmmm, a more ringing endorsement than ‘yes, sure’ would be appreciated.”

“My mind’s just not in the same place as yours.”

Oh boy. I could have flipped out. I could have cried. I could have thought he wasn’t attracted to me that day–or ever (you know how our brains sometimes take a statement and make it an impasse …) I’ve done all these things in the past.

Instead, I asked, “What do you mean by that?” Then, sensing his frustration, I continued. “I’m not trying to put you on the spot, honey. I want to understand so my mind doesn’t make your comment something it’s not meant to be.”

Don was thoughtful. “Well, I’m thinking of driving and the heavy traffic. I’m hoping I can find meaningful greeting cards. I’m wondering when I’ll get the rest of the lawn mowed. I’m just not thinking romance right now. But I love you completely.”

Ha! “Got it. OK.”

Such a small example, but so easy to get insecure, uptight, or angry, rather than seeking to understand the other’s point of view! Clarifying helps us to speak the truth in love as we mature in Christ…and in our relationships.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Eph. 4:15

When’s the last time you experienced miscommunication, and how did you respond? How could you respond better?

Gatherings

Sitting at breakfast, Don and I watched through the window as a quail flew onto our fence. Another flitted up behind the first; and a third soon joined them. We often see groups of quail, eight or ten little ones scurrying about collecting whatever worms or insects they find, while two or three adult quail sit on the fence, watching for trouble, guarding those focused on the earth.

My dear friend Susan Swain captured the beauty of our need for each other in her alcohol ink painting “Gathering.” (used by permission).

We gather for many reasons.

  • Celebrations like weddings and holidays.  On the July 4th weekend Twin Lakes Church provided a petting zoo, bounce house and slide, hot dogs and watermelon for all. Just a reason to be together as part of the family of God.

    Tents going up for conference

    Tents going up for conference

  • People of Faith gatherings – before moving to the Soquel hills, we were warned that this season was crazy along San Jose-Soquel Road because of the attendees at the Seventh Day Adventist conference grounds just down the road from us. In addition to the many folks who come with fifth wheels or trailers, rows upon rows of camper tents are put up in preparation, along with enormous white meeting tents. But we’ve always enjoyed this time. True, we’re retirees and don’t often have to be somewhere at a specific time. But the conference provides their own people to direct foot and vehicular traffic, and we’ve never been held up long. Rather, it’s lovely to see knots of people tailgating for meals around various trailers, walking in with their Bibles for worship and teaching.
  • Memorials – Last week I mentioned my brother-in-law, Wally, whose memorial we had attended. As family gathered, we told stories, shared memories, and reconnected with each other. We come from a variety of political, faith, and personal backgrounds; but we came together to honor one we all love.
  • And in tragedies like the recent shootings of young black men as well as the five police officers gunned down in Dallas; destruction by earthquake, fire or flood; we gather to grieve, to support, to help where we can, whether that’s rebuilding homes, or walking alongside those who are creating a new normal, changed forever because of loss.

We’re not created to live life solo, but in community. Whether married or single, we need each other–for fellowship, forgiveness, healing, accountability, support, help. “And one standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Who are some of the cords in your life?

Histories – Our Own

“These photos are fabulous!” Mom and I were looking at clear copies of her original family photos, which my brother Arnold had restored.

“This one looks like it was taken in Russia,” I frowned. “Was Grosspa (Abram, my paternal Grandpa) married yet?” (he wasn’t)

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

 

That photo (left) was taken about 1900.  Nine years later Abram married Margaretha, who gave birth to five sons (including my Dad, John) and two daughters. In 1921, at the age of ten years, little Anna died, leaving an especially big hole for her older sister, Greta.

Late in 1929, Grosspa learned he was on a list for deportation to Siberia, where the family would likely never see him again. Although he was reluctant to leave the flock he pastored, church leaders convinced Grosspa to go. Leaving their village in darkness, he traveled to Moscow, where the family joined him. After four months’ wait, Grosspa’s family of eight was in the last group to be granted exit visas near the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. Eight, among 5000 granted visas; the remaining 10,000 applicants were sent back to their villages, to work camps, to starvation, some to execution.

 

Mom and I moved on to more recent photos —

  • Mom’s and Dad’s families
  • Dad, probably in his twenties, holding a large fish
  • Mom, in her teens, exiting her father’s barn after milking. Her face is shaded by a large hat, and my grandfather’s overalls are much too long for her.
  • My parents’ wedding, and photos of my immediate family.

Precious, meaningful, leading to questions and conversation.

     How did you feel the day you married Dad?

     Do you know if this couple had a happy marriage?

     Who’s this in the baby buggy?

Last year Arnold, his wife Carol, Don and I, cruised the east coast of the US and Canada. At Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we watched intently as a staff member pulled up the records of our family’s arrival, in April 1930. Each person’s name and age were listed on the hand-written document. Dad was twelve.

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad's arrival in Canada

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad’s arrival in Canada

Some of his relatives never left the Ukraine, suffering starvation and even execution as a result.

I’m deeply thankful for God’s faithfulness. Somehow, in His grace, my ancestors were spared much of the persecution following that tumultuous time. Two generations later, I was born to that German immigrant from Russia, John Froese, who met and married Helen Kroeker, a pretty Canadian farmgirl with a beautiful soprano voice.

Mom’s and my time together today, looking at old photos, gave me a deeper understanding of my history, and also of my mother. Best of all, it gave Mom and me time to reminisce, reflect, and enjoy each other.

The Old Testament is filled with family stories, both happy and sad, joyful and dysfunctional–sometimes all in the same family. What have you learned from yours?

From the Ashes, New Dreams

2014-12-04 06.27.10

 

A few weeks ago I reflected on the death of my dream of bearing or having children of my own.

(See http://carolshope.com/2015/05/motherhood-when-the-dream-dies/)

God didn’t just say no.  Over time, and through the pain, He replaced my desire to bear children with other hopes. He changed my dreams.

Ministry: I lived and ministered with a team in the inner city of Los Angeles for ten years, where I saw and experienced things that had not been part of my sheltered life growing up. Some, like knowing young girls who earned money the only way they knew–through prostitution–were heartbreaking. But watching God at work in the lives of teens and adults who committed themselves to Christ and walked in His paths, was thrilling.

My husband and I serve with a missions team in Mexico annually, and have the joy of sharing our home with missionaries, pastors, family and friends. God has brought a few women into my life to love and disciple. Little can compare to the joy of seeing their faith deepen, watching Jesus change their hearts, behaviors, relationships. I can say with the apostle Paul, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV) And when one turns away from surrender, it is painful.

Travel: Don and I have had the delight of visiting many parts of the world, seeing God’s handiwork and meeting believers along the way.

Family: My mother, siblings and their spouses are all still with us. Nieces and nephews are a significant part of my life, and are adding precious grand-nephews and nieces to the family.

Fulfilling Marriages: I’ve been married to two wonderful men. While my dream of a long life with Jerry turned to ashes with his death ten years ago, God later brought Don into my life. I feel great joy in this second opportunity to love, serve, and enjoy life with an amazing, gracious man who has five children and ten grandchildren. Someone once said a good marriage is the hardest, and the best, thing one can do.

So, do I regret seeing the death of my dream of bearing children?

No. While on occasion I think what a delight it would be to have a terrific son or daughter, my life is full, sometimes difficult, fascinating, and fulfilling. With a few relatively minor health challenges, I tire easily. God has known what is best for me all along, and has given me new dreams and purpose. I wouldn’t trade it. THIS is where God has me and I am grateful.

How have your dreams changed over the years? Is there something you’re still asking God to do in and through you?

Meeting at Eye Level

Paigey, our beautiful five-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, couldn’t stop panting. Her tongue had turned blue, indicating lack of oxygen. It was time to take her to specialists to determine the reason for her restricted breathing and limited oxygen supply.

Paigey

Paigey

The nurse put us into a room to wait for the heart specialist. Paige and I were both nervous, and I talked softly, stroking her in an attempt to reassure her. Then Dr. Burtch entered the room, introduced herself, and … sat down on the floor! She began asking questions. What were we doing immediately before Paige’s distress began? What had I noticed before Paige began having difficulty? Any changes in her mood or activity level? And she listened, really listened, to my answers.

As the vet spoke, she reached out to Paigey, inviting her to come closer.

After about three minutes I blurted, “I like you.”

She looked up, surprised.

“I like that you got down on the floor, on her level.”

What a difference it makes when someone meets us where we are, whether that’s on the floor, or in tears, or in pain. One of my bridesmaids had an auto accident five weeks before my wedding. She had a hard time breathing with three broken ribs, which were pushing into her lungs. She also broke her clavicle and two places in her collarbone. A stranger came to her car and asked how he could help. She asked him to hold her hand. That connection, his meeting her where she was, helped her hold on until more help arrived.

When have you experienced someone meeting you where you were in the midst of your need? How did that minister to you? I’d love to hear about it.

PS Paigey is on medication and on a diet to reduce the 30% tracheal collapse she had. She is improving already. And my friend Lois stood up through our entire wedding and is doing well!