Category Archive: Family

FAMILY GRACE

 

Homemade Noodle Soup, the original comfort food!

Don, Mom and I stepped out of our rental car and looked around to see my cousins, Edith and Brian, hurrying toward us. After big hugs, they helped us unload our luggage and go to Aunt Mary’s place for a wonderful comfort meal of homemade noodle soup, zwiebach (traditional double buns), and berry pie.

Sister Mary, Brother Irvin, and Mom

Several times over the past few months, Mom said, “I wish I could see Mary and Irvin again.” We didn’t know if it would be wise or safe for Mom, at 95, to make the trip from California to Manitoba to visit her sister and brother. But one day I asked Don, “What would you think if we took Mom to Winnipeg this summer?” He responded without blinking: “I think we should do it.” And Mom’s response when I asked what she thought of the idea? “I’d LOVE it!”

So we checked schedules and made plans and packed and flew.

We saw many extended family members. Cousins of Mom, Mary and Irvin’s. Some of my cousins on both Mom’s and Dad’s sides of the family. Each visit was meaningful as we caught up on the seven years since our last visit.

Mom with some of my Froese cousins – delightful meal and visit hosted by Dave and Doreen

Mom sparkled as she responded to questions from her nieces and nephews about what it felt like to move 3000 miles from our Canadian home as a young mother. She enjoyed talking with her cousins, and I reveled in our family’s history and the grace of God. At one breakfast, six of the 21 family members present were ages 91 to 100–all still thinking pretty clearly, albeit a bit slower than in their younger years.

In a rented van, eight of us drove to Winkler, the small town in which I was born. (I don’t remember the event myself!) Finding the home and farm on which Mom, Mary and Irvin grew up led to lots of reflection and reminiscing. Irvin was just five years old when he sang “Please don’t take my sister far away” at Mom and Dad’s wedding. Mary and Herm got married early thanks to me–wanting Mom, who was pregnant with me, to be in their wedding, they moved the date up to avoid a conflict with my entry into this world.

Grosspa Froese’s old home, which looked larger before these two trees grew!

And we drove past some of the homes my family, and our grandparents, lived in, for memory’s sake.

Most meaningful to me was watching as we were together with different groups – 24 at one breakfast, 6 at Tea, 4 or 6 at dinner, 11 at lunch, and 21 at another breakfast – and recognizing the legacy of faith with which my ancestors have blessed me. No, we’re not all of the same conviction, nor are we all at the same place in our faith journeys, but there is a thread of faith and service running throughout the family.

Together were:

  •      Former missionaries

    Breakfast with the Hieberts, Mom’s Mother’s clan

  •      Business and agricultural leaders
  •      Farmers
  •      Teachers
  •      Writers
  •      Financial consultants
  •      Sales persons
  •      Engineers
  •      Christian broadcasters
  •      Caregivers
  •      Philanthropists, and
  •      Folks who volunteer in differing areas of need, from driving cancer patients to appointments to hospital visitations to other kinds of services.

Corporately, we’ve been through the death of loved ones, family breakups, health and personal challenges, and some differences in worldview, but we love and care for and appreciate each other.

Our time together was filled with laughter, sharing, food, exploring, and more food. And when the week was almost up, Mom, Don and I were ready to come home. Having been filled with meaningful times of sharing, worship, and renewed–as well as fresh–memories, it was time to come home to our own responsibilities, local family and friends, and to less rich foods! (Mennonites grew up on delicious carbs like cottage cheese dumplings and homemade noodles with creamed tomato gravy and special double rolls called zwiebach, along with sausage and ham and filling soups …).

And I think of how God led both Mom’s and Dad’s families, along with many others, out of the Ukraine when regime changes threatened not only their way of life, but their very lives: a move that has resulted in what I’ve expressed above along with much more.

I’ve been graced with a relatively intact family, for which I am deeply grateful. But God isn’t limited to one kind of family in His plans for us.

Psalm 68:4-6a tells us to:

Sing praises to God and to his name!
    Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord
    rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (NLT)

Your grace may look different than mine. It may be informed by wise choices through the generations; it may be despite choices along the way. But how have you experienced God’s grace through your family history?

 

Rancho Santa Marta – the Privilege of Service

We came to Mexico to serve – children, teachers, staff.

Quite a few groups of young folks come to volunteer at the Ranch. We learned Sunday that we are known as the “white-haired group” because so many of our team members have, you guessed it, white hair! (We ran the gamut from 19 to 91 this year.) Being the “white-haired group” is a pretty great distinction because, while we delight in the younger men and women who come–and need their energy, skills and mobility!–various people on our team have  served here for over 30 years (Don and I, eight and seven respectively). Like the Eveready Bunny. Evidence of God’s grace that we are still able to serve in meaningful ways.

We’ve experienced that grace in a variety of ways this week. Annette worked with children on English words and crafts. Leola cooked, and worked her puppet magic. One boy, whom she said doesn’t speak in school, got behind the cardboard stage, a puppet in each hand, and told his classmates a story! Debbie needed help repairing a sewing machine to continue work on the curtains she was making for one of the homes. She mentioned the need to Juan who, as the youngest of thirteen children, often repaired his mother’s sewing machine! A few minutes of his expertise and, wallah, Debbie had her repair.

One side of gym, complete with metal studs and siding

Much needed restroom by children’s play area

Don and his team directed the construction work with grace and strength, and one side of the new gymnasium is now supported by metal studs, covered with siding. Another group worked on a needed play area restroom with six stalls each for boys and girls. We are tired; but  keep working to accomplish the goals set for us, despite several significant workaround challenges.

JoAnn and I enjoyed keeping ‘our boys’ hydrated and uplifted with snacks and water twice a day, as well as painting, photography, and doing crafts with the children.

Last night our team leader, Bob Moorhead, played the organ in the chapel for those who wanted to listen. I sat, stitching a yarn art sample for our craft time and listening to wonderful sounds, from “Just as I Am” to the Beach Boys. It was a renewing time of just being in God’s presence.

Every year our time is meaningful as we watch what God is doing in the lives of many of these children, and understand a little more about the challenges of directing this large operation, which includes forty-five resident children, another 180-200 in elementary and junior high school, the ranch with its horses, pigs, cows, goats, the hay bales scattered over some of the 450 acres, the peach tree orchard. The wisdom and diligence required to lead this ‘operation’ demand much. Its Directors rarely get away for a break; yet they continue to serve, love, teach, and build into these young lives.

Will you join us in prayer for a couple of specific needs:

  1.  House Parents for one of the boys’ homes. “Victor’s House”, which our team framed last year,

    Victor’s House

    is ready for occupancy by the older boys/men. It is named for the oldest male resident who grew up at the Ranch and just had his 40th birthday. These boys’ disabilities make living independently almost impossible. However, they, and the house parents who will move with them, cannot move until new house parents are identified and hired to take over the younger boys remaining in the initial house. This is a tough job; 24/7 with children with special needs. Often house parents leave after a short while, saying “it’s too hard.”

  2. Times of respite for Directors, house parents, and staff.
  3. Additional teachers needed for the school, especially as the Ranch begins teaching tenth grade this Fall.

I am deeply thankful for this ministry of intentional building into the lives of children and young adults, and privileged to be a very small part of its ministry. For more information about the Ranch, see http://www.ranchosantamarta.org/

May God bless you this week as you watch for opportunities to serve Him in your daily life.

 

BROKEN DREAMS, FULFILLED

My dream

As a little girl, I dreamed of the day I would walk down the aisle in a white gown, a long lace veil and train following the billowing skirts of my Cinderella gown. Babies would follow and a tall, handsome man and I would share a home filled with laughter and love. A white picket fence would surround our house. It was a picture-perfect scenario.

But God led me another way. I served with an inner city ministry for ten years, then married for the first time at the age of thirty-six. Lots of conversations with my new husband centered around if, and when, we might try to have a child, or children. My husband was nine and a half years older than I. One concern was that our children, if we had any, would have significantly older parents than most of their peers. When our child was 20, we could be 58 and 68 respectively. We prayed, talked, I cried, we talked more … and determined that for us, bearing and raising children might not be the best option.

One Mother’s Day I cried through the whole church service. I cried throughout the afternoon and evening. My kind husband tried to comfort me, but my dream of being a mother was dying, and I grieved. Time healed the grief and my husband and I shared a lovely life together until his untimely death at the early age of 66. After his passing, I thought I might remain single; a few years later, however, God brought Don into my life. We fell in love and married.

         Mom and three of her four children

Today we celebrated another Mother’s Day with my sweet 95-year old mother. We are so blessed that this lovely, gracious woman is still with us, praying for us, making us laugh with her hearing loss that results in some pretty hilarious conversations.

And that dream of mine that died years ago? This week I received a beautiful note from a younger woman I led to Christ about a year ago. “You have been like a mother to me…” she wrote. As tears filled my eyes, I thought of the ways God has fulfilled my dream – in an out-of-the-box kind of way. I’ve had the privilege of discipling several women over the years, and now have two wonderful women whom I have the joy of loving and teaching and walking alongside in their relationship with Christ. My oldest brother asked today, “Carol, is Mother’s Day hard for you since you don’t have children?” I responded immediately. “No, because God has given me spiritual daughters.” Oh, I feel a twinge now and then … like when I chose not to take the “Mother’s Day mug” from church this morning because I am not a mother in the traditional sense. But those twinges don’t last long.

So, my point? God is not limited to one way of answering prayer. This is a hard day for many women – women who have never had a loving relationship with their mother; women who long to bear children and can’t, for a variety of reasons. Women who have carried a child who died in utero, in birth, or after birth. My heart goes out to each of you, for the grief you feel and the heartache that bubbles to the surface on this day.  But let’s also ask God to help us recognize His “out-of-the-box” handprint on our lives.

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 NIV

Question: How have you seen God’s handprint on your life in unexpected ways?

Love – the heart of Christmas

family-of-6

Don and I celebrated both our extended family Christmases this weekend. I’m not certain why it seems many we know, including both our families, decided to celebrate so early this year. But as children grow and build their own lives, it becomes more difficult to schedule family time when all are available.

I loved being with our families–always do.

We laughed with delight when two-year old Cadence pulled out the stuffed Santa snowman Mom gave her, held it to her chest and beamed, hugging the little snowman tight. Irrepressible joy. Glee that had nothing to do with the size or cost of the gift, but with delight in its softness, its sweet face, the feeling of it against her baby skin.

And when Marcy opened her white elephant gift, we roared …. a huge coffee mug/toilet. Quite the conversation piece!

There have been years that included more tears than laughter … the first Christmases after a precious nephew, Dad, and my late husband passed away. Bitter-sweet. Bitter in the loss; sweet in the recollections of earlier times together.

I’m deeply grateful for the gift of family. The laughter, teasing, and tears we’ve shared through deep loss and great joy.  My brother Bob, who sat with Mom in the ER for nine hours a week ago while she waited for treatment and then for test results. Melvyn, who has driven to town whenever Mom or Dad underwent surgery. Arnold, who determined why Dad was having horrible nightmares in the hospital (sleeping pills). Each family has had its own challenges, ups and downs. But we love, believe in, and encourage each other–even when we disagree, which we do on some significant issues.

I guess it comes down to what’s most important–family or being right. And our relationship is far more important than the issues on which we differ. And as long as we remember that, our family will continue to thrive.

What’s your family dynamic this Christmas? Are you tense about issues that may arise, old wounds reopened, that “uncomfortable” uncle or aunt you have to spend time with? How do you handle that?

 

Save

Save

Save

ACCEPTING HELP FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF YOUR SPOUSE, Part I

The comfort of a friend

The comfort of a friend

Following my first husband’s death, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I slept about eleven hours a night, and 3 or 4 during the day. The strain of caregiving and watching Jerry decline, along with the grief of losing him, took all my strength. Family, friends, and our community of faith were particularly significant during this time.

Jerry and I were in Florida, waiting for and then trying to recover from a transplant for eight and a half months before his death. After my return to California alone, friends and family cleaned my yard, laid new sprinkler lines, and helped reorganize the kitchen. I learned to say ‘yes’ to their requests to help. If you are too numb to respond, ask a good friend to help identify areas where people can provide support, and let the friend field questions for you.

My sister-in-law and niece prepared two dozen individual meals and placed them in my freezer the day I returned home. The handwritten scripture taped to each container encouraged me each time I ate one of their delicious, love-filled dinners.

Lee, a close friend of Jerry’s, replaced my house locks, fixed my garage door, and sold Jerry’s gun collection for me. During those first months Lee called daily, then every other day, then weekly, to check on me. He listened when I needed to talk, and didn’t try to fix me when I cried. I often laughed at his sense of humor, which reminded me of my husband’s quick wit.

While it’s sometimes hard to accept these gifts, don’t deprive others of the opportunity to help in your time of need–as you would do for them were the situation reversed.

i-feel-nothingYou may feel like isolating yourself. However, it is good to be with people who know and love you, especially on holidays. A girlfriend spent the first anniversary of Jerry’s death with me. Another called to ensure I wasn’t alone on Memorial Day. Rely on those friends who let you cry, express discouragement or loneliness, or just sit numbly through time together, all without judgment.

I understand the most intense pain of grief usually lasts between 12-18 months. Although you sometimes feel you can’t breathe for the pain, it will lessen over time. You may not want it to decrease. I remember thinking my grief for Jerry was my only remaining tie to him and I didn’t want to let it go. But a time will come when you begin to release a little at a time so that you can move forward into a new  and dramatically changed life.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

 


 

Save

Save

Save