Category Archive: Family

Love, Commitment and a New Year

The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer. Today we’re taking down the tree.

As we enter a new year, many will make resolutions, many of which will go by the wayside before the end of the month. It is good, however, to reflect on the past year and consider where we might want to make changes.  Some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2018:  to know Christ better; to love and serve my husband, family and others; to build relationships and focus on presence.

And as I think of some memories from this Christmas just past, I am incredibly grateful for family.

It was the anniversary dance at my niece’s celebration of marriage. Don and I, who are not dancers, enjoyed holding each other and swaying to the music. We sat down pretty quickly, at “married ten years or less” (our eighth anniversary is this month).

The DJ kept counting.

“If you’ve been married fifteen years or less, sit down.” Some did.

“If you’ve been married twenty … twenty-five … thirty-two … thirty-seven …”

Of about twenty couples who started the dance, only two remained on the floor: my second oldest and my youngest brothers and their wives. My oldest brother would have been there too, had his wife been able to join us that day. Bob and Sheila left the dance floor at “forty or less”, while Arnold and Carol remained center stage until the DJ said “If you’ve been married fifty years or less …”

Dad & Mom, married 58 years

I loved seeing my brothers and sisters-in law out there, a testimony to the grace of God and to commitment over the long haul.

Bob’s tender gaze as he danced with Sheila touched my heart.

Carol had a life-changing stroke five years ago. Her mobility is limited, despite her determination to regain health and strength, to relearn the use of muscles and processes from walking, to using her hands. So to see the love she and Arn share, the laughter and joy they express with each other, and to see them standing, Carol dependent on Arnold for stability, on the dance floor after fifty years of marriage was especially meaningful. And to have the last two couples on the dance floor be two of my brothers and sisters-in-law touched my heart with thanksgiving. It speaks to the values we have learned from our parents, from our understanding of God’s principles about love and commitment, and to the grace of God in our family’s life. Each of us has faced hardships. We’ve lost family members we treasured. Marriages have gone through difficult challenges. But our commitment to God and family has kept us together, and I thank God for His grace in each of our lives and marriages.

So as we move into this new year, I pray God’s grace on each of us, and on you, my dear readers. Grace for each day, each trial, each joy, each marriage and family. As Tiny Tim so aptly said, “God bless us, everyone!”

So What’s Next?

The right engine died. The warning light flashed. “Turn off the generator.” As Captain KD Jost lifted his hand to hit the button, following protocol, he heard a voice. “Don’t hit the button.” Trained in the exact steps to follow in an emergency, KD hesitated. Once again he heard, “Don’t hit that button.” As he pulled his hand away from the button, the plane’s left engine stopped. Had KD turned off the generator the plane would have been totally without power, likely leading to a crash and multiple deaths.

Another Captain, a friend of KD’s, stepped out of the pilots’ rest area and into the cockpit on a transatlantic flight. The navigator jabbed at one knob after another, trying to get the instrument controls to work. The pilot was catatonic, unable to respond to the crisis. Realizing their flight was off track and they weren’t getting any instrument feedback, the Captain literally slid under the pilot’s body and pushed him out of the way in order to take control.  In addition to being lost, the plane’s gas was running low. “God, help me,” he prayed. And he heard, “95 degrees.”

Looking at the navigator, the Captain spoke. “I’m going for a 95 degree heading.”

“You can’t do that,” the navigator said. “We have no idea where we are.”

“Well, the instruments aren’t telling us anything and this is the most helpful input I have so I’m going with it.”

Wonderful time celebrating KD’s retirement

Following the 95 degree heading and knowing the gas tank was near empty, the Captain began his descent, still not knowing where he was or what would greet him when he broke through the clouds. But as he did, he saw the runway of the Azores straight ahead of him. And just as he landed, the empty gas tanks caused the engines to flare out. All on board were safe because the Captain listened to the clear direction of the Holy Spirit for that otherwise-doomed flight.

These were just two of many stories KD told this weekend as family celebrated his retirement after 38 years of commercial flying and training other pilots on the newest aircraft, including the United’s Dreamliner. Eighteen of us had a wonderful weekend celebrating, visiting, catching up on each other’s lives, learning to know and love each other more, laughing, and of course, eating!

So what’s next for KD and his lovely bride, Connie? “Probably staying home for awhile, resting up, then we’ll see where God leads.”

Retirement … a new beginning. The end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. As Jesus followers, our purpose goes beyond when the paid work stops. God has used KD to serve the needs of his passengers, his crew, his trainees. And His work through KD is not finished. And just as He directed KD, sometimes in miraculous ways, during his years as a pilot, He will continue to lead. Our God doesn’t change, nor does His directive to love and serve God and others end as we age.

Some retirees use their RVs to travel to disaster sites to help rebuild.

One of my best friends started a volunteer group helping first grade kids with literacy, through a program in which local churches partner with neighboring schools to help make an impact.

Still others host refugee families or serve in the Church in new ways.

Paul reminds mature women to teach or mentor younger women to live in such a way “that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:2). In other words, to live and mentor in such a way that our lives, and the lives of those we mentor, honor God and family. One of my greatest joys in this season of life is mentoring two younger women in their faith walks.

Scripture talks of “elders in the gates,” giving advice and sharing wisdom with people in their circle of influence. I think of the life experience KD, my husband Don, my brothers and other men I respect have and are able to share with younger men, both in life and in their walks with God.

At retirement the world says “Enjoy life. You’ve earned it. Take it easy. No responsibility.” But God says we are to honor Him all the days of our lives–whether relaxing and enjoying the blessings He has given us; or serving the church and others. And while we may move more slowly, be limited in some of our strength or capabilities, we can still pray. We can visit those in the hospital or in need; help at a food distribution center; offer rides to doctors’ appointments; and do all with joy and grace in the name of Jesus.

And our God has promised to be with us through every day, every year of our lives. In Isaiah 46:4 He promises “I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (NLT)

So retirement is not an end, but a beginning, as we look to God, asking, “So what’s next?”

If you’re retired, where do you feel the most joy? If you’re not yet retired, what are you looking forward to in that season of your life?

It’s a Parade!

Nurse Paigey on my lap while I recover

I wish I’d had a long selfie stick to capture the moment. Following major surgery last week, I’d had quite a good day at home with lovely visits (and meals) from dear friends. I’d probably overdone it. That night, despite my medications, I was hurting significantly and couldn’t find a pain free position in which to sleep. At about midnight, I told Don I’d go sleep in the recliner in the family room.

Don said he would join me and followed me out of our room, pillows in hand. Walking down the hall, I heard the patter of softly padded paws trotting behind Don. Our little parade of 3 settled onto the recliners and slept thru the night, together. Every time that picture enters my mind I chuckle…this was family, working together toward recovery.

Before having total shoulder replacement surgery, both Don and I thought about the possibility of complications. When it came time, we each had to release our concerns to the Lord, trusting He knew our present and our future.
Afterward, my wonderful surgeon said all had gone well. Several times during the day and night following, I wakened to an enveloping sense of peace and quiet. And a sense of wonder infused my spirit. It was over. I was here. God was here. Don was here.

Now I’m home, with loving thanks to you who’ve sent cards, notes, called, and brought meals. My four-legged buddy has kept very close tabs on me since being home, cuddling up against me at night, sticking close during the day. My two-legged wonder, Don, even watched a shoulder replacement surgery with me online (well THAT explains the bruising!), cared for me, warmed meals, cleaned and laundered.

We have an amazing God who not only fashioned us within our mothers’ wombs, but has given man the tools and experience to rebuild damaged parts of the body. I give thanks!

So we’re into recovery. A day at a time. Grace for each day. Surrounded by love, trusting that I will also respond with grace when pain persists.

 

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.