Category Archive: Grace

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?

 

How’s Your GPS Working?

Grey clouds hovered overhead as raindrops dropped onto the windshield. Don, his son Dan, and I drove out of Meridian, Idaho and into the town of Eagle.

Don wanted to show Dan a specific property Don’s son Victor owns in the foothills. It had been a long time since Don was last there, so navigation by memory wasn’t working too well. And since there was no specific address, we couldn’t just call it up on GPS. By phone, Victor told us the nearest crossroads, but we had already overshot one of those. We drove in a big square, took a couple of wrong turns, and were uncertain which direction the other road was from our location.  Between Don, Dan and me, a GPS and my Waze, we finally got to the crossroads Victor had mentioned. Recognizing the area, Don turned right and then off the highway and up a dirt road onto a hill where we looked over a newly planted field and the Eagle area valley. The stunning view was worth the wrong turns and difficulty finding this place.

I thought of how often we take wrong turns in life. Maybe it’s a choice to run with people who are a negative influence; perhaps it’s a relationship that promised the moon, but left us in the ditch; it may be getting into drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Perhaps it’s our own selfish “me first” attitude; or allowing life’s challenges to take priority over our focus on God.

The husband of a friend of mine fought cancer valiantly. Now, although cancer-free, he is suffering with an internal infection that requires one surgery after another to clean and disinfect the area so he can  heal. Today is surgery #20. My friend is tired, burned out. But her focus remains on a good Father who loves her, her husband and son. Her posts continue to honor Him, to speak honestly of her weariness while she throws herself on His grace, love, and healing touch. I’m challenged by her trust.

God’s Word says he will “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).  He calls us back to Him, even when we’ve made wrong decisions or turned away from Him. He welcomes us with open arms, forgiveness and love. And He has given us a reliable GPS–His Word. As we return to our focal point, our God-given GPS, His Spirit resets our path so that we again find our way on His path.

What a gracious God!

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.

 

FOREVER FRIENDS

I was discouraged and frustrated–and I blew up! Ugly. Heated. Off-putting.

I felt a medical need I had hadn’t been respected, and that my friends were not supportive of my being in a new relationship. I understand now; they were afraid I might have to experience widowhood a second time. At the time, it just hurt. So I blew up. I’m not proud of it. I acted badly and was not at all Christ-like in my demeanor or, for that matter, my heart.

But … one friend determined that I am a “forever friend” and stuck with me. The other turned away from continuing a friendship in which we had supported each other through some difficult and, in one case, frightening times. The difference? One chose to forgive and rebuild; the other, to say she forgave but yet to walk away from any ongoing relationship, despite my efforts at reconciliation.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:7, 11

Compassion

Forever friends … incredible gifts in a mobile society, and a life filled with transitions and political turmoil. Friends one knows will always be there for me, even if they disagree with a choice or behavior of mine. Who will tell me when I’ve offended, or confront me (in love) when they see sin in my life.

Two of my forever friends are moving out of state–at the same time!  Oh, how I’ll miss them! But, because we’re forever friends, our relationships will continue across the miles, with phone calls, prayer support, emails, and hopefully some visits tossed into the mix.

I’m also grateful for those forever friends who are still nearby. My life, my walk with God, my relationships are enriched by people who see me as I am, and choose to love me. First among those is my husband, Don. So to you, Don, and to my other forever friends … Thank you! I love you too.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

I expect many of us have gone through times when friendships were not easy. Perhaps there was a need for forgiveness, on either or both sides. Maybe a need to challenge a friend in a difficult area. And maybe a dear one who, it seems, was “born for a time of adversity.” I’d love to hear your experience.

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Why we Need Girlfriends More as We Mature

Driving alongside a full, flowing river after California’s years-long drought, we saw the pines and grass and rocks, with stunning, snow-capped Sierras in the distance. Water flowed through the canyon, greening up its surroundings. Seems I was constantly saying, “Look how beautiful this is” or “This view is magnificent.”

Just as marvelous was the time spent last weekend reveling in a few days with two close, long-term girlfriends. Such a great time, I missed posting, and apologize to you, my dear readers.

So I’ve been thinking about friendship, and its importance in our lives. I’ve had several precious friendships for more than thirty years, three or four for forty plus. Newer friends add more joy to my life. Friends grace us in many ways.

  • With friendship, laughter, and tears through the stages of life–whether that’s from singles to married and moms; or just the stage we’re in currently.
  • With hearts and ears that listen and don’t try to fix us.
  • With honest feedback and sometimes, correction. “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” Prov 24:26 NLT
  • With forgiveness when they’ve seen us at our worst, and encouragement when we’re doing well. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9, NLT
  • With frequent calls or visits to check on us at times of crisis, from boyfriend or husband trouble, to divorce, death, illness, or family crises.
  • With the freedom to hang out with them even when we are numb and disengaged because of our own pain.
  • With the support we feel because of their loving friendship.

Years ago, when another friend and I were both single, we would call each other if either of us was sick. The non-sickee invariably brought over cheetohs and tomato soup–good recipe for a sick day, and a great friendship!

I’ve been blessed with two terrific husbands. But someone once said, most women will have their girlfriends longer than their husbands. We tend to be widowed first; and sometimes husbands leave for what they believe will be greener fields.

A writer younger than I saw a group of 50-ish women laughing together, and commented on their obvious bond. In an article in the Huffington PostKari Kubiszyn Kampakis relates that one of the women told her:

   “’Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.’

   Kampakis continues: “The women in the elevator that day were spot on. And now when I see a group like them having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff. And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own.

   “Sometimes it takes another woman to intuitively recognize what needs to be done — then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said — then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice — and know what to make of them.

   “Having great friends is largely a matter of being a great friend … girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing again on the beach, there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.”

The laughter my girlfriends and I shared last weekend is richer because of the history we’ve shared.

What has made your best friendships rich? Are there friends you need to forgive? I’ve had to forgive and be forgiven; and the friendships that have remained are richer for having gone through the fire and persevered.

Friendships. Important? Critical, even?  YES.

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