Category Archive: Family

Celebration and Supplication

As we celebrate America’s freedom today, I pray we will put aside our differences and thank God for this country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor church service, with bunting strung along the tent and church. We thanked God for the freedoms we experience in this country. And we were reminded to look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible) for our confidence and hope.

Christina’s dance of praise

Christina shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness. Two years ago she was declared cancer free after having Stage 2 breast cancer. “I am so thankful. And that is why I dance.” We saw her gratitude in the beautiful routine she performed to the worship song, “From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”

After church, we enjoyed hot dogs and tacos, snow cones, games for the children, a bounce house, and face painting. Most of us stayed for at least two hours before going home. Don and I enjoyed visiting with different friends and watching the fellowship around us. We were family, delighting in hanging out together. And yes, I got some face paint!

When I was in turmoil over the hostility present in our country, one of our pastors reminded me, “I have never relied on the government for my security. Governments change, leaders change. My faith is in Jesus Christ.”

So, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, as we pray for change in the areas where it is badly needed, let us also remember that Jesus Christ, our hope, is over and above all.

man holding bible
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:1, 13

What it Means to be a Father

When I was a little girl, my Dad told me I could be anything, do anything I wanted. He helped me dream. He bragged on me. He teased me–especially the time when I was about three and we were at a Sunday School picnic. They had a spike-driving contest every year to see who could hammer a railroad spike into a square piece of lumber with the least strokes. Dad always won, hands down. Three hits and that baby was embedded! I was so proud of him!

So this particular Sunday, feeling shy, I walked over and put my arms around his leg. Suddenly I heard his gentle voice. “Carrie, I think you have the wrong daddy.” I looked up and, to my chagrin, realized I had hold of the leg of another man, one I was sure at my brilliant age wore a toupee. I quickly released this man, who was smiling while the other men chuckled, and I ran to the “right” daddy!

As I grew, I didn’t always like my father’s instructions or correction. He didn’t often raise his voice, but a quiet “Carrie” along with “that look” could stop me in my tracks.

But he didn’t just correct. He spend time playing on the floor with my brothers and me. Made time for Daddy-daughter dates as I grew. Cheered on my accomplishments. Prayed fervently when I ministered in the ghetto. Encouraged friendships with others who also trusted my Jesus, both my own age and his and Mom’s age. I always knew Dad loved me. I figured I’d still be “Daddy’s girl” at 80, although he passed twenty years ago.

How I treasure the love, presence and security of my dad in my life.

My husband, Don, has five children, four in-laws, ten grandchildren, and two greats! He dearly loves his family, watching out for their needs and supporting their endeavors. He also loves my family (they’re all ours!), as evidenced by the way he cared for my mother during the years of our marriage, and by his love for my siblings and their children. In many ways he is like my father. Gracious, hospitable, discerning, godly, quiet, and wise.

To read four recommendations for helping your child feel safe, seen, soothed and secure from the beautiful photo at left, see Kirsten Russell’s Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/CeEgDSqpT7M/?fbclid=IwAR3Dr4HgTC4Pm6mPa1J0AuUI8j8bxrdZBLA8Fb6F3n6LSkNeReBk5qFrREw

…is if a child has at least one person who they feel securely attached to and who shows up consistently.

I know many have not experienced the love of a righteous father, as I have. My heart grieves for these, as a father’s love is foundational to who we are and become.

Good fathers are present. They listen to their children and take their concerns seriously. They build up, affirm, challenge, and correct. They make home a safe haven for their children. Fathers impact the future of their children in significant ways.

Prager U says “Statistically speaking, a child who grows up without a father in the home is more likely to experience homelessness, commit crime, serve time in prison, abuse drugs, drop out of school, be obese, suffer from poverty, and so much more. And the United States has the highest share of single parenting in the world.”

And yet, there is a Father who reaches out to us, through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who says “I am with you. I will be your father. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Bring all your burdens to Me, because I care for you. Confess the ways you’ve walked away from Me, and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Paraphrased from Psalm 68:5, Hebrews 13:5, I Peter 5:7, and John 3:16.)

The apostle Paul had wise advice for both children and fathers when he wrote,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4, NIV

If you’re a father, spend intentional, loving time with your child.

Whether you’re a child or adult, treasure the moments you have with a loving, imperfect father. One day he will be gone and you will miss those moments, as I do!

A righteous man walks in integrity; blessed are his children after him.

Proverbs 20:7 –
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Foibles and Grace

Headed for the exit in an unfamiliar city, I turned too soon. Instead of driving out of the rental car lot, I drove around in a circle, back to a different exit gate.

“Five minutes in Orlando and I’m already lost.” I smiled at the woman. “I just went out that gate over there and made a circle.” She laughed aloud and said “You’re fine ma’am. You can go.”

“I’m glad I gave you a chuckle,” I said as we exited the gate for the second time.

This time I took the correct ramp and Don and I got caught in a myriad of freeways–this way, that way…we chose the direction by our gut because there was nowhere to stop and turn on my Waze directional system (which didn’t work inside the cement car lot).

We drove several miles before we could get off the freeway and start Waze. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone very far afield and were headed in the correct direction.

Back at the airport, we’d ordered wheelchairs because I recently injured my hip and am using a cane periodically. And Don needed a wheelchair to keep up, because people who push those for a living are incredibly strong and FAST!

Michael was awesome. He managed both chairs, took us down to claim our luggage, across the street to car rental, got us right in front of the rental counter, loaded the car for us and sent us on our way (with a sizable tip to him!).

We stopped at the Welcome Center at the very large resort to check in.

“Oh, you’re supposed to see Hope in another welcome center. Here are the directions.”

We tried to follow the directions, got turned around at one gate, went through another and were to follow the yellow line (reminds me of Dorothy’s yellow brick road!). In the dark, we lost the yellow line. Regardless, we were too late to check in at that station, which closed at 8 pm.

We went back to the Welcome Center. “Oh, you’re back!”

“They’re closed. We’ve been here … and there … and there … and now we’re back here. And we’re tired. And we’ll try very hard not to be grouchy!” (And we weren’t). Having been awake since 3 am, we were pretty exhausted.

After checking in, we drove around to find our room, settled in and went to bed.

Twelve hours later, we wakened. Ah, what a sleep.

That afternoon we went to the resort’s market. Don’s phone fell off the car console and he thought it fell on my side. Now understand; I have a wounded hip and knee, but I wanted to help him find it. I got down on one knee in the back seat, my elbows on the floor looking under the driver’s seat to look for the phone. Not there. Then. I. Couldn’t. Move. My knee wouldn’t give, my elbows wouldn’t move. Can you imagine the view? (Don’t try.)

“I’m stuck.”

Don looked at me.

“Please help me. I’m stuck.” (Said in a very calm, quiet voice.)

“Oh, you’re serious.”

“Yes, I’m serious! Help me!” My tone was getting just a bit more strident.

He pulled me out of the back floor of the car (no, I should not have gotten down there in the first place)! He thought I was playing a joke on him! And the phone was on HIS side! Well, at that point we just started to laugh. I think sometimes laughter is 70% of forgiveness!

So we’ve laughed at our foibles and started to relax after a very busy schedule these past months.

Soon after entering Disney Springs we looked at a posted location finder. A husband and wife walked by and the man, seeing Don’s Veteran’s cap, thanked him for his service. That began a conversation where we learned he is a semi-retired pastor from Maine, about to take on a role as interim pastor for several months. It was a delightful God-moment to meet other believers, Susan and Ron.

Today, Sunday, we met our grand-niece Iona Jost for lunch. It was a delight to learn to know her better. I met her once before, and Don hasn’t seen her for several years either. We sat outside, at a table beside a cerulean lake, unmasked. And as I ate the yellowfish tuna that melted in my mouth, I was grateful for family, for this time away with Don, for life.

Somehow in the middle of all the tension in the world there is still room for laughter, for joy, for giving thanks.

In the Old Testament, Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was approaching 90 years of age and had not borne a child, was promised a son by God. And she laughed at herself, and at her joy.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

As I’ve matured I’ve found it much easier to laugh at myself rather than simply being embarrassed. It’s freeing. So while we continue to pray about the crises in our world, our families, our lives, let’s laugh when we have the chance. It’s healthy!

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Light in the Darkness

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

This scripture was the theme of our West Coast Christian Writers’ conference last weekend. And I thought how meaningful this verse is at this time in our world. Some of you know my family, and Don’s, emigrated from Ukraine in 1929 (mine) and 1874 (Don’s) in order to pursue freedom of worship and from oppression.

With Mom at great-grandfather’s grave (Abram Frose, later changed to Froese) in Ukraine

I looked through a powerpoint presentation I made after my Mother and I visited Ukraine on a Mennonite Heritage Cruise in 2006, when we were both widowed. A wealth of memories and emotions flooded back, and I wanted to share some of these with you. Most of Ukraine’s people eagerly hold onto their independence (despite those Russia-backed separatist groups Putin is now recognizing). I hope these photos will help put a face to the people and land of Ukraine as we pray for them.

At right is a photo I took of my great-grandfather’s house, with his initials, “AF”, still present in wrought-iron at the peak of the house.

This is the entrance to a root cellar, which became the children’s hiding place when bandits attacked the Mennonite Villages.

Original home of Franz Isaac

At right, a group of six who traveled to my father’s village of Schoeneberg. Our tour leader, Olga Toews, is on the left. This was the home of the grandparents of the two gentlemen in the back, and the woman in babushka and apron was kind enough to invite us in, and to assure the brothers the floor was still solid. Most of these homes had been divided into two or three units by 2006.

Mom and I, along with cousins Irene and Peter Prieb (at right) met two of my father’s cousins for the first time, the women on Mom’s left and right in the photo above. The man behind me is the son of one of these 80-something physicians. Their father had married a Ukrainian woman and so, never left the country. He was later executed.

Amazing variety

Mom and I traveled by boat to a fishermen’s village, where our host and hostess had stayed up all night to prepare an amazing feast for us – traditional vereneki (cottage cheese dumplings), sausage, meatballs, parsley potatoes, cheese herb bread, and much more. Mom got sick on the fruit punch. Perhaps we should have tasted the vodka instead!

According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “For churches and humanitarian aid workers, the echoes of 2014 and 2015 still haunt {the Ukrainians}. In the last outbreak of violence, ‘We saw more than a million people [displaced],’ Father Vitaliy Novak  remembered. Based on that, he worries, this conflict ‘will be, I think, much more, a bigger size.’ With the clock ticking, he and other organizations are desperately trying to get their hands on medical supplies, clothes, extra food. “We pray to God it [doesn’t] happen,” he said, because for now, “we don’t have any resource[s].”

The New York Times 2/21/22 stated, “While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.”

Please join us in praying that light might be seen in this very dark situation; and that God’s people will have strength and God’s grace to endure through conflict.

Family, Majesty, the Faith of a Child, and a Gold Coin

Last week I wrote about the first three days of our road trip.

On Sunday, we left Eagle, ID for Yellowstone, again driving through quite a bit of smoke and watching the topography change around us.

We arrived at our hotel just outside the West Gate of Yellowstone, checked in, and joined Bob and Sheila to drive into the campsite where their sons and families were staying. What a fun evening of reconnecting, of setting out our chairs by the fire, of watching nine cousins (from 5-12) who adore each other and delight in being together.

Following are some highlights of our stay.

FAMILY

Our nieces and nephews took turns cooking for Bob, Sheila, Don and me. What great coordination, what serving love. We ‘older generation’ brought desserts, brownies, s’mores fixin’s, makings for birthday cupcakes, etc. We delighted in seeing different sights in Yellowstone, especially through the eyes of the children! We started at Old Faithful on Monday morning. Each evening we gathered in our circled chairs to talk and enjoy hanging out together. Our oldest grand-niece present, Makenna, was wonderful with the littler ones, always checking whether they needed to go to the bathroom, wanted to walk down to the lake, etc. (where we found leeches–kinda creepy!).

And Don and I felt cared for as some of our nephews and nieces would walk more slowly with us (the altitude was a bit tough on us), or suggest a shorter way that we could walk back to a meeting place while they hiked three times the miles that we did!

One night we had a time of prayer and laying on hands for one of our family who was facing surgery. “Thank you that we can celebrate ‘X’s’ surgery,” one prayed. While we chuckled at her choice of words, we realized we are grateful that the problem was identified so that surgery could be an option! We joined with the little children in asking God’s hand to be on the situation.

MAJESTY

Elk – some resting right off the boardwalk near Old Faithful.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, where at a certain time of day the mist reflects rainbow colors at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall.

A large herd of bison crossing a river. We saw one turn back to check on her babies, behind her. How amazing that the God who created us for community also put into these huge beasts a nurturing instinct. Beautiful! And the one that walked within five feet of the car, ignoring us all as he meandered between the cars.

Deer and a stunning buck with a huge rack.

WORSHIP

Nephew Josiah led us in a time of family worship one night. He shared scriptures about the majesty of God’s creation and had chosen several songs for us to sing along with a speaker. As I looked at his six-year-old daughter, I saw the beauty of holiness as she sat, arms on the chair arms, eyes closed, face lifted in praise to God. O for the faith of a little child!

A GOLD COIN

I followed the four littlest girls to a log where they sat huddled together. The “Princess Crew,” they call themselves along with one cousin a bit older–because they all love Disney Princesses. As I snapped pictures, the girls started asking questions. One noticed the coin pendant I wore.

The Princess Crew and MomMom in front of Old Faithful Inn

“Is that real?” she asked.

“It is. It belonged to a dear friend who died about seven years ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok, honey. She’s with Jesus.”

Our outgoing one jumped in with “But she’s with God. And she’s in your heart.”

“That’s right.”

A younger cousin, five, spoke up.

“I don’t want to die. I just want to live here on this earth.”

“I understand, sweetie. But God will take care of us.”

Just then the older cousin appeared.

“And the best thing about being a Christian is that you know you’ll see here again.”

Moments like these are priceless treasures to be stored in my memory bank for joyous recollection.

I felt expansive, filled up with the majesty of our God, grateful for the beauty of this earth, for these enormous creatures who walk by without incident, for children who are being raised to love God through his Son, Jesus Christ.