Monday, August 04, 2014

Ham on Buns.

Sometimes I'm so oddly conscious of things that some folks might not give a first thought to... much less a second thought or a 15th thought.   Often, it bugs me that I'm this way.  Sometimes it's exactly how I grow...

My first unsettled experience with ham-on-buns came about 17 years ago.

Wait.   Ham-on-buns, you (did or did not) ask?
In the mid-western,  religious, Dutch influenced culture where I've grown up, life events most always involve food.   Okay,  food at life events aren't just ritual in our little corner,  but ham-on-buns may just be.   As my life has been filled with weddings, baptisms, graduations, and funerals-- often included like part of the family is the tray of lunch meat on buttered rolls (buns) and starchy side dishes.   
Ham-on-buns.  It's what's for dinner. 

Okay, back to the story. 

I was 20 and my paternal grandmother had passed away. Following the funeral service I watched my male cousins carry and lift the casket gently into the hearse.   

A touching moment. 

Witnessing my older, tall  and normally jovial cousins visibly and audibly emotional was uncomfortable.   
And sad.  
And good.   But it didn't last long.   
I sensed there was but a brief window for that kind of emotional let go, as moments later we were being quietly instructed to go to the basement for lunch. 

"What!??"  I thought.   "How am I supposed to feel this kind of sorrow one minute and indifferently slather mayo on a sandwich, the next?" 

No way.

I'd dare to assume at this point most normal people would be anxious to move things along.  Grief is not an enjoyable state,  eating lunch is.  But as I sat there staring at the foam plate and bakery bun,  I was somber and silent.    17 years ago, I found absolutely no value in the post funeral luncheon.  

And then we went home.

Early this spring my paternal grandfather (Gramps) entered his eternal home and many of the same scenes and faces from Grandma's funeral were present at his.  It was, in part a thankful celebration.  Of the life he lived and loved,  and of God's faithfulness to our ever growing family-- of Jesus' redemption in Grandpa's life. 
All of the great times,  the painful times,  the strong as well as strained relationships were brought to the first five rows of church pews that morning.  We lifted our voices in "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and it will go down as one of the most precious moments of my life.  

Following the service and recessional I felt the now familiar inner struggle welling up.  Slip away and grieve, or line up for ham?   I hugged my Dad, my husband, my brother.  I could have stayed there all day.   Then from the corner of my eye I saw my eldest daughter embrace my mom and begin to weep.  I know she loved Great-Gramps but I wasn't sure how her first funeral experience would effect her.  I talked with her quietly and realized something.   These sad feelings were difficult for her and as glad as I was that she could express them,  she might also learn from the upcoming hour.  

So, just like the well meaning white-haired ladies at Grandma's funeral 17 years prior, I asked my girl,

"How about we go and eat lunch, does that sound good?" 
It did.
We walked to the other side of the church and what began with- quiet tones of wiping tears and blowing noses beautifully transitioned into smiles,
and memories--
and breaking bread together.  

I had finally found value in the ritual. 

A large (but not the whole) part of the family poses for a photo 
following the --much to my delight-- Ham-on...croissants!

It was Sadness and Celebration.
Pain, still Praise.
Death, yet Victory!

Joy and sorrow are often intermingled into the ways and the days of this life.  

What is your only comfort
in life and in death? 

That I am not my own,
but belong—

body and soul,
in life and in death—

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
The Heidelberg Catechism above says "all things"

I desire to be a person who can see the big picture, have that keen awareness of all the gifts and all the grace surrounding life's circumstances.   
In the great moments and especially in the hard times be less bogged down with fickle feelings and more attuned to what The Lord wants me to see and learn

It's not easy. 
Just about anything can fog our senses.    
But by the same token,  just about anything can be used to teach us.  

Even a ham sandwich.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

when winter came.

(Photo from our back yard one rare day 
when the sun broke through)

It's been a winter for the record books where we live.  Snow upon snow upon snow that we push into piles and create pathways to go where we gots to git.   (sorry for the poor grammar- but I'm not a professional writer, so I can get away with it!)   We deal with winter's blow and look forward to brighter days when the sea of white will dissipate,  because we know it will.  As long as the earth endures, seasons change.  It's a promise.    

As we wait for the literal winter to secede there is a figurative winter that our family is waiting through.
May I share a little more about it?

First though,  a little background from my childhood...

When we heard the back door open,  we'd come running.

Barbie dolls,  Legos, dress up clothes all left in the dust when we realized our Daddy was home from work!  

It was like an amusement park ride how he could lift up all three of us at once and tote us around.  Did he have super human strength?  I'm sure I thought he did.  I was wee and he was mighty!

Day to day experiences like that among many others throughout my childhood sealed for me the impression that my Dad was amazing, invincible and unlike no other.    I am grateful for this.

Our Dad's mild stroke just after the new year took us all by surprise.  Over the last months many have expressed to me how Dad is so healthy, strong & fit and didn't seem likely for such a health crisis.   Initially,  I shared those sentiments as facts because as far as a 61 year old goes,  he is active,  full of vim and vigor.  Not living a sedentary lifestyle and responsibly monitoring his health status,  I always assumed from a medical standpoint Dad was better than the average.  As his doctor could attest,  that was a fair assumption.

But what was really happening for me was something less factual and more emotional.  (I know, imagine that?)  It didn't matter to me that he didn't fit the typical risk factors for stroke or not--yet suffered one anyway.   In my heart he wasn't supposed to have a stroke because he was the Super Human father that lifted me up both physically as a child and in every other way since childhood.  

(Photo courtesy of Footstock Barefoot Tournament) 

It was the first time I would come to the awareness that our Dad is in fact,  super! Yet also... human.  

I know,  rather a late realization.   But an important one.    Although an uneasy understanding for me that my Dad wasn't invincible after all,  I began to see Dad as God's child!   In unique and powerful ways our Heavenly Father carries His children through seasons of winter in our lives.   As the weeks went by this was very true for Dad.   You see,  a super hero wouldn't admit weakness or see the need for help.    In Dad's humble humanity he worked hard at regaining strength.  He wasn't too manly or macho to take a break from work,  or even driving for that matter.    I smiled often in the dead of this very long winter as Mom escorted Dad everywhere for awhile. They really are two peas in a pod.   I'm inspired by and have learned so much from them through this experience.

As our Heavenly father strengthened Dad's health and resolve following the stroke,   He also strengthens my heart against worry and fear.   We experienced again the gifts bestowed though community,  His Word,  hugs,  prayer,  & conversations.   God blesses, even through hardship and unresolved outcomes.  He doesn't let us go!   In His strength we are lifted and carried around when we run to him.   I like to picture it in much the same way my Daddy lifted me as a youngster.

Dad's prognosis is good, yet still-- we  wait.   For winter to melt away and for the possibility of Dad's vision to return full and clear...  for spring to arrive.   

But,  we wait with hope,  we hope with faith.  We are always held,  no matter what.   No human,  not even the biggest, strongest, wealthiest, hero you know can offer this kind of assurance when the winter comes.    
Only The Lord Almighty, 
as we humble ourselves before Him.

Run to Him! 

Song of Songs 2:11-13

New International Version (NIV)
11 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Birthday Buddies

On this date in history 10 years ago and 38 years ago,  two mothers labored for their firstborn daughters.

In this true story, the two mothers are mother and daughter.  Have I lost you yet?

It's one of my life's greatest gifts and a fabulous fun fact that our daughter Joy was born on my 28th Birthday,  10 years ago today,  March 1.

 Last night,  instead of a hospital room where I found myself 10 years prior I looked across a hotel room where my girl was fast asleep.    For this duel birthday we took a brief girls getaway and it was so so good.   As I watched her browse the racks at the thrift store,  order a grilled cheese for supper,  find her birthday gift (a Go-Go Pillow) on clearance,  and swim with glee in the hotel pool,  I sense we are nearing the end of an era.     I feel it like a tightening in my chest,  the future.   This care-free soul will in the years to come find challenge,  disappointment,  heartache--just all the things about being a teen.

I wonder if I used the last 10 years wisely.
Have I taught by word and deed and by the Word?
Have her father and I planted the seeds that will grow into healthy self-esteem and confidence?
Will she ease into the changes that await or clumsily stumble through?
Does she know,  Does she know of God's goodness and grace?

and then I see her ways..
she leads,  she nurtures,  she's brave,  she's fiery,  she's persistent,  she's expressive,  she creates,  she thinks,  she's independent,  she questions,  she serves,  she loves.

Little pieces of her fallible parents
Large works of a great God,  and He is only just beginning.

Undoubtedly,  the next decade will pass as quickly as her first,  so milestones (like reaching Double Digits) compel me to celebrate and reflect.    Perhaps I over-think at times,  but it nearly always brings me to the same place...


Her name befits her.  

I rejoice in life today- past, present and future!