[ this was written by my son and reposted from his blog ]
It seems an odd thing to miss someone who you’ve never met in person. However, recently I have felt an intense urge to be with you. I long for the day that I can stand in your presence and look you in the face. I cannot wait for the day that this mirage of a life no longer separates us. In the meantime, I know I have my instructions. I am to run around this darkening world giving light to those who will receive it. Please allow me to be used by you in the way that brings you the most glory. Give me the ability to love others the way you do father. To think, you came to this desolate place so many years ago to save me from my sin! Father, it’s almost too much to comprehend.
You reached out your hand to me. The thing that breaks my heart is that while you sought me, I ran as fast as I could away from you. I wanted nothing to do with you. Nobody on this earth seeks you. God, but you are the only one who offers life and true happiness. I am here on my knees tonight, Lord. I am a broken soul that comes to you for mending. You are the author of the entire book, and even though the book has countless pages and numerous characters I was among those you picked to spread your message of hope. Every day I wonder how you could even use me for such an important mission.
Give me your strength Lord! Help me do all I can to spread your message of love to the world. You have given your sons and daughters the responsibility of getting people ready. One day you will be back. And it won’t be like the last time you were here. When you make your return Lord, everyone will know it. The sky will open with the sound of trumpets, you will descend ready to greet your children. Help me to have done all I can till that day father. Cause me to remember that everyone I encounter is an eternal soul. Everyone is in the same boat before you. Nobody deserves anything good, yet you offer the best thing to the worst of sinners. Thank you, God.
Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.
This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.
Mama Makeover: Part 2
I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.
Mama Makeover: Part 3
Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.) I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas.
Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row. At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.
In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:
Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…
The Makeover Continues
Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most. My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….
Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible
Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend.
Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.
I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.
I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:
A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)
Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?
Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…”
Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?
God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.
Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach.
So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.
Being a mom is not a BEING LIFE; it is a DOING LIFE.
It’s a constant, daily, demanding string of decisions between selfishness and donating love cheerfully.
When a sleepy wanderer-child interrupts my calm early morning…
When I want the kitchen all to myself…
When I had a busy day and just wanted to rest….
When I am trying to think and someone asks me rapid-fire questions…
Will I snap in irritation, sigh impatiently…or donate love cheerfully?
1. to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation of, as to a fund or cause:to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.
2. To provide (blood, tissue, or an organ) for transfusion, implantation, or transplant.
Yep, that is motherhood. Donating gifts, contributions, blood, sweat tears, heart, soul and more — whatever one has left to give.
It’s holding tight, It’s lettin’ go It’s flyin’ high and layin’ low It lets your strongest feelin’s show And your weakness too It’s a little and a lot to ask An endless and a welcome task Love isn’t somethin’ that we have It’s somethin’ that we do…
There’s no request, too big or small We give ourselves, we give our all Love isn’t some place that we fall It’s somethin’ that we do…
I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.
Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…
“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:
A huge watermelon
2 XL bags of tortilla chips
A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
A 10-pound package of ground beef
And an institutional sized box of cereal
When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.
That was just how she gave.
She gave BIG. and
She gave generously.
On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.
Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.
Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.
One time she took me aside and said:
“Lisa. You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”
She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.
“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”
Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!
Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:
She works with her hands in delight!
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her.
And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”
In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage.
On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family.
Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her.
Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.
After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.
While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.
Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen.
This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.
God is sovereign and never changes. The pandemic is raging, but the rest of the natural world still proceeds predictably and peacefully at God’s direction. He is in control.
My imperfect marriage. Sometimes, my man and I are a real piece of work. But, because of Jesus, my husband is mine and I am his and there is hope and humor and love that can go the distance.
Prayer. It is only recently that I am really clinging to the power of prayer in the lives of my children, teenagers and young adults. I cannot control their worlds anymore; only God can. Talking to God about them is the only thing that gives me peace about them.
Little outdoor getaways. I cannot get out of the house and sit at a coffee shop and write or read or think right now. That used to be my little treat to myself; my little breakout time. But I am thankful recently for walks on local trails and a beautiful spring so I can enjoy peace and quiet outdoors.
Homecomings. Because of the pandemic, most of my young adult children had to migrate back home and work remotely. This has been such a pleasure.
Food. There is enough.
Home Repairs. Another silver lining within the sad, global pandemic. With an altered work schedule, my husband and sons had time to work with an expert to get a new roof put on. One son painted a needy room and we also got rid of lots of junk.
Health. I am grateful for good health and don’t take it for granted.
Vehicles that work right now.
Fun books: read-alouds, audiobooks and volumes that keep people happy in hammocks all day long.
Who said Love is pretty? Love is not a fragile flower Or a delicate blossom Love is a stubborn weed that refuses to be uprooted. Love is not a silky, elegant fabric It’s a stained and sturdy tarp A rough and lowly burlap Love is a rusty anchor A moss-covered boulder A weatherbeaten barn. Love has been through Waves Trials and Storms And love will be there forever.
Love gets Wrinkled Burned and Scarred But love is too busy Doing Working and Praying To look into the mirror
Angela’s blog The Abundant Heart was one of the first blogs I read when I started on WordPress. Reading the blog of someone who lives in Florida gave a Minnesotan like me warm fuzzies.
While I was knee-deep in snow and ice, Angela was posting photos of palm trees swaying over a pleasant outdoor lunch on the back patio.
But I didn’t just like the weather on her blog, I loved the way she wove her earnest thoughts about scripture and hymns and godly living all together. She considers The Abundant Heart a ministry, and it truly is.
Busy, Talented Lady
Angela and her husband recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary! Having raised three children, Angela wants to devote more time to her writing and other interests. Over the years, she has juggled many different tasks. Before moving to Florida, Angela owned her own cleaning business and was a high achiever at H & R Block. During tax season, she is known to a small group of clients as the “Tax Lady.” She also sings in the church choir and plays piano and guitar. And, she ministers to local college students by handing them gift bags every quarter that are stuffed with words of encouragement and goodies.
But What About Her Day Job?
Angela has actually taken a short sabbatical from writing lately to become a full-time artist. In particular, she creates mixed media art and home decor items from the parts of old pianos. Angela has a growing Etsy shop called Encore Old Pianos and it’s an ideal place to find a unique gift for any music lover. Angela also sells her unique upcycled goods at regional craft fairs, art shows and a gallery called the Sand Dollar Cottage. She is also working on securing a spot in a busy local antique store. She hosts a blog called Encore Old Pianos that shows how she does her work and lists upcoming events. Angela posts current creations on Instagram (@angelathepianolady).
More About Angela
When Angela isn’t writing or creating or reaching out to others, you might find her reading her favorite book, The Holy Bible.