First Wedding

We just experienced our family’s first wedding, which was splendid – and surreal! I never quite imagined myself in the role of “mother of the groom”. It was always someone else dressing up and being walked down the aisle to sit in that seat. But this time it was my husband and I playing in the drama, hearing our son and his bride sing a duet and take their vows, and viewing the mystery of God molding a new family entity. 

Although getting everyone packed off on a plane across the country was an intense task, I think it caused us to give our undivided attention to the event, live in-the-moment and purposefully mingle with new friends and family members. Brothers and sisters in Jesus inspired us with their generous hospitality. They let us invade their homes, eat their food and drive their company van for the weekend. Love was seen everywhere, and not just at the altar. 

We are still chewing on the reality that it’s over, and giving glory to God for His inscrutable, glorious, ongoing plan!


photos by: Ashley Katherine Photo

Faith Over Fear

My first baby’s birth did not go as planned. In fact, it went as opposite as we ever could have imagined.

We had planned for a full-term, natural birth with a midwife attending. We hoped it would be the first of a number of children that God would give us.

Instead, I landed an emergency classical c-section attended by a gaggle of doctors, and gave birth to a 2-pound preterm baby who was struggling to breathe.  Just before the birth, someone came in to prepare me for the fact that he could be blind and have many other health issues. 

Dead Dreams

 After the c-section several doctors sternly told me:

  • “You can never have a natural birth. Your scar would most likely rupture, endangering your life and the baby’s.”
  • “And by the way…you should only have three c-sections at most. Any more could compromise your health and endanger the baby’s life.”

Tears. Dead dreams. Fears and sorrows. 

A cleaning lady entered my hospital room while I was recovering from the c-section and subsequent infection. She stopped sweeping, looked at me and said:

“I would never let them cut me open.”

More tears, coupled with doses of indignation plus hormones.

Strong Scars?

The doctors sent me home with a thick pack of official papers that described my scar and the classical c-section. These papers earnestly affirmed that I could never-ever-no-never have anything but a c-section. Home birth was definitely out of the question.

After three months of daily visits to the hospital, my preemie baby boy finally arrived home. While enjoying my new baby, I still was preoccupied with my perceived “damaged and scarred” state. I remember actually looking at and envying other pregnant moms while thinking, “SHE will probably have a natural birth, but I never will.” Then, a good friend suddenly encouraged me with the fact that:

“Scar tissue is actually stronger than the original tissue.”

Was that true? I wondered if other moms had safe, natural births after a c-section. I started reading and researching about the heresy possibility that the doctors might have been wrong?

Digging for Answers

There was no internet available to me in 1992, so I just went to the library and looked up birth stories. I also talked and wrote to people that had healthy VBACs. I found a lot of evidence that it would be possible for me to have a natural birth after all. But a doctor wouldn’t be able to help; it would have to be a home birth and it would have to be a midwife willing to take me on, BIG UGLY SCAR and all. 

In February of 1993, I became pregnant and after calling a long list of midwives, I finally found midwives Jan and Jeanne. They didn’t seem to mind about my scar, my history and all the doctor warnings. So I threw away all of those official papers and knew I had only one more thing to acquire before I was ready. 

One Missing Thing

I had godly cheerleader-type friends in my life who encouraged me. They reminded me that God can take care of me and my baby whether I am at home or at the hospital. My husband (who has limited respect for doctors) told me I’d be way better off having a home birth, with no doctors interfering with the natural birth process, trying to give me things I don’t need! :0

I assembled my home birth supplies and the only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH. I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father. The passage I found most encouraging was this, which became my life verses:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Hebrews 12:1-2

The only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH.

I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father.

The Rest of the Story

God’s will for each of us is played out differently, but this is my story. It’s the story of a scar, dead dreams, and a harvest of faith bigger than I could have imagined. I don’t give myself credit for the faith, though. Any faith I have comes from Him, because even faith is a gift. 

After that first home birth, I had nine more home births. Most of these involved an attending midwife or two, and none involved pain meds (but if they were available I probably would have said yes!) The last home birth brought complications, but God was sovereign in that one too, and it had nothing to do with the scar as predicted.

Speaking of scars, if you too have a scar (physical or emotional or both), please consider my story. Our loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can make a “scar story” build our faith and even work out better than the original plan. He can take dead dreams and breathe life into them. 

30 years later, here’s my husband and I with our “harvest of faith.” (The former preemie is in the Air Force now and is in the back row, far right!)

————-

Superb Savannah

Last summer, my adult daughter read Gone With the Wind. One thousand pages / 50 listening hours later, she wanted to see Georgia for herself.  She settled on Savannah and asked me if I wanted to go. 

No Minnesotan would decline a December trip into the sunshine, and I love traveling with my people.  

Here are five trip highlights:

Savannah Sights

Oh, the well-preserved, colorful Savannah homes! The history-rich stone mansions and ancient cemeteries! The beautifully gnarled oaks, dripping with decorative Spanish moss! Walking around in 70 degree weather in December is a treat for any northern person. The natural and urban beauty was a bonus.

Eating Out & Shopping

  • Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop with its unique and compassionate business model was a highlight and a truly special place. Besides the coffee, we bought souvenirs.
  • We knew we wanted to visit the 100+ year old Savannah favorite: Leopold’s Ice Cream. After standing in a long line, I chose their famous tutti-frutti, made with Georgia pecans, and topped it with hot fudge. 
  • NaaN On Broughton and Jalapeños Mexican Grill were great dinner choices.
  • My favorite shop was Folklorico, a fair-trade boutique stuffed with lovely things.

A Farmer’s Market in December?

Up north, farmers markets start hibernating in October, but the Forsyth Park Farmers Market is active all year long. It was fun to stroll along and see what people in Savannah are buying outdoors in December, like mushrooms, honey, bread, soap and more. 

City Squares

Someone said that the best way to see Savannah is to walk square by square. It’s an ideal way to explore the historical part of the city. Each square has a size, personality, and landmarks all its own. Seeing the statues of confederate war heroes reminded us with every step that we were definitely in southern territory!

Tybee Beach

Dodging waves in bare feet while it was snowing back in Minnesota was tremendously satisfying. The drive from inner Savannah out to Tybee Beach took us through low-lying watery flats, peppered by one-lane bridges. I’m not used to driving in unknown places – my husband typically takes that task when we travel. But heading out to Tybee, there I was: the grownup with the rental car, soaring out into the sunshine with my daughter when we could have just been home baking Christmas cookies. Woohoo!

“There are vaster and wealthier cities, but for architectural simplicity, for an indescribable charm about its streets and buildings, its parks and squares, there is but one Savannah. Without a rival, without an equal, it stands unique.”

–Timothy Harley

What Did You Learn From Your Parents?**

I learned to reach out.

My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them.

We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.

Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.

Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.

My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone — never talking down to people.

He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”

I learned to create art.

My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.

My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls. To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.

I learned to seek God.

They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography. Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.

These are my parents, Tom and Caroline, with me, on my wedding day 06/23/1990. My mom made my wedding dress by combining three different patterns, according to the way I wanted my dress to look. (She made her own dress, too!) And, of course….my dad paid for the whole thing.

** This was the question I got today from Storyworth. Storyworth was a unique gift I received from my children on Mother’s Day. I receive a weekly email question to answer, and it usually brings forth a flood of memories. It’s a good exercise for any blogger and the plan is for all of these excerpts to turn into a lovely book, full of a lifetime of memories. This gift of a Storyworth book is the kind of thing that is perfect to give to an aging parent who might be in danger of losing her full brain functionality soon…hehe…probably why I received it 🙂

Top image by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

| Your Child’s Summer Reading: 3 Picks for Book Series |

As a parent, perhaps you feel like the last academic year has been a rollercoaster ride, and you want your child’s brain to stay sharp over summer. Maybe you are wisely thinking ahead to rainy day activities, or simply want to find more quality reading suggestions. 

Here are my top 3 picks for kids reading series. These are suitable for parent read-alouds, audiobook, or for independent readers aged 8 and up, depending on ability. (I have read these books and they are not just for kids!)

The Mysterious Benedict Society (5 Books in the Series) 

These action-packed volumes take a group of gifted (multi-ethnic) children through physical and mental challenges and the readers will enjoy the ride immensely. Friendship, danger, riddles, puzzles and mysteries await readers of all ages. These are tremendously well-crafted, intriguing stories and we loved the audio versions, read by the talented Del Roy.

Awards include: E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers, Massachussetts Children’s Book Award, Iowa Children’s Choice Award Nominee.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (7 Books in the Series) 

This is an engaging series of seven books about a 13 year old kid lawyer. Theo faces typical and unusual challenges as he uses his gifts to help others, hunt down fugitives, defend himself when framed and dig through evidence to discover the truth. Written by bestselling author John Grisham and designed for young readers. Excellent audio version for all books in the series narrated by Richard Thomas. 

Here is one adult review to which I can relate:  

…”I purchased the Theodore Boone novel not realizing it was geared towards younger readers. I’m 47 years old and a professional in the communications industry. I found the novel refreshing and interesting…definitely recommend this series regardless of your age…” (Amazon.com review)

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (5 Books in the Series)

Kyle Keeley would rather play games than read, but he and his team end up getting the chance to spend a night in the new town library, which was recently designed by the eccentric game creator, Mr. Lemoncello. The exciting team challenge is to complete all of the puzzles and clues in order to escape from the technologically-savvy new library. These books have been called a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Night At the Museum, and are peppered with humor, quirky characters, and suspenseful fun. We loved the audio versions of these books, read by engaging narrator, Jesse Bernstein.

Happy Reading!

–Lisa

Photo by Unsplash

{ Practical Bucket List }

Some folks build a bucket list

With fancy places to go

An ascent on the highest mountain

Or a trek to the Changtang Plateau

Me? I’m a little more practical

When it comes to making my list

I don’t have to travel or spend too much

To check off what I don’t want to miss

I really should sort through my fabric

And divide up my rhubarb this season

There’s a lonely stack of half-finished books

“No time” is always my reason

I’d rather not leave without finishing

My bottle of favorite perfume,

And I’d like to become a mother-in-law

And a grandma, before I’m entombed

I could add a few lines to my list here

Like ceasing to bite my nails

Or making my casket far lighter

By decreasing the pounds on my scale

But there are some things more important

To accomplish before my end

Like scheduling those casual “let’s do lunches”

And meeting up with long ago friends

Me and my lifetime love.

Au revoir!  should be said with a smile

Our imperfect marriage at peace

My thank yous expressed and my family blessed

Before Jesus grants me release.

And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side
And fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus and live.

~ Chris Rice

~~~

Psalm 39:4

“Lord, make me to know my end

And what is the extent of my days;

Let me know how transient I am.

~~~

Romans 14:8

For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

~~~

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days,

That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

{ Noisy Nature }

I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.

I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:

“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”

So we started off on a well known path.

They were trailing behind me.

Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.

Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.

Nah, I will wait a little.

Then it got noisy.

That throaty, burping frog pond.

That airy, whistling, bird choir.

The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.

I couldn’t miss this.

Spring was waking up here.

The sun was melting my winter slouch.

My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.

“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.

Maybe this is what he meant.

~~~~

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

~~~

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock

{ Ava Eleanor }

When most of my people have exited the house on a busy Saturday, then my brain has a chance to focus on the few who are still at home for the day.

Today’s “brain focus target” is my youngest daughter, Ava.

When Ava was born, she looked like a beautiful, brown-skinned Nunavut native. “Our Eskimo baby”, we called her.

Ava means “birdlike”, which suits her, because she likes to feed suet and seed to the many hungry birds who flit around our rural property. She also likes to paint with watercolors, but she doesn’t favor anyone hovering over her shoulder while she works.

She makes thick, fruity smoothies that overflow a pint-sized Mason jar, and she has a favorite book series about Peter Pan that she has read several times.

Today, I worked in my room while Ava sat at my desk and browsed over the latest library book Beautiful Boards, a photo cookbook of appealing snack boards you can create at home.

Then I rested on the sofa with a headache and when I woke up, Ava had made lunch.

“I saved something for you…” she said.

“ARE YOU THE BEST?!” I asked her. “…THE BEST?!”

Then I ran off after her, laughing and calling out: “ANSWER ME!” 

Ava Eleanor and her blessed Mama.

{ Spring Break with Mom — Part Two }

Waves

The beach is mesmerizing, and I could sit and watch the translucent-teal waves foam up on the sand all day long.

The way God fashioned waves is a repeating design pattern in life…but that is another blog post in itself.

Hypnotic waves on Miami Beach

Patterns & People

Last night, after the beach, after makeup removal, after getting cozy on my chair, Gino asked me to go for a walk around the colorful 4 x 4 block radius that we have called “home” this past week, where he has explored so much more than I.

How could I say no?

The air was balmy on our last night, as he led me through the upscale design district in my pre-bedtime state of appearance. We pranced right through a busy, outdoor bar where fancy people chatted in a courtyard. We weaved through a maze of colors and patterns, past designer shops with their sparsely-chic shelves and products. Everywhere we went, it smelled like someone wearing high-end perfume had just recently sailed through.

The abundant patterns and colors of the Miami Design District

Goodbye, Miami

All good things must come to an end.

Geoffrey Chaucer

When I start calling our place “home”…

When I start thinking about a Starbucks run every day at 3 p.m. just because it is within walking distance…

When I start swaying to Latino rap like it’s normal (all those Uber rides)…

Then I know it is time to hightail my homeschool-mom-self back to the Midwest.

{ Spring Break with Mom – Part One }

You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…

My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…

“It would be fun to go with you.

I wonder if I could swing it.

Would you hate that?” 

Then, I let it rest.

A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”

“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.

My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb. 

Day One

Arriving in Miami

We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District. 

First Meal, Best Meal

Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.

Day Two

Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!

Uberimmediately

Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”

“Sure.”

I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:

  • walking shoes
  • snacks
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • water bottles
  • earbuds

…and suddenly Gino announced:

“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”

Whaaaaa?!

I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands. 

“Do you have everything?” I asked.

“Yep.” he said.

Miami Beach

Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!

We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.

After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.

After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.

Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”

Tweaking Expectations 

After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:

You know you can go places without me, right?

This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?

To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon. 

As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?

I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.

Day Three

Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone. 

So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).  

This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.

“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.

But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!