We Are Family

Do you come from a small family or a large one with many siblings? Are you close to them? See them often? Occasionally? Estranged?

I’ve lived thousands of miles from my parents and siblings for the past sixteen years. We keep in touch through phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook.

But, last weekend my husband (Sonny) and I flew from Seattle with my youngest daughter (Ana) and my stepdaughter and husband (Katrina and Jon) to Minneapolis. My oldest daughter and her husband (Brooke and Doug) flew in from New York City a few hours before us, retrieved an eight passenger vehicle from rental, and then picked up the rest of us at baggage claim. From there, we journeyed for two hours, crossed the border into Wisconsin, and converged on my parents’ house in my small home town.

The occasion??? A family wedding.

My younger sister is in her early forties, but this was her first marriage. We were all thrilled for her when she became engaged. I’d only met her then fiancĂ© during a quick visit back two years ago. During the past weekend my family was able to spend more time with him, as well as his teenage daughter and son. He’s a good guy, and the kids are outgoing and bright.

My brother and his wife have three children – all in their twenties. Although they’re separated by cities and states, all the cousins have close relationships. They warmly welcomed their new step cousins into the fold.

The thirteen-year-old new member commented to my husband that he’d been nervous about meeting everyone – not knowing what to expect – but immediately felt comfortable. He realized that he was now a part of our family and that we cared about him.

The weekend was a whirlwind. Everyone pitched in to help. We decorated the church and the reception hall. Brooke and my niece both sang during the ceremony. Another niece read scripture. My nephew served as both usher and groomsman. Ana was responsible for the guest book. Jon was the “official” photographer and Katrina assisted. The groom’s son served as an usher and his daughter passed out programs. My brother and his wife were host and hostess – and I helped my sister by being her personal assistant. Doug chauffeured us all weekend and Sonny was on hand to help wherever needed.

At the reception, someone requested “We Are Family,” made popular by Sister Sledge, as the last song played by the DJ. Every family member formed a circle and danced – including my parents. The “kids” grabbed their two newest cousins’ hands and made sure that they joined in. At first we danced with the bride and groom in the center, and then my dad and his grandaughters took a turn.

I looked around the circle that had grown once again, and would continue to grow as our children have their own.

And I thought . . .

My family is far from perfect. We have our flaws. We irritate each other. Like every other family we’re dysfunctional in various ways.

But at that time and place, we were all together, celebrating in unison.

We are family.


A Soft Place to Land

Do you have a soft place to land?

You know . . . somewhere you can go when you need to escape from the world, be comforted, or just feel supported and cared for?

My daughters are twenty-six and almost twenty-nine. They’re independent, intelligent, strong women. But there are still times when I get phone calls in the middle of the night because they need a comforting word. There are still days when they need to just hang out with us.

My husband and I have always strived to provide a soft place for our kids - no matter how old or grown up they become. They’re all adults now, successful at making their own way. But when the world batters them down, when they’ve had a bad day, or they just need to talk . . . we’re here. If they need help meeting daily life challenges . . . we’re here. If they need reminding that they’re lovable and loved . . . we’re here.

As for my soft place? My husband and I try to provide that for each other. A place where we can shut out the world, talk, and believe that everything is going to be okay.

But, not everyone has a spouse or parent who can provide that kind of environment. Some can’t – some don’t know how – and some just don’t care. Sometimes the people who can and do provide it, aren’t always available.

What happens then? What can we do?

We can find comfort, peace, and rest in God’s arms.

Trust me. He’ll always provide a safe place to land.


The Dung of Life? Or Fertilizer for Growth?

So . . . did you read today’s title and go, “Huh? Seriously?”

It’s not a secret that life doesn’t always go the way we’d like. It’s challenging and often times difficult and heartbreaking. When going through hard times, people sometimes express that life is *** or they feel like ***. You know what words I’m leaving out here.

They use those expressions because the words conjure up images that aren’t pleasant – at all.

Dung is another word for manure, which is not only messy, its fragrance isn’t one you’d want to bottle and dab behind your ears.

Two of my uncles owned dairy farms in Wisconsin. Farmers utilize the manure generated by the cows to fertilize the fields. When that process takes place, the air doesn’t smell very fresh. The aroma is . . . well, you can only imagine if you haven’t been there.

But the corn, wheat, and hay benefit, and stronger crops are produced.

I don’t use dung for my yard plants and flowers, but I am a strong believer in Miracle Grow. It’s amazing the difference it can make in the growth and beauty of the plants. A few photos of flowers in my yard are included here. Those in the window box started out as small, puny plants. But with water, sun, and “fertilizer,” they’ve flourished.

I think my experience in the yard and on the farm, exemplifies life.

Like the benefits the fields receive from disgusting manure, we can also benefit in character, resilience, patience, compassion, perseverance, tolerance, empathy, etc., by walking through and surviving difficulties.

Maybe it’s not always such a bad thing to go through hard times. Struggles can help us grow to be stronger individuals.

You may have heard it said that you can tell the “true” character of a person by how they act during tough times. It’s much easier for people to be happy, confident, and strong during the good times.

So the next time you become frustrated with how your day, week, month, or year is going - try to think of those frustrations as food to help you grow.

Who knows? It just might help. *wink*


What Will Be Your Legacy?

A legacy is something that is handed down from one generation to another. It can include money or property left to someone in a will, but it can also be a way of life, philosophy, belief system, or anything that makes an impact on someone’s life.

My grandmother didn’t leave me any material possessions, except for a story Bible that belonged to my grandfather. I never knew the man. He died when my mother, the youngest of four children, was in high school. But that Bible, in some small way, makes me feel connected to him. I’ve had it for almost forty years, and it’s still kept in the stand next to my bed.

In place of “things,” my grandmother left me with wonderful memories and a small understanding of the woman she was and who she hoped her grandchildren would become.

She was raised on a Wisconsin farm, taught school in a one-room schoolhouse, and met my grandfather at a church social. Life as a farmer's wife included cooking at least three large meals a day for the family and all the farmhands. Not just one – but many pies were baked daily. When my grandfather died, she kept the farm going until one of the sons took over, and then she moved out of the big house into a much smaller one built for her on the land.

My grandmother was an example of an independent woman.

I have fond memories of spending time there as a child. The TV was rarely on, but there were always books to read, puzzles to work, homemade coffee cake, and walks in the woods to pick wild flowers. She carried Luden’s cherry cough drops in her purse in case of a tickle in the throat during church. During sleepovers, I listened to the gentle tick, tick of the clock and the chimes that rang every hour and half hour. Now we have a similar clock, and in the dead of night, the chimes are comforting.

She knew what hospitality meant and how to make a house a home.

I am in the middle of thirteen grandchildren – two were born the same year I showed up. An honor student, I was also involved in numerous extracurricular activities. I’m sure she was proud of me, but she never talked about my accomplishments, nor those of my cousins. I never heard her compare us to each other. I liked that about her. It made me feel that we were all on equal ground.

She just loved us just because . . . not because of what we “did.”

As a college student, I occasionally spent several days with her during school breaks. We set up a large wood frame that took up the entire living room, and she helped me tie the large quilts I had begun to sew as a hobby.

She showed me that it was important to share your time and talents with people.

My grandmother loved God. She knew the Bible. And she thought one of the highest callings a person could have was to be a missionary.

She impressed upon me the importance of having faith and putting God first in my life.

I want to leave a similar legacy for my children. I want them to know that above all else they are unconditionally loved for who they are. That they are strong people who can accomplish great things – as well as survive difficult times. That people are more important than things. And that above all else, their relationship with Jesus Christ should always be the most important thing in their lives.

That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave for my children.

What will be your legacy?


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