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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

At the end of every year, I reflect on my most favorite moments. I always think in moments, not days, because it’s those snapshots that stick with me. I can’t recall whole days, but moments are embedded in my mind’s eye. These are only a few that warm me on cold mornings. Family. Beauty. Connection. Moments.

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The groom with his new brother-in-law

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Brothers

Ellie and Sean

The kiss

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Our auntie-niece coffee shop selfie right before we ran to catch the ferry

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Siblings – precious friends

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Liberty Bay on my last morning

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Overlooking Red Wing, MN – vacation with Don

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Precious mother-in-law Mary with her great-grandson Chase

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My best friends

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Annual NEEDTOBREATHE concert with kids (and moms)

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Sweet girls

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Meeting my favorite author Jennifer Dukes Lee…and my awkward hug.

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My very bestest friend

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My heart.

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Eating ice cream with Grandpa

All dads are major influences in the lives of their children, even the bad or absent ones. I was blessed with a wonderfully kind and gentle father, who loved me unconditionally and believed in my potential way more than I did. In honor of my dad, today’s blog is devoted to five tidbits of wisdom he handed down to his children.

  • Take care of the land.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my dad farmed with him until I was nine years old. We lived on a small acre plot of land adjacent to the main family farm, where my paternal grandparents lived. My dad loved farming, but when my grandpa passed away, my parents couldn’t afford to buy the farm, so Dad sold most of the farm equipment and started driving a semi-truck hauling grain and farm animals. But my dad always loved the land.

img_4309He spent hours in our wooded acres, cleaning up downed trees, and using the wood to heat our home. He loved those trees. My nephew recently found a video recording my dad made while walking through his beloved woods. To hear his voice again, poetically extolling the beauty and majesty of the massive oaks and elms…we were amazed at his eloquence. My dad was a quiet man, but his heart was huge. Listening to that recording revealed his passion for conservation.

  • Everyone needs some alone time.

This could easily be part 2 of the previous point. My dad was an introvert who loved people. And yes, that’s a thing. Dad enjoyed being around friends and family, but he needed to get outside or get alone for a while to re-charge. Dad drove tractors (alone), semis (alone), and lawnmowers (alone) so he could have his solitude. He told me often about having conversations with God, listening to the radio, observing nature, just soaking up the quiet without any competition for his attention. He could talk with anyone about many things, but he was most content when he could get outside, in his woods, alone.

  • Don’t cruise along in the left lane.

We just finished 12 hours of driving in the last two days. So many drivers have never learned this bit of wisdom that my dad drilled into me when I was learning to drive. People – the left lane is for passing.

  • Show up and work hard
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Though it looks as though Sean is miserable, this was a favorite activity: riding on the John Deere lawnmower with Grandpa.

My dad worked hard his whole life. He didn’t make much money, but when he left our house, he gave 100% to whatever needed to be done: field preparation, driving trucks, hauling grain or hogs or cattle, splitting and hauling wood, mowing lawn, planting and harvesting, etc. When he was an employee, his boss knew Bill would show up, no matter the weather or his health. My dad was more reliable than the U.S. Mail. And his kids learned that work ethic who have now passed it down to their kids.

  • Finish well

I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my dad during the last few months of his life. He had been diagnosed with leukemia and I would travel to his house to sit with him to give my mom a little break from care giving. I loved listening to my dad tell stories about his young adult life. About how he first met my mom. How he thought she was the most amazing and beautiful girl he’d ever seen. He was a shy, quiet young man, but my mom flirted and joked with him and he was a goner. At least, that’s what he said. He also told stories of mistakes, regrets, errors in judgment. He was so sad about those things. My dad was not perfect. He made mistakes in his life and lived with some measure of guilt. If he were here, he would tell you the same thing. But the greatest decision he ever made was to ask Jesus to forgive him, to cleanse him and clear him of that shame and condemnation. From then on, my dad was a different man. Before his God-encounter, Dad had high expectations (for himself and his family) that were seldom met, but after he met Jesus, spent time allowing God to transform him, my dad became less judgmental, and more grace-filled. He experienced being set free from guilt. And those last few months of his life were marked with a love more profound that I had ever seen before. His love for my mom was deeper and richer. He took time to meet with the men he wanted as his pallbearers so they would know how much he loved and appreciated them during his life. He talked with me for hours about heaven, what he wanted us to do for my mom when he was gone, how much he loved me and my siblings…and how much he loved His Savior, Jesus. Those were precious times with my dad, priceless conversations I can still hear in my head. He taught me one final lesson – finish well.

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My mom and dad soon after their engagement. Mom was 17, Dad was 21.

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Short post today. It’s Christmas Eve, after all, and I have a lot to do. Cleaning, cooking, baking, candlelight service, checking my list again (just like Santa)…but most importantly, preparing for Christmas Day.

I hate when I allow my schedule to dictate my joy level. So I’m intentionally choosing rest (I took a 15 minute nap on the couch last night about 7:30), and peace and the love of Jesus. Tonight we’ll have the slow-cooker filled with soup and keep the light on for anyone who stops by…for a few minutes or longer. Because I want to make sure there’s always room in my inn.

As a pastor’s family, we didn’t have a lot of annual traditions. Things always depended on weather and where Christmas fell during the week. We spent A LOT of Christmas Days on the road between our two extended families in northern and southern Illinois. Do you know that most places are closed on Christmas Day? (sarcasm) Ate a few cold truck stop sandwiches through the years. Drove through heavy snowstorms and over black ice a time or two – all because we wanted to see our families over the holidays.

So this is what I’ve learned (you know I’d get to it, right?) – be flexible. Don’t set your schedule in stone tablets, never to change no matter the circumstances. Don’t expect your adult children to always adhere to your annual traditions. Remember the most important thing isn’t the actual day you celebrate – it’s the reason you celebrate. The family you hold dear are no less precious on December 26th. or January 5th. or March 29th. Allow your family to celebrate the best way they can and maybe that means getting together later or earlier or next weekend. Or celebrating more than once. (yay!!)

Since my boys are now married, we’ve learned to adjust to what works best for all of them. Don and I are so thankful our own schedules allow us to accommodate what works best for everyone. We’ve “taken turns” on holiday get-togethers. We’ve opened gifts a few days early so our kids can be out of town on Christmas Day. We all communicate our expectations so when we do gather together, there is less stress and more joy. I’m blessed with amazing extended families, in-laws, and now “joined by marriage” families. We are thankful for the love they show year round, not just at Christmas time.

May your family find that happy balance of tradition and flexibility that brings light and life to all your celebrations.

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Picture courtesy of incourage.me – blog post December 24, 2020

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img_2978Our youngest son got married on Saturday. It was beautiful. Of course, when the bride is absolutely gorgeous and the husband is GQ-worthy (someone else said this first, not me…his mother)…it’s tough to have a bad wedding. But we learned a lot from the planning process and throughout the day into the evening. I’m passing along a little wisdom.

Five Things to Make Your Wedding Unforgettable.

img_2943(1)  Have an outdoor wedding. No matter what you do to out-think the weather forecast, the weather always wins. Always. Maybe it’ll be sweltering hot. Maybe the gnats & mosquitoes will dive bomb each guest. Maybe the storm clouds will gather behind the wedding party as they try to look cool and calm. Maybe the storm sirens won’t go off during the ceremony. Maybe the wind will blow the decorations into the next county. Maybe some of this happened to us.

(2)  Ensure you lose electricity during the reception because of weather. Everyone eats by the flickering candlelight. Toilets won’t flush. Band can’t play. The mother-of-the-bride’s best friends hold their camera flashlights over the food line so people know what meat they are putting into their tacos.

img_2944(3) Make sure the mother of the groom hurts her back the night before. With so many friends and family members in town, there’s a plethora of advice (and painkiller options) made available. In order to remember the day, keep the drug options to Tylenol and ibuprofen. And peppermint oil.

(4) Torrential downpours. Nothing like a little (not little) thunderstorm to keep everyone inside the building instead of enjoying the beautiful grounds of our venue. But we also didn’t lose anyone. Keeping our loved ones close makes for a very memorable day.

(5) Live band. Let’s be real – a live cover band with no electricity doesn’t sound good. Pun intended. But our venue staff (Koru Aronia Berry Farm) worked tirelessly to pull off miracles and the band (Strays) went live only 20 minutes behind schedule. We danced (not me) and sang and swayed and tapped our toes (me) for almost three hours. I loved watching my adult nieces and nephews enjoying themselves right alongside my little great-nephews dancing away the night.

I could add so much more because it truly was a wonderful day. No matter the glitches that could have ruined everything, Sean and Ellie planned and pulled off a magical wedding.

Huge thank you to all that came together to work, play, dance, serve, and celebrate this special couple. Sean and Ellie made it to Italy (eventually – but that’s another story) and you can see some of their travels on their Instagram pages. And I’m down to only two ibuprofen a day.

 

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I love being a boy mom. My husband’s family is full, full, full of boys and we continued the trend with two of our own. But, I’ll be honest, there were days I wondered what it would be like to have a daughter. I imagined tea parties, dress up dates, chick-flicks and drama queens. I never missed the drama queen part, but I know, from being one, that daughters have a special relationship with their moms. I can dream about sweet and happy times because I never had a daughter. And I have friends with daughters – so I’ve heard horror stories, along with the good times. But God heard what I never even expressed and now I have two daughters…daughters of my heart.

Don and I prayed for these girls way before we ever knew them. We prayed for our sons’ future wives…that they would know and love God, desire to serve and follow Him; that they would be prepared by their own parents to be the wives my sons would need. I asked God to give me daughters I would love with my whole heart, and who would love me in return. I learned a lot about mother- and daughter-in-law relationships in my own marriage and I hoped to be the type of “other” mother my girls would want to spend time with…and that I could encourage and love them as I would want to be.

God is so good!

Kids_NTB_concert_2017Three years ago my first born married his sweetheart…someone we had known almost her whole life. Though they started dating after David’s high school graduation, he and Tristen had been friends for many years. They are a lovely couple and we are so blessed to have Tristen in our family. She loves and supports my son wholeheartedly, and embraces life’s challenges with a bravery I find inspiring. I love her so.

This June, my youngest son Sean will marry his girlfriend. They started dating while in high school and have worked hard to make their relationship a priority. Ellie is a beautiful young woman who seems to enjoy hanging out with our crazy family, even as we argue such earth-shattering topics as “is a hot dog a sandwich?” She’s the quietest one among us, but gives amazing hugs and listens well. I love her so.

Now I’ll have two daughters. Girls I didn’t raise but have loved for so many years. Those two girls took me for my first pedicure and introduced me to sushi, so careful to help me pick out something I would like. They love ethnic food – just like me, and they’ve helped my boys get outside their food comfort zone. They laugh with us, cry with us, eat my food and even though neither one are particularly sports fans, they endure hours of McGarvey family sports watching. They have been a part of family road trips since my concert obsession began, and the three of us have already had one girls’ day out to Galena. Much more fun to come.Girls_Galena_2017

I’m so grateful that God heard the silent cry of my heart for daughters…and He selected the perfect ones for me (and my sons’ too, of course).

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