A Master Bedroom Makeover

This picture was taken in December of 2016.

That is when I thought that a master bedroom makeover was imminent. We had moved into our lovely older home in October of 2007. We had 6 children, the youngest being 6 weeks old. We just put together our master bedroom with whatever we had. It definitely wasn’t the decor that I would have chosen. It really wasn’t even a master bedroom. It was one of the smaller rooms in the house, but we chose it because it had a balcony. We didn’t want any of the children to accidentally get out onto the balcony…EVER!

I would day dream about how we would make our room a peaceful oasis. It wouldn’t cost very much money, and it would be so much fun. Month after month, year after year, other things would take up our time, money, and creative energy. We had two more baby boys, both born in this bedroom. We shared the small space with a collection of bassinets and cribs.

In 2015 we had a baby girl. Eventually she moved out of our room and into a room with her brothers. Our master bedroom was cribless! I began to dream of redecorating again. By December of 2016, we thought we were ready! The light blue paint had almost faded to grey, and it was peeling off the walls. Upon closer inspection, Chris noticed that there was quite a bit of water damage on one of the walls. The wall had an outside wall on the other side. It turns out the the chimney was leaking water into our house and we needed to get a chimney liner.

A Chimney liner: the most unsatisfying home improvement expense ever!!!

I had to wait a bit longer for my master bedroom makeover. Slowly over the next two years we found other items to put into our room like a beautiful dresser from Craigslist. My daughter made me gorgeous canvases from photos taken on her trip to Australia.

I was able to get some new bedspreads. A lighter one for the summer months and a duvet cover for our down comforter. Chris likes our room as frigid as possible, but I don’t mind in the winter, as long as I am snuggled under the down comforter.

I also brought a small love seat into our room. Friends of ours gave it to us when they were moving our of state. (Thank you Wander family!) It had been in the boys room, in the loft and then finally in the basement. I thought it was a goner when the furnace pipes started spurting water everywhere and it got completely soaked. Yet it dried out and still had the pleasant smell of dill emanating from it. I think it is a miracle love seat, perfect for quiet times with Jesus and nursing times with babies. All it needed was a blue slip cover!

In 2018 we had another baby girl. There was another bassinet in our room, but it was a joy! Chris and I needed a new mattress badly. We found ourselves rolling into the center of the bed and waking up terribly sore. Finally by February of 2019 we were able to trade in our 22 year mattress for a new king-sized one.

A new King-Sized Mattress: one of the most satisfying home improvement expenses ever!

Chris decided that he couldn’t put a new bed into our room with the awful paint. So he asked me to pick a paint color and soon, “Sunny Veranda” was gracing our walls.

A few months later Chris took an original door from our garage and crafted a headboard for me.

I love it more than any headboard I have ever seen!

I feel like I have an official bedroom now!

I wanted to decorate our room in a beach theme because God had spoken to me so clearly about the Sky and the Ocean before, during, and after our 21st honeymoon at the beach. The beach is where I am reminded to surrender to the God of the wind and waves so He can carry me.

There are pictures from Areli’s trip to Australia,

Areli’s trip to Cyprus,

and our trip to Ocean City Maryland.

I love each little detail because it means something to me. This old box came with our house and is a perfect place for my books. Now I just need to find one for Chris’ side of the bed.

The shells belong to Areli, which I gave to her, which my Grammy gave to me, which Grammy got when her mom and step-dad lived in Florida.

Whenever I lay in this bed and look up at the lovely white ceiling fan, I feel like I am on vacation. I am surrounded by sunny weather and beaches.

What could be more relaxing than that!

And God is telling me to dream again.

To look into my future with His vision and see the endless possibilities.

To tell disappointment that “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!”

To hold my dreams dearly but not tightly.

To dream but not make dreams my master.

To dream while praising the Author of my dreams.

What better place to do all of those things than in my new Master Bedroom?!

Thank you Chris for making my oasis possible! I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach with you!

Her Room Looks Empty

Her room looks empty.  Her dresser is bare.  Her bags are packed.

This is happening.  My firstborn is leaving home.  It isn’t her first adventure, but it is her longest so far.  Seeking God and helping others is her mission, taking photos along the way.

                How can I say goodbye to my right arm, the joy of my heart, and my best girlfriend?  I fear I will be overcome with testosterone and daily tasks without her.

  But I know that it is her time to fly. 

God’s timing is perfect, and His grace is sufficient for me.  She graduated two years ago, an amazing student.  She stayed to save money and help me through my hardest pregnancy and recovery yet. 

                She is a second mother to the others.  She diapered them, fed them, washed them, dressed them, educated them, had fun with them, and loved them.  They are the children they are today because of her.  I am a sane and happy mother of 10 because of her. She had a job and was a leader at youth group.  Many have been blessed by her! 

                “What will we ever do without her?”  my heart keeps asking.  “How will I bare the emptiness?”

                The truth is, we are not becoming smaller as a family, we are expanding.

We are not losing Areli, we are going to be seeing a whole new world through her eyes.  Her room won’t be empty!  Two little girls will being filling the space with feminine joy and enthusiasm soon.  And what a good change it will be.  Four year old Annalise is still in a crib in her brother’s room.  10 month old Aria will be a wonderful roommate now that she sleeps like an angel.

All the children will take a step up and grow in maturity. They will learn new skills and take on new jobs.

                Areli will be going to the same missionary school that I attended just a brief 25 years ago.

  25 means double grace, and there is double grace on her life.

To live…to love…to learn…to grow…to embrace each moment!  Our hearts are going with her, and our prayers are surrounding her. 

 One of her walls looked awfully bare. So I pinned up some photos of Areli and the family. Aria will be able to lay on her new changing table and see that beautiful smile everyday. 

We are so proud of you Areli!  It won’t be long until we are all together again.

Ashlyn Update: One Year after Surgery

Last year Ashlyn had a Posterior Medial Release done on her left foot and a Triple Arthrodesis on her right foot at Hershey Medical Center.  This was to correct a progressive club foot deformity that wasn’t present when she was a baby but by age 13 had taken her ability to walk.  I wrote about all the details in, “Prayer Warriors Needed”.  Thank you to everyone who prayed for her!!!  Dr. Sorenson was happy with the results.

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He had originally said she would be in the hospital for 3 days post-op.  I was prepared to stay with her and somehow position my very pregnant self on a reclining chair for three torturous nights.

Ashlyn was doing so well after the surgery that they allowed her to go home the SAME DAY!  What a relief!  With some strong pain meds, she slept fairly well.  The biggest hassle was that she was supposed to sleep on her back with her feet elevated.  She had never slept on her back in her life, and she was very grumpy about it.  Finally after several days, I called the doctor, and he said it would be fine for her to sleep on her stomach with her knees bent and feet up on pillows.

AHHHH!!  Peaceful nights once again.  She did wonderful during the day resting on the love seat.

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It was a little difficult for her to crawl around the house and use the toilet, but she did it with help from older siblings.  She healed quickly and her pain was not too bad.  We stopped using the medication before the prescription ran out.  The surgery and recovery were much easier than I had anticipated.  Her teachers at school gladly worked around her casts.

Right before school let out she graduated to big black boots.  She still wasn’t weight bearing, but was healing nicely.

Finally in August she was fitted for new orthotic braces that would allow her to walk.  Slowly but surely she began to stand and walk again!  Now she walks at school with a walker all the time, and walks at home on her walking track.

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She grew a lot in the year that she couldn’t walk.  Her scoliosis has increased to a 70% curvature which is very significant.  She is no longer able to totally straighten up, which makes walking hard.  Also her knees buckle inward.

She has also been riding her bike with a little help.  When she first received the bike some 4 or 5 years ago, she was terrified of it and would scream through most of her ride.  Now she loves it and asks to ride often!

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Her feet look much better than they did before.  As you can see, they still do not rest flat on the floor.

BEFORE                                                AFTER

 

 

Now she can stand without braces which she could not do before the surgery.

 

At least now she can fit into braces and normal shoes.  Big sister Areli got Ashlyn a pair of Nike wide Fly Ease sneakers that open with a zipper.  The easiest and nicest shoes she has ever had!

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I noticed after the surgery that Ashlyn’s toe next to her pinky toe on each foot was slightly shorter than it was before.  In fact, the toe on her left foot was drastically shorter.  On her follow up appointment I talked to the doctor about it.  Unfortunately, our beloved Dr. Sorenson had moved to Texas.  Another doctor took over for him.  This doctor had never seen Ashlyn before.  When I told him about her toe, he took a glance at it and said, “Oh yes, that it called ‘such-and-such long technical-term’ and she has had that since birth.”

“It is a lot shorter than it used to be,” I tried to explain.

“Oh no it isn’t, you just didn’t notice it before.” he promptly replied.

Well, my trust in this new doctor just plummeted to zero, and I thanked God that we had done this important surgery before Dr. Sorenson had made his move!

A Tricky, Sticky Kickball Game

My husband, Chris, and I were sitting at the dining room table as night was falling.  We were having dinner with most of our ten children.  The relative calm was interrupted when our middle three boys came bursting into the house with the delicacy of a herd of elephants.  They had been at the park and were returning home late. The chilly November air usually reminded them to return home much sooner than this. 

After much banging, clanging, and slamming of doors, the three of them stood before us.  Chai, age 13, was tall and muscular.  Cooper, 11, and Calvin, 9, were often mistaken for twins because they were so close in height and both wore glasses.  The resemblance ended there, however.  Cooper had dark hair and was very passionate.  Calvin, with his light hair and generous sprinkling of freckles, had a milder personality.

“Did you guys have fun?” Chris asked.

“Not really,” Calvin answered.

“Then why did you stay so long?” I asked.

Cooper, the natural comedian and storyteller began, “Well, we got the kickball stuck up in a tree.”

Cooper went on to recount the story of a very tricky, sticky kickball game.  Chai and Calvin chimed in with extra details now and then.

The boys had walked to the charming neighborhood elementary school just a block from our home. There they met many of the neighborhood children and had decided to play kickball.  All was fine until Isaiah made one powerful kick that landed the kickball in a tree. 

No problem.  Isaiah would simply launch his basketball and dislodge the kickball so they could get back to playing.  Except it turned out to be one sticky kickball that had perfectly wedged itself in between three branches.  After several failed attempts, the basketball got stuck in the tree too!

                No big deal.  Cameron had his basketball.  While Cameron threw his ball again and again, trying to hit one of the wedged balls, Jacob decided to climb the fence to see if he could reach the tree.  He was unable to get close enough, but he did get hit in the back by a wayward basketball. Unfortunately, Cameron fared no better than Isaiah, and his ball found a permanent perch in the tree as well. 

                No worries.  Someone offered their football.  This would surely work.  But alas!  It had the same fate as all the other balls.

                Now things were starting to look grim.  Desperate times called for desperate measures.  Cooper took off both of his shoes.  Maxwell took one of the sacrificial shoes and with strength and accuracy aimed at the kickball.  The shoe missed its intended target and landed right on a branch.  Cameron tried with the other shoe with the same result.  At this point Cooper was reprimanding them with rather high-pitched screams.

                Chai and Maxwell decided that they needed backup.  They walked back to our garage in search of more balls to throw.  All they could find were four deflated basketballs, but that was better than nothing.  While they were gone, Cooper’s feet were getting very cold.  He managed to fit one of his gloves onto one of his feet. 

                Just then Cooper noticed the School Principal, Mr. Stewart, walking to his car after a long day of work.  Cooper ran up to him and asked, “Is Mr. Dan [the janitor] still here?  Can he help us get our balls out of the tree?”

                Mr. Stewart glanced down and noticed Cooper’s feet.

                “What happened?” he asked with a funny look on his face.

                “I got my shoes stuck in the tree.” Cooper replied. 

                I am not sure what thoughts were going through the mind of the kind and wise Principal, but he simply replied, “We will have to get them down tomorrow,” and continued walking to his car.

                To Cooper, this was not an acceptable answer.  So what brilliant solution did Cooper devise with the help of his younger brother?  To throw this brother’s brand new shoes up into the tree, of course! When both of those got absorbed into The Tree, Calvin resorted to running across the street in his stocking feet to enlist the help of a neighbor friend.  This friend was not home, so it was back to square one.

                Janice, our energetic and joyful neighbor, had walked to the park with her young grand-daughter. She had been watching this entire drama unfold and found it quite amusing.  She took out her phone and was documenting the event with photos.  Her grand-daughter took on the role of cheerleader and kept saying in her cute, little girl voice, “You almost got it!  You almost got it down!”

                Chai and Maxwell returned with fresh ammunition and the tree received further battering by the four flat balls.  The tree proved to be a worthy adversary and claimed all but one of those balls. Thankfully, one of Calvin’s shoes was dislodged, so he returned it to one of his very cold feet.

The score was:

Elementary Playground Tree: 10  (1 kickball, 2 basketballs, 1 football, 3 flat balls, 3 shoes)

Seven Determined Boys: 2 (1 flat ball, 1 shoe)

                The boys were not to be defeated, however.  They continued with their strategy until eventually…slowly…one by one… each ball and each shoe had been knocked from its nesting place.

When Cooper finished his narrative, we were all consumed with laughter!  Finally the hilarity died down and Chris asked a question.

“Why didn’t you boys just get the ladder out of our garage?”

Cooper responded as though the answer should be obvious, “A bunch of boys walking to the park with a ladder?  That would just look silly!”

Candy Wrappers and Fuzzy Tongues: the Influence of an Older Brother

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Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home.  Wrestle first, ask questions later.  As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones.  Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!

However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good.  The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one.  I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age.  You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors.  Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.

“No,” the Oldest answers.

“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.

My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues.  I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying.  I am distressed.

Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine.  A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish.  When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday.  Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.

“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?

As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him.  He is maturing.  He is becoming more honorable and more truthful.  He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.

Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother.  Dental Health is very important to me.  I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal.  As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.

“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.

I suspect that he didn’t.  I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week.  I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.

One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother.  We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal.  When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.

“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.

No effect.  No indication that anyone has heard me speak.

Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”

It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.

“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there!  The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”

“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us!  Show us!” they beg.

He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.

The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth.  In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.

The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good!  Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.

HONOR

COURAGE

COMMITMENT

And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.

 

 

Prayer Warriors Needed for Ashlyn’s Foot Surgery

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Ashlyn is our special 14 year old.  She was a happy and healthy baby.  We didn’t know until she was 6 weeks old that she had a chromosomal abnormality.  We couldn’t get into a pediatric geneticist until she was 3 months old.  It was then that we learned that a piece of her 6th chromosome was missing.  This was very rare with less than 25 cases in the world similar to hers and none on record just like her.  I felt amazed that God would trust me with such a special little girl.  This also meant that no one knew what the outcomes would be for her.

“Wait and see,” is what they said.  Chris and I were sure that she would be almost normal.

We were wrong.

With each passing month, each passing year it became more and more clear how wrong we were.  I asked God for wisdom.  I read What to do with Your Brain Injured Child by Glenn Doman and it became my guide.

I let Ashlyn lay on her belly all the time.  It seemed like forever until she lifted her head, but she did it!  I made a crawling track for her and eventually she started to scoot!  That is, after many excruciating months in a brace to fix a right dislocated hip.  Still, that right side didn’t seem quite right.  She would drag that leg behind her while using the left leg to move forward across the floor.

300717_240310076004371_2823406_n  It took many years and a trip to the Family Hope Center to get Ashlyn to start the cross-pattern crawling.  Learning to climb up the stairs is what did it for her.  I was overjoyed!  I was ecstatic!  I didn’t care how long she crawled.  I knew she would get up and walk eventually.

                Again, I was wrong.

She didn’t get up and bear weight on her feet.  Slowly, ever so slowly, a mysterious and invisible force inside of her body began to pull her feet inward, the right more than the left.  The legs began to become internally rotated on the hip sockets, the right more that the left.  I didn’t notice and neither did all the doctors and specialists that she went to.

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Finally we recognized a progressive club foot deformity. We employed many different types of therapies and braces which allowed her to stand independently for the first time when she was almost 9 years old and take 11 steps by herself by age 10.

We built her a walking track and she worked up to over a hundred trips a day!  She could walk independently around the house.

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However, that invisible force kept on pulling, robbing her of all the progress she had made.  Now the only option left is surgery.  I hate the thought of surgery.  The pain.  The 8-12 weeks of recovery and non-weight being.  The bulky and difficult casts.  The unknown outcome.  The scar tissue and possible pain and arthritis later in life.  I asked God for wisdom and I figured that we had to give Ashlyn the chance to walk.

No surgery would mean no walking.

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I decided to get two opinions on Ashlyn’s case.  The first with Dr. Sorenson at Hershey Bone and Joint Institute and the second with Dr. Herzenberg at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Maryland.  We saw Dr. Sorensen first.  I like him so much!  He recommended a Posterior Medial Release for the left foot and a Talectomy for the right foot (removing of the talus bone.)  He had gotten a medial release when he was 12 years old and it has been great for him.  He thought that Ashlyn would be able to walk just fine!  I was so encouraged and left his office with hope.

I don’t ever remember leaving a doctor’s office with so much hope!

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I researched the two doctors online and my heart sank.  Dr. Herzenber had around 30 years more experience that Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t want to travel all the way to Maryland to see him, but I felt like I would be a horrible mother if I didn’t.

Thankfully Chris came with me on the day of the appointment.  The drive was long.  The wait in the office was even longer – 2 ½ hours in the room!  Dr. Herzenberg sure knew his stuff!  He said he had done many talecomies over the years but came to realize that a triple arthrodesis produced better results.  A telectomy didn’t leave a joint at all, just scar tissue between two bones that didn’t fit together.  This was not good for a major weight bearing part of the body.  A triple arthrodesis would fuse three smaller joints but reform the talus bone into a working joint.

                I left that visit feeling like this surgery would be totally impossible!

I had to give Ashlyn the best surgeon and the best option, but I could never drive back and forth to Baltimore time and time again for pre and post-op visits.  I could never stay away from my family for the days that she would be in the hospital.

I decided to talk all of this over with Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t know how he would react.  Some doctors bristle when you question their authority and opinion.  I prayed and prayed.  When I told him that I had taken Ashlyn to see Dr. Herzenberg for a second opinion he said, “Oh really!  He is wonderful.  I actually went to see him for a second opinion when I needed knee surgery.”

I showed him the report of Ashlyn’s appointment and Dr. Herzenberg’s recommendations.  He sat down and read the entire report, WORD FOR WORD!  I never expected that!  It was clear that he admired this other doctor greatly.

When he had finished, he said, “I see his point with the triple arthrodesis.”  He examined Ashlyn’s feet again and declared, “Yes, I think that would really work!  Yes, I agree.  I could do the surgery here for you or you could go see Dr. Herzenberg.  I wouldn’t be offended at all.”

I told him that I would much rather do the procedure here in Hershey with him as the doctor.  We talked about all the details; four weeks of casting prior to surgery to stretch the muscles as much as possible, three days in the hospital, 4-6 weeks in castes, 4-6 weeks in special boots.

“I am so glad you went for a second opinion,” he said at the end of the appointment.

                I was overjoyed!  I liked this doctor and the office much more than the Baltimore option, but I never dreamed that it would work out so well!  I thanked God over and over for this humble and wonderful Dr. Sorenson.  I prayed that God would make him brilliant beyond his own abilities!

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As I thought about writing this article in hopes of raising a prayer army for Ashlyn, I realized something.  I wasn’t really expecting this surgery to work, to actually give Ashlyn the ability to walk.  I was doing it because to not do it would seem like neglect.  But my expectations were of pain and suffering for Ashlyn, myself, and the entire family; not of a breakthrough. There were two reasons for my dismal outlook.

  1. There were other issues that made walking difficult, her hips and the 50% curvature of her spine that would not be addressed in this surgery.
  2. Everytime we had followed instructions that were supposed to help Ashlyn’s feet, it failed to do so. Doctors, therapist, and The Family Hope Center had prescribed 8 different therapies or equipement to use and here Ashlyn is…a 14 year old who can’t walk.

God has been coaxing me away from my expectations rooted in the past.  He is bringing me into faith.

Faith that the future could hold more healing and more promise than I can see right now.

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I am also asking Him for miraculous healing since I know that He is the great Physician and that He would do a perfect job with no pain or scar tissue!  I am taking Ashlyn to a healing room this Saturday and hope to take her To Randy Clark’s healing service on Good Friday.

Ashlyn goes for her first casting on March 21st.  Her second casting is April 4th.  Her surgery will be on April 19th at Hershey Med Center.  Could you please pray for God’s amazing healing to be displayed and for peace and comfort for Ashlyn and the rest of the family as well!  I am not sure how I am going to deal with showers and potty-time with Ashlyn in two casts, unable to stand or walk at all.  Pray for God’s wisdom and grace!  Thank you for standing with us and expecting wonderful things!

Have Patience!

 

rain

I love shopping at Costco! It is usually a lovely experience…usually…

At first I was nervous about paying for a Costco membership, because I didn’t think we would get our money’s worth out of it.  Now I shop there twice a month.  It really has become inconvenient to NOT buy in bulk.

Frequently I shop with some of the children with me.  This particular Saturday morning Chris was able to come along too.  What a treat!  We had a delightful time trying all the samples, browsing the aisles, and filling our cart to overflowing.  We finally paid and pushed our heavy load out to the exit.  We found the place packed with shoppers with their carts, watching the torrential downpour happening just outside the large open doors.  We tried to maneuver our cart close enough to the exit to see what was actually happening outside.

A perfect summer storm!  Sheets of rain pelted down, unrelenting.  No one was willing to go out into it, yet new shoppers with full carts kept pushing towards the doors from the checkout lines.  A few people rushed in from the parking lot, wanting to start their shopping, only to find an almost impenetrable wall of people just inside.  With grumpy, disgruntled faces they tried to wiggle their way out of the rain.  I felt very in the way.

Chris decided that he would make a dash for it.  He was going to get the van and pull up to the entrance.  A good start to a plan.  Without discussing the details any further, he plunged out into the rain with his phone in his pocket.

I waited and waited with two very antsy boys and an ever increasing mob of people.  We were lined up by the door, but no one was going out.  Where was Chris?  I couldn’t see him through the rain.

“Do you have the big van out there?” a nice woman asked.  “I see it back there behind my daughter.”

I inched my head around the corner and saw our van sitting behind a rather long line of vehicles.  Yet no one was moving, no one was loading up their groceries.

“What is happening?” I thought?  “Should I wait for Chris to get to the entrance?  But no one is moving.  Is he waiting for me to come out to him?  He is always accusing me of being slow.  Maybe he is wondering where I am.”

Cooper and Chai were urging me to go out to the van.

“Come on, mom! Let’s go!!!”  they kept saying.

After several more annoyed looks from incoming shoppers, I decided to risk it.  It could rain like this for the rest of the day, and we couldn’t stay here forever.

“OK guys, we are going to run as fast as we can to Daddy.  Stay with me!  Ready?”  I said.  I was no wimp!  What is a little rain?

As soon as we left the building I realized what a mistake I had made!  The “little rain” soaked us to the bone in one millisecond.  It was too late to go back inside so I plowed on, pushing my load up the sidewalk which had been transformed into a river.  The water covered my shoes and was soaking my pants.

Through the sheets of water pelting me, I caught a glimpse of Chris’ face in the front seat of the van.  The van that was so close yet so…far…away.  He was shaking his head with a look of bewilderment that said, “What in the world are you doing, woman?!”

I knew that I had made a very bad decision, yet I had to keep going.

“Boys, help me push!” I yelled.

They tried to help until we came to the place where a drain pipe exited the side of the building.  Water from the roof was shooting out of the pipe like a fire hose.  The boys stopped moving forward and began to play in the water!

“This is the life!”  I heard Cooper say happily as I was still struggling to get our very soggy groceries upriver to the van.  I finally get there and Chris jumped out.

“What are you doing?”  He yelled with a crazy kind of laugh and immediately started loading groceries in the back.  The boys began to help, although it pained them to leave their fun.  We all threw ourselves into the van in a matter of minutes, dripping and soaking the seats.

“Cutie, I wanted you to wait for me.  I could see on the radar that this storm is about to pass, but I couldn’t call you because you left your phone at home.”

I was trying my best not to sink into a disgusted, self-loathing depression for all the groceries that I had just ruined.  I was thinking about all of us having to change all our clothes – more laundry! Arghh!  I was thinking about having to dry out the van.  I was thinking about my sopping wet hair matted to my head.  When it finally dried, the humidity was going to make it poof into a frizzy mess.

The words of Bishop Joseph Garlington came to my mind.

“If it’s funny later, it’s funny now,” Chris said as though he was reading my mind!  I was trying to see the humor in it, but I was just feeling foolish and oh so very wet!

Chris began to maneuver the van out of the parking lot.  Before we even turned out onto the street, the clouds cleared.  The sun came out and painted the most beautiful pinks onto the now blue sky.

“See, if you would have just waited a few more minutes!”  the sun seemed to say, as if to mock me!

What have I learned from this unfortunate event?  Clear communication is very important.  Discuss a plan thoroughly and understand what the other person is thinking.  If you are unable to obtain the needed clarification…simply wait!  Have patience!  Wait on the Lord and listen to His wisdom.  His radar is perfect and He knows exactly when those storms are going to clear.

I have gleaned a few more pearls of wisdom:

Don’t take advice from impatient pre-teen boys.

Don’t worry about the rude looks of other people or what they might be thinking.

Almost all of Costco’s products are wrapped in plastic so you don’t have to worry about a little rain.

Even a wrong choice is not the end of the world and can make a pretty good story.

 

Family History is Full of Blessings!

I have been taking a journey through the annals of time, through photocopies and photographs hidden in dusty filing cabinets, almost forgotten.  I have delved into old family papers to try and answer the questions: Where did I come from?  Who were my ancestors?  Who am I?  I have just scratched the surface, but I found some pretty great stuff!

My Mother’s Family

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My mother’s father (Harold Gisselman) was born to Erik and Anna Gisselman in Iowa after they immigrated from Sweden.  They later settled in Wisconsin.  I wrote about Harold in “Will I See My Papa Again?”  Harold was such a wonderful story teller and I wish he was still here to tell me all about his wonderful family and what his parents remembered about their lives in Sweden.

My mother’s mother’s side of the family holds a rare treasure called “Shilling Genealogy and History” by Anna Schilling Wichman.  She tells the story of her grandparents, Johann and Justina Schilling.  Johann was born in Brandenburg, Germany.  I was very excited to learn that fact since that is my husband’s family name and now my name as well!   He was a wine maker and barrel maker. That fact also excited me since we have a son named “Cooper” which means “barrel maker!”

They immigrated to Wisconsin in 1858 where he became a farmer.  When wheat raising declined, “With the help of his son, Frank, driving teams hitched to sleighs loaded with the family belongings, they came north through the state which at that time was almost unbroken wilderness, with only a few rough roads blazed through the jack pine and scrub oak.”

Johann purchased an 80 acre tract of land in the vast forests of Marathon County and built a farm that was sold to his son, Frank in 1894 for $1.00.  Frank Shilling was described by the author (who was also his daughter) as, “Always an industrious farmer and always a humble, faithful Christian.”  His wife, Anna, was “one of the sweetest, noblest women whose life has ever brightened this earth.”

This lovely couple had 8 children, one of whom was my great-grandmother Amelia.  Amelia was, “an industrious woman, strong in character, had an unwavering trust in God, which was her strength and shield, and enabled her to meet the adversities of life with calmness and fortitude.”  She became Amelia Seipp and had two children, the firstborn being my grandmother LaVera, “a woman of grace and dignity.”  I wrote about LeVera in “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy!”  LaVera married Harold Gisselman and had one child, Dana.  Dana married George Beyer and had two children.  That is me and my brother!

I am very thankful to know of my trailblazing, hardworking, God-fearing ancestors from Sweden and Germany who settled in Wisconsin.

My Father’s Family

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My father’s side of the family is more of a mystery to me.  My father was a historian and a writer, but he never compiled a history of his own family. How I wish that I could talk with Dad again about all that he knew of his past.  How I wish that I had more interesting questions to ask of his parents (Leonard and Edna Beyer) back when they were alive, more important than, “Where are Dad’s old Lincoln Logs?” or  “Can I watch TV now?”

I have to piece together their lives with the papers and photographs that my dad had saved.  A pile of matted photos, faded and yellowed with age, taken by Leonard Beyer tell me that he was an amazing photographer.  His photos of plants, animals, and landscapes were taken in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, England and Italy.  My daughter Areli has inherited his love of both traveling and photography (and his talent as well)!

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Leonard’s father was Andrew Jackson Beyer, who I know nothing about except that he perhaps owned an ice cream shop and possibly served as a judge.

His mother was Virginia Keyser.  I have extensive paperwork on the Keyser family, generated when they held a Bicentennial Family Reunion.  It was Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam, a prominent dealer of silk goods, who first immigrated to what is now Pennsylvania in 1688.  He responded to an invitation from William Penn because he was, “desiring to worship God in all freedom.”

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The Keyser family was quite proud of their earliest known predecessor, Leonhard Keyser of Bavaria.  He broke from the Catholic Church, of which he had been a priest, to become an Anabaptist.  The Reunion states that “he put aside the mystery and absurdity of the Latin tongue, and went among the people talking to them in their own language…what they should do to be saved.”

An account of his martyrdom was recorded in Martyrs Mirrors from two separate but very similar reports. “…in the year 1525, and forthwith continued his ministry with great power and zeal, undaunted by all the tyranny which arose over the believers, in the way of drowning, burning and putting to death.  Acts 9:20 In the second year of his ministry, Leonhard Keyser was apprehended at Scharding, in Bavaria, and condemned by the bishop of Passau…to be burned…When he came out into the field, and was approaching the fire, he, bound, as he was, leaned down at the side of the cart, and plucked a flower with his hand, saying to the judge, who rode on horseback alongside of the cart: ‘Lord judge, here I pluck a flower; if you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me; but, on the other hand, if you cannot burn me and this flower in my hand, consider what you have done and repent.’  Thereupon the judge and the three executioners threw an extraordinary quantity of wood into the fire, in order to burn him immediately to ashes by the great fire.  But when the wood was entirely burned up, his body was taken from the fire uninjured.  Then the three executioners and their assistants built another great fire of wood, which when it was consumed, his body still remained uninjured…and the flower in his hand, not withered, or burnt in the least, the executioners then cut his body into pieces, which they threw into a new fire.  When the wood was burned up, the pieces lay unconsumed in the fire.  Finally they took the pieces and threw them into the river Inn.”

I cannot even comprehend what a legacy of devotion to God and courage I have inherited from Leonhard!

My father’s mother, Edna Specht Beyer, I also know very little about.  A few stories written by Edna give a peek into their lives.  “Something Very Personal” was an article about how they met and married.  “My Grandfather’s Place” was written about her paternal Grandparents who came from Germany.  Something wonderful happened to me as I read my grandmothers recollections.  Previously I had only ever seen her as a very proper, old woman.  As I read her writing, I realized that she wasn’t always old.  She was actually once a young woman very much like me, with a love for reading, writing, and teaching. The way she viewed her grandparents and their home was very similar to how I had always seen her and her home.  In fact, I had written sentiments so similar to her own, years prior in my article, “The Term is Over.”   She describes her grandparent’s house as a special place where nothing ever changed.  Her grandparents’ yards was like a magical fairy land to her as a child.

Edna and I also shared the same sorrow when we returned years later to see the place very much changed by new ownership and the wonder stripped to the barren look of any, common subdivision.  I feel so much closer to Grandmother Beyer now and want to know more about her heritage.  She actually felt that same way about her grandparents.

In fact she wrote, “It seems strange to me now that I remember Grandfather’s place so well but know so little about my grandparents.  How I would love to visit them again and get them to talk of their childhood in Europe, of their parents’ decision to come to America, of the long trip over in a sailing vessel, of the hard years in a new country… But of important things about their lives, I know very little except that they had always been honest, hardworking, God-fearing.”

It is a shame that neither Edna nor I thought to ask the really interesting questions while our grandparents were still alive.  Yet God holds all our past in His hands, and will reveal what is important in His good time.

It is also true that written accounts usually highlight the good and minimize the bad.  Exodus 20: 5b-6 (NLT) says, “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  We have all observed how the bad decisions and weaknesses of the grandparents and parents have a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the children.  We all have those negative influences in our families. Yet Jesus died to set us free from every curse!  His blood brings healing from every destructive thing in our family lines.

God is such a loving Father that His blessings extend down family lines, not just for three or four generations, but for a THOUSAND GENERATIONS!

I have been asking for all those blessings to fall on my generation, on my children, and on my grandchildren.  I think God loves those kind of prayers, because He carefully chose the specific details of my lineage, and He would delight if I lived in the fullness of all that He had placed there!  I can also feel His joy as I discover those blessings, one by one.  May my children also experience that joy as they read my writing, years from now, when they remember all that they wished they had asked me.

Will I See My Papa Again?

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It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?