A Family of Sorts

Last evening I led our monthly grief support meeting for families grieving the death of a child. We talked about lonely isolating grief and the courage it takes to tell your story, about how those who have walked a similar path are the ones who become our family of sorts.

This morning I was up at 5 to help barbecue chicken at the church. I worked side-by-side with people who are becoming more familiar to me. (I started as associate pastor there in January, and am just learning to know some of the people outside of a Sunday morning worship service.) I was updated on health issues, farming conditions, and concert recommendations. These precious folks are already my family of sorts.


I returned home mid-morning and made baked beans, Cajun corn salad, a loaf of braided egg bread, and a triple batch of chocolate chip cookies for a family reunion this afternoon. We arrived to see new faces among the familiar loved ones, but that’s not unusual. In our family, DNA is not the only thing that makes us such. Nearly every reunion and family meal has at least one or more persons not related by blood. The unspoken theory seems to be, if you can handle the chaos, you’re welcome to join us. Throughout the years, friends have come and gone from these reunions, but they forever remain our family of sorts.


As I type this, our foster child is snuggled contentedly beside me, basking in the love of family and home. Regardless of where her unwritten story takes her, we are her family of sorts.

And then I read this quote and count myself among the world’s richest.

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford,  Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

Wherever you find yourself when you read this, I pray you too have a family of sorts.

Character Test

It was the most basic character test and I blew it. Right there in front of God, my husband, and our children. I was looking for an important folder I need for an appointment today, and thought I knew exactly where it was. (Never mind I should have secured said folder several days ago, knowing this was coming up.)

I huffed around, shuffling papers and sighing, being snarky with my husband, and then of all things, blaming it on the children who hadn’t put their toys away. Really?!

For the sake of peace and sanity, I gave the folder search a break and went to get myself ready for the day. As I separated myself from the frenzy and frustration of the missing folder, I was convicted to ask for forgiveness.

The test of character is not in leadership training and board meetings, not in the face we wear and the facade we present in public, but in the ways we treat those closest to us. I was ashamed at what this most basic test revealed. And I repented.

Thankfully God and my family both have an overwhelming fountain of grace and patience, and I seemed to be the one most upset about my reaction. I still haven’t found the folder, but life will go on with no one the worse for wear. I, however, pray that this incident will continue to serve as a reminder for me to pray and breathe before I respond.

Character quotes I found on the Internet. 

“Our character is defined by what we do when no one is looking.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think of you.”

What has helped you refocus when you are stressing about something like this?

The Stuff Summers are Made of

We were not home for a full day after a week-long visit in Chicago, when Eli arranged for a few cousins to come for the night. My first “sigh” was instantly replaced with musings of how we could make it a memorable summer night.

I think we accomplished that.

We built a fire in the pit and set up the tent for playing in.

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Elsie played ride-a-horsey and ring around the rosey with Cooper.

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We made s’mores and played kick the can and dodge ball. Our Anatolian shepherd/chocolate lab, Sampson, even joined in.

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We chased lightening bugs and ate insane amounts of air-popped popcorn covered in our favorite Wildtree popcorn seasonings. We watched Duck Dynasty and read stories.

We went to bed at midnight and slept in until 8 o’ clock this morning. We made fruit and yogurt smoothies for breakfast and the kids are already back outside enjoying an unusually cool summer morning. We picked fresh tomatoes for lunch later.

Forget the cares and worries that try to creep in, we are enjoying all things summer and making memories to last a lifetime.

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Letter to a Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Our son is about to enter your kindergarten class. Admittedly, this mama is a nervous emotional wreck. As a former preschool teacher, I know that a child’s caregiver knows more about that child’s family than the parents would ever want to admit. But that’s not what makes me emotional. I have not yet been able to comprehend sending my child to someone else for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I am grieving the loss of time I will be able to spend with him.

We considered homeschooling, but ultimately, we believe YOU have something unique and special to offer our precious child. We are trusting you to see him as an individual, not just as a student.

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You see, he was our second-born living child, but sadly, the first one we were able to bring home from the hospital. From birth, he has had an amazing ability to sense sadness and loneliness, and respond with compassion, wisdom and tenderness beyond his years. Death has been a part of our everyday language, but he is still filled with vibrant wonder, trust and belief in God and humankind.

He always remembers his angel sister he never met and is fiercely protective and loving of his baby sister. He adores his dog, Sampson, and his cats, Green Bean and Nelson.

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He loves camping, fishing, bugs, mud fights, swimming, campfires and helping daddy around the house. He has an incredible ear for music and knack for memorization. If he talks about healthy and unhealthy, it is because he helps me cook and garden and our conversation is often centered around nutrition during those times.

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He clothing style is shaped by his farming, cut-up t-shirt wearing Uncle Mikey, whom he adores, as well as by his love of bull-riding he shared with his late grandpa. His grandma intervenes with some dress clothes you might see him wear on occasion and he loves to wear ties like his daddy. There are times when he insists on wearing ties with his farm shirts, but I don’t mind because he is so cute.

Although we’ve had “the talk,” he might occasionally bring up a conversation about guns or knives. Rest assured, these are all tucked safely away in a locked cabinet. Our family values living off the land as much as possible and that includes harvesting game to grace our table and fill our tummies when we can. Even his BB gun and fishing pole require one hundred percent adult supervision.

He is a fairly typical child in many ways. He will certainly need your instruction, your affirmation and even your discipline at times. It is my prayer that you will see him and all the children in your classroom as unique as their DNA proves them to be. All of them come to you with a diverse set of stories and circumstances and will learn through the lens of their own experiences. You have a difficult job, a calling that I am not equipped to walk in. You hold in your possession the power to help shape the lives of these precious children into responsible contributors to our world.

I know it’s not all up to you. As his parents, we commit to continue our part at home. Please let us know the ways we can best support each other in raising this precious gift we cherish so dearly. And know that while he is making you laugh, testing the limits or trying your patience at school, we are eagerly awaiting his return to our arms every day.

Sincerely,

Eli’s Mom

Rainy Day Ramblings

The day started with a basket full of love and happiness.

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It was a lovely rainy day, the kind that inspires me to bake unnecessary confections and get into various other forms of tom-foolery.

But mostly I worked on the upcoming 5/K Run/Walk for The Sadie Rose Foundation and sang songs and played games with the Eli and Elsie.

One of our new favorite “rediscovered” songs is “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd,” by the late great Roger Miller. You know, you can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind too.” We like making up new lyrics. For example…

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You can’t take a nap in a mandolin case, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind too.

The kids had yummy strawberry banana smoothies and I made juice for myself from these…

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We watched a Christmas video, made sausage and vegetable Quiche for supper and then I had meeting this evening.

Six years ago on Saturday, June 23, we gathered in the back corner of Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren cemetery to lay to rest our precious infant daughter, our sweet Sadie Rose. This year, Sunday, June 23, I will be licensed to the ministry at that same church nestled in the beautiful Beaver Creek community of the Shenandoah Valley. I did not put together the significance of being licensed on the day of our daughter’s funeral until I was driving home from my meeting this evening.

Yes random rainy day thoughts to be sure, but sweet, beautiful thoughts of faith, family and community.

One more picture just in case you haven’t had enough cuteness yet and a quote to ponder. “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.” Soren Kierkegaard.

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Charmed Moments in an Ordinary Day

Today has been wonderful. We had Eli’s preschool graduation picnic at the park this morning.

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I spent the afternoon writing homework assignments for class Saturday. For a fun break, we went outside and escaped hovering hyenas

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And lurking lions

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And jumping jaguars

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We have enjoyed an ordinary uninterrupted day and for that, I am thankful.

“…there is no such thing as a charmed life, not for any of us, no matter where we live or how mindfully we attend to the tasks at hand. But there are charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them.” Katrina Kenison