Celebrating a Boy and a Family

This weekend we went to Richmond, IN to celebrate the 15th birthday of the boy who changed our family forever, and simply to delight in the blessing of family.

Jack is the oldest grandchild on the McFarland side of our family, and his arrival into our world just over 15 years ago changed our little family forever.  Jack and the other three grandchildren have bonded us together in ways we would never have been without them.

I first met my in-laws when I was just 16 years old, and I liked them right away.  After all we have something incredibly important in common (our mutual love for and respect of Jason).  This forms a natural bond that has just grown deeper with the passage of time. 

Bob and Linda chose to be gracious, welcoming, and kind to me even when I was that sometimes annoying teenage girl who followed their beloved son everywhere he went (actually not much has changed except that Jason and I are a whole lot older now).

Then Jack made Jason’s parents grandparents, and they got even cooler.  Actually – much – much cooler which was a pretty impressive feat!

Grandparents are such fun, delightful, patient, funny creatures.  They smile so much more than parents do, and I think that they laugh a lot more.  Grandparents are indulgent, but not too indulgent (in the case of Bob and Linda).  They know their grandchildren are gifts from God, and they never forget it (not even when they are being really, really annoying).  They hug, and kiss.  They affirm, and listen.  They praise, and care.  They smile, and laugh.  They celebrate, and give thanks.  They delight, and enjoy.

I started dating Jason when his sister Elizabeth was the age Jack is now (we are getting sooooooo old).  We have a lot of history.  Elizabeth is the keeper of our secrets and knows the dirt on us.  And more importantly with this history comes trust, respect, and friendship. 

Jason and I met Elizabeth’s husband John the weekend we got married.  John impressed us immediately with his awesomeness.  He ran errands for us on our wedding day like a pro – in a strange city – with a smile!  John is incredibly nice and fun and funny.

Fifteen years ago Jack turned Elizabeth and John into Auntie and Uncle.  Elizabeth and John were already two of my favorite people on the entire planet, but once they became Auntie and Uncle they were transformed into two of the most awesome people I have ever met.  They are dazzling!  (I am not kidding.  They will take a McFarland son for an entire week and not bat an eye.  Actually – they will take both of them at the same time for an entire week – with a smile!  They are crazy nice.)

This weekend we spent time together celebrating our crazy, funny, unique, wonderful family. 

We talked – swapped favorite stories – ate (Linda is a magnificent cook) – laughed – planned – watched our kids play – and gave God thanks. 

There was cake too.  And there were balloons – lots and lots of balloons.

This year we had the annual water balloon fight in honor of Jack’s summer birthday at Mimi and Papa’s house and invited the cousins, the dogs, and Uncle John to join in the fun.  The rest of us just laughed until our sides hurt!

As I watched and listened and observed this weekend – I thought over and over and over again “God sighting . . . God sighting . . . God sighting . . . God sighting . . . God sighting!”

Where have you seen God’s presence lately?  How have you celebrated God’s blessings in your life?  For whom do you give thanks?  

Seek and Ye Shall Find

A truly wise Lutheran sage (Buddy Zimmerman) advised me a few months ago to enjoy this messy, chaotic, noisy, crazy time in my life, because it would be over before I knew it.  Soon – Buddy said – it would just be Jason and me in a quiet, perfectly neat, clean house.  (Stop taunting me – I may have declared in despair.)

Buddy was so very right (about this and always about anything to do with numbers).  This time is flying by so very quickly.  Just how fleeting this time in my life is was driven home to me over and over again this week.  On Wednesday Jack started high school, and William started kindergarten!   William lost another tooth on Monday.

(The above is William’s first day of kindergarten.)

Sunday was Jack’s 15th birthday!! 

(The following 3 pictures are of baby Jack.  Jason indulged me, but not too much.)

And last night I noticed that Jack isn’t just a little bit taller than me. 

Jack now is whole inches taller than me!!!    

Enjoy the blessings of this time in your life. . .

Buddy’s truly wise words came back to me this week as I was reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I really enjoy Rubin’s writing because she too is a busy working mother of two school aged daughters.  She lives in the “real world” of messy messes and juggling work, family, exercise, and hobbies.  She writes from the perspective of a mother who sometimes has yogurt on her jeans, a messy bun, and a living room that is decorated with toys rather than . . . (I can’t even think of a cool decorating store that’s how lame I am).  Her perspective is realistic, practical, and absolutely refreshing. 

In her book Rubin lists Eight Splendid Truths and her 8th is – “Now is now.” 

“Now is now.  Here is my treasure.” 

This Splendid Truth sounds incredibly simple until you really dig in and start to think about it deeply. 

“Now is now.  Here is my treasure.” 

How often do we give God thanks for this moment?  Sure we give God thanks on Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas and on those “big” days, but what about the regular old, mundane, days.  Do we give thanks for those days too? We live a lot more of those regular days than we do Christmases and Easters. 

“Now is now.  Here is my treasure.” 

When was the last time I gave God thanks for a plain old Tuesday?  Do we stop to see the blessings in the busy, messy, chaos of a regular Tuesday in August with work and school and laundry and dirty dishes?  Do we even see the blessing in the work and the school and the laundry and the dirty dishes? 

“Now is now.  Here is my treasure.”  Do we always think that we will be happier or more blessed tomorrow or next week or next year or do we seek God’s blessings in this moment?

It can still be pretty hard to appreciate all of the noise, chaos, clutter, and mess that comes with this time in my life, but that is what my camera and I set out to do this morning.

Here are some pictures of my “now is now.” 

Here is my treasure. . .my rather messy, noisy, cluttered, chaotic, colorful, busy, wild, amazing treasure.

A half-finished picture of the Titanic started by a young artist and then abandoned when something more exciting came up.

Jupiter on the living room floor.  (Don’t you just love how badly our molding needs to be painted!)

The “coffee” table in our living room has been a train table for 12 years now.

Backpacks, hoodies, and school supplies . . .

After breakfast William finished his Titanic picture by adding in a lifeboat and some icebergs. 

Now on to another picture. . .(and yes William is watching his I-pad before school.  I never claimed to be a perfect mother just a perfectly human mother.)

Planet Earth and some . . . other astronomical stuff!

Part of our rotating wall of art.  I love this wall.  It is filled with wonderful memories for me of time spent with my sons.  Their art reveals so much about their personalities and who they are.  We add to it often.

The “coffee” table after we (I) dumped out all of the trains to find Flynn the firetruck’s missing tender car.

What is your treasure?  What do you treasure about this unique time in your life?

Remember that “Now is now and this is your treasure.”

Two Turkeys at Broad Run

Jason and I walk 2 miles every evening in our neighborhood, but walking in suburbia is simply a way of getting exercise for us.  These walks (while lovely) don’t really feed my soul.  Our evening walks just don’t offer enough of the “real” natural world to do the trick.  They are a sort of stop gap measure until we can get the real deal.

So by the time this past weekend rolled around, I needed to be surrounded by some actual nature. 

Neither one of the McFarland sons wanted to join us for a hike in the woods (such strange offspring we have) so we came up with a compromise – Jason and I would hike closer to home, and they would stay at home (with the WiFi and the A/C).    

We decided to hike/walk the part of the Louisville Loop from Broadrun Park to Turkey Run Park.  It is only about 6.5 miles roundtrip, but has lots of hills so we would get a good workout plus it has plenty of the required green.

It was lovely and popular.  When we hiked at Shaker Village last weekend we didn’t see any other hikers, but on this trail we saw hikers, cyclists, strollers, and even more zooming cyclists. 

It is immediately clear why this trail is so popular.  You can walk/hike for miles and miles surrounded by all of this gorgeous nature and not even get your shoes dirty.  Seriously – it is all paved.  Paved – I tell you – paved!

As we walked/hiked (I really struggle to call anything on a paved trail a “hike” even if there were plenty of hills.  I didn’t even get any mud on my shoes!) I was on the look out for God sightings.  It is sort of “my thing.” 

The very first thing that caught my eye was this gorgeous cluster of yellow wild flowers with one single, pink cone flower growing in their midst.  The color contrast was just plain delightful, but if I had been on my phone or in a hurry or not paying attention – I would not have even noticed it.  Fewer distractions open our eyes to seeing God’s presence in our lives.

I have no idea what this beautiful flower is, but the edges of the trail were filled with its lovely purple beauty.  It must be a big fan of the heat too.

Orange flowers!  William’s favorite color is orange, and he has taught our entire family to see the beauty of the color of orange.  A few years ago – I might have noticed the orange flowers – but I wouldn’t have really seen the orange flowers.  Thanks to William’s passion for the color orange I saw them and was delighted by their orangey-orange-ness.

One pink flower.  Just look at those perfectly formed petals.

A huge anthill and I mean HUGE.  It was as big around as a manhole cover, and absolutely teaming with life.  It was intriguing to take a few minutes to watch the ant colony at work. 

When was the last time you took a few minutes to watch nature instead of Netflix or NBC? 

We had such a great time on Saturday that we did the exact same hike on Sunday evening just because it was summer in Louisville, the sun was shining, the grass was green, sky was blue, and God made a gorgeous world for us to explore!

God is always at work in our world.

How have you experienced God’s presence in your life this week?  Where have you spotted God?

 

 

Sharing

One of the most important lessons parents try to teach their children is sharing.  From a very young age we teach (attempt to teach) our children to share their toys and possessions in the hopes that one day they will grow up to become generous people rather than stingy hoarders.

William still sometimes struggles to share his favorite toys with his friends (don’t we all).  And frankly Will would prefer not to share his parents with his big brother ever, but there is one thing that our boy has shared with his entire family – his passion for astronomy.  William has all of us looking through telescopes, learning about our solar system, and nerd-ing up on stuff like blackholes.

William loves – Loves – LOVES astronomy.  His favorite planet is Jupiter, but he knows tons about the other planets in our solar system.  He can’t read the word “cat” yet, but he can sight read Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto with absolutely no context.  William knows where the Kuiper belt is and can chat about dwarf planets, blackholes, and meteors.  He may not always get all of his facts perfectly straight, but the dude is only 5!

So – in between hikes this weekend (his parents’ passion) we took the littlest McFarland back to the Rauch Planetarium at the U of L (we have a family pass) so that he could delight in one of his passions for a while.  And delight he did!

Touching actual – honest to goodness – been in outer space meteorites!

Look at that grin!

Checking out the cool space stuff!

Enough with the camera and the pictures – Mommy.  Please come read all of these “big words to me.  I just started kindergarten on Wednesday!”

Using a special “telescope” to view the sun.

We just finished watching “Perfect Little Planet,” and we are waiting for the show about blackholes to begin.

The last time I really thought much about the other planets in our solar system or blackholes was during my freshman year of college when I took astronomy.  Back then Pluto was still a planet and Eris, MakeMake, and Haumea hadn’t even been discovered yet!

I have had so much fun learning about the universe with William this year. 

Even though we live in a big city with lots of light pollution, you can still see the moon and the stars.  So the next time we have a clear night take a few minutes and just look.   Marvel at the beauty of the world our God created.  Take a moment or two to take it all in.  It is truly an amazing place we have the privilege and honor of living.  We are all blessed indeed.

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

    praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels;

    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon;

    praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, you highest heavens

    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,

    for at his command they were created,

and he established them for ever and ever—

    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

– Psalm 148:1-6

The Bond and the Baa

The first time I met my nephew Nic – I knew Nicolas Andrew was incredibly special.  He was truly a dream come true for Jason’s sister Elizabeth and her husband John.  Nic was an 8 pound blessed bundle of happiness for his parents and grandparents.  Actually our entire family was awfully excited about this very special little guy.  As it turns out, Nic was a dream come true for his Aunt Kerri too.

There is something incredibly special about Nic that bonds the two of us together – YARN.  Nic was born with an appreciation for yarn and my knitting that Jack, William, and Bella (Nic’s sister) do not possess.  (I do love the other 3 in spite of this wretched shortcoming.)

All 4 of these precious gifts from God received tons of knitted goodness upon their arrivals into the family – but only Nic has been truly devoted to the knitted goodness I so liberally and generously (crazily) bestow on my loved ones.  Only Nic truly appreciates that his Aunt Kerri knit love, prayers, hopes, and dreams into those piles of baby blankets, stacks of hats, towers of burp cloths, and bounty of bibs.  Only Nic knew that those blankets contained superpowers, because they were symbols of all he means to his Aunt Kerri and to our entire family.

Nic gets it.  Nic gets the power of yarn and knitting.  Nic knows that his special blanket means that he is deeply, passionately, always loved by “his people.”  Nic knows knitting for me is way bigger than a pile of string from the store that I tie into knots using sticks – knitting is my love and prayers made tangible.  Knitting is love from his Aunt Kerri that he can carry around in the world with him (if he wants to).

And so while I don’t love Nic more than the other 3 equally marvelous human beings – I do delight in the fact that Nic gets it.  That curly haired, long legged, rapidly growing boy gets what his Aunt Kerri wanted to tell him all those years ago as we awaited his arrival into our family.

Well – actually – it was his sister’s arrival.  The blanket Nic latched onto and has loved most deeply over the years is one I knit for his sister’s arrival, but the intention was the same.  That blanket (the sacred Baa) was filled with my prayers and hopes and dreams and love for John, Elizabeth, Nic, and Isabella Grace’s family.

The Baa is one very, very loved blanket (owned by one very, very loved boy).  I have made Nic other blankets – but this blanket is THE BLANKET.  It is according to Nic the one material possession he would take with him if their house was on fire (heart squeeze)!

I have repaired it as best I could over the years.  I have replaced this favorite blue corner more than once. 

It has been washed countless times.  It is frayed and worn and held together by shear force of will in some places.

It has been with Nic on many adventures and journeys.  It has been loved a lot.

This summer I made Nic another blanket in his new favorite colors at his request.  Not to replace his favorite (the Baa is truly irreplaceable), but just to fill in as needed. 

I filled this new blanket with even more prayers for this special boy, more hopes for his future, more dreams for what life will bring for him, and more wishes for his future. 

And you thought when I was knitting – I was just playing with yarn! 

Sometimes when I am knitting I am praying too – praying for the person who will receive/use what I am knitting.

For the family whose kitchen counters will be washed by the wash cloth on my needles.

For the child who will wear the hat.

For the person who will be warmed by the scarf or for the very special boy who will sleep under the blanket.

Or sometimes I am praying for the folks on the church prayer list or someone who is on my heart.

I seem to do my best praying when my hands are busy whether it be with knitting, weeding, folding the laundry, or folding worship booklets.

How do you pray?  When do you pray?  Who first taught you how to pray?  

No Matter Where You Roam – The Snakes Are Best at Home

William may be home from his adventures, but his passion for terrifying creatures remains.  He continues to yearn for encounters with God’s creepiest, deadliest, most horrifying creatures. 

The “creature crew” headed out again this week to seek some seriously scary creatures.  We were down a man, because Jason is back at work these days.  This is truly unfortunate, because Jason is our resident snake expert (having once been a little boy himself and all). Thankfully Jack promised me that he would have my back and help out with the creepy parts.  (He is such an awesome human being!)

As soon as we arrived at the zoo we headed straight for William’s happy place.  We skipped the penguins.  We marched right by the tortoises without so much as a glance in their direction.  We didn’t even consider a stop at the tiger.  Nope – not us.  None of those animals were scary enough for us.  The creature crew needed to be with the worst of the worst – most terrifying and deadly creatures in the entire zoo.  We needed to be in the HerpAquarium as soon as humanly possible!

Snacking and snake watching.  William is definitely having his very own God sighting.

Brothers bonding over snakes. (I definitely count this as a great, big, awesome, amazing God sighting!)

I am still trying really, really hard to see the beauty in this . . .

And this . . .

Now this I could watch all day.  Both the turtles and the boy are pretty nifty.

While Jack explored the rest of the zoo, William and I hung out on the playground. 

And then it was back to the HerpAquarium, because the creature crew had come to the zoo for the den of vipers.  And I tried to have a God sighting while looking at . . .

Not – yet.  I suppose I will just have to keep practicing. 

Now this picture is filled with God sightings!

Where have you seen God’s presence in your life today?

A Bit Too Much Green!!!

I may have mentioned a time or two million that I love green.  I understand that I am pretty weird about my deep and abiding passion for green stuff.  I know that most people aren’t moved to tell trees that they are beautiful (I am a freak and have done just that).  I know that my family is just “being nice to mom” when they smile and nod when I say “isn’t all of that green vegetation gorgeous!”  I know most people don’t need to find a nice green spot where they can sit and knit for a few hours just to fill up their souls with “green” or to go for a hike in the woods to do the exact same thing.  But for better or worse that’s me.  (Like I said – I am a freak.)

I like green a lot.  I am very into green.  I yearn for green.  Jason teases me that I bought our house for the massive 200 year old oak tree that is in our backyard.  (It’s picture is the background for the homepage for my blog.)  I crave green the way other people crave chocolate or coffee or a trip to the mall.

So it might surprise you to know that we have spent the last two weeks eradicating lots and lots of lush, gorgeous green at the McFarland house.  We have been on a green destroying mission!  We have filled buckets and barrels and great, big yard waste bags with gorgeous green vegetation. 

Rod told me that Louisville had been hot and wet while we were in Mexico, and boy – oh – boy do I believe him. 

Weeds!  I tell you.  WEEDS!  Weedy – weedy – weedy weeds!

Our flower beds grew gorgeous, amazing flowers while we were gone.

The flower beds also grew weeds.  Lots of weeds!  So did the cracks in the sidewalk and driveway, and the area around the swing set was a jungle.  The garden can only be described as its own little rainforest of weeds. 

Eight weeks of neglect and our flower beds and garden looked wretched and downright embarrassing (as in “not my house”).

So Jason and I have been on a mission (when we haven’t been waiting for a tow truck or suffering through the truly wretched ordeal of buying a new car.  I am so glad that we only do that every 14 1/2 years!)

We have been making the green go away. (I can hardly believe I wrote such an anti-Kerri sentence!)

And now at least the front yard and flower beds aren’t embarrassing.

But please (for the sake of our relationship) stay out of the backyard unless you have your non-judgmental face on.  There is still some work to do back there!

I continue to love green, and I still give God thanks for the blessing of gorgeous, lush, amazing green vegetation.  Jason and I just wish it hadn’t been quite so energetic about growing in our empty raised garden beds this summer!

Isn’t the blessing of summer wonderful?  (Even if it sometimes comes with a few too many weedy weeds!)

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    a time to kill and a time to heal,

    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,

    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

    a time to search and a time to give up,

    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    a time to tear and a time to mend,

    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    a time to love and a time to hate,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Ending Our Hike with Big Mike

Our hike at Shaker Village on Saturday was glorious.  We had a wonderful time and headed for home with dirty shoes, full hearts, and plans for catching up on some yard work when we got home. (Being gone for 2 months equals weeds in our flower beds – shocking I know!)

I was looking forward to drinking iced tea and knitting while Jason drove us home from our adventure in the great outdoors (further proof of Jason’s being a nicer person than I am). 

My plan worked perfectly for the first part of the drive.  Jason drove, and I did what I do best.  I talked at Jason while knitting and consuming a refreshing beverage.  Then Jason got all fancy and decided to accelerate onto the interstate in our almost 15 year old car.  The car decided against that plan.  Actually the car decided it had just plain had enough of our family dragging it places, and refused to drive us more than a few yards past mile marker 47. 

We bought our Subaru Forester when Jack was a teeny, tiny 4 month old baby in Fargo, North Dakota.  (Jack turns 15 in a week). It had over 236,000 miles on it.  We knew it was time.  Okay – it was probably past time.  But Jason and I are notably frugal/cheap, and we aren’t “car” people.  Plus have I mentioned we are cheap?!?

We may be cheap, but we do have AAA since we were driving a car with 236,000 miles (we aren’t completely nuts). 

So Jason called AAA while I took in the view . . .

Look at all of those shades of green.  It was kind of pretty.  Well – sort of pretty . . .

It was also hot.  It was over 90 degrees on Saturday, but thankfully AAA assured us that it would take less than 40 minutes for our tow truck driver to rescue us so we settled in to wait.  I had iced tea, Jason had water, and we both had great company.

(I love a man who can keep a smile on his face while melting in a broken down car on the side of the interstate when his wife declares – “oh – something to tell the blog.”)

3 hours, 5 increasingly frustrating phone calls, and much less water later this was still our view . . .

Hmmmm…..

At least we didn’t have two bored, hot, miserable kids in the back seat, but it was actually too hot to knit.  Imagine that too hot to knit!  There is a first time for everything.

Just as I had pulled a church directory out of my purse to call for some emergency Lutheran back up, the tow truck arrived.

In just minutes our new best friend Big Mike had the car loaded.

And locked down tight.

We were off for home.

As I cleaned out the car after Big Mike dropped it and us off at our house one last time, I got to thinking about all of the places that silly car had taken our family.

– It took Jack to his first day of daycare, preschool, kindergarten, first grade in Indiana, first grade in Kentucky, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades.  (Jack started riding the bus in middle school.  And to his high school registration day.

– It was with us during my first call, all of my second call, and 7 years of my third call as a pastor.  (Think of all of the trips it has made to Lutheran churches.) 

– We drove that car to Louisville for my interviews with a congregation called Saint Stephen in Fern Creek on Bardstown Road and talked about them the WHOLE way home.  (I liked them a lot and hoped that they liked me too.)

– We drove William home from the hospital in that car just 2 days before Christmas in 2012.

– All but one of our family vacations to Gatlinburg, TN have been in that car over the past 14 years.

– Both Jack and William have had great naps in that car – actually so have I!

– It has hauled countless bags of groceries, knitting bags, and Lutherans.

It was just a car.  In the end – it was a very old – very worn out – very broken car.  It was an inanimate object.

It went vroom and took us the places we wanted and needed to go. But my, oh my, the places we have been in it in the last 14 1/2 years! 

It makes me wonder what God has planned for our family for the next 14 years.

It was a great blessing to spend some time reflecting on God’s blessings to our family over the past 14 1/2 years.

It is so easy to forget how deeply and powerfully blessed we are (especially when life gets a bit messy and very hot and you are faced with car shopping – YUCK), but God blesses us all.

How has God blessed you? 

PS – I think I may have finally uncovered why I keep getting so many nails in my tires since we moved to Kentucky.  I spotted these on the seat next to me in Big Mike’s tow truck on the way home. 

Apparently the tow truck drivers in Kentucky carry large supplies of very long, very pointy nails  . . .

Hmmm…..(excellent business model?)

Shaking It Up

I love my home.  I love our tree filled, friendly (hi Marcia, David, Darlene, and Jim) neighborhood.  I love the walks that Jason and I take through our neighborhood every single evening, but after a week back in the busy, bustling, big city we were craving a hike in the woods.  So bright and not too early Saturday morning we were off to Shaker Village near Harrodsburg, Kentucky to get some dirt on our shoes, some fresh air in our lungs, and to fill our eyes with a whole bunch of glorious, gorgeous GREEN.

Shaker Village has long been one of our favorite places to hike and our favorite trail is the Shawnee Run Trail.  Shawnee Run has almost everything that we are looking for in a trail.  It has wildflowers, fields, meadows, hills, woods, a river, gorgeous views, a waterfall, and it is nice and long ( just over 7 miles).  I just really, really want it to be right outside my back door . . .  maybe someday.

The down side – you share the trail with horses.  Horses don’t pick up after themselves, and their feet can really tear up a trail when it is wet.  The upside to sharing the trail with horses is that their people are delightfully funny whenever they encounter hikers using the same trails with only their humble human feet.  They find hikers so surprising like we are great adventurers to be way out there in the wild using nothing more than our own power!  They make me feel strong, brave, daring, and tough – sort of like I have a super power.  I love horse-people.  They make me smile.

Saturday was perfectly perfect, and the Shawnee Run Trail was stunningly beautiful as always.

It was just Jason and me on Saturday (for some reason our almost 15 year old didn’t want to spend yet another Saturday trapped in the woods with his charming, delightful, engaging parents, and there is no way Jason and I would torture ourselves by dragging William along on something like this.  I think I may have mentioned Will’s opinions on hiking once or three thousand times.)

Look at how inviting that trail is . . . enchanting.

This bird house made me think of Dale and Liz . . .

I love the way the light filters through the trees in the woods.

A butterfly on a coneflower on a gorgeous, hot, summer day in Kentucky.  Our home state is filled with God’s abundant blessings.

A waterfall in the woods. . . now God is just showing off!

My favorite flowers growing wildly wild along the trail – a delightful, yellow surprise.

Proof!

We truly give God thanks for this time together in the great outdoors.  Our shoes were dirty and very wet from several river crossings.  We were hot and dirty, mud splattered and grass clipping covered and our hearts were very full of God’s blessings as we left Shaker Village and headed for home.

How have you experienced God’s blessings this summer?

Being Honest

On October 8, 2017 I got an early birthday present that I really, really did not want or need.  I got the worst migraine that I have ever had, and it has never gone away.  I have had better days, but I have not been migraine free since then.  I have had a migraine for 303 days in a row (and counting). 

And honestly migraines hurt – a lot.

I have a great neurologist and his staff is amazing, but so far none of the medications that we have tried has worked very well.  I have chronic, daily migraines, and I am rarely migraine free for more than a few hours at a time.  The migraine is always there – always present – and it is always annoying.

And the pain isn’t the only fun side effect to the migraines.  I honestly feel like I am losing IQ points.  I have word recall problems which is delightful for a person who uses words for a living.  Preaching and leading Bibles studies is certainly more interesting.  I delight in remembering that word for “liquid, reddish, purple-y, stuff we drink during Holy Communion.” Or misspeaking and thanking everyone for “donor-ing” our “beautiful Pentecost poinsettias.”  Jack now graciously feeds me words when my brain can’t come up with them (talk about a hard lesson in humility).  My spelling was once just bad, but now it is downright wretched!  I am thankfully not sensitive to light, but I am sensitive to sound.  We are learning to laugh “Mom Migraine Brain” off, but I am not as sharp as I used to be and it is hard and humbling.

Most days I am pretty good at keeping on – keeping on.  I learned quickly that the best way for me to deal with the pain is distraction.  I keep busy – busy – busy.  Knitting helps (but then knitting helps EVERYTHING)!  NO sitting still for me.  Jason described it once as – “It’s like you are trying to outrun the pain.”  “Exactly” – I thought – “Now let’s move!”  And so I/we keep busy – very busy.

This strategy has worked wonderfully.  I work full time at a job I love.  (Lutherans are a magnificent distraction.)  I have two children.  I have laundry and meals to cook (see the two quickly growing sons). I have lots of yarn to knit, gardening to do, and hikes to hike.  I can always depend on Jason for a great big distracting walk.  The man will walk in the rain, the snow, or 100 degree temperatures.  He will walk the treads right off a pair of hiking shoes and not think anything of it. 

Poor Jason and Cheryl (when I am not on sabbatical) have borne the brunt of my feeling rotten.  These two should win awards for kindness, loving compassion, and patience with a grumpy, frustrated migraine lady.  It is a shame Lutherans don’t do saints, because Cheryl and Jason could be nominated just for putting up with me!

Anyway – the constant migraines have been hard, but I have coped (or tried to). 

But then this week happened.  This week I hit a great big brick wall.  This week was the first week in my sabbatical agenda/plan when I was supposed to spend more time reading, thinking, and writing.  This week, I was supposed to sit still!!!!  (I haven’t done that on purpose in months.) Then my brain rebelled and kicked in with killer migraines all week.  Add to this the fact that Jason went back to work, and William is with his Mimi and Papa (my two best distractions were otherwise occupied). 

For the first time I seriously questioned this whole sabbatical idea. 

Enter a new book!

One of the books I am reading this week has been really challenging.  It is One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  The premise of the book is to find God’s presence in our daily lives – in the everyday moments – in the nitty gritty of our busy, bustling, stressful, messy, sometimes painful lives.  It was just the sort of challenge I needed, because honestly this week was challenging.  (My soul was just plain weary from these annoying, painful, exhausting migraines.).

I spent time this week working on a list of blessings – messy – every day blessings from God that I might have missed if I hadn’t been looking.

Here are a few of these grace moments for which I give thanks:

  • Teachers who make new students feel welcome in their new school with warm smiles, kind advice, and grace
  • Flower beds literally overflowing with black-eyed Susans
  • Hudson and Katherine (my in-laws’ golden retrievers) playing with John in a field
  • One very proud, very excited, very loved high school freshman
  • green, green, green grass
  • Cousins playing together
  • A hummingbird fluttering from flower to flower in a garden
  • Bella on stilts – her smile was radiant
  • Bob’s (Jason’s dad) smile when he saw Jason after 2 months
  • Lunch with family
  • Mimi talking about her amazingly, awesome, wonderful, delightful grandchildren
  • Ice cold tea and LOTS of it – no one in the world makes tea like they do in Louisville
  • Walks with Jason
  • Hammocks swinging
  • An incredibly generous, very surprising gift that came at the PERFECT time
  • Tomatoes that are red all the way through to the very center – yum!
  • A really hot Kentucky day – I love summer in Kentucky
  • William soaked to the skin from playing in the water with Uncle John and Nic
  • Laughter with John and Elizabeth who are both family and truly friends
  • Quiet moments with family
  • A cup of coffee as the sun rises
  • The view of our lawn from my favorite spot on the couch

I encourage you to join me in looking. 

Yes – I agree – life is messy.  Life is complicated and challenging and weird and crazy.  It is fun and funny too. 

Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes it hurts a lot, but we are not alone.  God is with us in this messy, challenging, busy, bustling world we all call home.

May God bless you and keep you today and always.