Monday, October 29, 2012

Pain and Beauty

It's been one week since my friend's youngest daughter died.
It's been two weeks and a day since the accident that has left this family grieving the loss of Claire.

I watched as her family kept vigil, praying for her and for one another.  I got to be part of the small group that gathered in this 11 year old's PICU room to sing and pray over her.

My heart was breaking for my friend, her mama.
My heart was breaking for her siblings.

I prayed for God to show mercy as Marla had asked--for God to have mercy, whatever that would look like...even if that meant death.

As I stood there, tears clogging my throat and streaming down my face, petitioning God on behalf of this family, I saw clearly that He had indeed granted mercy--in that room were friends to hold them, cry with them, share the hurt, and help them face the road ahead.  Knowing we were all born-again believers made it such a safe place to be cry in our sorrow as we praised the Sovereign King.

The days passed in a blur of beeping monitors and vital numbers that were too high to maintain human hope, with doctors searching every corner of their minds for something they may have missed that might help this child recover.

The accident was on a Sunday morning and in the early hours of the following Monday, Claire met Jesus.

The cries of a mother who's child has died are some of the saddest you will ever hear.

That same afternoon, when the family arrived home from the hospital an hour-and-a-half away, Marla asked me to come over.

We sat in the living room and alternately stared at each other with nothing to say, intermittently thinking of things that needed to be done, ranging from the mundane to the pertinent.

The carpet needs to be vacuumed.
We need to choose an outfit for Claire.
The clothes (from having lived in a hospital for a week) need unpacking and washing.
We need to choose Scripture for the funeral.
Does the dog have fresh water?
We need to call the funeral director.
The floor needs to be swept.
We need to find the right picture so they will know how to do her hair...

Claire's sisters went to her closet to choose the dress she would be buried in.  Her oldest sister painstakingly ironed that for nearly an hour.  It was beautiful and so sad all at the same time.  She needed just a bit of a mom's input from me on a couple of hard spots, but I knew I should definitely not take over--this was something she wanted--needed--to do.

With such a front row seat to this, I've been doing a lot of thinking:

Death, not unlike birth, is horrifyingly painful and tenderly beautiful at the same time.

The pain of watching your child(ren) hurt.
The tender way a mama's presence can make it better--even if just a bit.
There is pain in loss.
There is beauty in watching a family hold one another up as they persevere.
There is pain in writing a little sister's obituary.
There is beauty in knowing it was lovingly written by her big sister and her mama.
There is pain in knowing they won't touch her face again this side of heaven.
There is beauty when a friend brings a gorgeous framed picture, taken just months earlier.  Because how can one not smile when you see her face?
There is pain in remembering again that though it feels like she's just away at camp, she's never coming home.
There is a tender beauty in knowing she really is home.

I sang for her funeral and it went really well--thank you for those who prayed for me.  It was really such a "God thing."  I made it through, and then I was absolutely spent.  Literally, as I put the microphone back in it's stand, I started to cry.

I keep thinking about this pain and this funeral you could hear the sobs of grief from those gathered.  Many, many, many tears were shed.
Yet I am confident that even though people came to show their love and support to this family, a vast majority left that day feeling blessed--that they had been ministered to by this family, their friends, and the pastors who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was painful and beautiful at the same time.

Today when I left her house, all I could do was look at my friend as tears welled in my eyes because I had no words to say.
She looked at me and we both just knew--nothing needed to be said.
'Cause this just plain hurts.
And so we said, "See ya." and "Bye."

It was enough.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In the Morning...

In the morning, I'm singing for the funeral of the little girl I mentioned in my earlier post.
Her mama asked me to sing the same song that I sang for her daddy's funeral nearly eleven years ago, "We Shall Behold Him."

If you are so inclined, I would covet your prayers for tomorrow.  I've sung for literally hundreds of funerals, but some are harder than others and this would definitely fall into that category.

Most importantly, I would ask you to please cover the Turner family with prayer--not just for tomorrow (an especially physically and emotionally taxing day) but in the weeks ahead, as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Recommend

  • Use olive oil as an eye-makeup remover.  It works--and it's good for you!
  • I also recommend that you check out  the Healthy Families for God facebook page.  "Like" their page and every day you will see her incredibly informative posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I've been a bit quiet, partly due to a bit of writer’s block and partly due to the volume of work I need to accomplish this fall.  “Computer turns” are infrequent for Mom and fall among the lower end of my list of priorities.

There are many things I’d like to talk about on my blog, but they require more than a few minutes of time to write them in the way that I would like—and to write without a “Mom?”  “Mom???” every 17 seconds.


This past Saturday, I sang at a women’s meeting for our denomination.  The focus was on missions and the speaker was absolutely engaging.  I can’t remember the last time someone held my attention for that long.   The way he spoke about the work he has done as a missionary and the encouragement he gave that God is on His throne was captivating.

Sunday, Dennis wasn’t feeling well so it was just the kids and I who headed to church.  Having remembered to set my phone to vibrate, it buzzed.  Linnea heard it; she was sitting nearest my purse.  She looked at the screen and saw it was a friend of ours.  She discreetly showed it to me; we both exchanged looks, thinking it must be an “oops”—a pocket-dial by mistake.  Surely this friend would know we’d be in church at that time on a Sunday morning.

A minute later, my phone buzzed again.  She’d left a voicemail.


A few minutes after that, Dennis sent a text message.

And then another.

Typically, I don’t look at my phone during church.  Typically, my purse would most likely have been sitting on the floor and I don’t know that I would have even heard the vibration.
I decided to read the texts Dennis had sent me.  It wasn’t good news, nor did I think it would be if he was texting me during church.

Four of my friend’s children had been in a rollover accident and one was being airlifted to the hospital in the big city.

I stepped out of the sanctuary and called my friend.
She answered, crying.

“Where are you.” I asked.
“On my way to _____________.”  She said.
“Who is there.”  (I’m purposely leaving out the question marks here to convey the tone in which I spoke.  My friend and I are very frank with one another and I knew that direct questions requiring only direct answers were what was needed at that moment.)
“Claire.” She answered. “She’s unconscious with head injuries.  She was ejected.”

I cried.  She cried.  We spoke about the other kids and some other details about the accident.

Fast forward to now—this little 11 year old girl is fighting to survive.  Her brain has suffered terrible injury.  She lies in a coma and the outlook is bleak.

Would you please pray for my friend Marla?  Her heart is breaking as she watches her baby girl hurt so badly.  Claire is the youngest of 10 children and her daddy died of cancer when she was 10 months old.  Her older siblings are scattered a bit around the country, even the world—one of her brothers should be arriving today from Israel.  Would you pray for peace for them all?  For rest and for strength…for a sweet time of togetherness in the midst of this terrible storm?

I’m burdened also to pray for her siblings in the accident, that they would recover physically and that the emotional and physical scars would heal with time.  Also, please pray for the sister who was driving.  I can’t help but think that she has replayed every. single. moment. of that accident.

They are a strong, Christian family who would greatly covet your prayers for their youngest member.

I know people always say this, but seriously—hug your kids. Be thankful that even if your day was crummy, it (most likely) wasn’t life-changing.  Embrace ordinary days.  Cherish those moments to brush your little girl’s hair, to wash your son’s smelly football uniform, to shake your head at their messy room.

I’m being reminded constantly of how many things really don’t matter.  Like really don’t matter.  Because that could just as easily have been my family.
Or your family.

But it wasn't.  They've been set on this road and it is theirs to walk.
We have the opportunity now to walk beside them and to pray for each step they must take.

Now, if I could ask another favor.
If your family has dealt with a tragedy or you have some insight into this kind of thing, would you please share about something that was particularly helpful?  Maybe even something that someone did with good intentions, but that was actually just not helpful?  Certainly not as a way to embarrass anyone, it’s just that I think oftentimes we simply don’t know what to do when someone goes through something like this.
Too much “help” can be overwhelming, but if everyone stayed away because they were afraid of being in the way, that would be terrible, too!

If you would, please share some ideas of ways to help a family in this situation.  They may not apply in every situation, but suggestions might spark other ideas.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Looking at It This Way

I was reading on the Jeub family's blog and came across the following, regarding his wife's 14th pregnancy:

Now don’t put us up on a super-saint pedestal. We struggle. We’re not immune to the same moments of doubts as you. There have been countless times we have wrestled with the obvious questions:
Can Wendy's health keep up with this many children?
Can Chris's income keep up with providing for them all?
How can we spread the love to so many in our household?
Can we really give the individual attention to each child?

Then, in the comments, a reader posted this:

They seem like strange questions, don't they? I would phrase those four questions this way:

"Does using your body the way it was meant to keep it in good shape?"
"Can God provide when we trust Him with our finances..and family size?"
"Can love be a thing that grows and multiplies as one walks in faith and abides in Christ?"
"Are we always able to do anything (like spend individual time with children, husbands, eat a meal) that we put our heart to, and that is a priority?"

And then I would say 'Yes to all'!

Me, too--yes to all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bee Hinds

At 4-H today, the kids learned about bees, honey, and bee hives. 
When I asked Elijah what he learned about, 
he told me, "Bees, honey and be-hinds." 

THAT was a hard one to keep a straight face for!!!

Wordless Wednesday: Some Days are Just Like That...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fridays on the Farm: Colors

It's Friday!  In OCTOBER--is the year flying by for you all, too?
For some families, Fridays are a great day because it kicks off the weekend;
done with work, done with school, maybe a date night/family fun night.

On a dairy farm, every day is the same.
A dairy farm has the same basic chores every day of the year--
365 days, whether that be your anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas or the birth of a new baby,
the cows must be milked twice a day (some farms do three times a day, as we have done in the past, too.).

So, though Fridays hold no special significance on our farm,
Friday does begin with 'F' and so does the word 'farm',
hence my title Fridays on the Farm.

When you read the title of this particular post,
you may have assumed this would be a post about autumnal beauty.
While autumn in MN is colorful,
I wanted to show you some of the colors on our farm.

Farmers usually stand on one side or the other when it comes to the color of their tractors:
RED (International) or GREEN (John Deere).
Dennis drives a red tractor.  This has caused my green-loving father some consternation.
Dennis hasn't planted himself on one side or the other,
he just uses what he has or what has become available.
He has this red International, an orange Allis Chalmers, and a cream-colored Case.
We joke that we are teaching the children a tolerance for all colors. :)

I grew up on a black and white farm.  My dad had black and white holsteins.  He occasionally did have a red and white, but all in all, it was rather monochromatic. 
We know a farmer who has only red and white holsteins--and insists on keeping it that way.
He wants no variations. :)

On our farm here,
we have black and white holsteins, red and white holsteins, 

Brown Swiss (Nathaniel's favorite!)
and seriously--just about every combination thereof.
Dennis has put the boys in charge of heat detection (when cows are ready to be bred) and making sure our reproduction specialist gets called. 
Isaiah and Nathaniel make their recommendations to the technician as to what they'd like the animal bred to and Isaiah has a particular interest in cross-breeding.
We've got Ho-Jo's (Holstein-Jersey cross), Brown Swiss/Holstein/Guernsey crosses,
Swedish Red/Shorthorn/Holsteins, etc.
It makes for some interesting colors, but the real reason for this process is greater hardiness of the animal, improved calving ease, and, well ok--the colors are pretty fun, too.  :)

Now--just for fun, what colors are on your farm?
If you don't have a farm, what's your favorite color cow?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Recommend

For this week's I Recommend, I've listed three links.  One is a good reminder for moms, the other is a humorous read with good information particularly for home educators and the last is a yummy recipe.

1.  The Mom Stays in the Picture     I never like being in pictures.  I wish I did.  I try hard.  I think, "smile...not too wide....careful not to do that thing with your your eyes a bit more, but not bug-like...turn so they can't see your big upper arms...put the baby in front of your belly..." etc. etc.  And when I actually see the picture?  Yuck.  That's what I look like???  Oh man...
BUT--whenever I've attended a funeral and watched the video photo collage and looked at the neat displays of pictures I think, "if I died, my family wouldn't have any pictures to even make one of these!"
The post above gave me much food for thought.  What I think I look like and what the camera captures are two different things.  However, what the camera captures IS what everyone else sees--so why do I hide?  It doesn't change what really is.  My friend Dawn posted the article on facebook and mentioned that years from now we will look back and think how great we looked--which is the very same thing I do when looking back at pictures of myself as a teen.  I thought I was so not
I look at my senior pictures now and wish I could weigh what I did then!  So, I'm deciding to get in the picture---and stay there.

2.  10 Lessons I've Learned from Thirty Years of Homeschooling     Though I haven't been at this homeschooling gig for 30 years, this year marks our eighth year of home-based Christian discipleship.  (That's what homeschooling is for me--it's not about the "school-ing".)  I read Vicky Farris' book, "A Mom Just Like You", I was intimidated.  At first.  About two paragraphs in, I was tearing up because she is SO real.  This article was written by her husband and is real, as well.  And funny--two of my favorite things!

3.  Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe     Fall has me wishing for the tastes of anything apple or pumpkin.  I tried this recipe last week. YUM.
I opened a can of pumpkin, used the 2 T. and portioned out the rest in small little containers to freeze.  I also brewed more coffee than I needed and froze that, too, so now I have a stash of pumpkin lattes waiting!  I live very rurally, so "treat coffee" is rare, indeed.  Now, I make it at home (usually in the afternoon, during my "break" time) and it really tastes the same!  And costs SIGNIFICANTLY less!  Try it and see!
P.S.  I wouldn't set the crockpot on high like she suggests.  I tried that once and the milk curdled.  I actually just whisk it up on the stovetop.

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