Tag: Family

I wanted to walk the streets of Seattle photographing everything. The homeless laying on the sidewalks, the way they dress here the Starbucks on every block, the totem pole in Pike Place, the rainbow colored crosswalk, the Space Needle. Instead, I shoot some things from inside a moving vehicle because these sights are ordinary to my family and I’m trying so hard not to be ‘that’ person (again).

Walking the streets of the small town of Snohomish I remind myself life is more than snapshots. I try to convince myself you can’t be in the moment from behind the lens.

But…these are my memories. Photographs of family are among my most cherished possessions. I think about how mama’s memory was stolen from her so these photographs will be important as age cast long shadows over my memories.

It seems I can’t have both and neither one do I want to let go. I want the snapshots I’ll later put in another photo book. Yet I don’t want to think about photos at all. I want to just be there, soaking in the moment.

There was a time the choice was made for us. Telephones were held down by cables and wires and didn’t leave the roof of our homes. Cameras required film and you couldn’t delete before printing. There was a financial cost to be paid if you were to snap freely as we do today, or to call out of your area code.

I wonder if the cost we pay today is with ourselves?

The acronym is FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. I think I have it. In my efforts not to miss a moment am I missing investing in those around me?

So I leave the big camera in the car, the phone in my purse and I join those around me. I make eye contact with the waiter, use his name when saying thank you.

When we visit our daughter’s house I notice the way the granddaughter sits cuddled up to her daddy on the sofa. I try to remember the names of our daughter’s co-workers, the ones I’ve never met. I remind myself being present is about others and not me. We take turns as if we’re on a child’s see-saw; I’m present for you and you’re here for me. Up and down it goes with the occasional bumps and stalls because we’ve chosen to take this ride together.

There will be time for photos. But every picture needs a story and every good story paints a picture.

family photography

When my brother and I were kids, May 1st was when we were allowed to go barefoot. I don’t know what it was that my brother liked about going barefoot through the cool, damp grass but he would peck at dad with his questioning of ‘when?’ like a hen pecks at the dirt.  Daddy’s answer was always the same: May 1st. I think if we’d had a freak snow storm on May 1st he still would have said it and my little brother would have kicked off his shoes to run barefoot through the snow.

May was my birthday closely followed by Mother’s Day, closing out with granny’s birthday. Later my sister would join the May celebrations with her birthday being in the middle.
Last year, we added an ending to May as our mama was delivered from her earthly body and, we believe, restored whole in her eternal home with Jesus. It was sad and relieving all at once.
This was the first year we haven’t given her a Mother’s Day card. It was pointless the last 5 years or so as she couldn’t put together who we were or how we were connected. But I’d find a card and sign it “your daughter” and send it on its way. Another memory for to hold.

1982

home fades

My trips to fly across country have been to see mama. My sister lived next door with her three kids and there are bunches of cousins and their families who I’ve never lived around and can’t keep track of whose kids are whose half the time.
This year I’m flying out to see Lisa. The sister who’s more than a dozen years younger than me. The one who stands out with her big blue eyes next to my brown ones. The one who’s never lived in Florida and I’ve never lived in Washington but somehow we formed this bond and are more alike than we could have believed.
I didn’t realize the dates I was looking at would have me away mother’s day but our kids can call me anywhere. It seems right to be with her this year. It seems right to be there where we were a year ago, the whole lot of us gathered around a hole dug deep through the green sod as we held hands saying a last goodbye.
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I’ve come and gone and parts were harder than I expected. I go numb when I’m at her house. Not numb exactly but a large part of me is closed off. It’s not my house, routine, food or weather. It’s all different. Not bad but foreign and I’m the visitor. I try shutting off from the differences. How can we think so much alike and be so different?
I questioned if I was being present. Was I allowing myself to be there, to listen and be part of family. I feel the distance between her kids and me and the cousins I’ve rarely seen. It’s hard to be present in the distance. I did my best and it seemed right. It’s like being a dinner guest when only one person speaks your language. You don’t understand much of what’s going on but you’re glad to be there for this moment. Each time you’re there you pick up a few more words. These visits won’t be many but that’s okay too. We’re living our lives where we are. Each of us trying to follow a calling of service to others, hoping to create space for grace.
 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!
Ephesians 2:8 Message

faith family grace

John bends down to encircle me in a big hug as he calls me mom. Rob walks by me in the hall with his big smile as he calls out, “Hi, mom”. Both are at least in their mid 50’s which makes us all giggle at their audacity to call me mom.

It’s such a precious thing to hear this word. For Adam it’s momma and Steve calls me mom #2. Most of them think this is silliness I guess or they recognize they’re just too old to call me that. More and more of them are younger than our children and that is a good/bad thing.
In our counselors meeting I hear the words abandonment, abused, and traumatic used too often in describing backgrounds of some of our residents. This is’t the cause of addiction but with too many it was the reason they were searching for something to numb themselves of the pain.

My husband says he had a Leave It To Beaver childhood and I think he was mostly right. They had their tragedies too when the middle boy was killed in an accident at home at 6 years old. My in-laws were wonderful people but we’re all flawed because we’re people. The best of the best isn’t perfect. So we don’t try to be.
Jerry says “Hello family” as he stands to share a word of gratitude. To some it’s words to others this group of addicts and screw-up’s is the best family they’ve had. It’s definitely one of the truest they’ve had.
This year was the first Mother’s Day I wasn’t there to celebrate with them. It’s a hard one for me to program given the diversity of their experiences. This year I needed to be with my sister and even 3000 miles away several of the men sent me messages on social media wishing me a happy Mother’s Day.
When I got back, there was an orchid on my desk with a card signed “from your illegitimate and legitimate sons”. I had to laugh.
A week after Mother’s Day, Lynn stood up to share in our chapel service. He barely had three words out of his mouth when he suddenly went silent, then garbled out a few words as tears dropped on his cheeks as he thanked God for his mom seeing him sober this year. The men clapped and I teared up and again God spoke to me about his grace.
There’s a verse in Hebrews that talks about a cloud of witnesses. The visual imagery of this is what takes hold in my mind as I picture Granny, mama, grandma, my in-law’s, heroes of the faith like Martin Luther and William and Evangeline Booth, Keith Green….so many. And now, I picture not only those whose lives have been documented by their good works, but I know one day the cloud of witnesses surrounding me will be a motley crew of crack addicts and alcoholics. Those who were caught in the spiral of opiate addiction and saved by the grace of God through the simple hands of his servants.
This is the best family. A broken and hurting family who’ve been brought together in search of healing. God accepts us through his unconditional love and is restoring us through his grace.

SaveSave

family grace recovery Salvation Army

There was something about the role of mothering that came natural to me. It started, perhaps, as granny mothered me in times I only know through photographs. Mama was in seminary where they couldn’t take their kids in those days. Daddy was pastoring a church while mama finished so granny filled the gap and so began a relationship that would keep us connected for long enough for her to see our first baby.

I mothered my dolls. Wrapped them in the blankets and fed them pretend food. The magic bottle that came along was the best invention to my pre-school aged self. I nestled my babies in the crook of my arm while putting the plastic bottle to her plastic lips and watch the pretend milk disappear as if she was drinking it down.
This was mothering. Dressing, feeding, cleaning and comforting my baby dolls.
Motherhood held a few surprises for me, the first of which was not expecting to be so sore in my arms after giving birth. I hadn’t realized how tight I’d gripped the arms of the hospital bed during, what was, an easy delivery.
I didn’t expect how sleep deprived I’d be those first few months and how hard that would be.

church babies

Aunt Connie
We’ve learned to be more inclusive when celebrating mom’s. That’s why I like the word mothering. One doesn’t have to have had children to know how to mother.
Long before Henry’s sister had a child, she babysat for ours. She’d keep them for weekends we attended out of town church functions or anytime we needed her. Her mothering skills were tested on more than one occasion watching our two and I think she handled them better than I would have.
I’ve written about becoming mom to men in recovery and my initial reluctance.
Today, John and Rob will say “hi mom” when they pass me in the hallway. Both men well into their 50’s and the age of my brother. We smile a knowing grin, one that acknowledges the figurative role I’m honored to play.
Our son became friends with the boy across the street. Ivan was 5 years older than Jonathan. Enough that I kept a close eye on things not knowing much about his family other than he and his older brother were latchkey kids. His mom wasn’t comfortable with English so we politely waved across the street to each other. She made conch chowder at her house that our son discovered he liked and I doled out the snacks with a careful eye.
When school was out for the summer Ivan spent longer days in the pool with our kids. With him 11 and our son 6 it wasn’t a friendship I would have encouraged except for kids need mothering. I didn’t try to take his mom’s place or disrespect
 her role. This is what you do when the need is there.
In our group of friends at church we mothered our children together. Our values were the same so our kids knew what to expect no matter whose house they were visiting.
I wonder who you’re mothering? Is it the elderly woman, or man, you see in the grocery store? The one who gets a bit turned around and needs direction?
Are you mothering the neighborhood kids as they run across your lawn to get their ball and welcome their energy?
I’m so thankful for the women who’ve mothered me. For aunt Juanita and Phylis, two women who’ve given the gift of presence and listening. For teachers who nurtured, some with a firm voice and rule. For friends who’ve walked with me in times of parental frustration and who’ve understood a mother’s broken heart.
We didn’t recognize it so much then as community but that’s what we know now. We help raise each other, young and old, sometimes the younger teaching the older and we understand it works better doing this together.
May you find comfort in mothering and being mothered.
May you feel the breath of grace around you as you are nurtured and comforted.
May you shine Jesus in every life you touch.

family grace

She wanted to sleep in but sleeping in for me means 7, maybe 7:30, not 10.

I pulled out the art supplies, tried to entice her in learning to draw a butterfly with a few lines when she said, “Can I paint?” Yes! yes, you can paint.

This will be good. This is what I envisioned for the week she’d be with us during her spring break. We’d spend a couple of hours or three drawing, painting and making a mess. We’d have lunch at Chick-fil-A, evening walks to the lake…..but she’s 9. And had her own ideas.

Do you have those moments you look forward to but forget how draining good times can be?

Do you come through them filled with joy but needing to be refilled in other areas?

Maybe I don’t transition well. Okay. I’m positive I don’t transition well. Transitioning takes time and often includes slowing down which most of us aren’t good at. We can’t make these sharp turns going at the same speed. We can, but it often results in injury.

I took time away from some work responsibilities to focus on a relationship that’s being built moment by moment. There’s no time to ease back into the daily routines.

Work is the easier part. but the ideas for writing and photography and general creativity seem illusive. I need a refill.

So I start slow, scrolling through Instagram and letting creations of others provide beauty.

I’m rereading a few blogs I’d tagged. I’m slowly reading through Emily Freeman’s post called 8 Things Whole-Hearted Creative Women Do Differently.  (I’m hoping this will finally define me as a creative woman and then I quickly scold myself for the never ending self-doubts.)

I get to the part where Emily says “She no longer fears the silence”.

“She has made her peace with the silence she sometimes hears when she asks what is next. She trusts the inspiration will always circle back around again. She listens in the darkness and creates her way through it because sometimes that’s the only way out.”

It’s quieter with the granddaughter back in her house 5 hours away. There are no Disney movies playing at night or little girl squeals when her Papa plays with her.

I like the quiet. But yes, I think Emily has hit something here. This quiet can be mistaken for lack of inspiration, for purpose.

It’s just one small part of how this time in our life is holding a lot of transitions. And to make the turns I need to slow down. To listen in the darkness, trusting that inspiration will always circle back around again.

faith family hope

Forty years ago today he said confident words to me. Something about seeds of love being planted and I was thinking skip the poetry just say it. He did, the exact words I don’t recall, but he asked this 19-year old girl to marry him and I said yes. It was a scared yes but I carried scars from my parents divorce. Did I really know what love was?

I said yes, if. 

We’d been two months when he proposed. TWO! So my yes, if was if we could wait to announce our engagement. We weren’t strangers. We’d known each other from church, there’d been some flirting and me eyeing his shirtless body mowing the lawn at the church. But still….two months!

He said yes if, if we’d marry later that year.

 

We married eight months later. Our first child was born 13 months after that and our second 19 months after that. We found the breaks to slow this thing down to a manageable pace and settled ourselves in our small home. We planted roots in our church and with friends. We grew together in faith and relationships.

I learned what love is, or more what it isn’t.

Love isn’t always tender and sweet and romantic. It’s not scripted. It’s not cliche. Love isn’t easy.

Love is often duty and obligation. It’s getting children where they need to be and saying no more than yes some days. It’s putting nutritious food in front of them even if started it a box.

Love is saying I’m sorry and my fault and taking the blame at times it’s not yours to take. Love is reminding yourself of your faults every time you think of one of his.

Our love has taken us to a direction I once thought sounded old and tired: comfort. Maybe it is old and tired because I often feel that way. But this period of our comfortable love is more from knowing the other well. Knowing that he’s best early in the morning and has little left in the evening. Knowing when I’m muttering to myself or expecting him to answer. (This one still brings laughs) Knowing he’s a gentle soul and I need to be more gentle with my words.

Maybe it’s not so much a comfortable love than a knowing love. A love that knows we are there for each other. In the loud times and quiet. We know the moods, the seasons, the heart.

My scared yes was prompted by God. I know that. God provided for me what I didn’t know I needed. A man who could love me when I don’t much like myself. One who doesn’t turn away from my tears but pulls me closer and lets them fall on him. Before I knew, God knew. He always does.

Linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart

faith family

More catalogs and advertisements are filling our mailbox this time of year. Tucked between Golf Digest, an ad for car sales and one actual Christmas card was the Mrs. Fields catalog. They come around holidays and are tossed in the recycle bin with old newspapers and unwanted ads. I glanced at it thinking, when have I ordered Mrs. Fields cookies and then I remembered. The past few years that mom was in a Memory Care facility I sent a tin of goodies for her to share with the staff. She’s always had a sweet tooth and we quit worrying about her sugar once Alzheimer’s took control of her mind.

This has been the year of first in her passing. The first year I haven’t bought her a Mother’s Day or birthday card and the first I won’t send her one at Christmas with a tin of assorted cookies. She hasn’t known these were sent by her first born. It didn’t matter, I’d sent them for me, because I still knew she was my mama.

my grandmother (left) volunteer bell ringer and member of the Salvation Army

Holidays can magnify our feelings of loss. We remember how uncle Johnny would have led the family prayer around the table or how mama would have feigned surprise when we opened our gifts. Their favorite Christmas carols and tireless desire to help others show up in our playlist and every time we drop some change in one of those red buckets. These memories can well up inside of us and slip down our faces as the tears fall, or worse, we try to hold them back.

 

Here’s the thing, it’s okay. It’s all okay.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott

It didn’t happen right away, but with some time I’ve come to welcome those softened pulls of grief, allowing them to replace the hurt with comfort. Feeling my heart smile more than cry when I look at the photos when we were together. I can laugh when I think of that one photo where my father-in-law left a knit cap on his head the whole time we opened presents.  This was out of character for him and the picture of him and my mother-in-law sitting side by side in their flannel shirts brings a tender smile to my face.

I had too few holidays with my parents but rather than lament the time lost I’m learning to find gratitude in the times we had.

and a source for joy.

I can’t unwrap our Christmas decorations without missing mama or Barbara. The Salvation Army band playing makes me think of daddy and uncle Johnny and their love for the brass music. Every glimpse of the old photos remind me of youth that’s given way to age and nothing is as it was. But it is good.

I’m coaxing gratitude to keep company with the memories. It doesn’t come natural but it’s true. And true is better than good.

faith family Salvation Army

Is this the year we sit around our Thanksgiving tables in fear and loathing, wondering where did it go amok? Do we rattle off our list of thanks with all the enthusiasm of reciting the multiplication tables?

I’ve lived through elections since the late 70’s when I became eligible to cast my ballot. Saturday Night Live heavily influenced my choice for Carter as I’m sure it’s influenced many a generation since. I think their ‘campaign slogan’ was “Carter, he’s taller”. I hope today’s young voters are smarter than my post-hippie crowd.

From all media outlets, social and network, our country seems to be collectively grieving the election results. It would seem clear this will not be on our gratitude list. We won’t be saying thanks for President-elect Trump or his family. We won’t be adding to our gratitude litany the electoral process or free public election process to all registered voters (unless they voted like us).

gourds-10

I suppose we’ll hang our heads as we mumble our thanks for food, family and faith. Those are the big three around our table said with genuine gratitude. We’ve lost most of our parents and know how this life passes in a flash. We know the faith instilled in us from our family and those two go hand in hand. We will be forever thankful for both.

Hudson Thanksgiving

Hudson Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 4306

But what of the hard things in our life? The job that didn’t come through, the man who walked out on his wife and newborn, an unknown future, the crumbling marriage?

How do these parts of life fit in with gratitude?

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 the Message

How do we thank God “no matter what happens”?

I don’t know how to find thanks for mama’s Alzheimer’s but I’m thankful that it brought my sister and I closer.

I can’t mouth the words “thank-you” for addiction and relapse but my heart has been softened to those struggling with this disease.

We didn’t give thanks for my brother’s cancer diagnosis but we were filled with gratitude for the successful surgery. Did we miss thanking God for family and friends who came closer together and supported us during that time?

When we gather around the Thanksgiving table again this year, I don’t think our gratitude will be for the chairs that now sit empty. The chairs once filled by my uncle and my husbands parents. We’ve given thanks for their presence but their absence still brings sorrow.

I don’t know the answer to giving thanks in all things. I can only pray to the One who is worthy.

Our Most High God, give us hearts that can sing your praise in easy times as well as the hard. Let us know your presence when the way is dark as we know your presence in the light. May we cry with those who cry and dance with those who dance knowing you are always a good God. Help us to see past our wants to your will. Help us to count all as grace.

faith family grace

by Laura Acuna

“There is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt by the church.”

This is what my new pastor acknowledged to me when I first visited him after leaving the church where our family worshipped and served for over fifteen years.

Boy, was he correct — there really is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt and disappointed within the Body of Christ. It’s disorienting and confusing to say the least.

I’ve always loved the church. I was raised in an active and loving congregation and, with the exception of a year or two as a young adult, have been a member of a local body my whole life.

However, the church is made up of humans and we often do not do conflict well.

Leaving our church family was such a difficult decision. Pat and I prayed for over a year, asking God to point us in the right direction.

Should we move on or should we stay?

There was no angry conflict and we were not at odds with anyone in particular. We’d grown unhappy and uneasy with the direction of leadership. We desired a more active youth group for our youngest son and felt strongly we needed the change for his sake.

Having been in this particular body of Christ for such a long time, we knew what leaving would mean. We understood that no matter how much we tried to explain how we had come to our decision, feelings would be hurt, our motives would be misunderstood and many would sever their ties with us.

And that is exactly what happened.

We hurt the leaders and our church family when we left — and their response to our departure hurt us.

That was eight years ago.

Since then, life has gone on. It has been made clear to us in so many ways that the correct decision was made.

We only wish it had been received with more grace and understanding – and to be perfectly honest, we could have handled our end of it with more grace and understanding too.

Hindsight, as they say, is a beautiful thing. After eight years, I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned a few lessons along the way.

• Leaving a church should be bathed in prayer and done as peacefully and kindly as possible. This can be hard when you are hurt and you want to defend yourself, but it is essential.

• People will want to know the ‘whole’ story. This is where Pat and I got tripped up. We explained ourselves to too many people and it kept the wound open. There were a few who did not have our best interests at heart. They stirred the pot.

• On the other end, when folks leave our churches, we must be kingdom-minded, understanding that we are all on the same team, no matter whose bench we are sitting on.

• We are the Body of Christ and not members of a closed circle. God will move people on to other churches for His purposes. We must respect the decision to leave and keep the return door open. No burned bridges, no severed ties.

• When we are hurt, it may be tempting to give up church altogether and even confuse God with the behaviors of His children. We can’t allow that to happen.

• The Lord has chosen the Body of Christ, His bride, to meet together regularly to be the incubator for growing, developing Christians. The church is God’s idea, and He protects it faithfully even though He is often saddened by its behavior.

• Yes, there are difficult folks in the church, but grace-filled, loving, and forgiving people can be found there too. We have to seek them out and ask God for the courage to put down roots again.

As for us, we are happily settled in our new church home and in time, the hurts faded. It took a while, but forgiveness & reconciliation have mended the broken relationships. God is so faithful to His children.

stained-glass-round

Sweet friend, if you have been hurt by the church, take heart. Don’t give up and trust in God’s plan. There is a place for you in the Body of Christ.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” — Colossians 3:12-20

laurainoval2Laura loves to encourage, equip, and connect with women of all ages and stages. She blogs at laura-acuna. She’s also a speaker at Christian women’s gatherings – conferences, workshops, MOPS groups, retreats, leadership training events, etc. You can also follow her on Twitter.

faith family The Church

“Mom, cereal?” She asks, as I’m gathering my thoughts and coffee for the morning.

I’m not ready for this, I think. I hadn’t heard her come down the steps. I stretch, releasing the  ­tight muscles cramped from sleeping. I’m buying time or what’s going to be a lot of questions peppered at me in rapid fire.

“Did you forget about my drink again?” “Mom, are you awake?”
“Did you hear me?”
“Are we still going to church?”

She pesters me with questions, as usual, so early in the morning
“Yes”, I answer as I sit down with coffee, bad hair and bad breath. “Yes.”

She snorts and grumbles under her breath.I ignore and press on. The importance of church, despite all the things that make it hard to show up, including people.

“It’s hard and not always great but we go because we need it,” I begin.”Because we need it.”

I cannot express that enough; we need it, I need it. Some Sundays I need it to get through my week with my pre­pre­teen daughter who has strong opinions about all things, including my mothering and down to exactly how her school lunch should be made.

“But it’s so boring,” she complains, that long drawn out drawl of a whine that all mothers live for. I counter with words about how boring can be good for us, make us grow, stretch, and then say “I understand,” remembering a great deal about my church growing up and a countless number of committee meetings, dry sermons, and all the other things I’ve sat through over the years.

church stretch

FtL corps

I still go and make my family go (especially on those days they look at me like a martian when I say “church, yes, today.”) Despite the people, because of the people.I need to see God in action, in community, in the face of my neighbor in the pew. A face that may not look like mine and may be the last person I expect to see there.

I go to come face to face with the God I love and the people I love, though some of them have big hair matching their big egos, wear too much perfume and fumble around with mints in their purse as if that was their sole purpose of the day.

I go to be challenged, to be reminded of the beauty and the frailty of myself and others.
­­
I’ve been lost too long in my thoughts.

“Mom?” she says, bringing me back to the present and the fact that she’s impatient for an answer. “Why church?” I start, “Because, sweet pea,” I say….”We need it. We need God and each other. Community is hard but loving, and people want to know about you. I need to sing the songs off key and be in the presence of God and his people. Because I need to know the world is greater than me, and I need to teach you that.”

kk in church

She listens, letting it sink in though I can tell she’s not entirely convinced. but I can tell she’s heard me. She will be paying close attention in church to see if my hypothesis is correct.

Meanwhile, I heat up the cold coffee, and go through the list in my head, the one that is ready for the sermon but also on a mission:

I need to go today because I need to see the kids try and tip over the Epiphany candle.
I need to hear the sermon and sing the songs.
I need to see hankies passed from pew neighbor to neighbor, friends or not.
I need to go to ask Kathy how her daughter is.

I need the reminder I’m not alone. That there is Jesus and there are people, imperfect to boot, to help us through this journey called life.

Why do I go to church? Because I need to stretch.

LBR image for bylineLiz Rasley is a writer who loves God, family, laughing out loud and writing. Doesn’t exactly love the laundry though. But has made peace with that. Mostly.

More of her writing can be found on her website, where she writes about the intersection of life, faith, and yes, laundry: deepfragilegrace.com

 

faith family hope