The Feels of Summer…

Remember when you were young, summer was never long enough.
There were the hot days of lounging in the creek, swimming in the pond,
relaxing in the shallow water while the rest jumped and swam.
It felt like we had just gotten started with summer,
when, bam, it was over!

It still feels the same today.

I want more days of lounging on the beach,
watching the birds fly by while the kids swim and argue.
More days of settling arguments and finding jobs for them to do.
More days of watering plants, eating sweet corn,
and cracking open a big watermelon.
We’ve barely gotten started and it’s almost over.

Summer days of sending the kids to the garden
instead of looking at the mess yourself.
Toast and tomatoes for supper again,
with a side of ever abundant cucumbers.
Afternoons spent riding back and forth on the mower
instead of getting one of the kids to do it for you,
because you only get to mow for a few months
and you miss the smell of fresh mowed grass.

Summer afternoons when I was a kid meant riding around the hay field
on the back of the wagon filled with bales.
Every round meant climbing another row higher
and hoping there were no snakes crawling out
of the freshly packed bales.
It was great fun then, but looking at it
from my perspective now makes me hot and itchy.

Summer days could be the longest when you were a kid,
especially if you were waiting for something to happen.
When we knew we were going on a trip or having an evening party,
oh, man, those were the longest days ever.
We laid in the grass and waited for hours,
checked in with mom again to find only 10 minutes had passed.
Today, my kids still believe the same.

Not me, I don’t believe that anymore.
Hours fly by like hot wheels ,
leaving less and less time to get things done,
especially in the summer, but really, that is year ’round I guess.

Summer is for getting together with family,
sitting long and talking much.
It is enjoying each other because you never know.

Summer evening are for cousins,
being at Grandma’s spending time together
and making memories that will last for years.
And of course ice cream, always ice cream.

When I was a kid summer with family meant cabin parties.
Someone would call and suggest supper at the cabin
and we would load up hot dogs and home made ice cream
along with all the kids in the back of the truck.
It was a fun night around the fire,
with adults catching up while the kids raced around the lawn.
When the mosquitos started biting it was time to go home,
until next time.

Summer days equals eating every other hour,
or so it seems and feels to the cook.
They consume copious amounts of food,
always need a snack, eat another meal, and repeat.
I’m glad my car doesn’t need this much fuel.

I remember mom cooking big meals for the farmers
and in the mind of a child it seemed she must have made
a feast like Almazno and Alice had for Christmas
because of the the never ending pile of dishes staring at me.
My memory serves me quite well of how I used to wash them.
Mom would often say, “Just wash for 15 minutes and then you may go.”
That equaled about 10 dishes at my speed of a turtle
and left an entire counter full for her to finish.

Today on a hot summer day if all is well and at peace,
there are more than a few times
I will not disrupt the quiet calm with a dishwasher call.

Summer is about having your children around,
enjoying time and having fun with them.
It is literally standing and watching your son
grow right out of his clothes and shoes.
Boys stretch at the pace of a race
and the mom seems to always be behind in that race.

It is going to town with the little one and hearing,
“Oh mom, we would looooove to have this.”
It is making popsicles and licking the drips,
and eating ice cream before it melts.
It is riding to Grandma’s for a chat,
tossing a fishing line and listening to the bull frogs sing.
It is the time to look back on and smile about.

Summer days are still all I remember them to be,
with a little or a lot more added to them.
Long live summer.

On Vacation They Did Go

And so it was that once upon a time,  
the tribe of Eric, son of Dan,  
loaded nearly all their worldly possessions  
upon donkeys and camels  
and set out for the land of warmth and sun,  
far, far, away.  

Even so when it had still been the first month,  
of the year of our Lord, 
long before the time of departure was at hand,  
the children of the tribe did smile, 
sighing with happiness  
and longing for the day to arrive.  

But the mother of the tribe did not smile 
and was much troubled about 
and did hurry and scurry,  
collecting, piling, removing, adding,  
and so forth, until all the bags were packed, 
repacked and packed again.  
And she, seeing the piles, did heave a sigh
and wonder if they were leaving anything behind. 
For lo, was there even a Walmart to be found
in the land of the south?  

And so it was that the day did arrive 
and many a bag was stashed into place,  
leaving only but a small spot here and there 
for the children of the tribe to recline.  
And when darkness had descended upon the earth,  
they did board the camels and donkeys 
for their long journey, 
all the while being wrought with envy 
over acquaintances who did pay the fare of a jet. 

But survive they did, even though the driving night 
was never-ending and it did feel after mile upon mile  
as if the sun might never rise again.  
But just as the good Lord said it would, it rose,  
along with the children of the tribe, 
and lo, it was evident that they were still far, far from 
the land of warmth and sun.  
And their hearts were weary and heavy-laden 
and their eyes gritty and tired,   
along with their brains.  

But lo it was, many, many hours later 
that the camels and donkey, laden down with burdens, 
did clop into the land of sun and warmth.  

And the children of the tribe were exceedingly happy 
and did exclaim over the sun and the smell  
of the ocean waves.  
But the Mother of the tribe only longed  
for a place on which to lay her weary head, 
but it was not so to be, for donkeys and camels  
were yet still laden down with burdens and bundles.  

And when it was that they were finally settled, 
there were days of castles in the sand,  
the taste of saltwater on the lips,  
hours of splashing to and fro 
in great craters filled with water, 
and minutes of quiet and chirping birds.  

Fruits of the vines of the land of warmth and sun
did they eat with great delight.  
They did also consume great quantities of 
frozen goodness, drinks of caffeine,  
along with fish, chips and all manner of good foods.  
Much reading of books, stories, and studies  
were done while warming under the great sun.  
Friends and family from afar  
were summoned and gathered and much to-do  
was made of food and fellowship.  

And so it was, that once relaxation had begun,  
that the minutes, hours, days, and week  
did speed by at a frightening speed  
and so great was the whoosh of it,  
that they were left wondering in amazement,  
“What has happened and where has it gone?” 

And lo, the days of relaxation and fun 
did come to a harsh and sudden end. 
And much weeping and wailing did threaten 
at the mere thought of reenacting  
all of the previous steps taken 
to reach the land of sun and warmth.  

But so it was to be,  
and they did pack their donkeys and camels  
with burdens aplenty, (many that they had not needed) 
and did squish in the children of the tribe 
and begin to traverse to the land of the North 
where home, family, and community did await them.  
And a good time was had by all.  

Of Things I Didn’t Know

I didn’t know…
that you could live continually in a state of zombie tired,
that coffee would look and smell so beautiful in the morning,
or that it were possible to fall asleep while reading,
and that your brain could short circuit from weariness.

I didn’t know …
that my kids would want to eat 3 meals a day.
How tired I would get of cooking those meals
and how few ideas I would have for cooking.
Or how they would want 2 snacks between every meal
and that they would prefer to inhale mainly junk food.
How many times I would eat a meal standing up
or walking around grabbing bites.

I didn’t know…
how beautiful the sound of a quiet house,
how much noise 1 boy could make,
how serious the arguing would be between my children,
or how much they would really love each other.
(At least I think they do)

I didn’t know …
how much you could hurt for your child,
how much you want them to succeed,
or how many prayers you would whisper for them.

I didn’t know …
how many times I would say, “Put your clothes away.”
how many articles of clothing I would pick off the floor,
or how many loads of laundry I would wash.
(Do they change during the night too?)
Or this one, how one piece of clothing could cause such dramatic weeping and wailing.

I didn’t know …
how much I would hate stepping on a Lego,
how they would smear toothpaste all over the sink
and spit water all over the mirror.
Or how many times they would take the pillows off the couch
for fort building day and forget to put them back on.
That I would be able to recite the stories they listen to by heart,
or how many times I would feel shock at the state of a bedroom.

I didn’t know …
how much boys hates showers,
how little girls can swim for an hour,
or how much hot water big girls can wash down the drain.
How much hair girls can drop on the floor,
and how quickly I can clog a sweeper.

I didn’t know …
what it would feel like to watch them drive out the lane alone,
to send them out into the world while wondering
if you taught them enough.
How much I would wonder how a test at school was going
or if they got another demerit or made the honor roll.
how often I would think about them during the day,
and how they come barging in the door when they get home.

I didn’t know …
how much fun it would be to go out with my girls,
to watch them become the ladies they are.
Or how much laughter and joy a boy can be,
from wrestling homework to endless teasing.

I didn’t know…
how many hours a husband could work
and still work at home in the evening.
How nice it would be when he herds the boy to bed
and to hear him tell the girls good-night.
How much I love living life with him.

I didn’t know …
how much my own Mom meant to me until I became a mom,
or how wise my Dad really was until I had no answers.
How much my siblings meant to me until I moved away,
or how much I would miss them until I lost one.

I didn’t know …
that life doesn’t get easier as you get older,
or that you don’t feel as old as the young ones think you are.
How you don’t really have wise answers for life,
you just make them up as you go.
How complicated adults can make relationships,
or how easy it was to have 15 friends when you were 10.

I didn’t know…
how much your church would mean to you,
how much you would depend of your friends and family,
and how they would pull you through trying times.

I didn’t know …
the never ending supply of Jesus until I needed it,
how his mercy and grace sustains you every day.
How often I would cry out to him in the night,
and how many times he would answer my prayers.

I didn’t know…
how often my kids would say, “I didn’t know!”

Five Years Later

“Don’t forget in the darkness what you have learned in the light.”  
-Joseph Bayly 
“Yet sometimes the darkness descends so thickly that we can barely remember the light.” 
-Phillip Yancey 

Grief, like a cloud, rolls in and fog descends 
to blanket your entire world.  
You lift your eyes and see all silvery-white,  
only a few feet before, everything else is hidden.  
You live in a world submerged, unable to observe,  
to grasp that life is moving on without the one you love.  

They say time heals the pain.  
 Time just soothes the ragged edges,  
but Jesus heals the heart.  

Slowly the morning light pours in and the fog begins to lift.  
You start to see the world around, still living life,  
but you see through new eyes. 
Grief has altered your vision,  
given a new perspective, a changed outlook on life.  
Life is not to be taken for granted,  
those closest, held dear, every day treasured.  

They say hindsight is 20/20,  
but until heaven, we see through a glass darkly. 

While blanketed in the fog, you reach with outstretched arms,  
yearning to feel His love and compassion.  
Without fail they are there, ready and waiting, always. 
When the fog has lifted, you look back and define  
beauty in the moments He gave grace,  
see His strength supplied to climb the next high mountain.  
There was comfort for the days overpowered with tears,  
mercy when we lashed out in anger, 
and peace in the middle of the storm.  

Rather than demanding God answer our “Why?” questions, 
may we instead ask “What would you have me learn?” 

Five years later, 
questions still crowd our minds, queries with no answers. 
We will live with those questions for now,
trusting God’s sovereignty. 
We live understanding that walking a fiery trial 
is not easy, it is not without pain, grief, and days of sorrow.  
Are we better for having walked this road? 
Grief has softened, taught grace, mercy, and love. 
We have learned to cherish, to hold with an open hand.   
We understand how pain and joy co-exist in life.  
Heartache made us wise, suffering strengthened us, 
and we held onto hope, gripping desperately with both hands. 
We walked the fiery trial and we learned to rest in God, 
who holds all things in His hands.  

On the foggiest night pain is real, but so is hope.

Of Camping

Growing up, camping was not a popular activity at our house. We were farmers and farmers stayed home and worked 95% of the time. Chores and all the things demanded constant attention and left little time for other things. Once a year we went to Ohio and camped with Mom’s family and that was the highlight of our year. We were kids and therefore sleeping on the ground was an adventure.

Fast forward a few years and I got married, and unknown to me, I married into a camping family. Eric soon realized that multiple camping trips a summer while sleeping on a damp, gritty air mattress in a little tent, made for an unhappy wife. Ten years and three children later, we purchased a camper. It needed an entire winter of fixing, but in the end, it was worth it. It tipped the scales to a much nicer camping experience and a much happier wife.

Our children now believe that summer must revolve around camping. If we go less then twice, it’s a crying shame, say they and their father! So, I pack the things and go along. It is still not my favorite thing to do, but has become much more tolerable then it once was. Give me a fan, some water, good company, and I will camp. Oh, and food, give me all the food.

This summer scheduled itself and we ended up with three weekends in a row of lawn chair sitting. They were good weekends, but I am now quite happy to remain in the luxury of my home for a very long time.

Generally there is a lot of game playing among the people with whom we camp. That requires too much thinking and sitting so I prefer to stroll by and catch a glimpse occasionally.

One weekend of camping was down at the Millfam farm and that is about 1/4 mile from our house. The long and the short of a weekend like that is keeping the path back the the house well traveled. We run a vehicle, the dirt bike, or the ranger home to take a shower, grab some food, bring some more clothes, take freezer food home, change a load of laundry, and you get the point. Is it technically camping? In my book it still is.

The next weekend we were in IN with my family. We didn’t pull the camper out there but instead slept in a cabin. We spent the rest of our waking hours outside enjoying the beautiful weather. We were expecting hot and humid, but instead it was perfect camping weather, with the exception of a few rain showers thrown in. Doesn’t it always rain at least once when you camp?

Cooking over a fire doesn’t really thrill any of us so we had a few big griddles and grills along to save ourselves some work. You say it’s not camping to cook like that? It’s my kind of camping.

Saturday we did some exploring to places we went when we were kids. It was fun reminiscing those Sunday afternoon drives we used to take.

All the grandchildren except Madison.

And when it rains it pours. We were hiding out under everything we could find, table clothes, beach towels, and even trash bags, and the wind was still driving the rain in on us.

When the rain finally stopped, it was time for a fire. We are not your typical campers and therefore not your regular fire builders either. Dad was spraying diesel fuel trying to build it to roaring in just few minutes while Tys strolled by, hoping not to melt his trash bag raincoat.

Evening campfires are probably my favorite part about camping. Everyone gathered around, kids roasting marshmallows, conversations running from one topic to the next, good food being eaten, and depending which group you camp with, there will be some campfire singing. There always good times around the fire.

Do you like to go camping?
It’s growing on me.
Maybe when I’m old it will be my favorite pastime.