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.

Madison Reads

And when she learned to read,
a whole new world opened before her eyes.

Long before Madison was old enough to go to school,
she was wishing and longing and waiting to go.
Her number one priority in life
was to learn to read, books were waiting,
stories hidden on the pages, anticipated.

Kindergarten was so exciting.
She would come home in the afternoon
and chatter until bedtime about everything she had learned.
She told of numbers and letters, what Jenson did,
what Delanie said, and what Carolyn had told them to do.
She was going to learn to read.

First grade was all she ever wished for.
Miss Lois kept everyone entertained.
There were object lessons, recess, green eggs and ham,
eggs to hatch, and chickens to carry home.
Best of all, she finally learned to read.

She read little books and big books,
skinny books, fat books, funny books,
and books that were over her head.
She read to her siblings
and told long drawn out book stories to her parents.
She read inside, curled up on the chair,
and outside on the swing.
She sneakily read while she folded laundry,
and of course, late at night in bed.
She had learned to read
and a whole new world had opened up before her.

Leaving Miss Lois’ room was cause for tears.
She was sure there would never be a teacher
she loved as much or could teach so well.
But Miss Brit swept in and taught with passion
and Madison fell in love again.

Those years of school flew by,
full of fun, good memories, and laughter.
There were creative writing lessons
that lit a fire in Madison.
She poured her all into her stories,
spinning tales for her teacher’s pleasure.
A substitute teacher was long remembered
for his mud ball fights and a water hose.
Once upon a time, she tangled with a cousin
in a sprawling, scrapping fistfight.
There were art classes, long walks in the fall,
and a painted paper dragon to walk around.
Many times, Miss Brit took Madison under her wing,
listened, consoled, and guided her.

All the while, Madison read on.
She read everything in the school library,
asking for books on shelves for older kids.
She lapped up everything from the public library,
soaking in the words, pouring over them,
reading and rereading the best.
When engrossed in a book,
nothing phased her, nothing was seen or heard,
she was completely oblivious to the world around.

In 6th grade Madison moved on to Alan’s room,
merely quaking at the thought.
She remembered times from years past
when she sneakily traded jobs to avoid
having to go into his room.
And now, here she was,
about to spend the rest of her school years
under his tutorage, sure that none
could match so great a teacher as Miss Britt.
Words from older and wiser ones
told her Alan’s teaching could not be compared.
In no time at all, he had put her fears at ease,
and once again, she was sure she was
being taught by the best.

Social life was her favorite pastime,
all her spare minutes were wrapped up with friends.
Sleepovers with Audrey and the girls,
paired in groups for a Science Fair,
or battling it out in a water fight.
School plays each year were a highlight,
practice days always led to good times.
She loved Talktionary in the mornings
or a softball game at recess,
and slowly she improved in volleyball.
There were Honor rolls and field trips,
bus rides, and squashed into vans,
laughing, talking, and having a good time.

Along with reading,
she took up a baking hobby.
There were cakes, muffins, cookies,
and pastries of the likes her family could not name.
There were fails and flops,
but she persevered and soon turned things
into delectable desserts.
When it was too much to eat at home,
she carried it along to school
to feed her classmates.
If there was food involved in a Science Fair,
Madison was usually volunteering.
Food from Israel, an Ohio State cookie,
and even a cake like a heart.

High school brought new challenges,
always something new to learn.
Algebra was a test of her good spirit,
the dreaded math equations seemed to best her every time.
Biology was a favorite with many good times in class.
Instead of digging right into cellular structure,
they started with a joke from each of the three,
waiting to see who would laugh first.
Class time often involved iced coffees
and lots of snacks to power through.
Chemistry stretched her brain
and tried her smarts, but she prevailed
and enjoyed her time in that book.

Since reading was such a key factor in her life,
it surely meant others liked to read just as well.
Books and more books were stuffed into her bag
and toted along to school.
“Have you read this one? You should read that one.”
was her encouraging way of passing on her love of words.
Soon her locker library held nothing but books.
She would wheel and deal,
passing out new ones and collecting the returned.
She acquired a small bookshelf from a cousin,
built just to fit her locker,
to help run her budding librarian career.

When it seemed all books were exhausted, still she read on.
She gathered information, stored it in her brain,
spewed knowledge to her family’s bewilderment,
while still reading and learning more.
She studied medical textbooks,
read fiction, biographies, poems,
and retained copious amounts of knowledge.
She read her Bible, dug in and studied,
changed, grew, and loved Jesus more.
Her soft spirit portrayed what she read
was abiding in her heart.

Life took a turn for Madison
and her last year of school was not
all she had dreamed of.
Plagued with health issues,
she missed a lot of activities,
spent most of her hours sleeping or studying ,
while still trying to make the most
of her time left in school.

In the Spring she waved good-bye to classmates,
excited for plans of Spring break,
never knowing she was leaving school for the last time.
Plans disrupted, schedules changed,
quarantined at home, and home school with Mom,
the schoolroom was left behind, quiet and empty.
She was disappointed, there was so much missed,
yet through it all, her cheerful attitude prevailed,
and still she smiled.
She bent to her task, read and studied,
and pulled up her grades,
never giving in to the challenges before her.

Madison, as you graduate
and leave your school years behind,
keep your smiling, cheerful attitude,
and continue fighting for the underdog.
Don’t quit reading, studying, and learning,
always strive to grow and mature, especially in Jesus.
Never give up, cultivate your soft heart,
reach out to Jesus, lean on his strength,
and no matter what life brings your way,
with Him, you will prevail.