Burdocks and Blizzards

dsc_9350There is a downfall to writing and putting pictures out there for the world to see.  I am able to frame in with my words and camera exactly what I want you, the reader, to hear and see.  In an effort to be as truthful as possible and yet not hurt the people I write about, there can be a tendency towards distortion.  You may become convinced I live in a bubble where everything is beautiful.

I smile when I zoom my lens in on the flower or the nest, knowing that you would probably rather see beauty than ugliness. I could include what’s left of our pole shed which stands in the background of many of my family pictures.  It collapsed 3 years ago and has become an eyesore, with  burdocks growing and entangling themselves in the rubble. Time and funding for repair/cleanup is scarce, so it has become part of my daily view.

When proof reading my last post on Soul Conservation, I debated about changing a word.  When I wrote about “laying stones on sunny days,”  I don’t want you, the reader, to think that we only have sunny days here at Wintergreen Farm.  In fact there are many stormy, ugly and just plain old tough days I would prefer to leave out of the picture.

Six years ago, we helped our daughter and her fiance plan and pull off an outdoor wedding in “The Meadow.”  The Meadow was actually an old hay-field surrounded by trees, that required the entire time of their engagement to prepare.  Fortunately, it was only a 4 month engagement;  4 months of labor which included broken down lawnmowers, endless raking by hand, and  battles with bears.  (I’ll leave you hanging on that one…. stay tuned for the story in a post somewhere down the road.)

The week before the wedding was nothing but discouraging.  Rain, rain, and more rain. I think snow was even in the forecast.   Everyone felt we should give up, cut our losses, and hold the wedding in the church down the road. There was just no way an outdoor wedding could happen.

After the port-a-potty truck made his delivery, the short drive across a ditch into The Meadow,  was getting impassable and there was friction in the family.  (I’ll use the general terms family and friction, to protect the party or parties involved… once again, only framing in the part of the picture I want you to see…) “Whose fault was it that this  hadn’t been dealt with a long time ago, on a sunny day.  And how on earth would the truck make it in to deliver the tent, let alone 250 guests with their cars?”  The torrential rain was definitely washing away the gully  that week and threatening my sanity also.

I know it’s just a wedding,  but really, what were we to do with the messy corner we had backed ourselves into?

We were feeling desperate, so in cold, torrential rain,  I found myself helping my  determined, now son-in-law lay big slabs of concrete to stabilize the drive.  With rivulets of rain, streaming down his handsome face, he declared he had no intention of giving up now.   The wedding would go on as planned, even if people had to huddle under umbrellas, and hike a half a mile to attend.  I had envisioned flower arranging, not road construction on the day before the ceremony, but heartened by his determination, we heaved and shoved the heavy chunks;  slipping and sloshing through the slippery mud,  and when we had finished, along with sore backs,  we had quite a substantial drive for people to cross the following day.

In my previous post, I also mentioned that we “even have fond memories of where, [or when] we read certain books.”  Yes, some of the memories include fair days of reading out in the forest, under a canopy of pine,  other memories are of reading in the dead of winter, during a power outage. Here in Wisconsin, if you have no alternative heat source when the power goes out, you bundle up,  light the candles, and snuggle  with your children and a good book.  (In order to keep the pipes from freezing, we have even left a small flame burning on our gas stove.) Determined to keep laying those stones, even on stormy days,  I  have tried to create an aura of excitement about going through a trial, such as no heat and electricity.

What better way to bring to life Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, than to only have candles for light, a small flame for heat, and a resourcefully made meal or two while we waited for the power to be restored. (Beenie Weenies over a candle flame, anyone?) The wind howling outside brought home the reality of what the dear pioneer family went through the winter of 188o-’81 when the snow drifted 12 feet high on the train tracks, cutting off their main food supply. They not only survived, they lived out incredible stories  we now have the privilege of reading, either on a sunny warm day, or on a frightfully cold, gray day.

By the way, my children have  commented on  how they loved that particular experience of reading through the storm,  bundled together under a pile of quilts on the couch.   What did Pa’s hands feel like if they were so chapped and sore he couldn’t play his violin to cheer his family?  How did Ma stay so calm when their food supply was running out?  And just how  scared was  Almanzo  when he struck out into the unknown;  a drifted, frozen prairie, to find wheat for the little town of DeSmet?  Those were some of the questions that came to our minds as the wind whipped up drifts of snow around our little house on the hill.

Don’t be misled.  Not all days are sunny here, but  I have found that stones can still be laid in the middle of the storms. Though I much prefer flower arranging, the job of road construction can be just as satisfying.

Soul Conservation

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We’ve had some torrential rains lately and our long gravel driveway is showing some wear and tear.  I like the expression “gully washers” when referring to the storms that roll through and literally wash away sections of our drive.  As we bounce along, returning from a shopping trip to Aldis, it makes it more exciting; navigating around and through some of the deeper cuts caused by the rivers of rain, if  I tell my kids, “Boy, that last storm was a real gully washer!”

My father-in-law seems to enjoy filling in the crevices with larger rocks.  Many a sunny day, he will drive over in his John Deere Gator and deliver a load of rocks gathered from our plowed fields.  He will patiently place them in the deeper ruts,  making it a bit more difficult for the sand and gravel to wash away in the next storm.  I appreciate his faithfulness.

Some people may think I’m overly sentimental and hang on too tightly to the past, and now I am finding my children doing the same thing. My older children were commenting on how much they missed the good old days…the 90’s!  They went on to say how kids “nowadays” can’t even carry on a conversation,  and when kids are hanging out with their friends, they really aren’t together because everyone is on their own tech device.  Oh how they missed the days when kids rode bikes around town without a worry, and they were amazed at what a poor work ethic most kids had “nowadays.” Smiling, I mused to myself, “They are sounding like adults.” But I also  felt sad and wondered, “Why is it that kids nowadays suffer from what I call  soul erosion?”

In my mind’s eye, it is as if so many kids  go through gully washers of incredible magnitude and they have nothing solid to keep their very souls from eroding. They get slammed with the storms of divorce, of neglect, of abuse, of lies about God, of lies about themselves to name a few,  and then we as a culture are surprised when we see the effects. As I look into the faces of so many people,  I see anger, dullness, and sometimes  completely  vacant expressions.  Kids,  spending  so much of their lives in computer generated, imaginary worlds, or in drug induced,  hallucinogenic worlds, that they appear sickly, pale and sometimes even toothless (from using meth,) make my heart ache.

Try as I may, I can not shield my children from every storm that comes along, but I can work hard at placing solid things into the very heart and soul of my own children; things that will help their souls from eroding when the inevitable storms of life hit.  Like my father-in-law laying stones in our driveway, it takes time and patience,  but hopefully the results will be worth it.

What are some of the stones I’ve deliberately placed?  Hmmm… let me see… There is the stone of reminding my children that  God is good, in control,  and our lives are in His capable hands.  There is the stone of remembering our heritage.  Great men and women came before us from both my side of the family and my husband’s, so we tell and retell  stories from our childhoods.  We also read, out loud,  the memoirs of several of our loved ones;  every one of them tell of God’s faithfulness in hard times.  Another stone I love to lay is the stone of reading good books together; books we now all treasure.  We read books that are heart warming or epic, books that have characters worth emulating  or not emulating, favorites by Beverly Cleary  and classics by C.S. Lewis. (We even have fond memories of where we read them!)   It is an honor to lay the stone of learning from older people  and enjoying conversations with them where ever we go; churches, museums, nursing homes, or even McDonald’s.  I love the fact that my 10-year-old can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere.   Another stone that is often overlooked in busy families is just  spending time together;  whether it be walking in the woods enjoying the beauty God created, playing music, or cooking.  (Our latest morning challenge is who can pour the best latte art!)  Such everyday  stones laid  on sunny days, but stones of eternal value.

When I am old, I hope I can look back and know that I did my best;  patiently placing stones that will stay with my children when the storms of life threaten to erode their souls, and that they in turn will prepare their children.

I have no greater joy than to be a soul conservationist.

So…help me, God.

DSC_9113Music has always played a big part in my life.   I remember how much I was influenced by the great writers of both pop and Disney during my growing up years.  Visions of romance swirled in my head as I imagined being  “torn between two lovers,”  or that “someday my prince would come.”  Fortunately, my legs were gangly, I sported grey, plastic aviators, shiny braces, and had thin hair; a Disney maiden I was not. Looking back, I’m sure it saved me a lot of heart ache.

Recently, we gave our daughter the Hal Leonard Disney Collection for piano, vocal and guitar.  It is wonderful to have all of those favorite songs, complete with words, in one great piano book and my daughter is enjoying it thoroughly. I find myself singing along… “So this is love,  hmmm… so this is love.  So this is what makes life divine.  I’m all aglow, hmmm… and now I know, the key to all heaven is mine“…..What a lovely song from the movie Cinderella;   So This is Love.

 As I was thinking about what to say to a young, soon-to-be-wed young  woman  at her bridal shower, the thought came to me that the song,  So This Is Love, could be a bit deceiving.  The Bible says, “Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friend.”     So, that is love.   So that is the greatest love.   Yes, there is a place for the heart-fluttery type of love, but the greatest love is sacrificial.  God not only told us about it,  He sent His Son,  Jesus to  show us love, and then He asks us to walk in His footsteps…all the way to the cross.

It may be very romantic to think that some day, if I ever had to, I would die for my loved-one.  It sounds very heroic and grand doesn’t it?   Well, so far, I haven’t been asked to give my life for my husband, but maybe, by being sacrificial in small things, I  can make a  big difference in our marriage.   It becomes very romantic, knowing my husband also loves me sacrificially, and it becomes very heroic in the long haul, when my marriage points other to our loving Savior.   I can choose to pick up my husband’s dirty socks without complaining;  I can be patient and kind when he is having a tough day,  or I can surprise him with his favorite dessert  even though I’m tired of doing dishes.  It’s those little things that may be my  little crosses to pick up and bear everyday.  They are good practice for the heavier crosses that could come my way.

In planning for the bridal shower devotional, I was struggling to remember what the traditional marriage vows stated.   Silly, huh.  I should know them after being married for 29 years, but when I was trying to recite them out loud for my children, I attached an ending- the words that are usually said in a court room when you promise to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; so help me God.”   My children laughed with me because I can be so sure that I am correct.  Well, they were right.   I was mixing the two vows together, but I still think I’m  correct,  because “so help me God” should be attached to the ending.  It is only with His supernatural help that I can fulfill those promises,  and  love sacrificially.

I, ____, take you, ____ , to be my lawfully wedded husband from this day forward, to have and to hold,  for better,  for worse, for richer, for poorer,  in sickness and in health, till death do us part, so help me God. 

  “So, this is love,  hmmm…  So,  help me God,  hmmm…        So…help me, God.”