any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.
Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.
Someday, you will look back and see
the big picture
and the footprints of God
who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.
Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.
You got this.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – from 1 Corinthians 13
My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them.
We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.
Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.
Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.
My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau
My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone — never talking down to people.
He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”
I learned to create art.
My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.
My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls. To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.
I learned to seek God.
They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography. Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.
** This was the question I got today from Storyworth. Storyworth was a unique gift I received from my children on Mother’s Day. I receive a weekly email question to answer, and it usually brings forth a flood of memories. It’s a good exercise for any blogger and the plan is for all of these excerpts to turn into a lovely book, full of a lifetime of memories. This gift of a Storyworth book is the kind of thing that is perfect to give to an aging parent who might be in danger of losing her full brain functionality soon…hehe…probably why I received it 🙂
This spring, some berserk birds are inhabiting our rural property. Their quirky obsessions are both driving me nuts and teaching me things about life, business and family.
Birds rise early.
The sky is still gray and dusky when the wild birds start chattering. I cannot imagine what is going on in their minds, but kudos for their predictably cheerful morning attitude. Although scientists don’t have a complete understanding of why birds make so much noise (how could they?) there are occasional clues. We know that Mama Robin’s chastising screech means that she is livid when we get too close to her nest, which she built in a highly trafficked position next to the front door.
Birds get to work.
One spring morning, I clipped the jeans, shirts and hoodies to the clothesline. Later that day, I noticed the beginnings of a nest being built in the hood of the hoodie. Birds do not mess around. They do not procrastinate and they let nothing stand in their way. They do not always choose the wisest places to work, but when they act, it is swift and confident.
Birds are relentless.
That irritating redwing blackbird swoops down and scolds us when we circle the pond on our regular walks around the property. Feverishly protecting his nesting territory, he continues his officious circuit until we are completely out of sight.
Then, there are the barn swallows. We left our garage door open last week, and now they consider it fair game for new construction. Every time we open the garage door, we are in danger of a swooping bird, although their timing seems to be impeccable — they have never made impact with the slamming door.
Birds sing often.
Our resident Baltimore Oriole is a lovely vocalist, and he sings a memorable tune. While weeding the garden, I repeated his singsong pattern several times to myself. Why not sing? Reports confirm that there are scientific reasons to start singing:
Singing releases endorphins, a hormone that is associated with feelings of pleasure.
The hormone oxytocin is also released while singing; this body chemical enhances feelings of bonding and trust.
While singing, individuals sustain lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Studies repeatedly find that singing relieves anxiety.
Heart rates sync up during group singing.
Since most diurnal birds cannot see in the dark, birds sleep when the daylight fades. I can tell when things are winding down, because the singing and chatter becomes sporadic, slow and calming. Once to bed, birds don’t wake up until morning.
Birds do take naps, so I will take that as a confirmation of what I was hoping:
short power naps increase the chances that we may rise early to sing cheerfully, work confidently, and protect our loved ones vigorously.
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.
I have decided to jump in a start a new business, writing website and blog content, creating professional bios and more. The name of my business and website is: Eleven Star Content (inspired by the number of children God gave me!)
For four years, I have been freelancing through Upwork, a global marketplace that has enabled me to write for a diverse assortment of clients, such as:
real estate agents
These varied projects have acted like on-the-job-training, taking me from minimal writing background to a versatile and growing collection of writing experience.
This blog, My Word Soup, has helped too, and I hope to still be here writing out my personal musings, poetry, homeschooling thoughts, humble Bible commentary, family foibles and more.
for your comments, encouragement, inspiration and love
that has also been a big part of launching me into this new endeavor!
I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.
I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:
“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”
So we started off on a well known path.
They were trailing behind me.
Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.
Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.
Nah, I will wait a little.
That throaty, burping frog pond.
That airy, whistling, bird choir.
The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.
I couldn’t miss this.
Spring was waking up here.
The sun was melting my winter slouch.
My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.
“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.
Maybe this is what he meant.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
This is my Father’s world: The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock
The beach is mesmerizing, and I could sit and watch the translucent-teal waves foam up on the sand all day long.
The way God fashioned waves is a repeating design pattern in life…but that is another blog post in itself.
Patterns & People
Last night, after the beach, after makeup removal, after getting cozy on my chair, Gino asked me to go for a walk around the colorful 4 x 4 block radius that we have called “home” this past week, where he has explored so much more than I.
How could I say no?
The air was balmy on our last night, as he led me through the upscale design district in my pre-bedtime state of appearance. We pranced right through a busy, outdoor bar where fancy people chatted in a courtyard. We weaved through a maze of colors and patterns, past designer shops with their sparsely-chic shelves and products. Everywhere we went, it smelled like someone wearing high-end perfume had just recently sailed through.
All good things must come to an end.
When I start calling our place “home”…
When I start thinking about a Starbucks run every day at 3 p.m. just because it is within walking distance…
When I start swaying to Latino rap like it’s normal (all those Uber rides)…
Then I know it is time to hightail my homeschool-mom-self back to the Midwest.
You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…
My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…
“It would be fun to go with you.
I wonder if I could swing it.
Would you hate that?”
Then, I let it rest.
A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”
“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.
My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb.
Arriving in Miami
We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District.
First Meal, Best Meal
Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.
Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!
Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”
I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:
…and suddenly Gino announced:
“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”
I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands.
“Do you have everything?” I asked.
“Yep.” he said.
Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!
We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.
After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.
After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.
Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”
After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:
You know you can go places without me, right?
This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?
To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon.
As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?
I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.
Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone.
So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).
This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.
“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.
But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!
Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.
This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.
Mama Makeover: Part 2
I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.
Mama Makeover: Part 3
Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.) I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas.
Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row. At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.
In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:
Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…
The Makeover Continues
Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most. My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….
Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible
Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend.
Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.
I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.
I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:
A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)
Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?
Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…”
Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?
God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.
Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach.
So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.