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
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 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
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!
Being a mom is not a BEING LIFE; it is a DOING LIFE.
It’s a constant, daily, demanding string of decisions between selfishness and donating love cheerfully.
When a sleepy wanderer-child interrupts my calm early morning…
When I want the kitchen all to myself…
When I had a busy day and just wanted to rest….
When I am trying to think and someone asks me rapid-fire questions…
Will I snap in irritation, sigh impatiently…or donate love cheerfully?
1. to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation of, as to a fund or cause:to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.
2. To provide (blood, tissue, or an organ) for transfusion, implantation, or transplant.
Yep, that is motherhood. Donating gifts, contributions, blood, sweat tears, heart, soul and more — whatever one has left to give.
It’s holding tight, It’s lettin’ go It’s flyin’ high and layin’ low It lets your strongest feelin’s show And your weakness too It’s a little and a lot to ask An endless and a welcome task Love isn’t somethin’ that we have It’s somethin’ that we do…
There’s no request, too big or small We give ourselves, we give our all Love isn’t some place that we fall It’s somethin’ that we do…
I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.
Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…
“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:
A huge watermelon
2 XL bags of tortilla chips
A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
A 10-pound package of ground beef
And an institutional sized box of cereal
When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.
That was just how she gave.
She gave BIG. and
She gave generously.
On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.
Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.
Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.
One time she took me aside and said:
“Lisa. You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”
She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.
“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”
Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!
Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:
She works with her hands in delight!
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her.
And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”
In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage.
On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family.
Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her.
Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.
After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.
While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.
Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen.
This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.
My husband is running for a local government office, so he and I have been knocking on random doors, asking strangers in our county if they would be willing to place one of his political signs on their property. For me, this is like a series of cheap and daunting date nights; he and I with our clipboards and phone books, pulling up to farmhouses we have only viewed from a distance. I slowly crunch gravel as I tiptoe out, hoping for a positive connection, while at the same time, hoping no one is home.
Door knocking is full of surprises. Since we started, I have had strange dogs jump into my lap, and felt forced to pet them while listening to passionate stories of local history and watershed issues.
We have been chased down by a protective father whose child was in the house alone when we knocked on the door, and after the child phoned him, he pursued us for two miles to find out our business.
Yesterday, while chatting with one woman at her door, her husband yelled out the screen door: “If you are not wearing a mask, we are not putting up a sign for you.”
So be it.
But door knocking has been unexpectedly rewarding. We have met farmers — smart, sensible, resourceful individuals who push on with their strenuous, smelly, thankless work through hot haying weather and frigid winters. I am grateful to live around such hardy, independent people.
When we approach doors, we are reminded that joy and pain and history live inside these unpretentious homes. One neighbor greeted us warmly, even though we were strangers. After connecting ourselves to a common acquaintance, we watched tears trickle down his weathered face while he apologized, confessing that his wife had just died a few weeks ago. One hour later, we left his kitchen not caring why we had come and glad we had offered ourselves as company.
Door knocking has given us a reason to march onto a neighbor’s acreage and introduce ourselves. We have been living next to these people for more than two decades, and have never met some of them, seen their backyards, or known things like:
Some dairy farms offer spa-like perks for their cows, such as fans, body brushes and pedicures.
One neighbor drove a daily carpool 40+ years to work at a candy factory in the Twin Cities.
Around here, we have some innovative business owners, former federal agents, and 2:00 a.m. risers.
So, I guess we will keep knocking on doors, putting up signs, and handing out pieces of glossy paper, because there are more fascinating neighbors to meet.