Tag Archives: family

Ok . . . Just a Note About that Last Author

Maybe I’ll share just one thing about the author in A Bouquet of Brides who I chose not to introduce this week: me. You know plenty about me already, right? And my writing journey has been so entwined with several of the authors in this collection, that you got bits of my story as I talked about them. But I want to share one more thing. This:

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Why that picture?

Because God sent these angels to hold me together on my writing journey, to walk with me into greater personal freedom, and to cheer me on in my calling.

It’s my prayer group, and we’re beginning our 7th year of meeting regularly. We call ourselves the Council of Kings. We believe that God has a destiny and a kingdom for each of us. (Not just in this group. For you too.)

I love you Deb, Kathy, Margie, and Jill. As I move forward in the writing and speaking the Lord is calling me to do, I’m grateful for the support God has given me by His Spirit and through loved ones.

Which means I need to add one more picture. It’s not easy having a writer for a wife or mom. She can get really distracted and disappear for hours. Her income is sporadic. Her tears come often. But these special people fill my heart with joy even on the hard days.

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Until Next time,

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A Momma’s Heart for Her Graduate

1As a little boy you told me, “I’ll always want you to hug me, Mom.” You were frustrated because your big brother had just said I hugged him too much. Not only were you concerned my feelings had been hurt, but you couldn’t imagine not wanting hugs.

I said I wouldn’t hold you to the promise once you were 11 or 13. But you never changed. That sweet little boy who loved his momma’s hugs let me hug him through those insecure preteen years. Even in front of friends you’d hug me good-bye. You were never too cool for love.

Recently as you watched (and grieved) your older siblings leave the nest, you promised to hug me at least once a day. It was your remedy for my tears, I think. And you’ve kept your word. You’ve always been good at loving, Sam–and letting others love you, too. Some people have to learn to love, to say kind words, to hug, to lovingly tease, but not you. You make loving look easy.

20140718_165152Your faith, too, seems as natural to you as breathing. I’m sure during the hard times you were like anyone else, questioning the pain. Two hip surgeries and the struggle to return to your passion as an athlete tested it for sure, as did the times money was tight, and we didn’t know how to give you what you needed. But I don’t remember you having deep questions or anger. Mostly I remember you speaking faith to me when I struggled with my own. Fear would close in on me. I’d wrestle with God, reminding Him of the needs I couldn’t meet. Then you’d waltz in with your natural smile, put your arm around me, and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has this.” It makes me grin to remember the twinkle in your eye when God would solve the problem, and you’d say, “I told you everything would be okay.”

It’s delightful to see you hit a home run, write a creative story, or earn academic awards, but it’s your passion for God and people, your faith, your love, that bring me the most joy. Your favorite time of the week is volunteering in kids’ ministry at church. I love that you’re considering this as a career. I love that you chose to raise money to go on a mission’s trip this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about everything God does in and through you.11083920_10153255545128179_7517803830470359130_n

This year you have truly stepped into a new place, successfully completing two semesters at college while still in high school, working an insane amount of hours at your new job, and keeping up with a demanding varsity baseball schedule. I worried and fussed about all the demands upon you, but I shouldn’t have. You handled it. There were times you were exhausted. I wanted you to quit work or at least ask for time off, but you persevered, building a savings account and enjoying paying your own way. Just another part of manhood you’re stepping into. I’m proud of you. Of your perseverance, hard work, and determination.

As I prayed about this special day, this day when you are honored as a high school graduate, I asked the Lord what 10He saw. My pen flowed across journal pages thinking about how you bring such joy and love into this world. How you notice beauty. Offering uplifting words. (It’s a good thing you also have your daddy’s ornery streak and quick humor to help balance all that sweetness!) Love making people happy. I felt like the Lord told me to let you love life and help other love it and not impose upon you my hyper-active need to work and succeed. That you would be one of the lucky ones who could be productive without having to first get stressed out. That’s pretty cool. He also reminded me that you are becoming a wonderful communicator. I can’t wait to see where that goes.

Then He brought three men from the Bible to mind, all communicators. The first is your namesake, Samuel. Like Samuel you have been learning to discern God’s Voice from a young age, and like Samuel God will increasingly speak to you, and you will be able to share hope and wisdom with others as you listen to what God says and speak when He nudges you to speak.

The second one who came to mind was King David. Like you, he was a worshiper. He was passionate about God and God’s people. He noticed and celebrated beauty. He was creative. Somehow David was a fierce and manly warrior while maintaining a tender heart that produced the Psalms, some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. You have a heart like David, and the Lord is making you a strong, mighty man while protecting that heart that bring Him and others such joy.

The last name I wrote in my journal was Paul, again your namesake. Paul was passionate about God’s grace. His understanding of grace continues to affect how we see God and ourselves over 2,000 years later. Though one of the most powerful leaders of the new church, Paul struggled with a weakness. He asked God three times to simply take it away, but God told him to look to Him, that His grace would be sufficient for him. Like Paul you are passionate about grace. You long to see yourself as God sees you and to help others see themselves the way God sees them. Like Paul you have weakness (don’t we all?), and God said this was okay, that your struggles help you look to Him and rely upon Him in ways you wouldn’t without them.

As I finished my prayer time yesterday I felt the Lord remind me that David was the youngest of his brothers. As the youngest I know you sometimes struggled to find your own place. You had three awesome older siblings you looked up to. You wanted to excel as each of them had. In life. In character. It had to be hard sometimes to forge your own path. You loved them so much and wanted to be yourself even as you wanted to be like them. But you have succeeded, my son. You have stepped into manhood uniquely you even as you share many of the same traits I love about Samuel Moldenhauerthem. And as I prayed yesterday I feel the Lord gave me a promise for you, that He has seen your heart, and He is pleased. That though you are the youngest, like King David you will not be overlooked. He is raising you up to be a man of influence who will impact this world for good.

And so I release you to it, Sam. With pride. Joy. Confidence. I know His plans for you are good, and like God, I trust your heart.

Gift Upon Gift

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Joy upon Joy.

After I posted last Wednesday something beautiful happened. I got an email offering me a JOB singing WORSHIP music. There are few things I enjoy more than singing, and no singing I love more than music that focuses me on God.

You know, Jesus tells those He cares about not to worry. But that post on Wednesday was related to worry. Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story, but this is not the right time. Anyway, here I am stuffing my emotions and eating my emotions, and not ready to talk to God about my emotions. I mean I know I need to pray, but it was just one of those times I didn’t feel like talking.

So in the middle of all this angst the call comes for this job I applied for. The worship pastor hires me to sing in the church choir. He needs a section leader type who can help carry the sound. I’m thrilled. I mean, really? I’ve been asking God for a little extra income knowing I am not supposed to take a full-time job because He’s asked me to enter more fully into the writing and speaking He asked me to do. For years I’ve also told Him I miss singing. So there He is, LOVE in ACTION, giving me a job that feels like play.

The worship pastor says he knows it is late notice, but I’d be welcome to come early for the church dinner and a lenten service. Now because of this big thing in my life I was trying not to worry about I’d decided about 3 pm to put on my jammies and lose myself in one of my favorite BBC mini-series. Instead I’m putting on makeup and rushing out the door. The soup and salad is wonderful, the people precious and welcoming.

Then the service begins.

I’m not overly familiar with liturgical worship or church calendar, but have sung a lot of high church music over the years in choirs and as a music minor in college. The service was only 30 minutes and a gentle, simple time of reflection. Peace washed over me in the words sung in the liturgy.

God is in control.

He sees.

The pastor encourages us to write out a prayer and place it at one of the crosses at the front of the room. I lay my burden down.

No emotional processing, crying,  or hours of journal writing (which is often my MO). Instead a simple laying down. Trusting.

“Sorry I’ve blown you off all day, Lord,” I whisper.

I feel His gentle answer. He understands a momma’s heart. He knows sometimes it’s just too deep for words. He’s not offended. He knows I couldn’t talk about it yet.

He removes all guilt. He doesn’t comment on my emotional eating or how I should know better. He doesn’t chastise me in any way. That’s simply not His character.

His character is to love even when I don’t open myself up to that love.

Even though I couldn’t seem to formulate a prayer, He answered the wordless prayer of my heart. He set it all up, my Sweet, Sweet, God. Pouring peace and joy in unexpected ways.

He soothed the deep waters of this little momma and made it all okay.

How I love Him.

Until next time,

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Sweeping Girls off their Feet

This is too fun! Last year my oldest son and his buddy decided to sweep girls off their feet for Valentine’s Day. See for yourself how the women at their school received their good-natured attentions.

Have a beautiful day!

Until next time,

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PS It’s hard to tell what they are handing the girls who get swept away. It’s chocolate. ;o)

PPS Feel free to share and like this video. It’s had over 95,000 hits. It will only take a few more for it to be monetized. Who knows? If we all share it maybe it can start helping with college tuition.

PPPS While both of these fine men were foot lose and fancy free last year at this time, this year they each have their own special Valentine Lady. Now they can apply their charms to being sure ONE special girl stays “swept off her feet.”

Did God Laugh?

“Have you heard God laugh today?”

The private message came from out of the blue from a friend I rarely hear from. She said she felt she was supposed to ask me that question.

It haunted me.

My days have been serious. A best friend’s husband has cancer. I’m still adjusting to way too much quiet. The voice in my head (NOT the True voice in my heart) says all kinds of mean things to me.

How do you hear God’s laughter?

I believe He laughs. Is full of good humor.

But where do I find it, this God-laughter?

The questions stayed with me for the next few days, which happened to include a wonderful snowfall AND Superbowl Sunday.

snow new deckThis meant big brother drove home from college to hang with the guys.

It also meant lots of testosterone at my house.

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Jerry and I spent a fair amount of time at the kitchen window watching those overgrown boys.

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“They’re like frisky calves.”

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“Little” brother (all 6 foot 1 inches of him) and his best friend piled a mound of snow on our deck. Brother-in-law had the video ready to catch slow-mo action.

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“Big” brother (not quite six foot) awaited the challenge.

 

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Big brother would strip down (covering only the most important parts with clothing)

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Then he would lie on the snow and “little” brother and best friend would bury him.

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And yes I do believe I heard God laugh.

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

Letting Go (Again)

IMAG0129The house is empty except for me.

After all the bustle, all the people, all of the cooking and feeding and talking, I am exhausted.

But more than that, the Mommy heart once again has to say goodbye.

I awoke to my youngest son rushing out the door for his first “real” job. My husband left before that. The other boys (men, really) drove away yesterday to face the grind of a semester end and finals week. My daughter is with her husband.

The only sound I hear is the gentle hum of my laptop.

It would be easier to say goodbye if my boys had looked eager to leave. My oldest worked on a major paper until the minute he drove away, his stress levels palpable. My middle son is farther from home, too far for a quick weekend visit. He is where God has called him, (I know this!) but he is lonely. He said one of the things he missed most was an environment where spiritual conversations happen. That it is very dry where he is.

That it was hard to go back.

I suppose the tears slipping from my eyes have dual prompts. I miss him terribly, but I also cry for him, for the path he now walks, mostly alone.

Never alone. Because I have given him to the One who never leaves or forsakes.

But beyond the reach of Momma’s arms.

But never beyond the reach of Momma’s prayers.

Whew.

And so I’ll keep praying.

A friend told me, “Transitioning from under the wings of God at one’s parents’ house can be hard as children emerge into adulthood. It’s taking what was safe and “belonged” to mom and/or dad and making it your own, then trying to integrate it into the bold-faced truth of life. It’s almost like they have to learn how to walk again. A lot of the times they slip and fall or, if they’re tired of the bumps and bruises, decide to try another path. But God IS faithful and promises us this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This is right. It is so right–the moving out and beyond. I want them to be established. Independent. Strong.

My son can’t see his growth yet, but I do. He is emerging, growing into the skin of manhood he long ago donned. The foundation–for good or not, I pray for good–is laid. And now he builds.

Not me and dad.

Each child now adult chooses which bricks will make the man or woman.

I can no longer control. I can no longer choose for them.

Even my advice must be offered sparingly and with prayerful timing. Some personalities receive it more quickly than others.

It is my job to be wise about when and what I share with them. If I give them the freedom to be adults, they allow me the advice-giving. If I push too hard, their ears close.

Which is as it should be.

Really, it is not my life to build. I no longer pour the concrete, frame the structure.

It is their turn.

I survive this because they are not alone. The One who watches and sees, the One who promises to complete that which He started, is overseeing the process. And while my children still choose, there is a hand upon theirs helping them lift the right bricks. There is a whisper in their hearts directing their choices.

Thankfully, those kids have a lot of wisdom.

Still, there will be days they turn from the whisper, pick up a brick unsuited, nail the wrong board. But He will be there then, too. He is overseer. He will see the structure is solid.

And I will pray.

I will call out to the only One who can be with them forever. The only one who cares more than their dad and I do. The only One who makes any of us stand strong.

I hope the bricks I would not choose for them will be far and few between, but I will not despair when they come. Because all is never lost. I entrusted each of these precious children into the hands of the Faithful One when I could still cradle them in my arms. I entrust them to Him now.

He never falters.

He never wrings his hands wondering what to do.

He never gives up.

He always loves and builds.

He promised to finish the good work He started.

In me.

In them.

And so I’ll cry a little. Pray a lot.

And learn to let go.

 

 

 

For Fencine: Faithful Mom-in-Law

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. I told a friend it feels like all I’ve done since March is say goodbye: launch kids, weather long hospital stays that eventually end in burials, and clean out homes. Have done a lot of deep processing, but too raw yet for here. Instead, I want to share part of the eulogy I was asked to write and share last week for my sweet mom-in-law’s goodbye. I’ve taken out some specific names and facts–this is the Internet after all–but endeavored to leave the heart of what I shared. My hope is to honor the woman who gave me my husband and who loved her own so faithfully.

For Fencine:

IMAG0552Fencine  was born on March 3rd, 1925, in North Dakota. A twin, Fencine was the youngest of eight children, two brothers and 5 sisters. Raised on the family farm, originally homesteaded in North Dakota by Fencine’s dad and his brother who emigrated from Holland, Fencine often talked about the joy of growing up in a busy household where an older sister was assigned to each of the twins to help them as the family went about its chores.

As Fencine grew into womanhood she captured the attention of Ray, who heard about the sisters, who lived in a Dutch community north of him and were renowned for their singing abilities and godly character. Fencine, Fennie, and Catherine formed the Sacred Melodies Trio, and sang in churches throughout the area, as well as on several radio stations. Ray and his buddy Elmer began making trips to visit the twins. The German settlement didn’t appreciate two of their eligible bachelors traveling to those Dutch girls when there plenty of fine German girls available, but Ray and Elmer were not to be deterred.

Fencine said the foursome would take walks, and Fennie and Elmer would hold hands, but she wasn’t about to let Ray take hers! To keep him from trying she swung her hands back and forth as they strolled. But Ray didn’t give up on winning Fencine’s heart, and when he proposed, she said yes. Fencine’s father asked her to wait to marry until she was twenty-one. Always desirous of doing the right thing, she endeavored to honor her dad’s wishes—and scheduled the wedding for her twenty-first birthday.

Though she would have enjoyed an engagement ring, Fencine wanted to do everything she could to support Ray’s calling as a preacher. The community where Ray was raised didn’t believe in jewelry, so Fencine told him she didn’t need a ring if it would inhibit his ministry. Years later the family got her a mother’s ring, which she treasured. Fencine’s resolve to support Ray in his ministry was tested early on when her wedding day was postponed multiple times due to a successful evangelist tour that went longer than expected. Fencine never wavered, and these early sacrifices established a pattern in which she consistently put her husband and his ministry first.

Ray wasn’t sure if he should have children. He wanted nothing to hinder his calling as a pastor. But Catherine’s husband convinced Ray that raising children unto the Lord was also the calling of a Christian man. Soon the happy couple enjoyed the birth of four children. Together they poured love and faith over them, bringing them up with high standards, a determined work ethic, and a focus on God and church.

As a young mother Fencine’s faith held her through many days of caring for the children while Ray was traveling as an evangelist. She clung to God when Ray’s return home would be delayed by a longer-than-expected revival or a Canadian snow storm. Left with hungry children and little resources, there were times she pretended not to be hungry so the children had enough food, times when Fencine prayed one of the farmers in their church would think of them and share their eggs and milk, times when she turned on the vacuum cleaner hoping its noise would drown out her need to cry.

Along with these struggles and the typical pressures of a young mother and wife, Fencine weathered the extra pressure she felt as a pastor’s wife. Anyone who knows Fencine and her excellent, above-the-norm house-keeping skills will be surprised to know she weathered criticism as a young mother of four from some in the congregation who felt she didn’t keep things tidy enough. But Fencine persevered, always doing her best to raise her children well and support her husband’s ministry. She was never a complainer.

The family’s faith went beyond the church doors and into the daily fabric of family life. When their son almost died of spinal meningitis it was natural for the couple to invite their community of faith into their home and intercede for his life. Though only five-years-old at the time, he remembers hearing the passionate prayers of his parents and their friends asking God to heal him.

An excellent speller and grammarian, Fencine always edited Ray’s writing and sermon notes. She eventually served as a proofreader for her church’s denominational publication.

Ray and Fencine were always hospitable, reaching out to the church families. Fencine became known for her famous chocolate cake, which she prepared faithfully every Friday—along with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

The couple moved often, from pastorate to pastorate, even after the children were grown and married. Ray and Fencine had a strong sense of family, and those who married into the clan were firmly welcomed. Their son-in-law, Larry, always appreciated the love and open welcome he and his children received. He was particularly blessed by Fencine’s Godly example. He said, “Fencine truly walks the talk as the saying goes. Until that point in my life I had not been close to or witnessed a person like her who studied the bible daily, had daily prayer, put worldly stuff aside and God first.  She definitely helped me gain a better understanding of what life is about, not through one-on-one teaching, but by her example.”

Fencine delighted in Ray’s “retirement” years when she was finally able to travel with him instead of holding down the home front. The couple based in a retirement community in California but flew throughout the United States and several neighboring countries on a special pass from Continental Airlines. Ray knew no barriers, racial or otherwise, and was well received into not only English speaking churches, but also into Spanish speaking congregations. Fencine would often provide support to the women in those churches, and she and Ray enjoyed doing marriage counseling as they traveled. During these years they also enjoyed touring Israel and later traveled with all the children and grandchildren for a vacation to Hawaii.

Fencine was rarely idle, always working hard. As a mother she wove relationship into the daily fabric of chores. If she visited in your home, she was right there, doing dishes or laundry or helping cook the meals. She was even known to clean when she babysat her grandchildren. Much to their chagrin she would clap her hands and say, “Let’s clean the house for Mommy!”

 

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Fencine is in the red jacket in the middle

Ray’s failing health eventually moved the couple closer to family. Ray and Fencine delighted in their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Highly competitive, Fencine was not the kind of grandma who let you win. She was ruthless at games. The grandchildren didn’t stand a chance at Uno or Frustration, and at eighty-years-old during a family Thanksgiving celebration, she soundly beat several grandsons in a game of horse. You should see her shoot a basketball!

After Ray’s death in 2001, Fencine worked for a time in an office. Not only was she admired for her strong work ethic and organizational skills, but the women she worked with were amazed at her agility. Though in her upper 70s she climbed stools or squatted on the ground as she did the filing. She is remembered in her small town as the woman who was daily seen getting her exercise, walking with perfect posture, erect and quick, swinging her arms at her side. When she couldn’t walk outside, she walked at the community center, finishing her exercise routine by using the stair-stepper. This continued into her 89th year. Even during her short stay at the nursing home during her last few months she wanted to walk. The staff mentioned that she would take grasp their arm for a walk down the hall, then take off at such a quick pace that they would be surprised and struggle to keep up. Many of Fencine’s children and grandchildren enjoy athletic ability and a competitive edge sure to be inherited from her.

Over the years Fencine offered many hand-written notes of affection to her family in the birthday cards she never failed to send. Fencine’s outlook on life was decided, and though a strong woman with strong opinions, she always supported her children and grandchildren as they made their own way in life. She was quick to offer advice on the best way to clean or cook or the right way to spell something, but also quick to learn from and offer support to her loved ones. Even when her own approach to life differed from that of her children or grandchildren, she found a way to appreciate the common ground. Her prayers for her children and grandchildren were consistent and treasured, and her unwavering faith and determination to do right was a solid example for all.

Fencine passage into an eternity with her God began on September 17, 2014.Fencine's service

Throughout her 89 years Fencine epitomized faithfulness to the God she loves and to her family. She weathered good times and bad with an unshakable belief that God was with her. In her years of health she was selfless, working hard to serve others. She stood beside her husband even when he spent long hours in ministry leaving her to shoulder much responsibility. She believed in him and the work he did and saw her sacrifices as her own offerings to her Savior. Fencine leaves behind a legacy of integrity, kindness, selflessness, loyalty, and faith.

She will be greatly missed.