Mothers and Daughters

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend.”~Ecclesiastes  3:1-7

I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with my daughter over the last few weeks. I speak with her almost daily  about anything under the sun.  My conversations with her remind me of conversations I had with my own mother when I was younger, and had moved away from home.  Whenever I was missing her , or wanted to share my day, or ask about a recipe, she was only a phone call away, and always willing to spend a few minutes with me. Now my conversations with my daughter are very similar.  They can consist of only a few words, or they can be quite lengthy.

I have had much time over the last few months to think and contemplate in a way that I have not had time to do in the past, and for this I am grateful.  It has been a rare gift for me, and one that I have treasured. This time has allowed me to settle in to our new home,  to rest, to reflect, and to grieve.

I have always been busy studying, working, or being a wife and mother.  Not since the carefree days of my youth, have I had this much time at my disposal. After my husband and I moved to the state of Georgia, and after I finished unpacking our boxes, I would have loved to dive in and look for a job, but I couldn’t. I was not licensed  to work as a dental hygienist in this state, until last week.  I was waiting for the board of dentistry to grant me my state licensure, and I’m relieved to say that finally, they did.  Now I have started applying for jobs, so although I have enjoyed this time , I need to get back to work.

In the last three and a half months, I have joined a book club, attended church, become friendly with our neighbors, and socialized with my husband’s coworkers, all with the intent to establish roots and nurture new relationships.  People in the South are welcoming and friendly. It’s impossible to walk our dogs without having someone walk by, or drive by without a neighborly “stop-and-chat”.  I love that about our new neighborhood. I wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom to tell her all about it.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had one of those moments; I was baking some Finnish coffee bread because  I wanted to send a care package to my kids.  The  yeast-based dough grew exponentially, and spilled over onto my counter top.  I vaguely remember having a conversation with my mom about baking bread in warmer climates, and how the humidity and warmth can make the yeast work double time.  How I wished I could call her up and tell her she had been right about that.  Why is it that these simple things cause me to tear up on such a regular basis?  My daughter loves to cook and bake and  she will often call me for quick cooking advice, or to discuss recipes.  It reminds me of how my mom and I used to be. I loved being able to call her at the drop of a hat, and tell her the most mundane things; it didn’t matter that we rarely saw each other or that so many miles separated us. 

Our move to from Minnesota didn’t go swimmingly; the moving company was terrible.  So many things were broken , furniture was scratched or dented, my husband’s  dumbbells and toolbox are missing; lost forever.  These things are insured and replaceable, but the whole ordeal is annoying, and I would have loved to call my mom and complain to her about it, but fortunately for me, my daughter is willing to listen to my woes, and for that I am grateful. 

I was unpacking a crate of my mother’s China, which she had gifted to me several years ago.  She had been downsizing her things; she had no use for it and wanted me to have it.  My mother passed away just one short month prior to our move, and with that wound still fresh, I was unprepared for the onslaught of emotion that I was hit with when I unraveled her China from amongst the brown paper packing.  So many memories of my mother’s Sunday roast dinners and Christmas turkeys with all of us gathered around the dining room table sharing a meal.    Unwrapping her China was a grim reminder of how unavailable she was to me now; how I could not call her to share my experiences in this new land that I find myself navigating.  I couldn’t handle it anymore; I had to wrap up her China again and put it away where I couldn’t see it, where I could deal with it another day. Procrastination, in the guise of another project, was in order.

I had some decorative wall hangings that needed a coat of paint, and as little effort as I could muster.  Painting is not my forte, and I remembered a friend telling me about  a product called chalk paint, which sounded wonderful.  No primer was necessary; just a coat or two, and a light sanding, and you’re done.  Exactly what I was after.  I googled where I could buy this wonderful product, and it turns out, a retailer was very close to me, so off I went.  An antique dealer sold this paint, and google maps pointed the way.  I walked into the store, and on the display case right near the front door, what did I see?  Chalk paint? Certainly not.  It was an entire set of “The Friendly Village ” by Johnson Brothers, my mother’s  China pattern! As soon as I recognized it on the display case, I walked up to it and started bawling my eyes out. As I was standing there, wiping the tears and mascara out of my eyes,  a very worried looking antiques proprietor came scurrying over to me asking, “Ma’am, ya’ll doin’ ok?”  I responded, “Yes, I’m fine.  I’m just here to buy chalk paint!’ My goodness gracious…..I am not one to usually cause such a scene….

My daughter called me that day and I was able to tell her all about it.  I love that I can talk to her about these things. I love my baby girl. I can’t be sure but I suspect that she was crying too, on her end of the phone, as I told her my story.

In the end, when my mom got very sick, I felt very guilty for being so very far away from her, because I was unable to help her in the way that I wanted to. When I called her, I would apologize profusely. She would tell me, over and over again, that she understood, and not to worry, but that did not alleviate how I was feeling. After I moved from Minnesota to Georgia, I also felt guilty for leaving my children behind. The fact that they are young adults should have assuaged my guilt, but at the time it didn’t.  Now I see that they are thriving and doing well; perhaps they are doing even better than they would have if we had stayed and helicoptered them their entire young adult lives.

It wasn’t until recently, after my  mom passed, that I realized- life circumstances happen and sometimes we cannot control them, no matter how much we would like to.  This is just the way it is, and my mom  understood. I am sure she would not have wanted me to suffer the guilt I felt inside my own head. I was the one who felt guilty for  reasons that were out of my control, and I needed to let it go.  My  mom immigrated from Finland to Canada and was far from her own mother; of course she of all people understood how things were. I know she may have liked it if we lived close by, but we didn’t. She enjoyed our telephone visits, and she loved it when we had a chance to visit in person even more.  I now get it that she understood me in more ways than I ever gave her credit for. I wish I could have shared this epiphany with her before she passed. Our conversations would have been that much more peaceful, at least for me.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”~Jeremiah 31:25

This One is For Jeremy

imageJust a Thought About Faith

“Yesterday, life was so simple,

Today, it is so complicated,

and tomorrow, if and when it comes,

Holds something quite mysterious,

Possibly bringing with it, more problems, or complications.

Yet I will not fret, 

But stand in faith in the Lord,

For He will surely guide me, 

Through any hardships I encounter, 

And through whatever troubles befall me.

So in His strength,

I will battle against

Whatever attempts to get me down;

and override it with love,  joy, and peace,

Which I will receive, from the Lord.” –Belinda Mah

I have spent the last weeks moving to a new state and unraveling my old life out of cardboard boxes and brown paper, trying to make it fit comfortably into this new land of peaches and pecans. As I was unpacking, I came across some old journals of mine. In 1982, I had been so moved by this poem written by Belinda Mah, that I penned it into my journal. Now, as I read it, I was reminded of the comments my son had written in my previous blog post.  You see, he had made some rather raw comments, and he also noted that he was interested in memories and thoughts that resonated with me as a young person.

I wondered then , if he thinks I led a rebellious crazy adolescence , riddled with partying and social experiences in my college years.  Little does he know what a straight arrow I truly was, and how I was ridiculed for it in those years, and how it didn’t bother me in the least.  I had sold my life out to Jesus in every aspect and I was not ashamed.  Everything was so straightforward and simple.  I saw what the effect of over-indulging in alcohol had on my older brother, and I was not interested.

I grew up in modest circumstances, and finances were a strain for my parents. We always had enough and we always knew that my parents loved us. We could depend on them to help us out when we needed; as long as what we needed was within reason and within the family budget.  When it was necessary for me  to apply to  college after high school, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, and deadlines for college applications were approaching.  So, I did what I had learned to do; I talked to God, and I let Him know, that I needed to know, what I should do with the rest of my life. In my naiveté , I believed an answer to that prayer would come. Then, one day, my dad came home from the dentist after having his teeth cleaned, and he said, “That would be a good job for you, my dear!” That was it.  I decided that was my answer, and armed with that, I made an appointment with my high school guidance counsellor and told him I was going to be a dental hygienist. It was a program which accepted only 12 applicants at each of three colleges in the province I lived in, and each college had 1500 applicants, so of course he tried to persuade me to apply to a different program. I insisted I had prayed about it, and this was an answer to prayer…I’m sure that poor man thought I was a nut case.  I really did not take the time to understand how impossibly slim my chances were of getting into dental hygiene school were at that time.  Miraculously, I was accepted at two of the three colleges I applied to.

Tuition for this program was not extremely high, but it was high enough that my parents could not afford to pay what was required to send me to school the following fall. My grades were good, but because I had applied to a community college and not a university, I had not applied for any scholarships, nor were any available to my knowledge.  I was devastated, and I attended my graduation ceremony with a heavy heart, thinking I would not be able to go to school the following fall. Still, I continued to pray, hoping for a miracle. Imagine my surprise when I received two unexpected scholarships at my graduation ceremony; exactly the amount I needed to pay my tuition  for my first year of college. God is good, and He answered many simple prayers for me in those years of my youth; these were just two examples. These are just a couple of memories that resonated with me as I read some of my early journal entries from years ago.

It wasn’t until much later in life, as an adult, when I was hurt by people who professed to love God, but later I learned were blinded by their own self -interests, that I started to question everything I had been taught about God by the church.  I even questioned His existence, but blessedly , I have come to realize that He is real; He is just not who I thought He was, and He loves me.  I don’t have to be perfect; I am screwed up, and He loves me anyway.  That is where grace comes in and it is beautiful.

These days, I get tired so easily.  This move to Atlanta. has just drained me and squeezed me in ways I could not have thought possible.  I love to be here, but I just can’t imagine a time when every cardboard box and every piece of brown paper will be gone and everything will be in its place.  In the old days, when our family re-lcoated in a move such as this, I think I can honestly say that everything was in its place in less than 2 weeks.  What is happening to me?  It has been almost a month, and I am still not done. The move itself was agonizing. Things are not falling into place as quickly for me as far as my job goes. I am tired. I am worn out.

“Today, it is so complicated”,  but I will wait for God’s timing. I can use this time to pray, not just for myself, but for my children. It is a difficult world that they need to navigate,  and I do  not envy the blurry lines that separate right from wrong, that I could not even imagine when I was their age.

I love both of my children and I have a heart for young people, but today, I bless my son, and I pray for love, joy and peace for him, as he finds his way. I pray that he will learn to listen for the soft, gentle Whispering in the desert.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8,9

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” -Jeremiah 29:11-14 The Message

*art credit J. Pieniniemi

A Mothers’ Heart

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      “The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14

In my last blog I wrote of restlessness and change, and since then, I have found out, that once again, we are moving. I have always told my husband that if he had the opportunity to work in Atlanta, then he wouldn’t even have to ask me; I was there, because I want to be a Georgia Peach. I love to read, some of my favorite authors write about the South, it is filled with history and charm, and people from there seem so darn friendly. Never mind that I have never been to Atlanta, except to change planes in the airport (what a harrowing experience), or to drive through the state of Georgia on the way to Florida a time or two.  Over the years, my husband has told me time and time again, when we’ve had this fictional, moving to Atlanta conversation ,  that I can’t possible become a Georgia Peach, because I am a Canadian, and I don’t understand what I am talking about.  There is a culture difference between people from the South and people from the North, that I don’t understand, apparently.  People (from the North) keep telling me that, whenever I tell them that we are moving.  I do think I have a vague idea about it, and I am sure I will come to understand more as time goes on, because now that fictional conversation has become real.  Somehow I knew it in my bones; I knew I would live in Atlanta someday, and it will happen as soon as we tie up the loose ends here in Minnesota and just go.

This is a different move for our family, because we won’t be taking our children with us, and why would we?  They are grown now and have begun lives of their own.  They have jobs and friends that tie them to this community and this state, and we are the ones severing the cords and pulling away.  It seems backwards to me when I think of it.  Aren’t children the ones who are supposed to move away from home, not parents? When I wrote about change in my last blog post, a friend of mine suggested my angst might be caused by God calling me closer to Him.  I have to confess, I had an idea that  my husband was contemplating a change of some kind that might take us away from our children and that created some unrest and anxiety for me.

Will they be okay without us?  Have we prepared them adequately to survive without us in the same state?  These are the questions that are haunting me as I prepare in other ways for our move; as I have painters and floor guys come and give me estimates for our house to prepare to sell it, and as I study in preparation for out of state licensing exams, so I can work outside of the state of Minnesota. With so  many things to do it is hard for me to focus  on one thing at a time.  I should be studying or sleeping, and I am blogging.  Yesterday when I washed my face, instead of a facial toner, I used nail polish remover on my face.  It was quite uncomfortable.  I don’t recommend it.

As I think of all of these things and prepare for our move, I pray and I remember a visit with my sister.  She was visiting me  and we went shopping together in the Mall of America. My sister loves jewelry, and when she can, she enjoys buying pieces of jewelry to splurge and to pamper herself when she is on vacation, or on a trip away from home.  She had bought herself a pendant for a necklace, made of blue glass, shaped like a heart.  It was rather large and pretty, but totally unlike anything I would ever wear, because it had my sister’s name written all over it.  She and I are quite different when it comes to our tastes, as most sisters are, I imagine.  At the end of our weekend visit together, my sister told me, in no uncertain terms, that she felt very strongly that she was to leave the pendant with me.  It was mine, she said.  Over the course of the weekend, I had shared with her some of the angst of my motherhood, and she told me that this pendant represented my mothers’ heart, and it was for me.  Now , you have to understand.  My sister LOVES jewelry, and when she bought this pendant for herself, she really wanted it.  When she gave it to me, she really thought I should have it; it was a God thing.  My sister is not a mother; and for her to think of this was a little uncanny to say the least.  I strung a ribbon through the pendant and hung it on my bedroom wall.  When I see it, I think of my sister and her tender heart as I pray for my kids.

I know in my Mothers’ Heart, as I pray for my kids, that moving is the  right thing for our family, and He will care for each one of us.  I am reminded of the story of Hannah praying for God’s blessing, because she was barren, and couldn’t have a child.  Finally, God blessed her and she gave birth to Samuel, and then right after Samuel was weaned, she turned around and brought him to the temple so that he could be trained by the priest Eli to serve God.  It was quite a sacrifice for a mother to give.  While Samuel was away from his mom at the temple, he learned to listen to the still, small voice of God, and he became a mighty voice for Him.  This story has been ringing in my heart, and maybe, God has something to say to my kids without me buzzing around getting in their business.  I have to let go of them and cut the apron strings.  That’s pretty hard for me because I like control, and I will miss them in my daily happenings.   So…maybe my friend was right.  Perhaps God can use this restlessness to draw all of us closer to Him.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20