Category Archives: My Crazy Family

I love them so much! I wish they loved me writing about them.

My Family

The Wenger Family, November, 2010

I spent a wonderful week with my family at Thanksgiving and we finally got some pictures taken.  The last time we had a family picture was at my sister’s wedding in 2005, so we were overdue!  As I look at the picture above and remember the last several visits I’ve had with my family, my heart warms.  God has blessed me so greatly, I decided to share a few thoughts about each of these precious people.

The easiest one for me to write about is the sweet little girl in the picture above.  My precious niece, who is about to turn three, is so full of personality and charm.  She is confident in a way that few are, aware that she is adored, and yet so sweet and full of empathy for others.  Earlier this year while I was visiting for a few days, I spent the morning playing with her.  It was a sweet time and all my attention was focused on her.  Around lunchtime, my sister had friends and their children over for a play date, so I planned to go out during that time.  When the other kids arrived, my niece immediately showed them her toys and started running around with them.  I was on my way out when she and the other kids came running through the kitchen on an important mission.  Suddenly, she skidded to a stop and looked at me with concern. She turned to the kids and said, “Guys, guys!  Hey!  Stop!  THIS (pointing to me) is my Keebee.”  Then turning to me she said, “Keebee, these (motioning to them) are my friends.  Do you want to play with us?” 

I was stunned at the capacity she has to think of others, to consider others feelings, and to come up with a solution that might work for everyone involved.  I hugged her tightly, said hello to her friends, and told her that I was actually going to go play with one of my friends at her house but I really appreciated the invitation.  Relieved, she told me to have fun and went back to her play.  I thank God for giving our family such a wonderful child.  She has been our delight and joy ever since the day we knew she was on her way. 

My sister, mother to the amazing child, is a really good mom.  She’s funny and laid back at times, and yet is good with discipline too.  She’s the kind of person who makes friends everywhere she goes.  Sometimes it’s hard to go out with her because she has to stop every few minutes to chat with someone she knows (or make friends with someone new).  She’s also very goal-driven and works hard to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to do.  I have been amazed to see her become a woman, a wife, a mother, a rock-star sales rep, and still look so beautiful.  She thinks very differently than me, but in some ways we’re so much alike it’s scary.  One of my favorite things about her is that no matter how hard of a time she may be having, she finds a way to communicate it in a funny way.  Whenever things go wrong, I know I can call her and we can somehow find the humor in it.

My brother-in-law is also in sales and when he’s along for an outing, we stop twice as often!  He’s the guy that everyone knows and likes.  His daughter’s confidence clearly comes from him and I’ve always been amazed at what a wonderful father he is.  He’s also awesome with technology and seems to know intuitively how anything with wires works.  But from my perspective, one of the best things about him is how he handles my sister.  She and I both have a tendency to be a little impatient and high-strung.  We have high expectations and want things done a certain way in a certain time-frame.  My brother-in-law is perfect for her, working around her quirks and making her laugh when things get tense.  I’ve often thought, “Oh, what I would give for a man who could handle me as well as he handles her.”

The young man in the green shirt is my little brother.  He’s eleven years younger than me, so I can’t seem to break the habit of calling him “little.”  He’s been several inches taller than me for years, but he’s the first child I ever adored and saw grow up.  From the minute I found out my mom was expecting him, I began making plans for our relationship.  I knew that the age difference would make it hard for us to be friends, but I decided that wasn’t going to get in my way.  He delighted me from the very beginning and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d be like when he grew up.  He’s such a neat guy, with killer musical talent for writing songs, playing guitar, singing, and performing.  He can fix just about anything and loves anything with wheels and a motor.  Oh, and he can be hilarious.  He’s often quiet, but every once in a while he’ll get on a roll and have me laughing so hard my face hurts.  Leaving South Carolina at the age of 22 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because it meant leaving him. 

Lastly, there are my parents.  They’ve been married for nearly 40 years and spent most of those years leading churches.  Dad is a pastor and Mom spent years helping him in the church.  A few years back, Mom became a real estate agent and has been one of the best sales agents in her office ever since.  Mom does everything “with excellence” (words I heard A LOT growing up) and pours her heart into her work.  Dad builds churches, disciples people, and helps them change their lives.  I’m so proud of both of them. 

Even though Mom is such a tenacious sales woman, she’s got a pretty laid back personality.  She just rolls with things and provides love and support to us all.  Dad is the one I take after – a little loud, gregarious, dominant, and able to get things done.  It’s a pretty good personality for a man, but I’ve found it difficult as a woman and have worked hard to temper myself.  (My sister and brother both seemed to get a good mixture of them both, but I try not to be jealous…)  Dad owns a room when he walks into it.  He knows what to do, when to do it, and how it will best get done.  He’s usually right, too.  Mom is smart and has strong opinions, but she often keeps them to herself and is content with letting others think whatever they want to about her.  Dad is too much of a people-person for that.  He tries to figure out what makes each person tick and bring out the best in them.  Both of them are also excellent teachers, seeming to know just what to say to explain a new concept or skill. 

At Christmas this year, we’ll all gather at my parent’s house to celebrate and enjoy our time together.  We don’t worry about planning a bunch of activities, but just enjoy relaxing and being together.  We play some games, take the baby toddler to see Christmas lights, watch movies, and talk and laugh.  Things might get a little tense every once in a awhile (we do NOT agree on what to watch on TV), but we work it out and move on. 

And this year, we’ll be joined by the wonderful man I’ve fallen in love with who seems to know just how to handle me (not that I’m ever anything less than sweet, kind, loving, and fun to be with).  We’ll be surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even snow.  (My parent’s new house is at the bottom of a ski resort mountain.)  God has blessed me richly and I am so thankful for the family He’s placed me in.  I pray that each of you have a wonderful, joyful Christmas and New Year’s.  I hope you’ll take some time to let your family know what you appreciate about them and how much they mean to you. 

Merry Christmas!

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Combine Derby

When I started this blog, I wrote a post about the county fair that I went to once when I was 12 years old.  I was really excited about going, but it didn’t turn out to be the most pleasant experience.  In the spirit of making new memories, I went back to the same county fair last week and had an entirely different experience.  (Thank God!)  I didn’t ride any rides this time (I prefer keeping my food in my belly), but enjoyed all the displays and junk food and the thrill of walking hand-in-hand with a handsome man who proudly introduced me to his friends.  The weather was beautiful, we were relaxed and happy, and the day was topped off with something called a “Combine Demolition Derby.”   

For those of you who are as uneducated about farm life as me, a combine is a very large tractor used to harvest crops.  It has two big front wheels and two smaller back wheels, an enclosed cab area for the driver, and a large attachment on the front that separates and cuts the crops.  These machines can cost up to $500K, so I’m not sure why anyone wants to smash them into one another, but one of the combines in the derby had a title painted on the side that seemed to explain it all: “Redneck Recycling.”   

   

In the Combine Derby, several of these huge machines enter a small, confined space and bang into one another until all are disabled but one.  The last one standing is the winner.  I’ve been to a demolition derby with cars once in Nashville, but that’s as close as I’ve come to this kind of entertainment.  I was a little skeptical when my new boyfriend (a farmer from the rural area where I grew up) said this would be a fun way to spend an evening.  Much to my surprise, it really was fun.  The large, open cabs on the combines give the viewer better access to see the drivers, who worked hard to entertain us.  We could see when they were having problems shifting or were steering one direction but the combine was going another direction.  The large wheels made it very obvious when they were disabled.  I definitely think I’d return to another combine derby.   

Two combines going head-to-head

 

So in honor of my most recent and better experience at the county fair, I’ve edited my previous story and am reposting it so you get a good understanding of the contrast.  Mom straightened me out on some of the details, which actually make the story a little funnier (in my opinion).  Enjoy!  

Wenger Family Fun, Take 2…  

In the farming community that I lived in until I was 12, the county fair was a really big deal.  There were all kinds of rides and they actually cancelled school because all the farm kids took animals they had raised to show and compete at the fair.  This was a totally foreign concept to me, but I wanted to go to the fair for the rides.  ALL the other kids went to the fair, but Mom and Dad would never take us.  It was terribly expensive to ride the rides.  I think you could get a bracelet to ride them all for $15 (plus $6 to get into the fair) and that was highway robbery.  

When Adam was a baby, I finally convinced Mom and Dad to take us to the fair.  Adam couldn’t have been more than 3 months old and they had this nifty carrier thing that Dad could strap to his chest and carry Adam around.  So off we went, into unchartered territory, with a father who was NOT HAPPY about the amount of money he was about to spend.  I was as dressed up as I could be with my little lavender purse just chock full of money ($27 was a lot of money to an 12-year-old) and about to burst with excitement.  

Things did not start well.  Not only was Dad in a bad mood to begin with (which we all tried to ignore and act extra cheerful to help him out – no fighting, no asking to go to the bathroom), but he had not anticipated the parking situation.  They had turned a field into a parking lot and it was muddy and rough.  We had to park as far away as a person could get from the fair and hike in through the field.  Mom was wearing flip-flops and after we’d hiked for a good 10 minutes (or so it seemed), her shoe broke.  So Dad tried to fix it with the metal tab of a Coke can.  Dad got it fixed up so Mom could at least continue walking, sort of (she would never admit there was another problem at this point), and off we went again.   

  

We spent the atrocious amount of money to get into the fair and started riding the rides.  I convinced my mom and sister to go on the teacups with me, so Dad went to show off his son to his friends.  After spinning around in circles within circles, the three of us stumbled off the ride to find the nearest trash can to throw up in…  (Ugh.  Who comes up with these rides?)  We found Dad and were considering if our upset tummies could handle another ride when Dad commented that his shirt felt wet.  We trudged along toward the next ride while he tried to discover the source of the wetness.  

Suddenly, we heard a great shout and looked over to see Dad standing stock still staring at his hand that was frozen in mid-air.  It was covered with yellowish brown slime.  Yup, folks, it was poop.  Upon further inspection, we found that our sweet little three-month old baby had at that very moment released more poop than we thought could come out of a grown man into the tiny littlest diaper – which of course could not hold all the poop.  

It was everywhere:  in the carrier, in Adam’s clothes, up his back, in his hair, all over Dad’s shirt and arm and hand…  And remember, things were already tense that day.  This was one of the first times they’d used the carrier, so they weren’t real familiar with how to put it on and take it off, and those things can be kind of tricky.  So Dad found an empty tent at the edge of the fair and commanded us all inside while he and Mom tried to figure out how to get this carrier thing off him and Adam out of it without smearing any more poop around.  Oh, by the way, it stunk to high heaven!  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth…  

Katie and I stood off to the side and tried our best not to laugh out loud.  I mean, what else do you do???  Stay out of the way and do all you can to stifle your giggles and PRAY that at some point this will strike Dad as funny.  

And then I made a startling discovery.  My little lavender purse with the $27 inside was missing!  After we had sort of cleaned up the poop, we silently backtracked to the teacups and discovered my purse in a nearby trashcan.  Everything was inside but the money, which brought me to tears.  All my hard-earned savings was gone.  We left the fair then.  I don’t remember the lecture I received on the way out, but I’m sure it was really good.  If I had any memory of the ride home, I’ve suppressed it by now!  

**************  

And so, now you see why this most recent trip to the fair was so much better than the last one.  And yes, Mom and Dad, I learned my lesson and brought absolutely NO money to the fair with me this time.  And when contemplating what pair of flip-flops to wear, I thought better of it and put on my tennis shoes.

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The Secret Room

      

I’ve had a recurring dream over the years that I often think about.  In the dream, I’m exploring a new house.  It’s my house, but I’m exploring it for what seems to be the first time.  I go through the main floor, amazed at how it’s decorated just to my taste and even better than I could think to do.  Everything I see makes me happy.  I think I’ve looked at everything when I discover a staircase.  I go up the stairs and find bedrooms.  They are beyond description.  They smell like lilacs and one opens into another one, each one beautiful and spacious.     

The house becomes familiar to me then.  In the master bedroom, I notice a small panel on the wall that blends in.  I open it and discover it’s kind of like an unfinished attic space.  I crawl through and realize the space is much bigger than I thought it could possibly be.  This house is HUGE!  But again, it’s familiar.  On instinct, I walk around and find myself directly in front of another strange opening that’s very small.  I go through it and several other hidden, child-sized openings until I come into a small, finished room.  It’s full of light and like a very large closet.  There are all kinds of clothes and dolls and toys in it.      

As I enter this room, a sense of peace and comfort comes over me.  I sit down and start looking through the toys, discovering they are my dolls and books.  My sister is there with me.  We are young again.  We play with the toys and laugh and talk, feeling totally safe and protected and comforted.  We know that no one else knows about this room.  It is our room, from childhood, and we are the only two people in the universe who know it exists.      

Then I wake up.     

I love this dream.  I wish I could have it every night.  It’s been years since the last dream and I miss it.  A friend told me that the house in the dream represents me.  The unfinished part is what is yet to come in my life.  The rooms that are already decorated and set up are the good things I’ve accomplished.  The only thing about that interpretation that strikes me as odd is there’s no ugliness in that house anywhere.  If the house were truly me, there would certainly be some holes in the walls or something…  But it’s my own dream, so I guess I’m allowed to be perfect and beautiful!      

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the main rooms in the house.  But the other night something triggered my thoughts about the secret room.  I wonder about it.  What does it mean?  It made me think about my relationship with my sister.      

Happy, happy Katie

 

My sister, Katie, is 3 ½ years younger than me.  Today she lives in a gorgeous home in our hometown.  She married a great guy and they have a lovely, sparkly, princess daughter named Alexis.  She and her husband are both in sales and you are sure to have a good time if you hang out with them.  They seem to know everyone everywhere they go.      

Now she's a mommy

 

But Katie was not always the woman she is today.  Obviously, neither was I.  There was a time when we were children living in the exact same environment during the exact same time.  There was a time when we didn’t get to choose our own paths, but were taken care of and told what to do and how to behave.  We are the only two people in the world who know what it was like to be the children of our parents, to be the pastor’s daughters of our church, to be in our unique family with grandparents from the opposite worlds of rural Iowa and New York City.  We are the only two people who shared the same switch on the day Dad got tired of us fighting and hiding “The Stick: To Spank Bottoms With” (as it was labeled) behind the washing machine.  We are the only two people who had to get up with Mom at the crack of dawn to pick strawberries in the summer heat and pray we didn’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes.  We are the only two people who found out when our world was pretty well-established that our mom was going to have another baby and they were threatening to send it back if it wasn’t a boy.  We are the only two who know what it was like to have our maternal grandmother close by and to spend time with her regularly, then lose her a few years later.      

There is safety and security in our relationship.  The years after our brother was born were teenage years.  We were mean to one another, fought incessantly, stole each others things, and didn’t play well together.  When I went to college and we no longer lived in the same house, we began to get along again.  Today we are very close, talking on the phone almost daily and seeing one another as often as possible with the six-hour drive between us.      

Girls Shopping Trip

That time from the age of 3 ½ until 12 is represented by the room in my dream.  It represents a time of comfort and joy in my life.  There is a bond there that can never be broken.  The friendships I have made over the years are with people who know me well; they intimately know the woman I have become.  But my sister, she knows the child I was and the things that shaped me into the woman I have become.  And I know her in a way that her friends never will.  We are united in that bond.     

I’m so grateful for the joy of having a sister.  Were you blessed with a relationship like ours?

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February 14, 2010

I cried a lot today.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, but for once that had nothing to do with my tears.  I cried today because after three days with my niece, I had to leave again.  I also cried because I know my life is changing.  

Alexis Grace

 

My niece is two years old, and she has totally charmed me.  If I tell her I’m going somewhere, she gets a concerned look on her face and insists repeatedly, “And me.  And me!”  She wants to go along.  This morning I packed my bags and put them by the door.  I told her I had to leave, had to go back to my house, and I’d miss her.  Instead of saying, “And me!” she said, “Stay here.  Please stay here with me!”  And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces.  As little as she is, she understands the difference between a short errand and going home.   She understands that she won’t see me again for months.  And today she further understood that her charm will not always get her what she wants.  It broke my heart that I’m the one to teach her that terrible, but necessary lesson. 

My life is changing.  I’ve been blessed with 3+ years of stability, proximity to my family, a stable job, and relative calm.  I know this time has been a gift from God and I’m thankful for it.  But something is stirring inside me.  I wish I could articulate exactly what it is, but the only thing I know to call it is CHANGE.  God is changing me.  He is stretching me.  He is challenging the commitment I’ve made to total obedience, trust, and love.  He is asking me to give up things I’ve held to tightly, to open my hands and offer them to Him, with no visual of anything to replace the cherished.  

He isn’t dangling a big piece of Godiva chocolate in front of my face and asking me to let go of the m&m.  He’s just asking me to let go of the m&m.  I really like m&ms. 

I cried today because letting go is so hard to do.   

Even though I believe God has something more for me, it’s so hard to let go of the comfortable and familiar.  For a moment I berated myself for being so emotional, so dramatic, and for indulging in self-pity.  Then the thought came to me, “If this isn’t worth crying over, then what is?”  So I let the tears come and didn’t try to stop them.  I cried myself out.  

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17th.  This year I’m taking the time to purify my heart, mind, and body.  I’m emptying myself before the Lord.  I’m looking forward to standing before Him, ready to be filled by His truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness.  I’m also dreading the days ahead when I will likely feel the gamut of my emotions with nothing to soften the rawness.  I’m giving up my comforts so I may learn to look to the Lord alone for comfort.  

Anticipation of the results is what will give me the strength to do it.  Love for My Lord and Savior will pull me through.  And yes, I plan to be radically changed.  I’m ready.  I’m excited.  Today I mourned the loss of the familiar, but my tears weren’t without hope.  Through my fear, I face my blindness regarding the future and trust God to guide me to a place of bright color and beauty.

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My Christmas Vacation

Exhausted from opening presents – Adam and Dad

This is how we roll…  The sweet little 2-year old who normally entertains us was in bed and we lounged around sleeping or watching tv until it’s time for bed.  Exciting stuff.  Surprising how enjoyable it really was.  Actually, we all played Farkle and Sequence, THEN Dad and Adam laid around.  Mom and I went to the movies!     

Alexis – up early the morning after Christmas

Meet Alexis, age 23 1/2 months.  There are too many great presents to play with to bother combing our hair before we get to work.  New pajamas too!       

No kisses, Daddy.

Everyone’s been kissing and hugging her so much that she can’t stand it any more.  All requests for kisses are promptly rejected with a very polite, “No thank you” and possible hand blocking if we attempt to steal one.      

Alexis got a state-of-the art kitchen for Christmas

I spent a good deal of my Christmas vacation sitting in front of this kitchen, cutting wooden vegetables, talking on the cordless phone, pushing buttons on the microwave, and making sure Alexis didn’t leave the over-the-sink light on too long.  This thing even has a dishwasher and light-up/sound-making burners.      

Princess Alexis likes to “col-lee”

I got her a princess dress for Christmas, which she wore over her clothes for several days.  She also loves to color now.  I was commanded repeatedly – “Col-lee, Keebee.  Hep me!”       

Sucking lemons & making this face makes us all laugh hard enough that she endures the taste to entertain us.

 

Hugging Grandpa is much more fun than sucking on lemons.

 

After church on Sunday, we ate lunch and Alexis continued to charm us all.         

         

   

       

       

       

She had a much better attitude about taking a bath when her mommy was giving it and her aunt Keebee was merely observing and making funny faces with her.       

Tinker Bell tent = Very Happy Girl

 

The perfect size for a two year old

 

       

       

       

       

       

       

I was repeatedly told to play inside this tent with her.  Um…  I didn’t exactly fit!  I had to fold myself up as small as possible, lift the tent up over my head, and set it down on top of me – leaving approximately 4 inches for Alexis.  Rather than use her 4 inches, she just climbed all over me.  One of the highlights of my visit was when she convinced my sister and I to get in there with her.  Katie and I each laid down on the floor and stuck our heads and shoulders in from opposite sides.  Alexis was thrilled.  She made us laugh so hard we nearly cried.       

Love

 

Fun

 

She loves to read. Love this kid!

 

So much joy. One little person.

 

I finally got someone to take pictures of me with her.  I took all the other pictures, so it was kinda hard to get in them.  I wish I’d been wearing some makeup, but I was so glad to have someone agree take some pictures that I settled for au natural.      

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I got a digital camera for Christmas.  I’m thrilled.  And yes, I did spend time with friends, but they aren’t nearly as fun to take pictures of as my sweet little niece.  I only get to see her once every few months, so when I do I soak it up.  I’m totally amazed by this new little person we now have in our lives.  She makes everything so much more fun and interesting. 
But just so you can rest assured that I have adult friends and interests, here’s an idea of the way I spent New Year’s Eve… 

Good friends

 

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True Religion

The home that I’m staying in tonight is located in rural Iowa. It belongs to my aunt and uncle and I’m here with my parents for a family reunion. It’s one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever had the privilege of staying in. It’s an old farmhouse surrounded by barns and out buildings. Some of those buildings house a few animals – a couple goats, a few ducks, some chickens, dogs and cats. Once it was a working farm with cows and pigs and crops, but my aunt and uncle have retired from farming.  

It’s hard for me to describe this home adequately. On the outside it looks regular enough. You enter through a side door into a mud room with a wooden coat hanger and a place for muddy boots. Next is a dining room with a large, well-worn table and brown carpet. The kitchen, a long and narrow room with a few cabinets and some storage, is behind the dining room. The living room has large windows that overlook the beautiful countryside and give my aunt and uncle the ability to watch deer and other wild life as they wander through.  

The bedroom I’m staying in tonight is what got me to thinking of the beauty of this home. The bedroom has a linoleum floor, two small beds with colorful, tropical fish themed comforters, and matching curtains. It has an old bureau with a mirror, a lamp clipped to the top of the mirror, and another lamp near the door. There are some hooks hanging from the wall that serve as a closet of sorts. The wall is blonde paneling and above the bed I’m sleeping in is a large wooden cross with praying hands in the center of it.  

I brushed my teeth tonight before bed in the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever been in outside of an airplane. It is maybe two inches wider than me on either side and the light is on a pull chain. The electrical outlets won’t allow me to plug anything in because they aren’t three-pronged outlets.  

The beauty of this old farmhouse struck me when I walked in the door tonight. Seated at the kitchen table was a young boy, perhaps twelve years old. He wore leg braces and didn’t stand to greet me. When we were introduced, he spoke with difficulty. My uncle was playing a card game with him. For the first thirty minutes I was here, I was able to observe my aunt and uncle interacting with the boy. They understood what he was saying, they treated him with dignity, and they laughed and joked with him. Soon it was time for my uncle to take the boy home.  

The bedroom I’m sleeping in tonight was prepared with children in mind. Today the child that my aunt and uncle were caring for went home at the end of the day, but there have been countless children who have not been able to go home because their homes were not safe places. You see, my aunt and uncle have spent countless years of their lives as foster parents. To the best of my knowledge, they began 28 years ago by taking in a little blue-eyed, blonde girl who’d been neglected by her mother. They fell in love with her and adopted her. Today I know her simply as my cousin Devon.  

Trent and Devon - all grown up

 

Devon was the first in a long line of children for whom my aunt and uncle provided a home. She is the only one they adopted, but they continued to provide a home for needy children for many years. I’m sure putting a linoleum floor in a bedroom frequented by displaced children was the wisest thing to do. I can just imagine carpet with gum stuck to it and holes from the adventurous things children do.  

They were given the most difficult cases over the years because they were able to achieve such tremendous results. I don’t know many details of the children who stayed here and what was accomplished because my aunt and uncle don’t talk about it much. It’s just something they have done.  

My aunt and uncle are well into their sixties now and I don’t think they take in foster children any longer. These days they are licensed to work with special needs children. They provide care for children whose families need assistance. That is why my uncle was playing Skip Bo with the young boy I met today. His family needs help and they are providing it.  

  

There’s a wall full of children’s pictures here. It tells the story of the children who have lived under this roof. The beauty of this home is in the love that resides here. The beauty of this home is in the way two people have chosen to give of themselves to help others. The beauty in this home is in the legacy they are leaving their grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild is now in college majoring in social work. They have made such an impact on me that I look forward to the day I can follow in their footsteps and bring hurting children into my home to help them, to show them love, to teach them responsibility, and to be the hands and feet of Christ to them.  

My aunt and uncle seem to understand the command of Christ to care for the fatherless better than nearly anyone I know. I know that it has not been easy for them. Their hearts have broken many times. I have no doubt there have been times of great frustration and personal sacrifice. Yet they have continued to help. This is true religion. This is true beauty. I live near one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and am regularly in mini-mansions that are decorated with all the latest things. They are gorgeous and tasteful. They smell wonderful and have soft music playing in the background. But in an old farmhouse in rural Iowa, I have discovered true beauty. It is the beauty of a life well-spent. It is the beauty of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  

Robert and Linda admiring their newest grandson

 

Thank you, Uncle Robert and Aunt Linda, for being the real thing. I am honored to call you family.  

James 1:27 (ASV) – Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.  

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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Vacation!

With her cousin on July 4th

Excited... Alexis with her cousin on July 4th

 

I’m on vacation!  I’m heading home next week to spend time with my family and old friends.  My number one companion next week is about two feet tall and says things like, “I wuv ew, KeeBee” (the 21-month old version of “I love you, Aunt Kimberly.”)  She is the sweetest little girl and takes great joy in my silly songs.  My niece and I will be kickin’ it at the park, at the zoo, and wherever else her little heart desires.  I can’t wait to see her.

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Thoughts on “Back to School”

Or My Mom is Awesome

When I was in seminary, many of my classmates were married men.  I know that’s surprising: married men in seminary…  One semester I took a crazy class load, participated in student government, and worked two part-time jobs.  I thought I was going to blow up into tiny little pieces if one more thing got added to my juggling act.  My classmate Rob chose that time to tell me all the things his stay-at-home wife did to help him with school.  He had a long commute each day, so she read his reading assignments into a recording device so he could listen as he drove.  She helped him do research for his papers.  He recorded lectures and she listened to them so they could discuss them later.  She helped him any way she could.  The other guys who were listening proceeded to tell me the nice things their wives did to help them with school.  This news prompted me to say, in total frustration, “I need a wife!”  or an assistant, anyway… 

I called my mom and told her all about it, because she’s the one who seems to understand the most when I have some complainin’ to do.  Amazingly, my mother reminded me that she had done the same types of things for my dad while he was in seminary.  While I muttered under my breath about how men wouldn’t survive in this world without women, my mom said something to add to my amazement.  She told me she would help me.  With the wonder of technology, I emailed my assignment to her along with all the various parts, and she organized it beautifully.  (The work was already done, but the formatting and organization would’ve taken me hours.)  It was one project, but that help kept me sane.   My mom’s willingness to break from her own busy schedule to help me also helped me feel God’s arms of love around me, hearing even my silliest request for “a wife.” 

Side note here – of course I actually want a husband, but I don’t know that I’ve ever met a man who would help out his wife in the way these wives helped their husbands.  I’m not making any kind of lifestyle confession here!  I still love men. 

Recently, some friends and I were chatting over coffee and it came up that their parents had taken very little interest in their education.  None of their parents helped them with homework assignments or things they didn’t understand.  Shocked, I thought back on all the times my mother stayed up late to help me figure out a complicated math concept, quiz me on vocabulary words, edit my papers for grammatical errors, and make sure I understood concepts from my science or history books.  I never thought much about it.  In fact, I often resented her and yelled at her in frustration over my own lack of ability to understand something.  Even though I took her for granted, she always helped me out.  She wasn’t the kind of mom who did my projects for me, but she figured out how to help me learn for myself when others couldn’t teach me – no matter how tired or sick or frustrated she was herself. 

After that conversation, I did an informal poll and asked my friends if their parents helped them in school.  To my surprise, it took a while to find anyone who said yes.  Even those who said yes said the help they received was very limited.  And since many of my friends are already parents, that leads me to a further question – do you plan to help your children with their school work?  One of my friends already helps her children, another is planning to when they get into school, and another hadn’t really thought much about it. 

I think educating children is one of the most important tasks of a parent.  Whether the parent is a home-schooler or if the child has 8 different teachers at school, teaching begins at home.  My mom used to give me a spelling test the night before the actual spelling test.  Every word I missed, she had me write five times.  Then I was re-tested on those words.  The process repeated itself until I could correctly spell every single word.  I rarely made less than 100% on spelling tests.  It was pretty hard not to succeed with that kind of support.  And as an adult when I find a word that I repeatedly mis-spell, guess what I do?  Yup.  Write it five times and repeat until I get it right.  She taught me life skills as well as study skills. 

With the start of the new school year, I encourage you parents to help your kids study and learn along with them.  If there’s a subject you aren’t good in, try your best to keep up with your child’s learning so you can continue to help them as they get further along in the work.  Education is so important!  Especially the education we receive at home.  Make your home an environment of learning and you will set your children up for success in the future.  What a beautiful gift you can give your children!

P.S.  My dad is a master teacher and did much to educate me too.  He left the school work to Mom, but he taught me leadership and management principles, stage presence, how to work with difficult people, how to ski, how to play basketball, how to explore a cave or a river, and so much more.  I have truly been blessed.

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, teach these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”   -2 Timothy 2:2

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Orie Wenger

My Uncle Orie, my dad’s youngest brother, passed away two weeks ago (June 6, 2009) at age 55.  I happened to be home in South Carolina for a visit.  Uncle Orie had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in February.  He had been sick for a while before that, but they thought it was something else.  My uncle was never a big man, and this type of cancer makes it impossible to digest food, so he got smaller and smaller every time I went home.  It was so hard to see him suffering and in pain.  In spite of my concern for him when I saw him, he had a good attitude even on the last day.  I am so thankful that I was able to pray with him on that Friday evening. 

To describe my uncle to someone who didn’t know him is an interesting task.  Dad and Orie grew up on a farm in Iowa, in a family of six boys and two girls.  They worked hard and moved quickly.  There was no such thing as slow with them.  I don’t like slow much myself, but the way they paced themselves makes me look like a turtle.  Possibly as a result of the constant rush they were in, Orie developed a bit of a stutter.  He always seemed to be in a hurry to get his words out and unable to slow down long enough to let his brain and mouth work together. 

Orie was missing a finger.  I’ve heard the story before but don’t exactly recall it.  I think it had something to do with accidentally shooting oil into his finger (I can’t explain how that might happen…) and not going to the doctor until a bad infection had set in.  Anyway, it was a farming accident and certainly made him unique! 

He grew up Mennonite and was good at making things with his hands – especially with wood.  He liked to drive cars and run anything with a motor.  (By the way, Mennonite is not Amish.  They were simple, but drove cars and had modern appliances.)  When some of my boy cousins reached age 18, he took them to fill out their “conscientious objector” papers with the government so they would never be forced to fight in a war.  (Mennonites are pacifists.)  I don’t know how he stood on war in his later years though.

When I was a kid, he fed me fried calf brains for dinner.  Mom about died.  Not only did I eat them, but I kept telling Mom that it was “the best chicken” I’d ever had.  I’ve never had them since then and have no intention of ever trying them again. 

When Orie lived in Iowa, he built a cabin out in the woods.  Our family went out there often for get-togethers.  There are around 100 of us now if you count all the spouses and children.  Having all those people at his cabin made him really, really happy.  If Orie was anything, it was hospitable.  He had such a gift of mercy and compassion, and he loved to have people in his home.  The house he built in South Carolina is three stories.  On the first floor, there are two apartments – one for Grandma and Grandpa; one for a single mom who needed help.  On the second floor is their main living area – master bedroom, big kitchen, living room, office, and bedroom.  On the third floor are more bedrooms and bathrooms, a large living area with a pool table and big screen TV, and a kitchenette.  If you’re counting, that makes four kitchens, three laundry rooms, and I think six bathrooms.  Why in the world would he build such a house?  He NEEDED it.  That house has been constantly filled with people ever since the day it was built.  That was just who he was.  There were always more cars at Uncle Orie’s house than parking spaces.  I think over the years my brother may have spent more time over there with our cousin who is his age than he did at our own house. 

He cared about my ministry and always asked how things at my church in Nashville were going.  He had faith until the very end that God would heal his body and he would be a testimony to others of miraculous healing.  He was a friend to me when I was struggling to communicate with my dad.  He has been a friend to my brother.  There are many other things I could write about my uncle here, but these are my main memories of him.  It’s hard to imagine the world without him.

On the day before he died, Dad called me and my sister to let us know that he wasn’t doing well.  He said we should go over there and see him.  My sister and I quickly drove over, uncertain about arriving unannounced or what to say, but sure that we wanted to see him one last time.  The man I saw that night was much too thin and suffering, but his heart was turned toward God.  He was so glad to see us.  He called us by name.  Without a conscious thought, my hands reached out to touch him and prayers started out of me.  I wanted so badly for God to take away his pain.  I prayed that he would have comfort, strength, and healing.  I felt so helpless and insignificant in the face of his pain.  And I kissed his hand before I left, trying to get out before the tears I knew were coming spilled out. 

My grandmother, Aunt Bev, and cousins David, Lydia, and Joseph will miss him the most.  They have been by his side through this battle, caring for him and supporting him.  My Aunt Bev is truly a woman of God.  She ministered to Orie all of his life, but in these past months she cut out all distractions and focused on him and their family.  Please pray for them as you read this blog.  Their lives have been shockingly altered by his passing and they need our prayers as they grieve and try to figure out how to go on from here.

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Shortpants

My mother, who is petite and small, had no idea what to do with me, tall even as a baby.  I was always at least a head taller than the other kids my age.  Mom had a difficult job just trying to dress me in clothes that allowed me to look like a little girl but still fit properly and were affordable.  My grandfather nicknamed me “shortpants”, which I guess I don’t need to explain any further.  It was a hard job for her.  Thankfully, she knows how to sew, so I often wore beautiful, handmade clothes.  I liked that because I could basically customize the outfits, picking out the fabric and the pattern.

When I got into middle school and went to a Christian school where we had to wear skirts all the time (girls and boys), we had a whole new issue.  The skirts had to touch the top of our knees and long skirts were not in style.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in the principal’s office for my short skirts.  Plus, we wore pantyhose.  The fit guide on the back of the package said I needed queen-sized because of my height, so that’s what Mom bought.  The queen-sized hose were too big for me, so I could pull them up to the very top of my stomach.  My even taller best friend had the same problem so together we freakishly wore our pantyhose over our entire stomachs.  Cute.  Really cute. 

By high school I had figured out that short pants were not a good thing.  I forced my mother to get me pants that were long enough, or maybe even a little too long.  (By the way, I was joking back there about boys also wearing skirts. :-))  Mom still bought me clothes that were several sizes too big.  She had done that when I was a child because I grew so quickly that getting clothes a few sizes too big extended the time I was able to wear them and saved us money.  Once I stopped growing though, the habit was not changed.  I constantly pinned clothes to make them fit better.  It didn’t occur to me to buy things smaller.  

When I got to college and gained the freshman-fifteen, I was surprised to find that my clothes actually started to fit.  The pins came out and I was suddenly filling out my clothes and they looked good.  It was quite the surprise. 

I gained more weight during college and have had a hard time losing it.  I’ve done all kinds of diets and exercise programs, but discovered that my excess weight is something I use as a shield to protect myself.  I’ve been to counselors, life coaches, pastors, holistic healers, nutritionists, and personal trainers.  I’ve read every book on the subject I can find.  I’ve prayed and prayed for healing and deliverance.  I want to be whole and healed.  I want to be able to help others who are struggling with similar issues. 

These struggles have put my body image issues into perspective.  There was a time when I obsessed about being taller than everyone else and wishing I could be petite and small.  I wouldn’t even become too good of friends with people who emphasized my feelings of awkwardness by having the gall to be significantly smaller than me.  I obsessed over the parts of my body that didn’t look like a super-model – I’ll spare you the list…  This journey has taught me that little flaws are a blessing.  Little flaws can be covered up.  I’ve learned to appreciate the things about myself that I can. 

These days I actually enjoy my height.  I’ve learned how to find clothes that fit.  I’ve learned the importance of feeling comfortable in those clothes.  But this is the skin I’ve been in all my life:  too tall, too thin, too heavy, too smart, too loud, too opinionated, too bossy, too busy, too religious, too rebellious.  Whatever.  Here I am, trying to be the best I can be. 

At least these days my mother has been relieved of the responsibility of trying to find clothes to fit me.  And short of some kind of alien invasion where I’m forced to wear whatever I can find on a journey to safety, you will never see me in a pair of pants that are too short.

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