Living in the Moment

I’ve been re-reading One Thousand Gifts lately and have been convicted by the way I rush through life to the next thing. Have to get the laundry done, have to get another meal on the table, have to get the children to school, have to, have to, have to… But moments slip by and I miss the glory there. In my rush to the next thing, I miss Him in that moment. I miss the grace, I miss the beauty, I miss the wonder. The following quotes are some of my favorites…

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”

“On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.”

“I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done – yesterday…I just want time to do my one life well.”

I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment…In the present. I AM – His very name.”

I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God.”

So, here’s to slowing down time by being present in every moment. I sure have a lot to learn!

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We just returned last night from a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. Our children are such a fun age for this. Yes, we still have the tempers, the impatience, the “she hit me,” the “Dad, when are we gonna be there,” the whining…but there’s a wonder in this age when everything is still fun and exciting. Eat delicious burgers at Steak and Shake? Check! Explore the aquarium? Check! Go mini-golfing? Check! Hear some great Southern Gospel singing? Check! Stay in a motel?! Check! Jump waves and build sand castles? Check and check!

By the way, although I enjoy songs from many genres, I’m an unapologetic Southern Gospel music fan! When I was younger, this was a tiny bit embarrassing. Liking SG wasn’t “cool” and wasn’t something I told everyone. One of the nice things about getting older is that you don’t care so much about these things. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve falling asleep on Mom’s shoulder when a concert got a little late, the thrill of getting the entire group to autograph their picture or CD, whole days at the Blue Mountain Gospel Music Festival in Kempton, and trips to the Smokies for week-long Gospel sings. I was raised on it, and I still love it!

We’ve long discussed attending Singing in the Sun, and this year our children seemed a good age to try it. It was great hearing some of our favorites. We had very fun family times too. I asked Shanna today what her best thing was. Her answer? “Burying up your feet in the sand.” Why did we spend money on any other activities? Our children would have probably been perfectly happy in the sand and water all day, every day!

And today, it’s back to the schedule of school, doing laundry (such sandy, wet things!), and trying to soak in all the moments. Our garden is growing, the dogwoods and azaleas are blooming, the sky is blue, we are healthy. Bella was feeling a little blue about the long-anticipated trip being over. I reminded her (and myself) of the quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

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Hope your day is blessed!

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Memories of Lynnae

Eleven years ago I think I was on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic. About 36 hours before that I received a phone call from my Mom. “She’s gone,” she said. They say time heals, and that’s partly true. The sharp pain of loss may be gone, but the ache of missing her never will be. I’m reminded of this when…

I hear one of her favorite songs on the radio and think of how she could sing so beautifully…

I laugh with my Mom and sisters and someone’s hearty laughter is missing…

I spend time with her children and catch glimpses of her in their smiles, their eyes, their memories…

I tell stories about her to my own children and feel a sadness that they will never know her here on this earth, that I never got to share motherhood with her…

I think of the last time I held her. She was so sick and her arms felt so frail. I was flying back to Romania in days, and we both knew that, apart from a miracle, this was our final earthly good-bye…

I see her handwriting in an old card or letter and wish I could still be receiving those cards and letters from her…

I remember seeing her earthly body one last time before the casket closed, in my mind’s eye I see them lower it into the ground…

But I can smile through the ache because she’s an even better singer now; I’ll hear her laugh again; I’ll see her smile, her eyes, make new memories; I’ll get to introduce her to my children; my next hug from her will be strong and healthy; just being with her will be gift enough; and know without a doubt that her grave will become resurrection ground. The time I’ll have with her will be infinitely longer than the time without her. Holding onto the these things and the promise of Heaven lessens that ache a little bit. But the tears still fall…

 

 

Beauty in Diversity

I see that my resolution last year to blog more lasted for about the first six months. Maybe this year?

When all the racial unrest was going on in Charlottesville (virtually our backyard), I played with a blog post in my mind. But so many others weighed in, and I sort of put it on hold. Racial issues are an emotional thing for me, mostly because of the diversity in our own little family. Our youngest said something this week that made me revisit these thoughts and feelings.

I don’t know if it’s because we were with both extended families over Christmas, or what brought this on, but our three-year old African American daughter said to me, “I don’t like being black. Nobody else is like me!” Now I don’t know how you would respond, but my heart broke a little bit. When I was three, I’m pretty sure I didn’t think about my skin color. And in case you’re wondering if we make a big deal of it in our family, we have always tried to have our children embrace their ethnicity and the unique, physical characteristics that brings. We try to make it a normal part of life. I remember Bella telling me after she started Kindergarten a few years ago, that she prayed for God to make her skin lighter. The only thing I can do is assure them that God made them beautiful, that they are loved just like they are, and that diversity is part of God’s plan. But I worry that as our children grow, they will be subject to racism in a way I never had to think about.

Why do we think one shade or skin tone makes a person better? What is it about white Americans that make us think we are somehow on a higher rung of some social ladder? And (since most of my reading audience is in this category) are white Mennonite Christians really as unbiased as we’d like to think we are?

You see, I’ve asked this question of several people who fit that above category, “Do you think you’re racist?” Most quickly answer, “No!” But my next questions sometime stump them, “If your Godly white son wants to marry my Godly black daughter someday, would you be OK with that? Would it bother you to have biracial grandchildren?” Some look a little startled, as if that thought never crossed their minds. One lady told me that she doesn’t think she could allow that. I hope she changes her mind before she gets to Heaven, because I’m kind of thinking that God isn’t going to have separate ethnic sections for worshiping Him. My Bible says that every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will be gathered around His throne. Seems like we could start that mingling here. All our lives we’ve sung, “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white; they are precious in His sight.” But somehow when you personalize things, it starts to feel different.

We stereotype, whether on purpose or not, all the time. I do it too. Maybe certain weaknesses are stronger in certain ethnic groups. But how does one decide which weaknesses are better to have than another? Why can’t we focus on the strengths that run in different ethnic groups? I love how Shanna responds to music – she has soul that doesn’t come naturally for me. Maybe the passion, emotion, and affection Bella shows is because of her heritage. Our boys have certain strengths that are part of their heritage too. We all do. Can we focus on those, and let God take care of the born-in weaknesses (which we all have as well)?

See we have the cure for the racism that rocks our hurting world. His name is Jesus. Look through His eyes and we see beauty in the differences. We see beauty in the heart of someone who might not look like we do. We feel the soul connection with someone from a different culture because we share the same “bloodline.” It’s the connection we can start now. Here. It’s a little bit of Heaven on earth. It’s because we’re one blood, created in God’s image.

Maybe our big world will never be such that my little girl won’t feel her differences. But if God’s people work together, the Church can be a safe place to be different. Our generation has the potential to make it happen. It will start in my home. I hope it starts in yours.

Mothers’ Day 2017

mother's dayAs we faced infertility, entered the world of foster care, experienced the blessing of adoption…I’ve always had mixed emotions about Mothers’ Day. But today I think I feel only gratefulness.Me and Mom

First of all, to my own strong Mother. In March of 1981, she lost her father to death. I was born in June, and seven weeks later she stood again at the graveside of a man she loved – her husband, my father. I don’t remember those first months and years much, and I’m sure she struggled to raise me and my three older sisters. But with the help of her God and the many people He sent our way, she raised us well. My childhood felt very normal and she was quick to remind us that, “we have it good. We know where Daddy is and that he loved us!” So, thank you, Mom, for all the memories you made with us, for your prayers that still follo20170315_112703w us, for leading by example what it means to depend on Jesus, for teaching us to reach out to others around us, for investing in the lives of your grandchildren who all adore you, for all those moments when you felt like giving up and pressed on, for showing up anytime we need you (even the middle of the night sometimes!) You are one of my heroes and we are blessed to have you in our lives! We love you!

And then to three other mothers. You gave life to the four children we adore. You chose life for them. We are forever grateful to you for bringing them into this world. And even though circumstances didn’t happen as you would have wished, we love you and honor you today. We love your babies as if they are our own and we teach them to love and respect you, their bio mother, who is and will forever be a part of our lives! You are loved!

And to all those women out there who are still wishing and praying and longing for a baby and are still waiting, I understand. And I pray that someday you find fulfillment in a plan that is much better than you could ever dream!

Farm Edition & Additions

We live on Wondernut Farms. We were told by the previous owner that it got it’s name because of all their projects…every time they’d go to the bank or the city with plans for something, the people would “wonder what the nuts were up to now!” 🙂

We moved here with our dog, Bailey, two hens, a rooster, and six cats (one inside, five outside.) Our steer, Buster was added a little later from his pasture at Sheldon’s parents. Two cats disappeared and we are down to only one hen named Stella.

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Sweet Bailey

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Waldo and my animal-lover-who-wants-to-be-a-vet daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I came home one day to this scene…new chicks under a heat lamp and a very pleased little girl with her daddy…in my laundry room!

And now we are adding to the McDonald menagerie…20 ewes (unnamed because they all look the same), eight chicks (unnamed for the same reason), one ram named Samson,and a donkey named Eeyore who is supposed to protect the sheep from predators. We discovered that, although he is very good at protecting the adult sheep, he sees tiny lambs as enemies. This discovery was made rather tragically when he killed an out-of-season lamb we had named Waldo. So the equine vet was called out to geld the donkey. We were privileged to pay her to tell us that it had already been done. :/ But while she was here, we had her neuter our two tomcats. You never know what might happen at Wondernut Farms! 🙂

Next step: a guard dog. A short road trip for Sheldon and I happened today as we ventured south near the NC border for a Great Pyrenees puppy. I’m pretty sure that among the twists, turns, hills, “Beware of the Dog” signs, and rebel flags there were a good many loaded shotguns. In the boondocks, we found a lovely little farm with our cute puppy. Her name is Sasha, she’s 10 weeks old, and she’s already about 1/3 the size of our full-grown Golden Retriever! Time will tell if she’s better at this protection thing than her Eeyore predecessor! 🙂 In the meantime, did I mention she’s cute? And that she will likely be as tall as Sheldon when standing on her back legs? And that she has the instinct to view not only the sheep, but all the animals and people here as “her flock”? And she’s really cute! 🙂

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Yielded & Still

I don’t remember exactly when my husband came home from work and told me he was asked to relocate to VA. I knew I married a country boy with dreams of acreage and farm animals…more elbow room away from the hubbub of Lancaster County. And I wanted to support those dreams, as long as I didn’t have to give up too much!

So, he married me. A girl who grew up in the heart of Lancaster’s Amish country, a few miles from pretty much anything. My first job was at a market stand in Philly, I worked at a restaurant with tourists, we could walk to Rockvale Square Outlets from my childhood home, went to school where tour buses would pass slowly to look at all the Mennonite children at play, thrived surrounded by people, loved the “rat race” of lots of plans. Not to mention that my Mom and sisters, nieces and nephews are very important to me. I was so homesick in Romania sometimes that I thought I wouldn’t survive.

When the VA “bomb” dropped, I was sure it would be something we’d think about and that would be as far as it would go. I prayed for closed doors…no house, no church, no school for the children. But as time went on and everything fell into place, Sheldon got more excited about it, things moved forward, I felt like I was smothering with panic. How would I ever survive an interstate move? How would I ever adjust to another…life, so different from the one that was comfortable? On the outside, I was a submissive, sure-I’m-excited, no problem kind of wife. I started to feel like I was allowing a wall to be built in our marriage. Can’t he see that it won’t work? I’ll fall into deep depression! I won’t function! I CAN’T DO THIS!

I was feeling convicted. I knew in my heart that this was God’s will for our lives. Too many things worked out too well for it to be a series of coincidences. I fought it, oh, how I fought it! And few knew the battle raging inside my heart. I wanted to come to the place where I not only supported Sheldon’s dreams, but also shared them. And only a miracle would make that happen.

One morning in April 2016, I woke with a song in my head that I didn’t even know well…but the words swirling in there were, “And when you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control, there’s freedom in surrender. Lay it down and let it go.” Sheldon was leaving for a two-day trip to VA. We were recovering from a fever/achy flu. I was weepy and I remember praying, “OK, God. I’m so tired of fighting this. Just take this whole VA mess and help me allow you to make it a beautiful thing.” I was trying to pack. Sheldon’s mom had offered to keep the three youngest children so I could do just that. I drove Bella to school late that morning having allowed her to sleep in to make sure she was fully recovered from her sickness.

As we drove, I finally came to the place where I felt ready to give up. Almost to school, I felt a terrible headache come on. I got out of the vehicle and pain shot down both legs. I tried to decide if I should drive home or tell someone I didn’t feel well. But what was wrong with me? I didn’t want to make a scene for nothing. And who would I call? Sheldon was 4 1/2 hours away. So I left. The pain became more intense. I couldn’t even think. I remember very little of the drive home (about half an hour) except for saying, “Jesus, help me,” over and over. And one other thing I remember. The song that I woke thinking about? It played on the radio.

I pulled into the garage, stumbled to the bed, wrote a text (didn’t send it) to Sheldon that said, “If I don’t wake up, I love you!” I’m not the kind to think everything is a spiritual attack, but this sure felt like it! It was like I yielded my control of our family’s future and made Satan mad. I slept fitfully for about an hour. By then, I had weird numb spots…my face, my feet, my hands. I was starting to think migraine. I called my mom and told her that I’m home alone and I think I’m having a migraine. But what if it’s a stroke or something else? So I asked her to call me in an hour to check on me. (Hey, what are moms for right? 🙂 )

I was also convinced that I had a panic attack. I called Sheldon and told him what was going on. He wondered if he should come home and I told him I’d be okay. Then after I hung up I thought, “No, I won’t! Please send him home, God!” A few minutes later, Sheldon called to tell me he was not staying in VA with me feeling so strange. “Thank you, Jesus!”

I began packing in the girls’ room. I carried the radio to the room to see if I could get it to work. That station never worked in the house before, but I thought I’d try…it came in clear as a bell. I thought, “About 2 hours ago, ‘that song’ played. A good radio station doesn’t play the same song that often.” Guess what one of the first songs was? (It is now “my song” and probably will be forever!) So many moments through that long day when I could see my Father saying, “Whatever is in your future, I’m here. You’re not alone. I love you. You are mine. I’ll be the same in VA as PA. Trust Me.”

The next days were some of the lowest I’ve ever experienced physically and emotionally. (After my seizure in October, we wonder now if it was seizure activity I experienced. We’ll probably never know for sure.) But I had a peace and security unlike any I’d ever known before. All the walls and fears and worries were stripped away. People were so supportive. We felt so carried through it all.

And Virginia has been one of God’s good gifts. We all love it! And even this PA-lovin’ girl married to her country boy is learning to enjoy southern, small town living. It’s a different culture…but that’s another story for another time! And those fears I had about not surviving and debilitating homesickness? They never happened…my Father was right, as always. Oh, I have imperfect days, trust me! But I’ve learned that surrender is sweet when you can trust the One you are surrendering too.

And “my song”? Give it a listen sometime…

 

Life Is Good

Life happened. It’s been filled with changes. We’ve had good and not so good experiences. And I keep thinking I need to get back to blogging again.

So, I looked today and saw that my last post was over a year ago!

One of my 2017 goals is to blog more faithfully. We shall see if this happens. I unfortunately have a habit of jumping into projects with both feet and then forgetting to follow through. Or maybe I’m too lazy to follow through! :/

I’ve always reacted to the overused “Life is Good” quote. The truth of the matter is that life here on earth is sometimes not good. People we love get sick, we face fears, we deal with overwhelming issues, we watch others hurting. But I like a song that says, “Life is good, ’cause God is. Life is good, ’cause I’m His!” That’s a quote I can agree with! And so even in those sicknesses, fears, overwhelming things, hurts…I can believe that because my God is good, life can be good too.

It’s been a year that I wouldn’t want to relive…but through it all, God’s been there. He’s carried us. He’s sent people to show us His love. He’s blessed us in so many small ways. He’s provided for all of our needs, plus some wants.

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Adoption Day!

 

In April, we were privileged to adopt our fourth child. She is a joy and delight and adds so much laughter to our home. I’m afraid she gets a little too much attention…hopefully she can grow up without being too spoiled! 🙂

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Our new house!

 

 

In June, we packed up the last of our belongings and began the trek to VA. I just never thought I’d be a southern girl. But here I am. Don’t ever tell God you won’t do something. Coming to the point of surrender to our move and new life is another story for another time. But surrender is sweet, and I am loving our new location, spring-like weather in February and all! Our house is old with lots of surprises. Some have been good…some have been “oh dear” moments. 🙂 I feel like I finally have things organized to the point that I can start to add some personal touches and that has been so much fun.

In October, I woke in ICU not remembering the two previous days. It was such an odd feeling. It has been a journey of faith for us as we wait for doctors to figure out why I had a seizure and what they should do. We are in good hands and know that God has a reason for everything. Not driving for six months has been a trial, but I’m counting down the last two months of that too…and we have had so many people who have helped out. Truly they are the hands and feet of Jesus to us!

So, I shall return to my Saturday projects. And we shall see if I reach my goals to meet you here more often! Then again, maybe it will be another year until I’m back! 🙂 Only time will tell…