Posts tagged ‘family’

Judging

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This could be Epic, one of the family dogs of my childhood.

My favorite story about Epic (short for Epictetus) is that my sister won a prize with him at a community pet show. She asked him to do a trick for the judges, and he did so perfectly. He was taller than she was at the time, because she was only around four, if that old! He loved her that much. All of us, really.

I told a story about how Epic taught me about being who you are, deep down, soul level, truth level on Jennifer Slattery’s blog, Jennifer Slattery . (click here) What a pleasure that was. Enjoy!

 

 

When the dog obeyed

02ed71835b650bc03097776c75c5599dThis is not the Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) I had growing up, because we didn’t have cell phones, much less cell phone cameras back in those dark ages. Ha! But she looked similar to this dog. Her name was Honey, and before us, she lived in the kennel where she was born, her only consistent human interaction being with the teenage girl who fed and watered her daily. She was sweet as honey, but struggled to bond with anyone but me, since I was a teenage girl.

We did 4-H obedience dog shows together, spending many happy hours training. She would refuse to “talk” to me when I gave her a bath. She would throw up in the car unless we were on the way to a dog show. But, it was as though she read the dog training manual before each training session. Smart pup!

She slept on my bed at night.

One day, my Mom happened to open the garage door just as the newspaper boy came by. Oh, no! Not the dastardly newspaper boy!!! Honey dashed out of the garage to get away from this terrible, fearsome creature.

Couldn’t find her. Just couldn’t find her. About a week later, Dad was driving down a major, busy road two miles away (the one shopping mall in town), and saw her running back and forth in a panic, trying to cross the road. She almost got hit a couple times.

Dad pulled over.

Just as she almost dashed into traffic again, he yelled, “Honey, SIT!”

She recognized his voice and froze. Just long enough Dad was able to grab her and bring her home.

She didn’t sit, but her obedience training had kicked in to save her live.

Makes me wonder…how much obedience do I have in my relationship with God?

Do I hear and recognize God’s voice as Honey recognized my father’s voice?

And when I do…

Do I obey?

In John 14, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”
(That’s in response to a question about how the world will learn about Jesus, by the way, but that’s a different blog post.)

Did Honey obey to make my Dad happy? No. She obeyed because she recognized his voice.

Do we obey to get on God’s good side?

No, God’s love is unconditional. Our obedience comes because we recognize His voice.

A voice we trust. And love.

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10)

Oy! Now I’ve got “Trust and Obey” that won’t get out of my brain!

Blessings,

Voni

When Dad was Wrong

Most of the time, my father was right …

Even if I didn’t realize it till later. Or much later.

Even if he took whatever it was more seriously than I thought it was worth.

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But there was one time when he was just plain old wrong.

I was a teenager, and my job was to work in the family rental property over the summer. Didn’t get paid in money, but I got a boatload of new clothes come school time. At any rate, my friend was having a party at her place (her dad was an ATF agent, so there was just clean fun). I went to Dad a couple weeks ahead of time and got permission to go, and to drive two of my friends. They had been giving me free rides all over the place, so Dad complimented my desire not to be a mooch friend. Yes, he used the word mooch. He told me I could have the car for the night.

However, when the day arrived, it was also carpet-laying day in the rentals.

Dad had never laid carpet before, but he was confident.

Would we be done in time for me to still take my friends to the party?

He was sure we’d be done by early afternoon. Absolutely positive. Absolutely, absolutely positive.

This was summer, so it had been several weeks since we’d had any friend time like this. I was excited and talked Dad’s ear off about it all day. Probably drove him nuts, but he was a good sport.

But come about 3:00, it was clear we were not even going to be done in time for me to give my friends a ride to the party.

Could I go call my friends and tell them I couldn’t give them a ride? (Dating myself, here. It was days long before cell phones…I would have had to drive to the diner two blocks away and use a pay phone.)

Nope. He wouldn’t let me even do that.

I realize now, even more than I realized then, that it wasn’t really the sort of job you could leave in the middle. And I realize that Dad had overestimated himself on a job he’d never done before (and no YouTube to learn from).

And I realize now that he was (internally) frightened about what the failure of the rentals would do to the family finances.

However, he was in the wrong. When we FINALLY finished and got home, Mom told me my friends had called an hour earlier, and she told them they should go ahead to the party without me. I was so furious over ditching my friends that, in my self-righteousness, I stomped around the house like a crazy woman as I showered and got ready for the party.

He didn’t didn’t punish me for my attitude. He didn’t even say a word.

Don’t get me wrong, my Dad was a good man, a strong man.

But there was a reason why, even before this, if he said something would take a certain amount of time, I would double the time and add an hour. He was no good at time.

And there is a reason why now, at the age of 50, I want to have a writing career, yet I am afraid. If I get a contract, there will be a deadline on that contract. A legal deadline on that contract.

What if I misjudge my capabilities and agree to a deadline I can’t meet? I already mostly don’t meet—self-imposed deadlines. I am like my Dad in this way.

Yet, I am also like my Dad in another way. I will not make a decision out of fear. As he did when he purchased the rental property, I will follow my dreams.

I will learn the art of fiction writing, as he learned to lay carpet.

As Dad moved from idea to landlord, I am moving from hobbyist to “real” writer.

I will write. And, eventually, I will sign a writing contract. (traditional or self-published)

And … hopefully … I will meet said deadline.

Blessings,
Voni

PS … Also like my father, I will make—and be forgiven for—parenting mistakes.
Because LOVE. Right, Leah?

The Wedding Rings–True story

We were like most people first starting out. When we got married, we were at the beginning of our careers. In other words, we couldn’t afford an expensive wedding ring, just an awesome one. It was a small marquis-cut diamond with rubies on either side. Beautiful. Both traditional and unique. I loved it.

Wish I had a picture of this ring, but this happened long before cell phones and phone cameras.

 

Six years later, we adopted our daughter. Beautiful. On my first Mother’s Day, she was ten months old. My husband, who loves me, handed me a ring-sized box. “Leah got you this with her allowance,” he explained.

My heart melted.

It melted again when I opened the box: A ring with a ruby in the center and diamonds on either side. The perfect companion to my wedding ring. Wife and Mother.

The two rings reminded me every day of my love for Rich and Leah, and their love for me.

Perfect.

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Then we attended the Navy Bean Festival in Rising Sun, Indiana. Yep. It’s a thing. A cool thing. It was a great time, enjoying the Indiana Fall and all the creative crafts and events. It was time to sit down for some bean soup and cornbread for lunch, and we found our place at a long, crowded table with open windows to let the gently brisk fall air stir our senses. Who knew bean soup tastes and smells like home? The inviting smell of the soup wafted out the windows.

Attracting wasps.

One of which made his way into the building, where my left-hand ring finger apparently bothered him.

So he stung it.

The paramedic hated telling me he was going to have to cut it off my poor swollen ring finger.

I did, too.

Rich did, too.

But that’s life.

 

We couldn’t afford to replace the ring, but I wanted a ring so we went to Walmart and got a cheapie, planning on buying a good one later. It was pretty. However, it didn’t take long for a prong to get messed up and get caught on everything; a diamond chip disappeared. I had to quit wearing it.

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Fast forward several years later. My husband, who loves me, decided enough was enough. He was on a trip to Juneau and decided to surprise me with a new ring.

Yet another melt-my-heart moment.

Only I am just 4’6”. The ring needed to be sized. Our local jeweler couldn’t do it, as he knew it would end up almost a square shape, as far down as it needed to be cut. The jeweler in Juneau said he could do it, but he was preparing to close up for the winter, so I had to make haste. We mailed the ring along with my old high school class ring which did fit, insured and all, to Rich’s co-worker in Juneau, who took the ring to the jeweler and returned it to us when he finished sizing it. Yeah, it’s the slightest bit square-ish. But not really. It fits. And I love it, and it reminds me of Rich’s love for me every time I put it on.

Perfect.

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Fast forward a couple of years. We were at the movie theater, and my hands were dry. As we waited for the movie to start, I took off my rings, put my lotion on, settled in to enjoy the movie…

And I noticed later…at home…No ring.

My heart dropped. I took it off for the lotion. But it was also cold that day, and I took gloves on and off as we went to and fro. It could have fallen anywhere. Especially with be-lotioned hands.

My husband, who loves me, did not get upset.

My heart stayed in my stomach for the next couple of days until the movie theater was open and I could call. But I didn’t need to call.

Someone responded to my Facebook message asking people to watch for it. That someone was the manager of the theater.

A teenage boy had found my ring when he went to watch the late movie that night.

And turned it in.

Hope for the world.

And my heart returned to its rightful place, beating away in my chest.

 

As our pastor reminded us yesterday, a wedding ring isn’t a marriage. It is just a symbol, just a thing.

So why have my ring(s) meant so much to me?

The same reason why stomping on a flag is more than stomping on a piece of cloth.

The same reason why a cross is more than just a decoration or something pretty to wear.

It’s the meaning behind the symbol.

A cross is not my faith, but it is a symbol of my faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice is why the cross means something.

The American flag is not my country, but it is a symbol of my country and its history and its rich legacy of democracy. That history and legacy is why the stars and stripes mean something.

A wedding ring is not love. But love is why my wedding ring means something.

I love you, too, Rich.

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What symbols mean a lot to you? What is behind the symbol? I’d love to hear!

Blessings,

Voni

Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

A Portrait of Emily Price by [Reay, Katherine]

“Francesca sported a perfect American accent–one that stretched flawlessly from Chicago to Seattle, dipping down through Colorado rather than passing up near the Canadian border.”

This…this is why I loved Katherine Reay’s Book, A Portrait of Emily Price. These characters are friends to me, now. Emily simultaneously broke my heart and warmed it with her instinct to fix everything, whether it be a pan with a loose handle or a teenager whose home Emily was restoring from a fire, whether it was her sister or her mother-in-law. I don’t do spoilers, but this instinct to fix things comes from Emily’s childhood, and it is the very thing that brings her family to a boil. And solves their problems, in a way, ultimately through faith and family. I loved watching the art come out of Emily the way pizza came out of Ben, pasta out of Donata, and bread from Lucio.

And that’s the thing. Often in a Hallmark movie, a character has a job…something artsy or community-service oriented in some way. But the writers/actors fail to make that a real part of who the character is in their core. It’s kind of a token designation that a character is a florist or a poverty lawyer or whatever.

Reay has no such failure! The artsy, fix-it side of Emily, the food-and-family side of Ben made them who they are, and it made the story what it is. I want to be frowned at by Donata, given a book by Lucio, and fed by Ben. I want to help Emily fix something and watch Joseph paint. These are people I feel like I know. This is a family whose Sunday Dinners I want to join.

I was surprised not to find myself in Atlanta or Italy when I had to look up from the book…Oh, the field of sunflowers! I wanted to go sit there until they turned my direction. I want to go truffle hunting with their dog.

But the story of Emily and this family stopped my heart in places, as it frequently stopped Emily’s heart, left her not knowing what to do, panicked. As warm as these people are, as close as they are…the secrets buried in this family are heart-breaking. And heart-warming.

It’s that kind of book.

So what did I not like about A Portrait of Emily Price? The end. I literally flipped the page on my Kindle, desperate to read more, not conscious I had reached the end. But it was over. Reay does not tell us what happens with Joseph (oops, almost committed a spoiler there). She leaves us hanging, having to think it through for ourselves. Heart-warming. And heart-breaking.

Yep. It’s that kind of book.

Blessings,

Voni

THE DAY I WAS RUDE

Sorry to say this is a true story.

Leah (preteen) and I were at a fast food restaurant, settling into a booth with our food for some mama-daughter time. Another customer walked in.

He had a large beard, down to his belly button. It was braided into a couple dozen small braids. Then the small braids were braided together into several medium braids. Then the medium braids were all caught together by the tails and bound with an elastic into a front-facing upside-down ponytail of sorts. Is that what you call it?

And there were beads.

I gulped and took a bite, looking away. In my peripheral vision, I saw Leah’s eyes widen as she noticed him.

I deliberately looked out the window. She looked down at her food.

I gave this muffled snort. She covered her mouth.

That’s when it happened.

Our eyes met.

We burst into laughter.

We couldn’t stop.

In a very strong parenting move, I finally stopped laughing long enough to whisper, “You know, we’re being very rude.” She nodded sagely, and then we start laughing again.

I just hope the fellow didn’t know we were laughing at his appearance. I don’t think he could have, but, well, I hope not anyway. I don’t normally laugh at anybody’s appearance. God made you the way He made you, you know?

And if the man did sense we were laughing at him:

I’m sorry. Truly, really, I am.

Word of warning: Don’t wear long, braided beards in front of me.

Blessings,  Voni

P.S. Sorry…no pictures. I’m not THAT rude.

P.S.S. But here’s a link to some pictures from the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Maybe the guy at the restaurant was in training?

When God Surprises

The other day, I was out watching the Coast Guard Youth Group playing soccer in the chilly Alaska fall. I looked around as the sunset covered everything with an aura of beauty.

House…House…Mountain!…House…House…

Surprise! It took my breath away. “I will lift my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121.


I remember one day about seven years ago when Rich answered the phone…

Surprise! We’re moving to Alaska! To an island in Alaska!


The other day, we drove past Barometer Mountain…termination dust! Yep, a beautiful, light white dusting of snow on the tip top of the mountain. Surprise!

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


At a writer’s retreat recently, I came barreling out of my cabin and…

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Surprise!

Look how close she let me get.  She just looked at me and returned to eating. Winter cometh! “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42


Then, on a different day, I walked out on the deck of my cabin, and…

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Surprise!

“For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? Psalm 89


The other day, I was driving home from dropping Rich at work, the same old way (not too many roads in our small island town). Then the road curved…

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Surprise!

(Thanks so much Patricia for actually taking time to stop and snap this picture of it.) I keep thinking, If I’m God, I’m like *Boom! I created blue!* But not our Creator! So many shades of blue! –Psalm 89, again–


I know…

Sometimes the surprises aren’t good.

That’s when you remember what God said about his creation: “It is good.” God did not create evil; we did that. We chose that, as human beings, as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We choose that, as individuals.

God did not create dark.

He created light.

Time after time after time after time in my life, I’ve seen God use those dark moments. I’ve seen His light during those times.

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Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  Amen!

How has God surprised you lately?

Blessings,

Voni