Hidden Potential*

When they were first married, my son and his wife purchased a home that was a short sale. When they first brought me to see the house, it was somewhat difficult to look past the dirt and junk. There were piles of toys, clothes, and miscellaneous items that had been left by the previous owners.  In the bathroom, the tub surround was full of crayon scribbles and the toilets were in dire need of a good cleaning and disinfectant. In the basement the refrigerator still had food in it, and the smell was rank when the door was opened. Even trash had been left in the kitchen can.

The outside had ivy growing unchecked around the entire foundation. The large back yard was full of weeds and shrubs that had been allowed to grow wild, not to mention a pile of cinder blocks that served no useful function that we could see. Dead trees had fallen and the decaying logs were lying on the ground.

Most people would have walked away after seeing the first room, and indeed, at first I just saw all of the surface issues. But on a deeper, second look, I could envision the possibilities they saw in the home. As they worked hard at making the house into a home, a beautiful picture emerged.

Everything was sorted and either thrown away or given to the thrift store. The walls were cleaned and painted. Hardware was stripped of years of grime and coats of paint and looked new. Hardwood floors were sanded and sealed. Broken windows were replaced, and ivy was pulled. Suddenly the house was living up to its potential. It was not an easy task and took hard work and perseverance.  

Just cleaning the refrigerator and stove were huge chores. My daughter-in-laws’ Dad and Mom literally took them apart and cleaned them piece by piece. As layer after layer of dirt and grime was washed away, the stove and refrigerator became clean and sparkling. After all was finished my son and his wife had a home that showed its true character. Underneath all the junk was a jewel waiting to be discovered.

All of this made me think that it is a wonderful thing that God sees beyond our flawed selves to the beautiful people we can become. He takes lives that are broken, used, abused, and discarded, and makes them into something beautiful. Sometimes it entails a lot of hard work as God cleans up the garbage and throws out the bad things in our lives. Sometimes it means that God takes us apart piece by piece, stripping us down to our bare selves so that he can bring out our true beauty. Sometimes it means pulling out all of the weeds and dead, rotting timber in our lives so that we can grow something beautiful.

When God sees us, he sees the hidden character beneath and when we allow him to do his work in us, suddenly the hidden jewels shine forth. I am so thankful that God looks past the surface to see the potential. Aren’t you?

*originally posted April 4, 2011 on CWRN blog.

The Little Yellow House

One of my favorite aunts passed away yesterday (dare I say my favorite?). I only have two aunts left out of 14 originally. She was kind and compassionate, hospitable, and patient. She was generous with her love. And even though she had bright red hair, she did not have the temper that is such a stereotype for redheads! Although I do have to say I saw her aggravated occasionally, usually with my uncle. But it must not have been too bad because they were married over 65 years.

I have lots of fond memories of spending time at her little yellow house that was truly a home. I loved her green Fiesta Ware dishes that were square instead of round. I enjoyed eating her “cheesecake.” It was not until later that I learned it technically was pineapple fluff, not a true cheesecake. But it did have a graham cracker crust and cream cheese in it.

I was always excited to see her little yellow house at the corner of the Nortonville Gravel Road and her road. When I think back on how small that house was, I am somewhat amazed that a family of 5 could live there! And she hosted so many dinners there. I loved staying all night, even though it meant I had to kick my cousin Randy out of his tiny room for the night. There was no basement and I remember going to the root cellar to get canned goods for her and even one time going down there when there was a possible tornado. When my uncle finally built additional rooms on the house, it still remained yellow–such a happy color in my mind.

When I decided to move back home from Ohio, it was Aunt MaryAnn who came with my mom and helped load up all my belongings. I was probably more excited to see her than I was to see my mom. She has always just been there–loving and encouraging, gentle and kind.

She loved Christmas and one time when I took some friends from church home with me, we went to my aunt’s house just to see her collection of Santa Clauses. It was pretty amazing. She was so glad we were there. My friends commented on how gracious and welcoming she was.

Her life has never been easy and she lost a daughter many years ago and has one son who has made poor choices over and over again, which led to his life in prison. But she has one son who is a lot like her–compassionate, strong, kind and loving. She never complained of her lot in life and always still loved others. She cared for grandchildren and loved them unconditionally, she opened her home on more occasions than I can count and probably even know, and she endured difficult back pain that necessitated surgery. All without complaint–well at least to my knowledge.

And while the last few years have been spent with Alzheimer’s, she would still smile through her confusion when she had no clue who you were. It was hard to watch as her health went downhill with the advent of Alzheimer’s. I remember the last time I had a conversation with her at a family reunion. I reminded her gently who I was after I could see the look of confusion on her face. She asked me how Tom was doing. He was my husband, who had died a few years earlier.

Alzheimers is an ugly disease and it does not have mercy on anyone. As it did not on her. The things Alzheimer victims forget are a lifetime of memories and skills learned since childhood. The lack of recognition of the ones who love them most is debilitating for everyone. My cousin and his partner have been primary caretakers for both her and my uncle during the past several years–and believe me–that is a huge undertaking. It was not easy for him and my uncle to watch her slowly slip away to the disease until she was at a point where she could no longer be cared for at home.

Aunt MaryAnn, I am happy to think that you are smiling and chatting away in heaven with those who have gone before you. No more sickness, no more tears, no more sorrow. Enjoy your rest.

Snow Days

Today I am looking out my window and watching the snow steadily fall with a quiet whisper. As it accumulates and covers everything with a blanket of white, in my mind I am revisiting my childhood. Days like today have a sweet poignancy for me. They remind me of days that are past, but memories that are priceless.

I can envision the snow drifts piled along the fences and covering some of the roads. There was no snowplow with its big scoop to shovel the snow on our quarter mile lane. If it was a weekday, we put on our snow boots and walked to the main road and waited until the school bus came. But when we had snow on a weekend–then the fun began. We lived in the country and watching tv on snowy days was not an option.

After chores were completed, we would drag out the sled and pull it to the highest hill in our pasture. We would sled until our feet were numb and our faces were frozen and then trek home to gather in front of the pot-bellied stove and thaw, our feet tingling as the feeling came back. Oh yes, even in the 60s, we had no central heat and no running water. I would often envy my friends who had both.

As it would grow dark, we would listen to wind whistling through windows covered with ice, as we gathered in the one room that was warm enough for all of us. My dad would get out the games and we would play Monopoly, Parcheesi, or WahHoo (our name for Aggravation) on the board my cousin’s husband made for us.  As we started playing, my mom would be in the kitchen making home-made doughnuts and hot chocolate (nothing like the packets we use today!). As we would moan if we were put in jail, or accuse a sibling of cheating, we were building precious memories. We would laugh or pout, depending on whether we were winning or losing. Those times were also building a life-long love of games for me.

As we played, my mom would be in the kitchen making doughnuts and hot chocolate. It never occurred to any of us to help her; we were having too much fun playing games. She would bring the platter of doughnuts into the living room, and we would take a break long enough to retrieve our cups of hot chocolate and enjoy the melt-in-your mouth goodness of her doughnuts. We would spend the next two or three hours together, not realizing how many memories we were making.

Doughnuts made by my niece Stephanie. The tradition continues.

I wish I could say I was as diligent in making memories with my children on snow days. Instead, they would go sledding on McKelvey Hill with all their friends or watch a movie on television. If I could go back, I would do it differently. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs.

So, what about you? I encourage you to take the time to make some precious memories with your loved ones on days like today. Make a snow angel, bake cookies together, play a game, build a snowman, and yes, maybe even watch a favorite movie. Build memories that will last a lifetime so that someday you will look back with fondness, and maybe even a little nostalgia, to the memories you have created. Oh, and if you want–make doughnuts. Here is my mom’s recipe.

Mom’s Doughnut recipe – from memory written in her handwriting

Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned: Continue reading

The Ants Go Marching

As an older woman whose children have all reached adulthood and live on their own, I am often reminded of how difficult it is being a Mom. As I read some of my younger friend’s Facebook posts, I wish I could make their journey easier, but in all honesty, even the best of parents experience their times of frustration and agony. I was far from a perfect Mom and there were days when I just wanted to throw in the towel or lock myself in the bathroom and throw a temper tantrum, kicking and screaming like a toddler (oh wait, I really did that!). Continue reading

A House Is Not a Home

I have old run down houseto say I love watching “Fixer Upper.”  It is absolutely one of my favorite shows.  Watching Chip and Joanna take an old, tired house and turn it into a thing of beauty is truly fun. I think one of the reasons I love the show so much is because growing up, we lived in some of those old, tired houses–only we never got to fix them up.  I wish I had pictures to share of some of the many places we lived. But alas, our house burned down when I was in college, and there are no childhood home pictures.  But I had two favorites. Continue reading