Friday, July 29, 2005

 

Fellowship of the Saints

As some of you may know my parents live in Minnesota, my sister and her family in Chicago and my in-laws moved to Arizona a few years ago. It's been over half my life now since I lived with my parents and almost a third of my life since I lived with in a days drive of them so I am used to this situation but it can have it's negatives, especially as they have started aging.

Being far away from them and being here with two small children (4 and 6) who I am staying at home with and homeschooling can leave me feeling divided in terms of my time, energy, commitments etc. This has been especially true since mid-March when my dad (81) had to be hospitalized with blood pressure and breathing problems. My mom (76) has diabetes and some early dementia after a week or so on her own with neighbors in their condo helping with rides and meals/diabetes oversight we decided that she needed to be in some sort of interim care for her own peace of mind and safety. So I flew out and spent a week helping get things organized and getting her moved. My sister has also been out a few times to help with interim moves and needs related to their long term insurance and other needs. (My sister also has two kids and her husband almost died of a heart attack at Christmas, has not worked since, is likely to loose his job soon, and she is preparing to reenter the job market, so she has her plate more then full).

My parents are now settled in a semi-independent living facility where they are again together for the first time since March and where they have some assistance that provides a safety net if there are new changes in their health/needs.

Anyway, for the intervening 4 months I have been trying to balance and help with all of this long distance. I am so thankful that my Parents are Christian believers so that we had prayer and faith in God's loving care to sustain us even when it felt like we were going 3 steps forward/2 steps back. However, I don't know what we would have done without the help and aid of friends and our churches. My dad has been a Minister in the Episcopal church for over 50 years now and has had ministries in variety of parishes, a nursing home, a school, a prison, with the police force, and on an Indian Reservation just to name a few.

This has meant that there have been more people then I can count who have been lifting him up in prayer and offering to help in a variety of ways. I don't know what my sister and I would have done with out them being willing to be used by the Lord to provide help and support we never could have done on our own. Many of them were willing to do it because of the things my dad had done for them in times of need. Not that he or they did it to get "pay back" but as part of their understanding of Christian service and out of gratitude and because of the example of giving they saw modeled in him. (...pressed down and overflowing..) People from my church that don't even know him have been praying regularly for them and me too as we went through all of this.
Some of the things people have done include:
-a couple who set up a ride rotation so my mom could go see my dad every day and get to church
-over 20 people who took turns providing rides as their schedules allowed.
-taking my mom out for meals
-visiting mom in the care facility or dad in the hospital
-calling them
-sending notes
-running errands
-watering their plants in the condo
-helping move furniture
-watching out for mail or packages that didn't get forwarded
-making sure moms birthday was special
-taking mom to get her hair done at the place she is used to.

I mention these things to perhaps give you all some idea of things you could do for someone in a similar situation. These people did not minister just to my parents they also ministered to me and my family by what they did. It has got me thinking and being more aware that I may not be able to go and do for my folks easily but that there are people here in my church and neighborhood who I can do similar things for as God leads.
This requires Two things though, that I be willing to do it, and that they be willing to humbly make the need known and accept help.
I am blessed to belong to a very large, active church where there is an active and growing ethos that we are to care for each others needs in the kinds of ways I have mentioned, however not everyone understands that it takes all of us using the skills, gifts etc. that God has given us to make it work. We also don't realize what a blessing this is to both the direct and indirect recipients, especially when it is offered as loving service to the Lord.

I know the concept of "Saints" has very Roman Catholic and negative connotations for most protestants. But the "fellowship of the saints" is a biblical concept that refers to the body of believers and how we function and work together as a unit/body/family under God's loving direction and the power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we all are saints called to work out our calling in service to each other and to Gods Glory.

Growing up in the Episcopal church one of my favorite children's hymns was "I sing a song of the saints of God" by Lesbia Scott
The final verse goes like this:

They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still,
The world is bright with the joyous saints, Who love to do Jesus will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops or at tea.
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.

I thank all those who lived out their sainthood by doing Jesus will in the lives of my family over the past 7 months and I pray that we all would be willing to be used as his saints in ways large and small.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Tooth Fairy

Today my six year old daughter lost her first tooth (lower middle left, FYI). It had been loose for a couple of weeks but it fell out today as we were crossing a street on our way home from the pool. So my first challenge was to carry this tiny thing home while pushing a stroller full of swimming gear through air that was thick and humid enough to cut with a knife. The next challenge comes tonight. We are not a family that "does" Santa Clause so this will be my first foray into the land of sneaky parental make believe. My daughter is a pretty sharp cookie so I don't know if she will fall for it or not but we will give the Tooth Fairy a shot tonight. The burning question right now is what the going rate for teeth is, I'm sure its gone up since I last lost one...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

3, 2, 1, Blastoff.....

The kids and I delayed our beat the heat trip to the pool today to watch the space shuttle launch on the internet. It was fun to watch, especially with the kids since it is the first one they have really been old enough to watch with any interest or understanding. It was also great that it went well, having witnessed the Challenger tragedy on TV when in Grad school, I found my heart was a bit in my throat during lift off. I am also old enough to remember Apollo 13 vividly. My most vivid memory of that is of being told about it in the chapel service we had every day in the private Episcopal day school I attended. The pastor prayed for the safety of the crew and for their families and then had us rise and sing the 3rd verse of hymn 513 in the Episcopal hymnal. It was such an emotional thing that these words still come to my mind whenever I watch a space launch or landing and I offer them now to the Lord for the crew members and families of this shuttle mission.

O Spirit, whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament;
O Wind of heaven, by thy might
Save all who dare the eagle's flight,
And keep them in they watchful care
From every peril in the air
(William Whiting, 1860)

Monday, July 18, 2005

 

Current Brain Candy

Though we had a great vacation week (see post below) it has also been stressful trying to help get my folks resettled from a distance (they are in MN while I am in PA). I will save the whole story for some future rambling post. I am praying and trusting this all to the Lords hands and plan but I still have found that I need to have some ways of escaping and drifting for awhile. I have been reading rapidly through a number of the Boxcar Children books that a friend passed on for my daughter to read. I had never read them as a child and am finding them an enjoyable and easy read and a fun set of people to escape with. I am also listening to Jars of Clay's newest CD Redemption and playing Maui Wowee when I can justify the computer time. Not much of it is deep but it has helped me relax (its been too hot for a bubble bath which is another favorite stress relief indulgance) and it has for the most part kept me from the left over bag of sour cream and onion chips that keeps calling to me from downstairs in a decidedly unlowcarb way.
What do you all read or listen to when you just need to veg for a bit?

 

Just a Few Hours Away...

This past week my husband took a week of vacation. Instead of going away anywhere we decided to stay home and do some area road trips and spend some relaxed family time together. Here is some of what we did:

-Monday was the kids first swim lesson and since the weather was great we spent the morning at the pool and then went home to read, clean, eat, relax, return books to the library and plan the rest of the week. We had been to Brooklyn and back the day before to see my husbands niece Emma, make her public profession of faith. It was fun to be with everyone but a long day (just over 2 hours in the car each way and a 2 plus hour church service followed by potluck lunch in the church hall) so we all needed some lazy time.

-Tuesday we went "down the shore" to Ocean City, NJ . Paul's sister-in-law Trish and her kids were down there too (visiting friends with a family beach house there) so we met them at the 46th street beach. The kids had fun playing with their cousins and as a result I actually got to relax and chat and do a crossword for a part of the time. We also built sandcastles, flew kites, collected shells and seaweed and jumped in the serf. Then we showered off at Trish's friends house (Thanks, Linda you were a true blessing) and had dinner on the boardwalk, ice cream, rides and souvenirs too. Got home late.

-Wednesday was more swim lessons, rest, recovery, errands, reading games etc. One high light for the kids was their first trip through the car wash, lots of fun!

-Thursday we went to the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA. The town is a cute little town. The factory is fun though it is actually not the actual factory but rather a museum/art creation facility and add for crayola products with an area that reproduces what part of the factiry looks like and shows you how the crayons are made. You get tokens that you can redeem along the way for a box of 4 crayons, markers or modeling clay. You can also draw, cut, paste, paint, model, do intaglio and other creative things along the way. The kids loved it and Paul made lots of neat things (very artistic man) I felt creatively impaired by comparison but at least I could carry and keep track of all the goodies and creations for everyone. Your admission also gets you into the National Canal Museum which had some interesting exhibits on canal boats and canal boat life. The are going to be redoing this already interesting display next year with a new more interactive exhibit designed by the Science Museum of Minnesota. I have worked with the SM of M before and they do some of the best work in the industry when it comes to this sort of thing so I am already planning a Pennsylvania History Unit on Canal boats that will include a return trip with some other homeschooling friends. It also inexplicably included a room with some railroad stuff and a room with info. about the local silk weaving industry. Paul and Andrew checked out the trains while a very nice docent taught Vicky how to use a lap loom.

-Friday morning I listened in on a care conference meeting for my Dad who is moving from skilled nursing care into a semi-independent living situation with my mom. We then packed up the care with a cooler, tablecloth, water, binoculars and fieldguides and headed off to Ridley Creek State Park. My husband used to go here with his family as a kid and it is fast becoming a family favorite for us too. We hiked a fun trail that went down along the river and though we could hear distant thunder and some sprinkles the tree canopy kept us dry. We saw lots of different kinds and colors of mushrooms on our walk, a number of black winged dragonfly like things, a dead but intact Promethia Moth and heard lots of birds. We later grilled steaks and zucchini while the kids played on some swings and a slide. On the drive out of the park at dusk we saw 8 rabbits by the sides of the road, one doe and a toad that Paul screeched to a stop to chase around and remove from the road lest it get squished, much to the kids delight it peed in his hands when he picked it up almost causing him to drop it.

One of the highlights of the week for me was some down time with my husband, even though we were home we managed to shove aside at least some of the normal routines, ruts and chores and spend a little more time together, we played some "Lost Cities" a two person game he bought me years ago because it features ancient civilizations as part of its theme. We also watched at least one episode of the DVD's for the canceled TV show "Firefly". I friend had lent them to us and we love them and are sorry it was canceled. It's sort of a western set in space and though there is violence and adult themes it is not for the most part gratuitous. The best part is though the ability of the crew to escape from anything can stretch credulity it is wonderfully written, deals intelligently with complex moral themes, has character development (ie they are not just stereotypes the western genre rolls might indicate) and is funny (at times we had to pause while we stopped laughing).

Hope all of you are also enjoying your vacations and remember if you can't get away (like we couldn't, you can probably find fun with your family just a few hours away)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

 

What did you do with your summer vacation...

My friend Lisa Ryken's son Josh is likely to win the prize when he returns to school and is asked that question. He went for a week with his Grandparents as they led a study tour in Great Britain. He was there this past week or so while they were in London. So he was there for the Live 8 concert (though I don't know if he got into the grounds or not), the announcement of the Olympics being awarded to London, and was on his way to the Airport to return home when the terrorist bombings occurred today. He, his grandparents and those in their group are all fine and Josh is back in the states now. But, the hotel where they are staying is just two blocks from where the double decker bus was bombed and when Josh saw pictures of it he recognized the red cylinder and other objects on the sidewalk as a place where he had been standing waiting just two days before. This is all with out hearing about any of the historic or cultural sites that he managed to squeeze in.

I praise God that he and his grandparents are safe and I pray for all those injured and families of those killed. It was sort of spooky to listen to the radio and be again reminded how you never know what a day will bring, some of the photos of dazed looking people and big groups of folks walking to get where they had to go where very reminiscent of 9/11.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

 

Sparkling 4th

We spent most of our Philadelphia 4th of July off the beaten historical and big event path. The closest we came was parking in center city to join friends at their condo for some hamburgers and pool time. While we were unloading the care one of the double Decker buses used for tours of the historic sites and other nearby areas of interest came down the street. My 4 year old son started jumping up and down (while holding a long wiggly blue pool noodle under each arm) and yelling "Happy 4th of July" to all the tourists on the upper deck. To their credit many of them waved back which made his day.

After some fun time with our friends we headed for the fireworks in the nearby suburb of Narberth. The main gathering is in a ballfield/playgound area there but we set up on a small hill at the end of a park a bit back from the field. You can see the fireworks, except for the ground show, over the tree tops and can avoid the crowds. There is the added attraction of being in this nice park with a stream, trees, birds, fish, insect etc. All of this makes waiting easier as the kids can run around and explore. The biggest hits are always the fireflies and the bats that come out after dark. The fireworks were good and it was fun to watch Andrew alternate between fear of the loud noise and fascination with and questions about the fireworks.

The best light show though was that put on by Gods hand in nature last night. As we walked back to the car the whole area of the park was just twinkling with hundreds/thousands of fireflies. It was magical looking, I half expected centaurs or a princess or Aslan to appear it just had a glorious quiet beauty that is hard to capture in words.

When we got home and tucked all ready sleeping kids into bed I turned on the TV and caught the end of Philadelphia's big party/concert on the parkway. It takes place right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the same place the Live 8 concert was two days ago). Elton John was performing but the performance seemed a bit lack luster to me and the whole thing was really a big ad for his Aids research/assistance foundation. Now don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with helping those with HIV and AIDS and as a Christian I think we have a duty to minister to and help combat this epidemic. I am just not comfortable with the degree to which the city's celebration of the 4th of July was coopted by this cause. Philadelphia is the city where our country started and the celebration here of all places should be about the country, our history etc. and should be done for the whole country, not be for rent by the cause of the day. My other annual problem with watching the city's fireworks display, which I will grant is always long and lovely and fun to watch, is location. It is done right at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum professional in me just shudders at the potential for harm to the collections from smoke, ash, vibration, accidental fire, etc. This year there were more devices exploded from the plaza at the top of the "Rocky Steps" that lead up to the museum then usual and it just gives me pause. I suppose the museum wouldn't let them do it if it were causing too much risk, but then since most of their budget comes from the city I wonder how much choice/say they really have. I know that when I worked for a University Museum across town we often had little choice when the University wanted to use the galleries for events we felt could compromise object safety.

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