Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rambling Randomness

It's been a wild and crazy spring - maybe one nice warm, sunny day per week, if we were lucky. Today it seemed to turn that corner into, maybe, summer. And a quick turn-around it's supposed to be. The problem with that is the too-fast melting of the huge amounts of snow in the mountains, which could potentially come rushing down and cause flooding down here in the foothills. The snow on Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest continuous highway in the country, has 28 foot piles of snow. The highway is usually opened by Memorial Day for tourists to get to the other side of the mountain, but they had it almost plowed out when winds and snow hit and again and caused 17 foot drifts. Amazing.

The spring flowers lasted a long time, and seemed to thrive on the cool, wet days. The tulips were huge and there are still a few surviving.

The first iris --

The first columbine --

The prolific johnny jump-ups - almost like weeds, but so cute --

And I love the lily of the valley --

The end of the school year came quickly and was incredibly busy - they got out entirely too early this year - I don't know what the school board was thinking. Most of the end of the year events were dampened - literally - by the weather. Field Day was not fun for me - I don't love standing outside watching kids play in the cold and dampness. But I persevered, and tried to get to each of the girls' activities, missing a lot, though. With twin threes, it was extra hard, because they wanted to play instead of watch, of course. Mommy and I switched places midway through the morning.

This was the first time I've enjoyed the indoor activities more than the outdoor - it's usually too hot and stuffy. This year it just felt good.

Of course I had to attend the Awards Assembly, where kids are honored by their teachers for excellence in various areas. Hayley knew she was getting an award, but didn't know in what. It could have been any of several, in my opinion. Not surprisingly, it was for her writing.

Her teacher said these very fun things as she presented the certificate --

Then there was the end of the year Girl Scout meeting, where Hayley was promoted from Brownies to Juniors - and received her Brownie patches.

She went under the bridge from one level to the next --

They did the official hand shake --

And got her new sash to replace the brown vest - onward and upward to new adventures.

THEN - it was Livi's birthday party - another cold day, which did turn out better than it started. It was her first "kid" party, and all the kids in her class were invited. Not too many came (or RSVP'd), but there were enough to have a really good time together at the wonderful new park in our town.

Of course, I always like to update you with my latest readings. Abby was my favorite contestant the first year I watched The Biggest Loser - Season 8. I had read some of her story in a magazine, which is why I turned in. I loved her spirit, in spite of the fact that she had come to the Ranch to try to regain her life after losing her whole family to a horrific car crash, which sent her spiraling into weight gain. I was so glad to see that she had written a book, and it was really worth the time. I highly recommend it - even if you didn't follow her on the show.

And lest you think I haven't been with the littles - fear not. I have been keeping them overnight quite often, giving Kristen a bit of a break. They are so easy in the evening - they go to bed around 7 and sleep 12 hours. Yesterday Emma acquired pink eye - it was so cute when Emma kept talking about her pink eye and Katie kept saying, "I don't have a pink eye." They don't usually have something that the other doesn't. Hopefully the drops will work quickly - not something she enjoys! The other day, they emptied their stuffed animal tub on Grandma.

Well, I didn't mean to dump quite so much on you all, but I guess it's been too long since I wrote anything! Just a bit of update - Kev and Angie left this morning, later than they planned. They had far too many delays, and still haven't reached their night's stop in mid-Iowa. They think it will be midnight before they get there. But Angie got a call (while her phone didn't have any bars) from the hospital where she applied and who have called her before. They wanted her to talk to two managers - so hopefully tomorrow morning won't be too late. She didn't get the message until it was too late to call back today. Obviously a prayer request!

UPDATE: Angie returned the calls this morning (Wednesday) and now has THREE interviews on Monday at the hospital! Praise the Lord!

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Beginning

Kevin and Angie will celebrate their 10th anniversary on September 1. They have been physically together for about 5 of those 10 anniversaries. It will be a great day. I was reminiscing about their wedding day as I drove down the street one day this past week. It was the culmination of several months of wrestling with the INS to get her fiance visa. When it was finally granted, they had 90 days to get married so that she could legally remain in the US.

Their wedding was special - we tried to do as many things as possible to make it what she wanted it to be. They spoke their vows in Swahili, and even my brother, who performed the ceremony, learned a few words so that he could make the final proclamation in that African language. Since her parents could not be here, we had some special words from her dad read to the audience.

But one of my favorite things was when they turned to the congregation and we all sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" together. Little did any of us know how much we would have to depend upon that faithfulness as the years unfolded. And He has never failed to be faithful.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(Lyrics by Thomas Obediah Chisholm)

Kevin flew home last Wednesday to begin the arduous process of closing down Angie's life here in Colorado and moving her to Maine. A friend is flying in Sunday and they will drive a truck and their car back, beginning next Tuesday, the 31st. What a lot of change has been Angie's to deal with over the 10 years. She has been faithful and true to her vows and commitment she made on that wedding day. It has not been easy. But she has kept things going and will now be starting over again. We are excited for them, at the same time as we will miss having her around here.

Last night we had one more opportunity to hear Kevin speak at our church. It was such a blessing. Once again, a song spoke truth, as we sang together before he spoke.

I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from it's sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

I don't know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty;
But the One Who feeds the sparrow,
Is the One Who stands by me.
And the path that be my portion,
May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me,
And I'm covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

(Words by Ira Stanphill)

If you think of them, please pray - this is a huge step of faith. Angie has had one personal interview and 2 phone interviews. All of them have been very positive, but she needs to be residing in Maine before she can land one of these jobs. Kevin's position with Teen Challenge involves just a small stipend. But they are confident that God will not leave them nor forsake them at this point in their lives.

If you don't know Kevin's story and would like to, please let me know and I'll be glad to send you the document by e-mail attachment. We plan to write the sequel soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Little Grandma Swanson

I think of this wonderful little lady more often in spring and summer than other times of the year, primarily because of this little creature:

The Mourning Dove

We have a lot of the cooing birds in our yard and neighborhood, and I never ever hear the soft, lovely sound without going back to my grandma's house and yard. My memories of her are so strong and so sweet.

My dad's mom was a tiny little Swedish lady named Olga. Amazingly, my grandpa saw her as an infant and declared "That's the girl I am going to marry." He was 10. I can hardly believe that story, but it's true. They eventually had 4 sons and one daughter, the baby and very spoiled! Dad was #3. The two oldest boys became missionaries to Africa and my dad became a pastor.

Grandma was a hard worker. She was a farm wife. She had a contagious laugh, when her eyes would close and her face would scrunch up. She loved to tell stories, and I wish I had written them down. I wish I hadn't become tired of her stories after the many times I heard them, and had paid closer attention as a teen and not just given her an occasional "uh-huh, Oh" as she talked and cooked.

Grandma was so short that she couldn't comfortably knead her bread or do her cooking or wash her dishes with standard kitchen counters. So her kitchen was built especially for her - I outgrew her when I was 10 and had a really hard time helping her with the dishes as I got taller and taller.

One of my fondest memories is when we'd come to visit, she'd run with her short little legs into the room where she kept her freezer and come back with frozen pieces of cake. She'd have the coffee pot on immediately. She kept her baked goodies in the freezer so she could serve a snack at a moment's notice - typical Swedish hospitality. The pieces of cake were tiny, and I loved eating them while they were still frozen. Ironically, this affected me later in life when I would buy Hostess treats and put them in the freezer to keep myself from eating them. Turns out I liked Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes better frozen! Made me feel like I was back at Grandma's house.

Grandma had a huge strawberry patch and an equally large cucumber patch - which she called "cukes". She was often out there working when we'd arrive. She had chickens, which I can remember her preparing for supper that night - thus, I have a mental image when I hear someone is "running around like a chicken with its head cut off!"

Grandma had quite a few farm cats - not pets, per se. But she must have endeared them to herself by feeding them scraps. Grandma had a very large goiter on her neck (now most likely known as a thyroid tumor). It was actually the size of a small grapefruit, and she finally went to Minneapolis, 50 miles away, for surgery. When she was still in the hospital and recovering, she heard the nurses talking about this cat that kept trying to come in to the hospital whenever the door opened. Turned out that it was one of her farm cats.

My brother Barry loved to spend as much time as he could with both sets of grandparents in the summer - they lived a mile from each other. He loved working on the farm, driving the tractor, helping with the cows, and all things farm related. He also had two brothers who were friends - they had fun doing things that they couldn't talk about for 5 years, when the statute of limitation was over.

So - I thought I needed to get in on the fun of spending a week or so with them. But, surprisingly, I was bored out of my mind. Grandma W was employed at a bakery in town, so was not home during the day. Grandma S was out in her large garden all day, and goodness knows I didn't like being out in the hot sun digging in the dirt. I know - what was I thinking?? I shouldn't have been so self-centered. I can remember lying on the bed upstairs reading all day long - imagine that!

One of my best memories is Christmas time when the missionary cousins were home on furlough - every four years. It was always like we'd never been apart - (I wrote about Ann and our wonderful time last summer). We played in the farmhouse upstairs, ate wonderful food, opened small gifts, often helped Grandma decorate her tree when we all arrived. Can you spot me in the picture?

Grandpa was pretty much "couch-ridden" for the last ten years of his life, and he died when I was 17. Grandma lived for 13 more years, the last 5 in a nursing home. She had sold the farm and moved into a tiny house in town. I didn't get to see her often as an adult, but took Kristen to meet Grandma when she was about a year old. Grandma didn't know me, and that was very sad.

Not long before she died, my mom, dad, and I took her for a ride to all the places she'd lived that we could find. She enjoyed the day so much and had such vivid memories. When we took her back to the nursing home, I have a strong memory of her standing on the sidewalk waving good-bye to us. A few minutes after leaving, Dad remembered that he'd left his glasses behind in her room. We turned around and went back. When Dad saw her, she said, "Who are you?" That was really hard on Dad. Just a few weeks later, she went home to the Lord she loved. Dad was privileged to be the minister at her funeral.

Long after Grandma died, cousin Ann, sister Vicki, and I spent some time out at the property where we'd been so happy as kids. Nobody had done anything with the land since she had sold it, and it was over-run with weeds. We found the foundation to the house and the bits of the barn and outbuildings that were still there. We looked for the spot where we had buried a bird, which we called "Five Rock Patio." We looked for the ditch that had seemed so deep and full of lilacs. We began to wonder what people might think if they drove by and saw all of us tromping through the high weeds. Ann said, "They'd think we're a bunch of missionary and preacher's kids looking for their roots!" It was true.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011