Mission Trips-Send Your Kids and They Will Never Forget It

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Stephen and I decided to invite a few of the homeless people we knew who had a been working and trying to better their situations to our house for a brisket dinner. The clergy, and other leaders came as well and we all had a great time eating, playing with the animals and just hanging out.

I want to go back a bit and say that David and Micah and their sister Amanda, always went on mission trips as youth in the church. It’s always a useful and productive thing to send your kids on mission trips to teach them compassion, empathy and learn how to help and love people who often feel unloved, unworthy. I always thought it was a good thing, but never really thought about actually seeing the fruits of the mission trips themselves. That’s because I’d seen it in subtle ways- nothing like I was about to experience the day of the cookout.

Stephen and I went to church down at Thanksgiving Square- Ervay and Pacific in Dallas, as usual. After church, we had to wait until the chairs were put away, the musicians put away their instruments and we sorted out who was riding with who. Once all that was done, we were on our way to the farm. Once we got there, David, his wife Natalie, Micah and his wife, Laura had continued to prepare dinner and it was ready to put on plates. The kids served our guests without hesitation and kept them at ease and comfortable.

Chris, the music guy at church,brought out his guitar and we all starting singing old songs- “horse with no name” and other such oldies, songs with gestures, fun songs to sing. I looked up to see that the kids were making plates for our guests to take for dinner that night. As our guests left, the kids handed the plates to them, one by one. Kinda like Jesus did-exactly like Jesus did.

I was almost brought to tears. My children took what they had learned on their mission trips- how to be more like Jesus- and was applying it now- right this minute! What a beautiful thing to see. They did it with such grace, compassion and empathy. I have never been more proud of the kids, never loved them quite as much as I did in that moment, and was never so humbled by my own children.

So, if you can send your kids on mission trips, do it by all means. Oh my gosh, the rewards they and you will reap and the blessings that go with all that are almost more than you can stand.

Later on, Natalie smiled and said, “i’m tired.”  I smiled back and said, “it’s a good tired, though, isn’t it?” She smiled and nodded her head.

It’s just a little piece of heaven in an otherwise cruel world.

Growing Older Together

Stephen, my love, Happy Birthday!
Stephen, my love, Happy Birthday!

Today is my best friend’s birthday. My husband, my lover, my everything- is a year older today. It seems like yesterday when we met at Tom Thumb’s tobacco bar. Only wanting to buy  “two packets of Marlboro”, he ended up with a girlfriend and then a wife and then children and then grandchildren. I, on the other hand, ended up with a best friend, a husband, a father, a mentor, and someone I look up to every day. Who would have ever thought ?

We have had fun, sorrow, love, hate, joy, sadness and humdrumness together. And isn’t that the way it should be? We married- he adopted my daughter, loved her like his own always,  we had two boys. We divorced. We were terrible at it. We missed each other, loved each other , called each other, remarried. The second time around- bliss- not all the time- most of the time.Every day I am grateful this man waited for me to gather my craziness and marry me  all over again anyway. 

I look forward to the next year, awaiting new experiences, deeper love, laughter and pure -D silliness. I love you honey. Happy birthday. 

Woodbury, Minnesota- our quaint home away from home

I don’t even have a photo of it- the white wood frame house we all lived in. There was a living room, equipped with an old pull out couch  (read sofa -sleeper), a small kitchen with a toilet that wouldn’t flush, hiding behind a curtain. There was a bucket in there that one filled up with water and poured it into the toilet it , thus making it flush. There was a dining room table with a room off of it where Mrs. Pottratz lay all day. I never understood what her illness was or if she was just a depressed individual , who lay in bed day after day , night after unending night with very long toenails. She smiled at me from time to time, but I was kind of afraid of her. I couldn’t understand how she lay there day after day and I never asked. Les was always good to her as was his father. He seemed to be a patient sort, making comments only when he realized we couldn’t live off of them forever. He was a smallish boned quiet man from what I remember. But, he did from time to time let us know when they were running out of supplies and needed to chip in. Those trading stamps we got at the gas station came in quite handy when supplies were low as we could trade the, in for Hamburger Helper and it’s new companion Tuna Helper. yum, yum! Les and Doug went to school together I think and I liked Les. He was real about who and what he was- just a hard working guy- overweight with a beard and a sweet side to him. He loved his mother and dad and I had to admire him for that. 

Outside, close to the lake, was a wooden outhouse. I’d never really seen one. It was basically a tall building with a toilet with no end to where the bodily fluids went. I guess it was convenient, in case you were out fishing or shooting a rifle (which i tried.) At 99 lbs, that gun threw me backwards and Doug thought it was funny. I didn’t and I had not been warned about it, I kicked him where it counted. I didn’t know what damage it could do- i was a 16 year old virgin , who was only copying what I’d seen in the movies. I was keenly naive- no sense of these things at all. All i knew was I thought he was kidding me when he bent over and fell to the ground. I never did it again, that’s for sure.

Generally, when we went to bed on that comfy sofa couch, we would engage in a bit of pillow talk. Even though it was pitch black when we turned off the lamp, I could see his eyes becoming bigger and looking at me with the whites showing. Suddenly, in a voice not his own, I heard an eerie question come from him- “How does it feel being married to a schizophrenic?” What did that mean? Was he trying to scare me? Was he really mentally off? For the first time since our journey began, I was afraid of him . What had I done? What would I do? Confusion abounded . I was far away from the safety of my family. Just what had I gotten myself into ? I turned over and fell asleep- a natural defense for a long while in my life.

My parents had left a message on the Runaway Hotline. They would drop all charges if I would give them my address so they could send me all my medicine, I had no reason not to believe them and they remained true to their word. My medicine1 got there in just the nick of time. I could tell they were heartbroken over my choices, but knew they were happy I had been responsible enough to think to take my medicine in the first place. Whether one knows it or not, when one is a hot tempered person, the thinking is not always rational. I didn’t want to take any chances with any sudden withdrawals of any anti seizure meds. It didn’t take long to get the meds and it didn’t take long before I found out I was pregnant. I was ecstatic. I would have someone who depended on me, who loved me no matter what- someone I could teach, love, learn from and cuddle. When I called my mother to tell her the blessed news, she was less than excited and suggested an abortion. I was horrified, but too young to realize that the reality of a pregnancy at a naive , tender age of 16, to her, signaled the end of my youth- a time in which I should be having fun and living life to the fullest – school dances, proms, college. For me, a time of celebration . For her and my dad, a time to grieve what could have been.

Snow was still on the ground when we left for Texas the second of June- right after we married that Sunday at the Justice of the Peace’s house in Luck County , Wisconsin. Beautiful area, but still cold as it could be. I was so excited to be going home. I would imagine Doug was a bit scared. I could not wait to see my parents. What a great day it would be.

Eloping Has its Moments

I was mad at my mom… as mad as I had ever been. I called my boyfriend, Doug, and told him I was running away from home. I guess, in his own way, Doug was trying to protect me from whatever he thought I might do and offered to go with me. Had he not offered, I would have probably taken a long walk around the block and come home because barely sixteen, I really was afraid of most things. I had been a sheltered, protected child all my life. I knew nothing of the world I was about to venture into. Doug was four years older than me, so I figured he knew alot about alot. 

Doug came and picked me up in his bright red Ford Fairlane 500- a pretty cool car, I thought. He was tall and thin with brown hair and eyes He had dimples right under his eye. Because he was from Quebec, I called them “Canadian dimples” because I’d never seen dimples in that particular spot. He had been getting ready for work when I called and he dropped everything for me. Love? I thought so. In real life, probably not so much. Probably more a case of lust, adventure and romanticism. Even at this early age, I was a hopeless romantic.

That day was payday at The Plum Tree, a children’s clothing shop where I worked. So, after taking a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and jelly and one of Mother’s butter knife, we went to pick up my paycheck. I don’t remember if Doug had any money- probably not, but I wondered how far we could get on my $32.00 check. I was afraid we wouldn’t get far, but we did, after all , have food and gas. He  had friends in Minnesota where he grew up and went to high school. So, we planned to head for Minnesota- St. Paul to be exact. Thus, our journey began.

We drove for what seemed forever until it got dark and we stopped for the night. I can’t even remember what state it was in, but it was a lady’s house and we rented a room for the night with a bathroom down the hall. I can’t imagine what we might have paid for the room since money was, uh, tight. Anyway, I know it wasn’t much. It felt good to be there with him and the lady was older, so oddly, I felt safe.

Little did we know my parents had already called the police, had words with his parents and filed charges against Doug – such as taking a minor across the border, statutory rape, kidnapping and other charges. We slept good in that little room and got up early the next morning to make St. Paul before dark. I had never been to Minnesota, so I was kind of excited and scared all rolled into one. I wanted to make a  good impression on Doug’s friends, so I asked him questions about this friend and that one- things I could use to converse with the unknown exponents.

It was cold in March in Richardson, but much more cold in Minnesota and more snow on the ground than I ever saw in Dallas! I had never seen so much snow. I don’t know what I expected with Minnesota so far north it was almost Canada! I don’t even think I thought about stuff like that. I’m sure I didn’t take many, if any clothes.Image